This smile you see is one of the hardest earned satisfaction I have ever known.
The road race was 2 days ago and I find myself lost for words. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know where to start. All I know is that I crossed the line completely spent, with no gears and hyperventilating, screaming for water, fighting for air, after the hardest 2 hours of my life.
The 3 hours leading up to that weren’t too stellar, either.
Subsequent to writing my previous post, the Di2 started playing up again, the front derailleur shifting of its own accord, but not on command.
Take a deep breath – this is a bit of a ramble.
We were ready at the race location at 630am — 3 hours before my start time — to see the race mechanic, an exceptional guy by the name of Robert Thompson from Push Peddle Cycling Education. The upshot of 2 hours of working my bike over was that a cable had been sheared and I would not be riding the big ring. I was able to race, but I’d be riding as the under 17s do – rear derailleur only. I knew, right then, that I would be facing 2 hours out there, alone, the race up the road from the very first break.
So I got on my trainer and I warmed up. Arriving on the start line for my first ever road race, I began to tremble. I was extremely affected by the sight of the other girls of sitting easily on the top tubes of their road bikes, perfectly balanced, clipped in, arms draped casually over the front bars. This very position is unobtainable to me. The limitations of my prosthesis are numerous and balance is difficult. I waited with them and with every breath they appeared more settled as I became less so. Unstable. Teetering. Precarious.
I was psyched out and on the start line, couldn’t get it together. The commissaire was a very sweet man and assisted me over the line…
But then I was off! Not at all like a bullet, or a rocket, or anything like that and, Yes, I watched the race go down the road, but no, it didn’t impact me. I knew it would be this way, and besides, this was my first time back on the bike after a series of not only unfortunate events, but yet another tumble. I was very, very, cautious.
The course was 4 laps of a 13km circuit with 4 left hand turns to negotiate. Corners. My nemesis.
I spent my first lap doing 2 things: 1) getting to know the course and then 2) getting absolutely soaked. Or maybe the rain started on the second lap. Whatever the case, it bucketed down. We were all soaked out there and I had to tilt my face down so that I could blink just often enough to clear the water from my eyes. Cornering. In the wet. Again. But these turns – they were LEFT turns, and there was nobody around to get caught with. I slowed practically to a complete stop for each, but every time I successfully navigated a corner, my confidence grew.
By half way through, I was feeling good about how my race was going. The rain lasted maybe a lap and a half. I was suffering, but I was doing what had to be done. The hills were disastrous, my gear selection abysmal — I hadn’t ridden a hill for over a month so was well out of practice. Nothing I had done in my training had been adequate to physically prepare me for this day. The lessons delivered by my coach are all invaluable. No one can ever put a price on what I’ve learned from him, or from Mick, and the rider I am today is due mostly to their input, for which I am extremely grateful. I was equipped with just enough skill, just enough courage, just enough practical knowledge and just enough fitness to pull through the test. Nothing was as I had either expected or hoped.
Somewhere on lap 2, courtesy of the wet weather, my gears started jumping 2 at a time. For the final lap, as I started trying to shift up, into an easier gear as I approached the first monster hill, they stopped responding all together. I was stuck, at the bottom of the ring, my hardest gear, for the final lap. I didn’t even panic, I was so used to mechanical failure by now. I took a deep breath, and prepared myself for life to get a lot harder, when I was already feeling spent. At times, I thought I would come off. Going up those hills completely loaded, I was hearing my own pulse in my ears and seeing spots, my legs searing. I later found out that lap was a few minutes faster..
You know how this ends. I finished it. I got my medal. My unknowns are now known. I definitely cannot say that I am happy.
I am proud that I rode my race, despite extremely testing circumstances. I am satisfied with the knowledge and the experience that I have acquired. I know I rode exceptionally hard — an average heart rate of 167 for 2 hours. That’s punishment. And every girl there was exceptionally tough and completely worthy of the highest respect. I wish I could have experienced bunch racing and worked with them, but those are clearly lessons for another race. Another time. A better time.
I also know the finishing times for the time trial. Under different circumstances… That really hurts. Bitter disappointment.
I’ll get over it. I’ll get on with it. How, I’m not sure right now. My bike is busted and I have no money or sponsors. The solution will come. Eventually. That’s just how these things work.
I’ll leave you with my garmin data and a photo that links to other photos. Ooooo.