The After Math:
After one week back at home to unwind from the Mediterranean Epic, I have once again found rested legs and have been working to find a recovered mind.
I’ve found that after big events or trips like this one I often experience a let down, or a crash. Important races and very difficult races require such a mental “on-ness” that your brain almost forgets what it’s like to be relaxed and not think.
The biggest high, the euphoric state, cannot be found from day to day activities and your emotions dwindle down from that high and find a low that you once considered to be normal. This time it was different though….
The Mediterranean Epic was a stepping-stone for me this season. I came back from the event more excited than ever. I had to reign in the excitement and push it down as I put my feet up to recover from the race.
Now, a week after the race I finally feel like I can look back and objectively see all that I have gained.
This race was the perfect set up for the season, not only physically, but also mentally. I am left with so many great memories from the trip that I will cherish for years to come.
A Quick Recap:
My friend and I began the trip in the parking garage with the rental car, unsure of how to put the manual into reverse. We struggled through the traffic of Valencia, laughing and smiling the whole way. We walked around the downtown area of our hotel trying to find some real Tapas for dinner after ignoring the suggestion from the hotel that two Americans might enjoy the Burger King down the street.
We drove to Girona and enjoyed a few days staying with the Bookwalters (Thank You!!). I enjoyed seeing all of the professional American cyclists who had escaped to Girona for the winter.
I love the streets of Spain. The small alleyways that I would never dream of walking down in the US were two way roads that took you to what felt like hidden coffee shops, stores, etc. The culture was incredible as we tried to plan our day around the infamous Spanish siesta.
By the end of the trip I had (almost) gotten used to the 8 pm dinner time and my Spanish had vastly improved.
Part way through the trip I stopped and questioned how it was possible that everything had gone so smoothly. Was it really possible to have a perfect trip? Then I realized…it hadn’t been perfect. We had made it perfect. We never let an obstacle fluster us and we never gave into circumstances. I think that will be the focus for this season.
Anyone can race fast when everything is right, but learning how to race your best in the face of adversity is what makes a true champion. I’m not saying I’m there, but I’m realizing that all of the athletes that I have admired over the years are not the ones who flawlessly rose to the top. This season I’m ready to fight. I am always amazed at how when you fight for yourself, others will rise and fight for you.
One of my Favorite Moments from the Race:
The 3rd day of the race took place on a lot of fire roads. There were long periods of big flat sections that required a lot of drafting. Since we started with the men this made for a very interesting strategy amongst the women racers.
The start was 800 people all off of the line at once. This was mayhem as everyone fought for the best pack. When drafting just a few inches off of someone’s wheel you can save up to 40% energy. This means you can go much faster with less energy cost once you are in someone’s slipstream. If you are riding alone, without a draft in a race like this, you will not survive. A big group will come and swallow you up. You are at the mercy of your pack. That means if you are a woman and you get into a fast pack that pack will carry you forward. If another woman gets into a slower pack, she is at the mercy of that pack to dictate the pace. One person alone will not likely be able to bridge the gap between the two groups.
Part way through the day on day three, I found myself with a very fast group of men. We powered through the towns and I stayed focused through all of the turns and accelerations to never lose the wheel in front of me.
Then we hit a large hill. On big hills, since you slow down, drafting is not as big of a factor. This meant that in order to stay with my group I had to put out the same relative power as the men. I really needed to stay in the group because after the crest of the hill it was flat again and I would need the draft.
As we crested the top of the hill I was about 10 feet off of the back of the pack. It was now or never. I had to make it up to the group before it leveled out. I was giving it everything I had. I was suffering.
Then suddenly a man from behind came up around me and started to pull me back to the group. We were so close and then….he dropped back. We didn’t make the group! We were so close, but it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t going to give up but I felt my fate had been sealed.
Then that same man who had fallen back just seconds ago surged ahead, put his hand on my back and pushed me as hard as he could, thus sling shot-ing me up to the group. I made contact. I looked back. The man had given it everything he had to get me to the group and he dropped back. He didn’t make the selection but in that moment he was my hero. I yelled “Gracias!” as the group pedaled away.
This season I want to remember that moment. The moment when it feels like all is lost, but determination, faith, and a little extra help will take you to the next level.
The Final Word:
God has blessed me in so many ways and as I flew back to the USA last week I couldn’t help but continue to say a prayer of gratitude. It is such a blessing to do what you love.
For anyone who is looking for a new challenge, I would highly recommend the Mediterranean Epic. It is a great way to escape winter, the landscape is amazing, the race is run very professionally, the race director is extremely quick to respond, the people are friendly, the course is relentless, and you’ll really find what you are capable of.
Thank you for following along on my pre-season journey. The official race season for me begins in only 3 weeks! Stay tuned….