My category 1 upgrade was the hardest upgrade I’ve earned. I finished earning the necessary points early this season but earned most of them while racing in California. I relayed all of this to my friend Sarai of GirlBikeLove in May. She suggested I write about it. It’s a topic that women who are getting into racing don’t know much about. What does it really take? I can’t speak for all other Cat 1’s but I can tell my story.
For those not familiar with how the progression in the sport of bike racing works, women start out as a Cat 4, men as a cat 5. I believe that’s simply because of numbers. There are just more men racing. Points are earned based on the type of race, the numbers in the field, and then how well you place. It’s all broken down in the USAC handbook and when you view it mathematically and as you start racing, you quickly learn that the more you race, the more chances you have at earning points. However, racing a lot, requires a lot of everything: time, energy, money, support, equipment, travel time, logistics, navigational skills, travel companion issues, host housing politics, gas, food, time away from work, time away from friends, time away from family, time away from everything else. We live in our own world come race season; and by the way, our off season is, a week? Maybe two? Basically bike racers live in their own world.
I didn’t care as a ‘wanker’ cat 4 (as my doting Southern Utah cycling friends dubbed me). I willing to do whatever it took. I started out racing while living in Southern Utah where, ironically enough, there is no racing. I would drive seven hours one way by myself to Southern Arizona or Southern California to race a few crits that lasted all of 30-45 minutes each then go back to southern Utah Sunday night so I could make it work on Monday. I didn’t care how much gas was, how tired I was or if it meant I trained in the dark hours of the morning on the way to work doing hill repeats up Snows canyon. I didn’t care if I crashed and nursed my injuries alone on the way home. And if you think the ‘Loneliest Road in America’ between Northern Nevada and Northern California is desolate, try Northern Arizona through the Navajo Indian reservation. I bet there are bodies out there.
I didn’t care about winning money. I didn’t care what my co-workers thought of me, or my friends and family. The bike and I had found each other and I had fallen head over heels in love with the sport of bike racing. This complicated love/hate relationship with bike racing has afforded me life experiences, relationships, opportunities, abilities, talents, discoveries, traveling and character development and refinement beyond what I ever thought possible. The price: a tremendous amount of sacrifice, pain, terror, fear, loss, hardship, humility, career, friendships, but I didn’t stop. What can I say? I’m kind of a maniac. It’s all or none with me. That’s just the way it is. Learning to accept and love all of myself is also part of this story.
In part 2, I’ll talk about the next and final steps to getting to Category 1 which were far more difficult than the first 6 years of my racing career.