There is a cycling club in the Toronto area that hosts crit races every Tuesday evening.
Yesterday was the kick off to the season. A perfect time for someone like me to join in I thought. I work in Toronto kind of out in the middle of an industrial wasteland. Where they race is about 15 minutes from my office which is perfect for a 6:30'ish start time. Lots of time to change, get there and warm up. Things are always awkward the first time trying something new so I really didn't know what to expect. When I walked up to the registration table I began to feel really out of place. They usually have two races. One half hour crit for the less experienced folks followed by a half hour crit for the speed demons. So I went assuming I'd be racing in the half hour less experienced race.
I prepared my diabetes for such. I just decided that "preparing my diabetes" has a nice ring to it. Any way, you get the picture. I readied myself for 30 minutes of all out 95% effort. Turns out because it was the first race of the season and because we don't have enough daylight yet, we would all just race together. You could almost audibly hear me swallow. Yeah, an hour or until we run out of daylight. Whichever comes first the dude says while we are all lined up.*uh, h'what?* An hour? An hour of all out effort? I only prepared diabetes for 30 minutes. No low temp basal, no glucose meter, no munchies. Only an emergency GU in my jersey.
Play it by ear/feel Scully. Don't fucking freak out.
So, just to get the idea across of what I experienced.... cycling really is a male dominated sport by far. In a group of about 75 cyclists there were 4 women. Count it, FOUR women including myself. Like I said, I didn't go with any expectations in mind but of the little expectations I had they were soon blown out of the water.
Off we go. Holy fuck, I'm thinking. I'm not a middle-of-the-action kind of girl. I was terrified to be quite honest. Seriously, there were over 70 dudes surrounding me. I'm sure most ladies would find that to be nice - fit men in spandex- but it freaked the shit out of me. I stayed close to the inside lane. There are only 2 corners in the 0.9 km loop (about 0.5 miles). I can't remember which lap it was that I got dropped but it was really early on. I didn't so much get dropped from lack of being able to keep up, I kind of intentionally dropped myself. These guys were AGGRESSIVE. I was totally out of my element and feeling extremely intimidated and pressured. It was not a friendly event what-so-ever. So there I was on my own as per usual. Repetitively going in circles.
Down the hill, upshift, upshift, lean hard into the sharp corner, upshift, upshift, speed down the straight and catch breath, hill, downshift, downshift, push up the hill into the sun against the wind, heart exploding, downshift, turn corner hit the wind harder, downshift, can't breathe, and back to the downhill. Wash, Rinse, Repeat. Every three laps or so, get lapped by the men.
After 30 minutes, I pulled out. It was the right thing to do for diabetes. My BG was where I wanted it to be after the planned 30 minutes of all out madness. I maintained a 30km/h (18.6m/h) average speed and 180bpm average heart rate. I'm okay with that. My heart did come close to exploding a few times reaching 193bpm.
I learned a lot. I learned that I much prefer riding with women even if I can't keep up with the women for very long either. The men are too aggressive. I could fight my way but it actually scared me quite a bit. I was uncomfortable to say the least. And when I pulled out and went to go hang on the corner to watch the dudes fly by, there was the other three women! NOT racing and just chilling out. In fact there were drifters and stragglers all over the place. It's a local crit series so it's not super crazy but I didn't feel so bad after I saw that.
I'm hoping I'll be able to pick up some confidence over the next few months.