Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone

I've always been a risk taker and throwing myself into the unknown, sometimes its worked, other times it’s been a disaster. Yet I always grow from the adventure. This is the year of change and really moving out of my comfort zone starting with an XC race series called Pedalfest.

One of the changes for me this year is a new bike, thanks to Specialized and Cynergy Cycles, I have been granted the opportunity and honor to ride a 2016 Specialized ERA Expert for this year. It's changed everything for me. The bike is a machine both in speed and performance. It's made me a faster, more efficient rider that has boosted my confidence and made my rides so much more fun. I can ride much longer and still feel good at the end of my ride.

When I heard the Pedalfest XC race series was coming back this summer, I thought I would just give a couple of the races a try since I had gotten much faster and my confidence was higher. I am also a firm believer in supporting local business, so it was important to me that I gave a few of the races a go to support the series.

I have never enjoyed racing so I don't typically participate. Coming from showing horses from the time I could pretty much walk to a young adult (I showed hunter/jumpers) at a very high level chasing points all year round until retiring when I was 19 years old, I never wanted to enter another competitive sport, especially now that I found a sport I loved so very dearly and not only keeps my high intensity self calm, it satisfies pretty much everything I need and makes me feel like I can conquer anything. All of my friends ride too, so this is a super social sport for me as well.

So before the series even started, there was a packet pick up party Wolf Creek Brewery in Valencia. Pedalfest is pretty much a 2 person show. The Flanagans! Greg and Gina Flanagan put on the race series and do 1 amazing job. Gina Flanagan is also an elite racer herself, so another amazing athlete for me to look up too and try to mimic. I'm so very grateful for their support past and present.

Tonight was commitment time...at least for race #1. I decided to give Sport class a try. Like many races, there was no category for my age group so I get lumped in the 30 and over (I'm 51 but shoot...I feel like I'm 30 something!). I have raced maybe a handful of times over the years, but really did not want to race beginner and for some reason, I really thought I was fast enough to race in sport class. After signing up, I got reacquainted with some old friends I hadn't been in touch with and met some new ones as well.

The 1st two races are pretty much a blur. I do remember getting to the 1st race and finding out I was only racing 2 laps instead of 3 and how disappointed I was because I wanted to ride more. Well, that feeling didn't last long at all. Thank goodness I was racing 2 laps and not 3!

Getting there, race #1....I was super confident and very excited until half way through the 1st lap. I could barely breathe, my heart rate must have been at 190 and I could barely make it up the climbs. What happened to my strong, fast self? I had been training hard and riding 75 miles a week including hammer rides and I could barely finish an 8 mile race! This is racing....your heart beats faster, your adrenaline is high, there are hundreds of riders out on the course.....it's a whole new game now.....I was WAY outside of my comfort zone.

Time to dig deep & just finish......
Luckily, for the 1st 1/2 of this series, (8 races total), the course is exactly the same every week. They won't change it until the last half. So I was at least able to mentally prepare for each section. The climbs on the course are super punchy and steep. 2 of them I had to run my bike up. We are not able to use ear buds to race, so I had to talk to myself a ton. Normally when I ride it's always with music. I have play lists for climbing and descending. Music is an enormous help to me while I ride. It completely relaxes me, keeps my cadence yet also makes me feel committed as well. Now I just sing to the songs in my head during the course and keep talking to myself, telling myself that I still have at least 40% left in the tank!

Now, after the 1st two races, I really struggled to continue. My goal both races after realizing how hard it really was, was to just complete my 2 laps and not quit. Which I have done now for all 3 races, but wanted to quit every race during the 1st lap. This was all about getting way out of my comfort zone and digging super deep just to finish.

Race #3......The Triple digits race....
Castaic gets super hot and there is barely any shade on the race course. Well, instead of June gloom, we got the heat of the summer for race #3. A very close friend of mine was racing this week as well and I was just really hoping he didn't lap me!

At the start line it was 104 degrees. Yes.......104 degrees! I do not do well in the heat. About 8 years ago, I actually got severely dehydrated and landed myself in the hospital for 14 hours hooked up on all sorts of machines to save my failing kidney's. So I know all too well the danger of riding in the heat.

I felt it on the very 1st big climb on the Grapevine single track. I could barely breathe. Many riders were in bad shape. I just wanted to get through this. My seat was loose and also started dropping. Of course I forgot my tools so I had to ride with my seat about 2 inches too low so my quads were burning instantly. I kept pulling over trying to fix my seat without tools and drink as much water as I could. I remember a few of my buddies passing me, encouraging me to keep pedaling. Coming at the end of the absolutely grueling 1st lap I was going to pull over and take a DNF....but just couldn't. If I could just finish.....I knew I at least wouldn't beat myself up for the next week and be miserable. So I kept riding. Barely, but kept riding.

Lap #2 actually seemed to get cooler. My water in my pack was now warm but I kept drinking it. I still had to pull over a lot to raise my seat and rest my heart since I was so out of breathe. It was survival time now....I just kept talking to myself that all I needed to do was finish. I was almost at the end...a few more short punchy climbs. I had just reached the top of one of those climbs and here comes my good friend passing me on his 3rd lap, yet not without giving me a high five and some encouraging words. I was so happy to see that he didn't quit either and it gave me just enough enthusiasm to pick it up and finish the race.

After coming through the finish line in this super heated race...I looked at everyone else's faces and body language. Everyone was suffering, not just me. Some riders didn't even complete their race. Now I felt not so out of the norm. I wasn't the only one struggling. Phew! I was so grateful to be done and decided I would not do this again. Racing is just not for me. This race was one of the hardest things I had done.

Over the next few days after race #3, I felt really discouraged and disappointed in my performance with the 1st 3 races. This is supposed to be fun right?? Why am I not having fun? Why am I paying money to suffer?? What on earth am I gaining from this?? Well.....when you are at the end of your comfort zone.....it's not all fun & games. It's about personal growth, testing your super inner strength, setting an example for other women who are afraid to give this a try over 50, and just trying to be a better athlete and take what I love to do into an entirely new level. This is stepping WAY outside your comfort zone.....at least for me.

Race #4 is tonight! I was not going to sign up. However, just because I have showed up every week, completed the race and hit the podium, it has given me enough points to put me in 2nd place in the series. WHAT?? So now I HAVE to keep going! I have a little trick up my sleeve to keep cooler too, so anxious to give it a try.

Just for this month, I am entered into the Rim Nordic Enduro, a 5 stage enduro race and the 6 hours of Temecula endurance race as a 2 person team. So yes....June is a month of stepping WAY outside my comfort zone and WOW the adventures I am going to have! It's an exciting yet super challenging time in my life. I'm embracing it with both fear and excitement.

Thank you to all that have supplied me with the best products on earth........support & encourage me as well as support what I do with GGR in every way.......CORBA, GGR: Girlz Gone Riding: Specialized Bikes, Cynergy Cycles, Kali Protectives, ZOIC Clothing, Petal Power, Lisa Joaquim, The Flanagans, Pedalfest, Jason Ranoa and SoCal Endurance, Bobby Acuna, and all of my incredible, precious friends who always tell me I'm just too hard on myself. Maybe one day I will listen. Thank you and much love and thanks to you all.

Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone
Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone
Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone
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