Team Laser Cats

Women in Philadelphia who love bikes, cats, and snacks.

Not-Race Report for a not-race a.k.a. Belmont Thursday ALL THE FEELINGS Y’ALL

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Yesterday the Laser Cats got an amazing, ebullient text message from Sophia who was SO JAZZED on endorphins after doing her morning road work. That is 100% how I felt after going to my first-ever Belmont Thursday night mountain bike race. Through a years-long perfect life storm of weird work hours, injury, and surgery/rehab, I’d never been able to attend. In a weird way, I was kinda ok with this: the Belmont can be super intimidating and it seemed like it would only be more so when shared with a bunch of fast trail wizards.

I’ll admit it has been a mission of mine for some time to make peace with the Belmont; to gain some semblance of competence and proficiency with it. Riding there used to be a source of real frustration until I realized that if you can ride Belmont, you can ride anything. I had made a bunch of vows to myself when I was hurt to not take mobility for granted again, to be more diligent and intentional, to put myself out there and do new things even if they are scary. These are good life practices in general. When I realized that my schedule would allow for the Thursday night races this year, it was like the universe was calling my bluff.

ANYWAY.

Two things happened the afternoon leading up to this:

1. Feeling my resolve to head to the Belmont withering amid weather concerns and general personal second-guessing, I texted Elisabeth and she replied (among other things) “You are a LASER CAT!” This helped immensely. THANK YOU.

2. En route to the race, I was stopped at a red light. I was thinking about bikes, thinking about this team and how excited I am. An older man crossing the intersection in front of me stopped to say “Hey, you look really beautiful”. My brain started rolling its eyes: great, yup, I am a woman out in the world so please feel free to comment on my appearance. You know. Then he stopped, looked at me, and clarified: “I just think you look really joyful. Don’t let anyone steal your joy. Have a blessed afternoon.” HOLY REAL TALK Y’ALL.

So I got to the Belmont and saw a lot of nice people that I knew and met a few that I didn’t. It was delightfully informal (“We marked a course! Do a lap or two or three!”) and really a great way to see a familiar place in a new light. A minute or two in, I felt some log-related self-consciousness creeping in, and my brain saved me with my new mantras: I am a Laser Cat! Don’t let anyone steal your joy! Repeating those, I was able to relax and have a really pleasant time. I walked over some things, but I also tried some new obstacles and made it over a couple. That’s a victory in my book. I am going to do this every Thursday from now until forever (a.k.a. fall). I hope to see you there.

On these new mantras:

I am so honored and excited to be a Laser Cat. Beyond words. I was telling Elisabeth last week that after riding mostly alone for however long, I had come to the following conclusion: I wish I had a network of rad women to ride with. Maybe with snacks and outfits. THIS IS AN ACTUAL THING I THOUGHT. AND THEN IT HAPPENED. This rules.

On my ride home from the race, I thought a lot about “Don’t let anyone steal your joy” and in a way, it’s the exact same thing as that Machines for Freedom post about women talking ourselves down about our cycling ability or perceived lack thereof. (I’m certainly guilty of this practice.) I thought about how when we do this, WE STEAL OUR OWN JOY. I also thought about the comment some of the team had received about “looking like you’re having all the fun”. I just want to say I’m stoked to be in a place where I can keep my joy, share my joy, and practice having the most fun with you all.

Thank you for having me, Team Laser Cats. I am really looking forward to riding bikes and eating snacks and making jokes with you.

Love, Meghan!
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