Thursday, November 25, 2010

Kicking Some Ass. Letting it Show.

Sometime in the summer I came across an article about Columbia HTC cyclist Evie Stevens. I had heard about her prior to seeing the article because, as the 6 degrees of separation theory goes, I know someone, who knows someone, who is the father of her roommate from college (3 degrees in this case). So when this Bicycling article appeared in my Facebook news feed and I saw some reference to a tennis-player wall-street-broker turned pro cyclist, I took notice.

Evie Stevens (as seen in Bicycling)
And she's cute, boys. I have a girl-crush.

And the story floored me.

Many times, in my coolest fantasies, the exact same thing has happened to me. I show up at a race. I'm an unknown, and I blow everyone away. Scouts clamour all over me to find out who I am. I get to write novel-length emails back to them telling my amazing story -- near 40-year old mother of two shocks the pro-circuit. Pulls off a time 4 minutes faster than the pros at a big race while still ranked Cat 3/4.

Snap back to reality. Oh there goes gravity.

OH, there REALLY goes gravity. I'm a 39 year old mother of two.

I started cycling, seriously learning the ropes, at age 37. I'm still learning The Rules. Given that I believe that rules are meant to be broken everywhere else in my life, with a few exceptions given to the ones that will keep me (and others) alive a little longer, I'm not likely to care about following rules on the road, trail, or grass either.

But they do make me laugh.

And one rule that's not one of the above rules, per se, but is a pervasive gender stereotype and one I break frequently, is that girls shouldn't be competitive. Nor should they ever verbalize it in any way shape or form. Nor should they ever, EVER, brag a little when they are proud and toot their own horn because that is just plain f*&king arrogant.


Maybe even my little pro-cycling fantasy, above, is a little bit arrogant? Did you roll your eyes when you read it?

Or did you see yourself in my reflection?

But I've been competitive my whole life. Let me tell you the most bizzaro of all my competitive stories.

As a kid, teen, and still to this day, I've had to be able to do everything that anyone else could do as long as I felt what you were doing met my definition of "cool." Preferably I would like to be able to do what you are doing better than you. I was the nerdy kid comparing grades with my friends in Chemistry class and then being angry -- with myself, not with my friends -- when I came up short that 2%. I took on those Jump Rope for Heart competitions in gym class. I flattened them. I could skip the longest continuously in my whole grade six class, although there were a couple kids who could give me a run for my money. I could also do the most double-unders in a row. And I practiced my fool head off to be able to do the coveted triple-under.

But the best trick that I busted my ass to copy was a trick my best friend at the time could do. That trick was twisting my tongue into a wave. I'll describe this trick as requiring the equivalent degree of tongue muscle control as tying the stem from a cherry in a knot (which I can't do, by the way, because it is not nearly as "cool." And I don't like cherries.). So I stood in front of a mirror and I practiced. Ever had a tongue cramp? I have. Not fun. But gosh darn it all, I learnt how to twist my tongue into that wave. And I can still do it. And, NO, I won't post a picture, only for fear that it will be interpreted the wrong way.

Once I met someone at a university party who could also do this trick, and he was being fawned over and awed by all. It was pretty fun destroying his illusion of uniqueness, AND telling him that I knew of at least one other equally talented freak out there. That was an amazingly memorable moment in my life.  (Insert *sarcasm* font).

Would hate for my facetiousness to be misinterpreted.

I'm competitive in sports. I hate getting beat. I hate when my little cycling fantasy doesn't come true. I hate it even more when I've been working my ass off all winter and then someone who I was coming ahead of consistently last year beats me in the first race of the season. No one else is supposed to get better in the off-season. Only me.

I have this little banter with my friend Terri. She rubs it in when she kicks my ass and I rub it in when I kick hers. In all fairness I don't stand a chance in triathlon. Her swim far outdoes any advantage that I might be able to gain back in the bike and the run (on a good day). And she doesn't even have to train. But I had an even better time nearly lapping her at cyclocross provincials a couple weeks ago. I'm gonna milk that one for a VERY long time. We speak nothing of the pure equipment advantage I had. Irrelevant to the discussion.

Evie again. Kickin' some ASS. Lettin' it show. 

I'm a small fish in a big pond on road rides. I'm always one of the slowest ones in the group. I prefer it that way. It makes me work and this is how I get stronger. I'd made it a goal this year to be fit enough to take longer and longer pulls and do my "fair share" and reduce the wheel sucking (I refer you to rule #67). I knew my body this year better too. I made a couple of mistakes on a couple early rides, pulled too long and didn't have enough left to get on the back, but by the end of the summer I had that body-sense licked.

I'm pretty proud of that 200 km ride I did in under 6 hours at the end of August with those guys. Did I do my fair share of work on that ride? HELL NO. I pulled for about 30 seconds in the last 80 km. Those guys are far stronger and far more experienced. Do I still brag about being on that ride? HELL YA. Last year I wouldn't have survived past the half way point at the pace we did in places. In July I wouldn't have survived past the half way point. Two years before I never would have made it to the start.

This was a good view for that last 80km. Photo taken shortly after the half way point; before the REAL pain started. 

Every gain is worthy of a celebration in my mind. Next year, when I do something better, I'll be less proud. I feel this is reasonable self-promotion within the handicap of my experience, ability, and my gender. Next year, I work on eliminating the gender handicap.

And I refuse to punctuate that last paragraph with a question.

When I wrote my first novel and anxiously met my writing mentor for a debrief, one of his first pieces of feedback was that I did "teenage girl" well.

"Whatever do you mean?" I asked.

"Your character talks just like a teenage girl," he said. "She has that way of instead of stating a fact as a fact, she states it as a question instead. Like she's socially not allowed, as a woman, to be confident in her answers."

I started listening around, after that. Women do this. We especially do this if we are speaking to a man. (I've worked with hundreds of female nurses working with dozens of male doctors). A statement becomes a question. It's unconscious. And it's fact.


Now there might be reasons for this. Ahem... its gotta be their idea after all. These are the games we play. But that's a whole other blog.

But why do women do this? Like we are not allowed to compete on the same level with the same amount of assertiveness. Like we can't show our intelligence even in a conversation. And why does it make us a bitch if we try? I don't know too many women who will admit openly to thinking competitively in sports. Why don't we praise ourselves a little? Just last night I chided one of my female triathlete friends for not saying a word about standing on the podium in her age group at an out of town event. I only knew because I independently searched out and spied on her results.

But I see men's competitive talk all the time. Not all men, but most. Tooting their horn when they beat someone who usually beats them. Targeting in: "I'm coming to get you next!" I've seen evidence of that in virtually every race report I've read in cycling, running, triathlon, or adventure racing, written by a man.

And I love it. Is it arrogant? Most of the time it is a light hearted jibe. An elbow and a handshake and, let's go have a beer now. Good race!

Am I serious when I talk like this? Well, sometimes its a nice little fantasy I've spoken out loud. Fantasies are good. And when someone approaches me and asks me if I am going to beat so-and-so in such-and-such race, I'm the first to cringe a little inside and say, I doubt it.

But really I mean, I hope so.

This guy has earned his arrogance. Although this little show-offy move isn't so much arrogant as it is CORNY which, in my opinion, is FAR FAR worse. Now go have some beef.

Competition makes it all interesting. We wouldn't make gains if we didn't let others push us.

So I'm not going to apologize for being competitive. I'm definitely not going to apologize for verbalizing it. Although I suppose that by writing this post at all, I am, in effect, apologizing.

I guess I am a woman after all.


Now if you will excuse me, I have a very snowy cyclocross race to prepare for in two days where I am going to, gleefully, kick all your asses. Yes, even you.

My training secret for "Nordic" Cross:  Excessive shovelling. 


Lisa said...

Love the 'obsessively edited" comment!

Maybe it's a good thing that I don't have the same competitive spark you do...My a$$ would be so kicked by now!!!

Kim said...

I feel the ass kicking daily and I deserve it ;-)

Terri said...

Ha! Finally a topic I wrote about first (though somewhat differently). ;) Perhaps we are a little too competitive? (The question inserted just for you. :P) See you this afternoon, where you will kick my a$$ all over again, despite my beautiful equipment upgrade. (Can't help it - I've been sick all week.) Looking forward to it!

Kim said...

I do believe Terri you are still up on me about 15-4 Sound about right? :P

Hey the snow is a whole new element. I am looking forward to it immensely. Despite the fact I've done no workouts this week.

The excuses are flying already!

Terri said...

Well, my sick won over your snow and it's now what, 15-5? Ah well, good times. Thanks for being competitive with me! I love it!