Waking up in the dark on a Saturday morning at a campsite in sub freezing temperatures was a fitting way to shock us into our historic first race day. The night before we had broken bread together (well actually Mediterranean wraps) before enjoying a campfire, telling stories and talking about the day to come.
Nerves were there of course, but so was excitement. Wait, which is which? Lily, our newest rider, had decided at the last minute she wanted to join us for the weekend’s events and so we excitedly scrambled to get everything together for her to camp, carpool and do the pre-ride with the team on Friday afternoon. She did amazing on the pre-ride that afternoon, powering up sections and enjoying the sandy, flowy singletrack trails that Fort Ord offers up.
That night as the fire crackled and lit our faces with that familiar orange glow the discussion turned from favorite Asian food dishes and volunteer projects to what racing would be like. Lily was flirting with the idea of pinning on a number and giving it a go. I mean she was here, she’d just tackled a pre-ride with the team and knew she was capable. We talked on, answering questions until the wavering turned to commitment. Lily was racing the next morning in the first wave at 9:00am sharp!
Just as we had scrambled to get her, her bike and gear together to join us for camping, we had another last chance scramble to work with Lily on her goals for race day. She set the goal to complete a lap-a great first race goal-and then coaches walked her through the next 10.5 hours until race time. Sleep, hydrate, wake up, hydrate, travel to venue, eat, warm up, go time! At that point Lily was anything but ready, but also more ready than she had ever been.
At 6am wake up coaches stumbled out of sleeping bags to shake tents and subsequently kids awake. While still in predawn darkness, we broke camp and headed to the race venue where temperatures in the car read high 20s. It was time to ride our bikes, I mean how else were we to warm up?
The whole team went out for another pre-ride, fighting off numb toes, fingers, noses, legs, entire bodies. By the time we got back it was time for Lily to line up to race. "Eat this. Drink this. I'll take that layer. And that. You're good to go. Have fun. We'll be cheering you on." Quick exchanges were all we had time for as Lily moved up in the start line after each wave of ladies ahead of her were released. Our six boy riders, coaches and parents gathered at the start line to cheer her one and then it was 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 GO! Lily rolled off as the first ever Richmond Composite team rider to race in a NorCal race powering, up the hill and onto the course. Wow!
With Lily out on course, it was time for the boys to warm up. We had about an hour and a half before the boy's races began, so we took a minute to watch the first wave of lead Varsity girls roll around on their first lap (wow they're fast!) and then jumped on our bikes to get warm and prep our legs for the hard efforts to come.
We arrived back from the warm up just in time to catch Lily coming across the finish line. We threw a lot of high fives her way and celebrated Lily making Richmond Composite history. Then it was time for the boys to get ready to roll.
When it was time for the boys to get into the starting line, we were scrambling as you do during your first time through anything with so many players, places, timing and details. With lots of help and encouragement from race volunteers, coaches and other racers we got our team into place and ready to go. In two waves and clouds of dust, our Richmond Composite boys were on course.
Donovan and Jacob were the first ones to go out with the Sophomore boys followed by our four Freshman boys, Sergio, Emilio, Lucas and William. We cheered them out as they passed by with 70 other racers on course.
In the weeks leading up to the race, coaches regularly talked about expectations and goal setting for each rider and the team as a whole. We knew we’d already won just by showing up to the race as Richmond Composite. Everything else was extra bonus, the cherry on top of the best Sunday your favorite aunt bought for you on your 10th birthday. That was the Richmond Composite attitude before, during and after the race. Whatever the times, lap counts, positions, told about the race didn’t really matter, it was noise. What mattered was each of our kids showed up, as they’ve been doing now for months. They set a goal and went for it. They did it together as a team. And they did it on their own terms. They had their own experiences out there on the course. “It was hard!” said a number of our riders. "Everyone was so encouraging. Even when I wanted to give up, riders told me I could do it and to push on,” Lily said after finishing her race. Donovan reflected, saying, “One rider even pushed me up a hill I was struggling on. He said to me, ‘I’m going to give you this push just this once. Then you’ve got to take it from there. You’ve got this!’"
We got so much love from the Norcal family this weekend. We know that if we keep showing up, the Norcal family will keep showing up for Richmond Composite with all they’ve got. We are so grateful.
Parents and coaches waited at the finish line to greet every rider as they passed through the big finish arches, pumping our fists in the air with victory with each rider's arrival. The challenge was real, but so was the reward which included lots of hugs, support, a hot meal, a sense of accomplishment and some great stories to tell. We are so proud of all of our student riders for attempting and crushing their first races ever!
Lastly we want to extend some HUGE thanks to Berkeley High for taking us under their wing this race and offering up their entire pit to us including delicious food, welcome smiles and all the support we could have imagined. We had many teams offer everything to us and we’re so fortunate for this. We are lucky to call the East Bay home and have teams like Albany, El Ceritto, Berkeley and all the Oakland teams as neighbors, friends and team mentors. Thank You! See you at the next race!!!
Go Richmond Composite!