One of the reasons I began racing is that I couldn’t stand being a spectator-wife at races any longer. There were other reasons, of course — wanting to try it out, because it looked like fun, to improve as a cyclist — but I did get tired of seeing so many husbands/boyfriends out racing and wives/girlfriends on the sidelines watching. Compared to men, there aren’t many women who race. Those who do almost always got into it because of their husbands/boyfriends who also race. This is certainly true in my case. I’m not certain why there are so few women who race. I’m guessing women aren’t pushed to be competitive and aren’t encouraged to devote a lot of time to athletics in the way that men are; even though it seems like this dynamic must be changing, it’s still there. I think some women either enjoy riding or might enjoy riding on the recreational level, but don’t consider putting the extra time into it to begin racing. Or they don’t have the extra time — they have childcare responsibilities, perhaps, that keep them busy.
And I’m happy I began racing. But now I’m getting tired of it. I think I will pick it up again next season, but right now I’m beginning to feel burnt-out and I need a break. I had the chance to race last Tuesday evening at my local weekly criterium, but I decided to sit out. I’m tired of pushing myself so hard. The other riders, I think, were improving faster than I was, so it was becoming harder and harder to keep up with them, and I’d had enough of working my butt off to stay with pack for only part of the race, sometimes for as little as a lap or two. There are some riders who are at my level or even below it who are still out there racing, so perhaps this is a failure of will or drive on my part. But this is supposed to be fun, and if I’m not having fun, it doesn’t make sense to keep doing it.
So I’m back to being a spectator. I went to the race last Tuesday to watch the Hobgoblin ride (and I like watching him race, don’t get me wrong), and I sat around with wives and girlfriends and filled them in on how cycling races work. I felt the need to tell a couple of the women that I’m usually in the race myself, but I wasn’t happy with myself for that. Why do I have to make a big deal out of it?
When it comes to difficult, challenging things like racing, it’s hard for me to figure out if I should push myself to do it or not. Which do I like least, sitting around watching a race and knowing I could have been in it, or going through the pain of racing? If I keep racing, will I be glad I stuck with it, or will get even more tired and burnt-out? I’ve heard women racers say that they need more women out there on the race course to increase the level of competition — it’s no good being in a race with a really small field of riders — and I really want to help them out. But wanting to help the cause of women racers only gets me so far. I need to feel the interest in racing for its own sake.
I’m glad there is next season to look forward to: I can tell myself I’ll have recovered the drive to race by then and in the meantime I just need to rest. I’ll still be riding — I haven’t lost the desire to do that — but what I want is to ride at my own pace, without the pressure of keeping up with someone else.