I used to show up to races and feel like there was something I should have been doing/thinking/knowing/being. That everyone else was in on some secret handshake or club membership that I was not aware of. This feeling of being an impostor goes with the territory though. After spending most of my young life rock climbing full time, and then moving to Ottawa and switching over to back-of-the-pack clydesdale in my 30's, probably explains it. I never learned the secret handshake.
But now I've got this bike race thing down. The most gratifying part is that I can keep my head clear and know how to adjust the throttle. When I woke up from my tent, I sat with my coffee. No nerves. Today was going to be a good day.
Early on in the Ganaraska Marathon, a single speed guy in front of me slowed down and sat up. Then I did as well. We entered a pine forest unusual for these parts---open, clear of obstruction, with rays of light coming through the tree tops. The jungle had given way to dry brown earth.
Another single speed rider whom I was trying to pace during the first part of the course noted the two-stroke motos nearby. We both agreed that two-strokes actually have a nice smell, as long as you're not too close.
The denoument of the ride was the long loose gravel climb at 60 km. Before I had to hike, but I hammered it this time, cresting the steep section going anaerobic, just backing off enough to reel in the remaining bit of the climb, and then grab the narrows of my bars and tuck for the descent.