Along with all the great entries I look forward to posting here, I feel it’s only appropriate to share with you an entry that isn’t as “great”. I started this post last night on the plane and wrote nearly two pages before realizing even I was bored reading it. It was a lot of details about my preparation, the days leading up to the race, and how each race had gone. The truth is I actually started writing this post in the last lap of Redlands road race on Friday. I had a lot of time on my hands because I was solo…off the back.
I had gone to Redlands with the hopes to hold my own and possibly take home a white jersey. Neither of those things came true. I could list excuses and some are even valid, but no one wants to read those either. I think most people would be more interested in what I experienced and learned during those hard moments.
The climbs during the road race were difficult. By the time you hit the climbs you had been rolling up a 10 mile false flat (slightly uphill for those who don’t know cycling lingo). Holding on to my mid-pack placement was extremely difficult. It hurt both physically and mentally. I’ve questioned myself over the last few weeks during certain training if I have the ability to suffer enough. I questioned it again during this climb. How much is mental and how much is physical? I don’t need to go into the endless topic of examples of just how intensely the human body can suffer. But what I do want to explore is how much I can suffer and ultimately keep going.
I rode with a handful of women for a while who had also fallen off the peleton. There were many moments I was hanging on by a thread. I few painful pedal strokes and again I’d be in a safe place. Until the last time I couldn’t give those hard solid strokes. What I knew was my sure ticket to the next stage was slipping away and in its place was our team van asking if I wanted in. I shook my head and said I wouldn’t quit. They had to move along with the group and I was left with 20+ miles of solitude.
When you’re out there or let me rephrase as I can’t speak for everyone else…when I was out there I thought about a number of things. I thought about how badly I wanted to race the crit the following day. I thought about how much time and effort it takes to make it all happen just to then loose it in a few moments. Any time I started thinking about what to post here or how to tell my coaches I started crying. Let me give you a little advice, if you think riding a lap solo isn’t hard enough don’t dare try to cry. Your throat seizes up and what little air you had becomes more restricted.
I didn’t make the time cut. My race was over and I was devastated. I did my best to hold my composure when I got back to the team van. My teammate Laura had stated how badly she felt as she was in the group I got dropped from. I assured her not to feel badly and I would have felt worse if she sacrificed herself in order to help.
When we got back to the homestay I took a lot of time to process it by myself. Honestly I needed to cry it out and get over it. I can’t lie though; I could have used a big hug. You know the kind where you melt into their arms.
I had emailed Sophie (one of my coaches) about the race. I did try calling, but glad she didn’t answer, as I don’t think talking would worked. By the time I received a reply I was ready to take the great advice given. It was time to pick myself up, support my team, and look at all the things I learned over those two days. I’m pretty sure I learned way more than I ever would have placing mid-pack.
The next day I was at the crit to support my teammates. There was a pretty large ceremony prior to the start and I couldn’t help but still want to be at the line with the rest of them. Part of the ceremony was to honor a past athlete who had gone on to accomplish a lot in cycling. This year it was Kristen Armstrong. They had asked her for a story from Redlands and advice for the women riders. She said how her first three years at Redlands were very difficult and that her advice was you need to learn how to lose in order to learn how to win.
I don’t think those words could have come at a better time.
My coaches’ goal for me at Redlands was to gain experience. I did just that. What I chose to share here was a hard moment, one that every athlete goes through at some point and maybe several times over. It’s just not what we normally want to share with everyone. We are accustomed to hearing about the glory, but you can miss out on so much if you ignore the pain. In addition to those moments, I experienced wonderful things at Redlands. The race production itself was truly amazing from the host housing to the moto support on the courses. The times on and off the course with my teammates are priceless. I even hit some numbers (watts) during my TT I’m pretty proud of. Bottom line is this is all good, even the bad. It has only added fuel to my fire for more.