Some things are just out of your control. That’s probably the hardest thing to accept as a bike racer. You put so much preparation into a moment. You do every single thing you can and as the race starts, the world slows down. You feel every part of life stop as you focus on a single task. It’s a beautiful feeling; it’s the feeling you are after every time you start and race. Sometimes though, in the middle of it, the world comes rushing in…
As I stood on the start line today, I was once again a new racer. I had a great winter of training, I have new goals, new plans, new mental fortitude and I was ready to cap it all off with a new result. I was physically and mentally ready. I completed the new mental preparation that I’ve been working so hard on this past winter. I clipped in, listened for the start, and let the world around me disappear.
The gun went off, we started, I felt good, a few pedal strokes, moving with the pack, looking for gaps, thinking to move forward and I was on the ground.
10 feet off of the start line and I was in a ball lying on the ground. I curled up and put my arms over my head, protecting myself as the whole pack went around and over me on the start. I had tire marks on my arms and pain through my body but more importantly a crash certainly wasn’t the way I wanted to start the race. As I popped up from the group, it didn’t matter how I felt, I was just focused on catching back up to the group. Crashes happen and I was still in contention.
As I tried to remount my bike my levers were twisted. I couldn’t reach my shifters, but it didn’t matter because my bike was stuck in the hardest gear anyways. I tried to push it up the hill, but in such a hard gear I was stuck running. The pack was getting further away and I hadn’t even left the start shoot.
As I crested the top of the hill and attempted to remount my bike again, I was greeted with another surprise. I had a broken spoke and a flat tire. I tried to baby my bike around the start loop and into the pit where I could receive assistance. I couldn’t ride the hills so I had to run and I had to baby the descents with only a front brake and trying to keep the tire on the rim of the wheel. It was sliding and it felt agonizing as I soft-pedaled the first mile of the course without a single other person in sight.
I finally made it to the pit and handed my bike off to the team mechanic. He worked quickly and perfectly to repair my bike. It was the best I could have hoped for as I stood there trying to lower my heart rate and considering what my new goal would be for the race. Could I even catch anyone?
Time is a strange thing in these moments. Everything feels like an eternity, but I’m told I left the start about 4-5 minutes off the back of the group. Which in these races is pretty much an eternity.
There was no room in my mind throughout all of this for negativity, for disappointment, for frustration. I just had to hunt down some racers. For the next 4 laps I did everything in my power to push through the field making aggressive moves and using the time and the race I had been given on the day.
In the end, out of 42 racers I finished 29th, a result that requires a huge asterisk next to it. With the circumstance though, I couldn’t expect much more and I’m proud of my perseverance and my willingness to never give up.
I try to pull some positives from the race, looking at time gained, lap splits, or the fact that my legs felt good. While all good signs for the season to come, this race really can’t serve as any sort of indicator of where I am at. I’ll have to show that tomorrow.
During the race you have no time to think, after the race you are so strung out, and hours after the disappointment sets in. Of course I am upset, but I must practice what I preach. I have to let go of what is out of my hands. I have to know that there is some reason that God didn’t have my race go according to my plan today. His plan will always reign supreme and no matter how many times I ask him “why” in the end I have to rest knowing it’s right.
Tomorrow is a new day, with new circumstances, and I am more than ready to fight. I have it in me and I think all of my bad luck is out of the way. Short track here we come!
On Sunday, I lined up a lot more relaxed than the day before. There is something in feeling like bad luck can’t possibly strike twice.
As we shot off of the line I was a little bit more patient. I focused on finding my position on the course rather than in the pack. Even as my body ached by mind remained in a good place.
The race was crazy. With heart rates stuck at max, speeds reaching 30 and everyone wanting to be in the front, bars were knocking, bodies were hitting, and people were dropping into the single track from every angle. Every time one person would brake, someone would swerve and the chaos was sent through the pack.
I found myself moving around in the group. At one moment I would be sitting near 5th wheel and in the blink of an eye I would move back to 20th. The racing was so close that if you weren’t moving forward then you were moving backward.
Seven laps into the race we were in a single file line weaving through the tight turns on the grass when the first in front of me slid out. Thankfully I avoided the crash, but it was just enough to separate me from the group. I buried myself but I couldn’t make contact. I finished the short track in 17th and the gaps in these races come down to meer seconds.
Onward and upward from here. There were definitely some good take away moments from the weekend and my body is feeling strong and confident in the training I have put in.
I get to line up about 40 more times this season. I can’t wait!