Being in the Middle or Back of the Pack and the joy of riding your bike

I listened to this podcast. I found it interesting. My takeaway was her point that as a back of the packer, you need to have your mental skills and that mental toughness for a longer time than the upper cat racers or high C racers in my case. It takes us longer to finish and sometimes we race alone and have to be out own cheerleaders. And we also feel good about this.
She says it better.

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@gosimrr created a separate topic for this one, because I think it’s worthy of its own thread!

I listened to that one also, and it is full of excellent perspectives about cycling and what brings amateurs and masters into the sport. To add to the ones you mentioned above, there is the fact that, in cycling, there are only 3 people on the podium at every event, but there could be hundreds and even thousands of riders participating.

In other words, there is a disproportionally large number of riders that are not at the top and not even in the front group. So the middle and back of the pack is truly where the sport happens for amateurs and masters athletes. It’s where most of us are. And yet, many of these incredible human beings - capable of riding their bikes well into their 60s, 70s, 80s - feel like they are not good enough just because they are not at the top.

But if you really think about it, being a cyclist and an athlete at our age and on top of ALL the other responsibilities we have in life is simply… INCREDIBLE.

I think we lose perspective of that when we are busy looking at other cyclists and comparing ourselves to them. The better perspective is to look at our lives as a whole and celebrate what we are capable of doing.

The focus of training, riding and racing is 100% personal and individual. It’s about personal progress and fulfilment. Both need to be present and the rest doesn’t matter. Others’ accomplishments and ability levels are their own and we have our own. What everyone else is doing doesn’t matter.

The more I train and the more I compete, the more I solidify this way of thinking in my own life.

The story we tell ourselves, about ourselves, becomes our reality.

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Ignoring the adoration that the fast riders are given as compared to the condescending tolerance and occasional disdain given to the last riders is difficult. Ride organizers can be openly hostile to the slower riders. (I have received nasty emails) Women are slower than men, so many of these types of rides end up with only 10% of the field being female, because most women can’t make the time cuts. My experiences of finishing in toward top half of the pack is very different than the experiences of finishing last or toward the back. I have ended rides elated to have finished to have my bubble burst by the attitudes of the people at the end signing me back in. It is hard to have a thick skin when you are very tired and worn down. Most of my experiences have been positive, but a lot of the reason women feel apologetic about their speed is that they aren’t treated with respect by other riders and by ride organizers.

That is terrible @Elliswall!! I am sorry you’ve had these negative experiences. Group rides with that kind of attitude are certainly not worth joining; not the kind of people I’d ever want to be around. As for events, I never participated in one with a time cut and have no experience to speak of. I don’t even think any events in my area have time cuts. I have found (personally and through women I coach) that gravel tends to be a more friendly environment and a more supportive atmosphere than road. I’ll never forget all the love these two riders got from race organizers at a local gravel race after crossing the finish line 2hs (I think it was) later than everyone else.

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There is a gravel ride here that used to give out prizes for the top 3 finishers and the person who finished DSL. It was awesome! The ride continues but they decided to stop giving prizes completely because they wanted the event to be more about personal challenges overcome than finishing first.

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@Elliswall - I feel absolutely horrified to have read what you posted! Not cool at any level :frowning:

I may have shed a tear with @Coach_Theia’s post. It resonates with me on so many levels. I’m as mediocre as they come yet try to be proud of my personal accomplishments in the company of very, very strong athletes. I have a complex history with health and athleticism so I know I should cut myself some slack but it’s easier said than done. That’s precisely why I appreciate this forum to give me perspective when I’m too deep into my head. Thank you all for your candid comments :hearts:

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When I was racing, I was slow, always last and finished every race I did. My husband would show up at every race. And cheer me on. He’d yell “go christna go!”. One time he was standing near a marshal, then left to go to the finish line. I had like two laps left. The marshal then started yelling “go christina go” after my husband left. I loved it, I was riding alone. In pain, hating every moment. But he made it so much better.
We are at mile 6 of the NYC marathon. We stand out there every year cheering everyone on with cowbells and whistles. I know it’s early in the race, but we like to do our part.
I think that’s why I like the virtual races. I can find a pack and ride with them usually and if not, I’m ok. In person, it’s very hard for me to be at the back. But am thankful for the personal cheerleader when I had one.

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So true about the encouraging words on from the side of the road/course. I’ve had that experience several times on cyclocross races. The spectators are the best at these races. There’s heckling and hand-ups (which is super fun and reminds us to not take things too seriously), but also encouraging words. These are always appreciated!!! A simple “keep going” and “you got this” makes a difference. At one point during my second race this weekend I said “I’m dying!” and the guy on the sidelines shouted back “you are not dying, you are LIVING!!” and that was simple but so true and profound!!

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