So, if you joined a cycling team which advertised a 3 day "Spring Training Camp" which included a 70 mile option on Friday and Saturday and a 3,500+ (15 mile) hill climb up a mountain, wouldn't you think that meant this was a weekend meant for work? Also some fun, but some real, hard, honest work on two wheels.
That's what I thought and woooo boy, was that a mistake.
Also, if you knew that multiple board members were triathletes, the whole club was volunteering for the finish line at an Ironman, and they sold tri kits to wear at races, wouldn't you assume the group was triathlete-friendly?
Again, ASSume and wow, I was super wrong.
And finally, and again the ASSume rule here, is that my friends will back me just as solidly and loyally as I would for them when they're in a bad place. Sure, I may not agree with them, but if they need me, I will keep my thoughts to myself and do whatever I can to help. Again, wrong. And that one hurts. A bunch.
Back late last year I was looking for a new group to ride bikes with. One that didn't try to "out tri-dork" each other with egos and establishing territory. I just wanted a friendly group to go and ride bikes for miles and miles over lots of hills. A pretty simple request that I suppose is hard to fill when you're me. My friend has been a part of a Boulder-based women's cycling club. The few times I ran into them, they seemed nice and my friend had very good things to say about them. Sure, I don't get a ton of the benefits, like sponsor discounts, but I was hoping for a nice group of people to train with and I was very excited over the idea of a training camp.
I did a few rides with them and they went well. People were friendly. I did get one comment about my TT bike from the president, but it was more like "technically I'm supposed to tell you not to ride your TT bike because its a rule and I'm club president, but as a triathlete, I get that you need./want to ride that bike." So I took that as I could pick and choose when to ride my bike.
I was really excited to do the out of town training camp. Three BIG days of training would greatly benefit me for IMBoulder - lots of endurance, time on the bike, and with a huge climb on the last day, lots of mental and strength training.
I show up to Training Camp planning to ride long (70 miles) on Fri and Sat and do the hill climb Sun. We met with the group and immediately I got a "you brought your TT bike!?!?!" I played it off as yeah, its my bike and I ride this a ton. Its fine. No big deal. And hey, I brought fruit snacks and I'm really friendly.
I have ridden in groups before, and I typically stay up on my bars until I had ~2 bike lengths in front of me and then I would go down on my aero bars. I feel safe and comfortable doing this based on countless rides and miles of riding this way with groups, from clubs to century rides. I think this experience is fairly universal for most triathletes. Its just how we ride and its fine and safe. An hour into it, one girl (a multi-IM person) said "don't ride down on your aero bars when you're in front of me because you scared me and J." I tried to explain that I had 2 bike lengths in front of me and apparently that didn't matter. I get squinty-eyed thinking over this complaint for a few reasons. 1) why is this girl, a triathlete, scared of someone riding aero? how does she manage to race? 2) how am I supposed to know how close someone is behind me and why is this MY issue. I've always treated riding (just like driving) as you need to watch what's ahead of you and make sure you can react. Its damn near impossible to control/watch what's going on behind you.
I approached J (who I also "scared") and apologized and she said "oh, that's just this person, you're fine and don't worry". So now I'm wondering what the hell is going on and I'm also feeling really self conscious and a bit anxious. I just want to ride and have fun. I don't want to be causing problems but I also want to be able to ride the way I want to, which is, I feel, very safe. (again, based on years of experience of riding)
My legs were feeling really good and the hills were treating me well. We were having a bit of fun playing cat and mouse on the rollers. I heard someone say "hey, I recognize that hill" and I just went for it. I was riding along and I got to a potential turn and quickly realized that I had lost my group. I wasn't leading and I didn't know the route. I circled back and quickly realized that I had messed up and started hammering back, all the while really beating myself up because I had messed up. I came upon the group (10 women, all in matching outfits) who were standing there waiting for me. I felt even worse. I immediately started apologizing and was very strongly told by 3 people "you CANNOT do that". Which made me feel really bad and even more self conscious.
I had already been talked to for "scaring" someone and now I made the whole group mad at me. I was now "that asshole". With a group of new people that I wanted to be friends with. I was just seeing things spiral downwards and spent the next 30 miles dealing with some pretty dark social anxiety issues that have been plaguing me for the past several years. Not to mention, an honest mistake that caused the group to wait a maximum of 8 minutes (according to my garmin), which resulted in me getting yelled at publicly by several people. This caused a very large dose of WTF?!? to circle around my head. All of this combined made for a pretty miserable ride to lunch.
Most of the time after that I was riding by myself (aero, but looking backwards enough to make my neck really hurt at the end of the day because god forbid I was aero when someone snuck behind me and I didn't realize it....) I was sandwiched between the lead and the back back. There was a corner where I waited for the back pack (because I god forbid I don't wait and I get yelled at again). The back group zipped in front of me, placing me firmly at the back of the line, which was too slow for me. There was a huge rumble strip preventing me from swinging out onto the road to pass. I said something to the person ahead of me about wanting to pass and she either didn't hear it or ignored me and blocked me. Given my already bad mental state, I just wanted to get away from these people and passed them on the right (on a decent sized shoulder), apologizing to every person I passed for being yet another asshole and passing on the right. So more anxiety for me. But I just didn't feel comfortable riding with them in a pack. And really, the people who yelled at me were in the group and emotionally, I just didn't want to hear their voices. I just wanted space.
At lunch, I decided to have a talk with the president about the incident where I missed the turn and how I felt like they dogpiled on me. I explained that I'm pretty emotionally beat up, have some anxiety issues, and the reaction of the group for my innocent mistake really pushed me into a bad emotional state. I suggested that maybe humor would be a better approach when they're dealing with someone new, so the person wouldn't spend 30 miles feeling awful. We talked for a bit. Apparently, contrary to her statement 2 weeks ago, riding my TT bike is a very bad thing. I explained that I've put a lot of $ into my TT bike and in order to ride safely and comfortably, I'd have to dump a lot of money into my road bike or buy a new one - something which seemed really unreasonable for a group to ask me to do. Her response was a cold "maybe you can develop new skills". Which is really confusing because she is ALSO an Ironman. She then decided to bring up some other things I had done (example, passing on the right) and we parted ways. This left me upset enough where I spent good 5 minutes curled up on the floor of the bathroom sobbing while everyone was enjoying smoothies, salads and cookies.
Because THAT's how training rides should go, right?
I got myself cleaned up and hid in a corner by the bikes waiting for everyone to finish lunch. During that time, only one person of the group of ten noticed me and talked to me. And that person was not my friend whom I was sharing a room with, which upset me a bit as well.
So we rode home. There were some comments about how I needed to treat this as a fun ride, not a training ride (again, 70 miles... wtf? and what's wrong with training during a training camp?). Afterwards, in our room, I tried to have a conversation with my friend about how the day had upset me. She agreed that the dogpiling was unnecessary but there was also a very underlying unsympathetic "we're a Boulder group and this is how we do things". All I really wanted was maybe a hug and a sympathetic ear and perhaps even a white lie about how she understood and yes I was justified and yes, the entire day was crappy. Later, after I overheard part of her conversation with her fiancee about how "it will all blow over and be ok." After she left to meet with people, I called my husband and started bawling because things were definitely NOT ok. In fact, they were so not ok that if I was not responsible for my friend's ride home, I would have left that night. I was so upset and wanting to be alone after that, that I was seriously thinking of spending the night in my truck. I was in full, backed into a corner, paranoia, no one sees my perspective, or worse CARES to see my perspective, including my friend, crying on the phone to my husband, misery mode.
Because THAT makes for a fun training weekend.
The next morning, we got ready for a the hill climb (the 2nd 70 mile ride was cancelled for wind). And finally, someone was nice enough to say she heard what happened and gave me a hug. And for that I'm thankful, as it made my day a bit better. It felt like someone got me and was a bit on my side and that I wasn't alone.
The ride up the ski hill was ok. There were sevearl miles of riding at 3.8 mph because it was so steep, which is sucky. And it was cold. And I was an idiot (because I was still upset) and didn't really pack any cold riding gear, so I froze on the way down.
I realized later on, when people gathered downtown for shopping and lunch (including me because I was so worried what people would say about me if I didn't participate) that this weekend was a girl's weekend away disguised as a training weekend. It was not a training weekend. People wanted to get away from their lives and shop and drink and talk and do girl-type stuff. Which is fine. But don't call it a training weekend. It even included a big group dinner that night with wine that ended up in a birth control discussion. That sort of stuff makes me want to poke my eyes out. Really, most group things drive me batty (there's something about herding cats, getting people to all agree on where to go and where to eat that REALLY does not go well with my independent spirit. I am much better with groups no larger than 4). Most people were into it. I think I was the only one who wasn't. Really, it was the same thing with Ragnar. Everyone thought the weekend was amazing. For me, even without the drama, I would have given the weekend a solid "meh". Mainly because I just don't need/like girls weekends. I just wanted to ride my bike, eat good food, have a beer, sleep and repeat. Shopping and chatting aren't ever high on my list of things I want to do and I never feel like I need to go out of town for these things. I really felt that for the money I spent on travel/food (money I don't really have right now), I could have taken Friday off of work and ridden the same schedule and terrain and gotten more out of it. No criticism for "training", no spending money, no social anxiety, no me being tortured by groups of people chatting over wine. (I'm exaggerating on the torture, they were nice, but the topics on conversation were sooooo not my wheelhouse)
So lesson learned on many levels. Now I just need to figure out if I want to be a part of this group moving forward. A large part of me is saying no, that I should sell my gear (or cancel a pending order) and just get out. Really, any group who has board members treating a new member that way is really not a group I want to participate in. And then the whole "Boulder elitist" crap that was underlining everything. They only have their Boulder experience and that's all that they're willing to acknowledge. Just because they're "Boulder" doesn't mean that there aren't many other ways of doing things and ending up with happy people on bikes riding on roads in groups.
In other words, I think I'll go back to just riding solo and doing my own thing. Or maybe next year I'll join Rocky Mountain Tri Club. They did a Moab training weekend this same weekend. My friends got in 185 miles of riding in 3 days - probably all in aero. In the end, I'm not sure a pretty kit isn't enough for me to stay. And, I'm pretty sure that any time I ride with this group again, I'll have a bit of PTSD and paranoia. Bike riding is supposed to be fun (and sometimes hard,, but never to the point where you're sobbing on the floor of a bathroom during lunch.) Always looking over my shoulder (figuratively and literally) trying to stzay out of trouble just isn't how I want to ride.