Monday, March 7, 2011

My Life As A Super W.A.G.

For the past five years, I’ve spent every weekend in March and April at bike races. It all started when my husband, a longtime professional cycling fan and lifelong athlete, asked if I would be interested in helping him to coach a collegiate cycling team. I said, “What am I going to do? I’ve never raced a bike in my life.” He said, “You’re good at organizing. They need help with the basic logistics so they can concentrate on the racing.” I said, “Okay, I’ll try it. And I’ll make some banana bread for them.”

We’re now entering our sixth season as the coaches of Columbia University’s cycling team. My role has evolved from a W.A.G. (wife and girlfriend) to fully fledged coach, confidant and supporter. While I still haven’t ever raced a bike, I’m a much more technically proficient rider than I was five years ago and I’ve learned a lot about racing just by watching. I can help new riders with their skills, talk to them about their races and give them advice about how to warm up and cool down.

Coaching our team is a volunteer job. While there's no pay, we are compensated. The road trips up and down the East Coast every weekend are really fun. Sometimes we laugh so hard it hurts. We also enjoy introducing people to the sport and helping more seasoned riders to improve their performances. We share in the disappointment and sadness if someone has had a bad race or is going through a tough time at school or at home. And then there is the exhilaration and joy when someone who has trained hard all winter wins a race!

When we started coaching the team, I never dreamt that I would write a book or that some of my experiences in coaching would be so important to it. But when I wrote that first character sketch of my protagonist I saw bike racing as the perfect physical challenge for her.

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