Lessons Learned from Coming in (Almost) Last

Redhead Riding – photo by Mark Woolcot (click to visit his site)

Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with bicycles. There are days I love them more than they love me, so in an effort to eke every last drop of love out of my body and bike over three days, I entered my first bike race series EVER this past weekend. Three days, and it went like this: Street Sprints (300m), Criterium (40 mins), Road Race (37 miles). Street Sprints? I got 3rd in my heat when they advanced 2. Criterium? 4th from last. Road race? 2nd from last.

(check out a fun pic from @java1guy’s Flickr stream – can you find The Redhead?)

And I loved it.

Now, for those watching the Redhead Riding, I’ve been on a track bike since October and a road bike (for all intents and purposes) since February of this year. While I’ve had a short relationship with a road bike while living in Las Vegas prior to my Kilimanjaro trip in 2008, it was nothing serious (kind of like a fuck buddy but it was a bicycle). I’ve honestly never loved anything (activity-wise) so much.

Here’s what I learned from coming in (almost) last:

  • You never have to come in last again.
  • There’s never another first.
  • There are always more discoveries.
  • I wasted a lot of energy when I didn’t have to.
  • I met some great people.
  • Apparently guys like to hit on girls in spandex.
  • SPF 50 does jack shit for a pasty white girl in the sun for 8 hours.
  • There are some things I do GREAT!
  • Inevitably, there are things at which I epically suck.
  • Eggs are not a good pre-race meal.
  • I am apparently recognizable as “Redhead Writing” while in my bike gear wearing sunglasses (and a shout out to @TashaDA, @johnincolorado, @java1guy and the volunteer named Chad – who happened to be a reader –  for the nods over the weekend)
  • Working together when things really suck make things not suck so much (and thanks to Gillian from the Big Ring team and Janie for making the last lap of the race MUCH more fun!)
  • I can’t wait to do it all again.

I like failure. Its an “f” word that some people find really dirty, and to that I say lighten the fuck up. Embrace it. Hug it. Give it the reach around, will ya? The chance that you’ll suck as bad as you did when you think you failed AGAIN is miniscule. We find new ways to suck – and that’s called learning. If you keep sucking the same way over and over…well, you’re just an idiot. I look forward to making new mistakes. Being in new situations. Having new opportunities to fail. Each time you don’t fail, you succeed.

So yes, this weekend I failed three days in a row – but I never have to fail that way again. And that is a success.

PS: A hearty thanks to the GS Boulder team gals who are not only friendly but talented. Thanks from a redhead who looks forward to hanging on to your wheels very soon and – no offense – letting you stare at MY ass a little bit during some races later this year 🙂

PPS: And on a completely selfish note, one of my blog posts is up as a finalist in Trada’s Best Online Marketing Post contest – I need your votes! Voting ends tomorrow and if I win the votes, I can win an iPad! Click here to vote and my post is the Copywriting 3.0 post on the top line — thanks in advance!

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16 replies
  1. Java Guy
    Java Guy says:

    Ms. Erika:
    You have a curious definition of failure. In my book, if you show up, especially 3 times in a row, finish what you start and survive, that is a success. The wall peaks at a 9% grade over 1.5 miles. (http://beta.mapmyride.com/route/detail/7989938/) What would you climbers call that, a 5.9? And how many times did you go up? 2 or 3 times?
    I'm not saying to not embrace failure (we're tied at 2 failures each in the wedded bliss department) but this wasn't failure. Maybe your goal was to finish first – ok, you didn't achieve that goal, but still not a failure.

    So when are we going to have the “Pick @RedHeadWriting's Kit” contest?? Maybe you're playing hard to get for the various teams you could be on, but in the meantime I vote for something along this line: http://www.velogear.com/prodinfo.asp?number=641

    Speaking of new situations, when will we see you throwing it down on the mountain bike at CU short track? 🙂 You've taken on the rest.

    Rock on! J1G

    Reply
  2. Lisa Nelson
    Lisa Nelson says:

    I'm learning to mountain bike and I totally love being a complete gumby. I learn something new every time I go out..it's awesome. I appreciate the small gains and have absolutely no expectations…which is so not true about my other time suck, rock climbing.

    Reply
  3. WickedShawn
    WickedShawn says:

    Sounds like a wonderful weekend of the best possible kind of failure!! I kind of relish those myself. They provide a bit of a rush.

    Reply
  4. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    It's actually a 12% grade over 1 mile for The Wall 🙂

    And hey – I wouldn't trade my “wedded bliss” failures for anything. At 37, I can stand up, say what I want, be clear about my needs and…well, I don't argue. Arguing sucks and it just shoots blame back and forth across the table. There will be wedded bliss one day – it was the success in ending things that didn't work that make it possible.

    My goals? They were to finish. I did The Wall 3 times and The Hump twice. That's a full day in my book and it was a good day! And don't hold your breath on the mountain bike – I'm a fan of pavement, left-hand turns and skinny tires 😉

    (ps: that's a HAWT jersey!)

    Reply
  5. knealemann
    knealemann says:

    First time, shame on you. Second time, I'm an idiot. Learn those lessons, get back on the bike, keep at it. You are a success for getting back on the bike. You are a success for sharing your journey. You are a success for recognizing that doing it, is a success. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  6. Kim
    Kim says:

    Even coming in last…just think of all the people who never even got to the starting line. You beat about 50 million people!!! =)

    Reply
  7. happyhourmary
    happyhourmary says:

    When I read the title of this blog, I thought you had come in almost last in the BLOG contest! And had to read this because: How could THAT happen???

    Reply
  8. Jim Thomas
    Jim Thomas says:

    I learned a lesson in the Morgul Bismark series many years ago. Don’t come back for day two after a day one crash breaks fingers on your right hand. I was so pleased that I didn’t go down in a day one road crash, in which the guy next to me endo’d with his pedal coming down on my right hand, that I didn’t appreciate the implications for my ability to brake during the day two crit. Fortunately, I lived to be older and marginally smarter.

    Reply
  9. Johannes
    Johannes says:

    Funny, I had pretty much the same experience. I did the race series as my first road bike races, starting SM 4. My results look very much like yours, but yet I got totally hooked. In two weeks is my next race – the Niwot crit.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Reply

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