It all started a year ago. A small group of us did the Belgian Wafer Ride. The wafer is a smaller version of the epic and universally feared Belgian Waffle Ride (a.k.a. “The Hell of the North County”) which has become a classic act of cycling stupidity here in San Diego. These rides are designed to crack people in the same way the European cycling classics like Paris-Roubaix and The Tour of Flanders crack their participants.
Even though I trained as a triathlete for…well forever… cycling was my least favorite discipline. Maybe that was because I was a terrible cyclist. Maybe it was because so many people told me I couldn’t ride and over time I just believed them. Anyway, I had been working on my cycling for some time and last year, I decided to do the Belgian Wafer ride as a way to tell everyone who always told me I couldn’t ride to “shut the $$%# up.” I had this thing built up in my head that it was going to be the hardest thing I'd ever done. On race day, however, it was a dud. It rained before the race so they omitted a bunch of the dirt.
I, did however, notice that very few women toed the line of the full distance of the Belgian Waffle Ride (BWR). More than half of them were professional bike racers or elite amateurs. This intrigued me. I thought to my self, “what if someone who had been told for half her life she would never be able to properly ride a bike could finish the big one in 2016?”
You can probably already see where this is going. Nothing motivates me more than being told "I can't." It brings out the stubborn Greek in me. Why I waited so long to prove everyone who told me I couldn’t ride wrong I’ll never know, but last year it all bubbled up. BWR. 145 miles. 13,000ish feet of climbing. 41 miles of dirt. Some of it very technical. On a ROAD bike. Decision made. I wanted to be one of the few women that finish the full monte BWR. All this #doepicshit and #badassisbeautiful goes for Mama Betty too.
Doing epic shit, makes me feel alive even though half the time I feel like I have no business doing whatever epic shit I am doing. Extra benefit: it allows me to show my son Gavyn that when you put your mind to something and work hard, you can do it.
As I said before, I have always called myself a runner and disliked the bike. That might be because I never had a bike I liked or in this case - loved. Because of the folks at Trek, I got an INSANE (freaking INSANE) new rig this winter. A Trek Madone 9 Series. I mean come on – the thing has flaps and it fits me like a glove. Nytro was willing to help me get it built up with my dream components. Mavic supplied the newest carbon rimmed, light + stiff climbing wheels.
I don’t know if it was the new bike, the fact that everyone was telling me there was no possible way I could finish the BWR, or whatever but something clicked and during my training for BWR, I finally learned what it feels like to ride a bike. I’m not talking about pedaling or getting from one place to another but pushing it, crushing (for me), and enjoying my training.
My plan for race day went like this:
- get to that finish line
- never give up
- eat, drink, repeat
- smile more
- get to that finish line
The day before race day, I was jumping out of my skin with excitement. Kind of twisted, but I could not wipe the smile off my face. 24 hours before the start, I ate my pre-race pint of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. I set up a booth at the expo and hung out part of the day. My son tagged along to see what it was all about.
My pre-race superstitious secret sauce.
Race morning was gorgeous. Sunny and perfect. My goal was to stay in the pack all the way down Del Dios during the neutral start. At the last second Matt decided to do the full distance. My buddy, Billy, who had taken me on some course recon rides was planning to chill with me all day as well so now I had company for the day—bonus!
Somewhere out in Lusardi Canyon. Photos: Todd Gunther (gman92069 on Instagram / Twitter)
There is something that happens to me when I put a bib number on. I charge a bit more. I don't give up. During the 12 hour ride, I only had one 20-minute minor meltdown at mile 70 when I let my mind go soft because the thought of another 5 hours on the bike had me upside down. I told a random guy in a white van that I loved him because he gave me a Coke. I laughed my ass off for no good reason at about mile 125 when I realized that the poor event photographer was still out there taking photos. He had been out there literally ALL DAY. Just like me. Poor guy.
I knew that Gavyn would be at mile 140 on the top of Double Peak (one of the steepest + the final climb of the day) waiting for me. I could not wipe that smile off my face grinding up that hill when I saw him. He was smiling and taking pictures. That final climb felt so easy compared to other sections of the course. Mama bear motivation I guess.
Smiling up the final climb. Photo: Gavyn Mayer
I did it! I was 33/34 women who finished. I stayed upright. I smiled. I rode further than I ever did. I realized I was stronger than I thought. Knowing that 1000+ people started and only about 300 finished I felt pretty good about the day.
The problem. That dripping with honey feeling you get at the end of an event never lasts. Doing epic shit always results in epic post event depression. For anyone reading this that is kinda sorta “normally abnormal” as they say. 10 days after the BWR, all of a sudden, I am kind of embarrassed at where I finished in the results. Even though I know that anyone who finished is rad, the event was designed to crack people, and all the rest, I still second guess myself. If you do the same thing, get past it and move on. Don’t dwell. The first step is not giving a $%*#. You don’t need to jump into a new event, you don’t need to race the next weekend, you just need to know that it is normal and stop giving so much of a $%&#.
What I do know is that I completed my objective even though I will always second guess myself. I also know I will be back. The BWR is a top notch event. The marketing is magnificent (important), the branding is exceptional, the course was as demanding as promised and even the post race party with superior. Kudos to the BWR team for putting on such a rad event.
Next time though – I’m going wafer style. Who is in?