By Tyler Galloway
I did it.
I reached my goal but it was only slightly less than hellish finishing my first road race. Even better, I later found out that I wasn’t even in last place (though it kind of felt like it at the time), so I count that as a solid win.
Being relatively new to road bike riding, I really had no idea what to expect of a race scenario, beyond a lot of dudes in spandex with fancy bikes (which was met in spades on race day). On an impulse and out of impatience, I signed up for the annual State Line Road Race. The men’s beginner group in which I was slotted (“Cat 5”), would ride a total of 42.5 miles. Not the smartest thing I’ve ever done, particularly since it was only about a week before the race and my “training” consisted of squeezing in one 50-mile ride before the race, which would be about the farthest I’ve ever ridden. I never said I was the smartest at doing this; I was just excited about testing my mettle.
As I entertained delusions of keeping up with the pack during the race, my wife smartly advised me to go in with a “just check it out” attitude. I worked to heed her advice as a way to avoid nervousness, which was fairly successful, but I could think of little else the few days before the race. My sleep was restless the night before as my brain would not calm down, despite my best efforts.
The race started at a pace way faster than I had ever ridden before, but I was determined to stay in the pack because I knew the wind resistance would be much easier than going it alone. Some aspects of the first two laps were even easy as we zipped up and down the rolling hills on country blacktops – others were not. These guys powered out of corners and went into beast-mode up hills. I received a good dose of humility on my first lap as I watched probably 10 guys pass me ascending some stair-step hills. With a lot of effort, I was able to catch the pack and maintain the pace for another lap. About halfway through the race, though, the pack started to slowly pull away from me. There was nothing I could do to catch up and, disheartened, I watched a group of over 20 riders slowly but surely leave me (and a few others) to battle the wind and hills alone. Already feeling dejected that I had done so poorly, I waffled between giving up and slugging it out by myself. I thought about my wife’s advice and pep-talked my way through the remaining laps. It even felt like I finished my last lap a bit faster, as I knew the end was near and I would indeed survive.
Immediately afterwards I felt a mixture of happiness (that I had finished) and disappointment (that I was so slow, relatively speaking). Later, I was greatly encouraged after looking at my GPS stats to see that it was one of the fastest, farthest rides I had ever done, no doubt due to the competitive nature of the ride. In the end I realized that I had ridden two races – the first half was for the race itself, for others, to keep pace; the second half was for myself, to prove that I could stretch myself to achieve a lofty goal. The great thing is that it took the former to achieve the latter at the level I did, and that’s enough to make me
Tyler Galloway, a former low-level bmx-er turned low-level road cyclist, is an Associate Professor of visual communication at the University of Kansas. He lives in Lenexa with his wife and six-year-old daughter.