I’m tired. I could easily lay my head on the pillow and drift off to sleep, but this blog entry would lose it’s luster. I literally just walked in the door after a 4 hour drive from Charlotte, North Carolina. Crit races #2 and #3 are in the books, y’all. And yes, I LOVE IT. Dirt Divas (men and women) can hate all day long. I love criteriums. Love, love, LOVE. And I will be faster in ‘cross because of it. You watch and see.
Looking back on my Dilworth experience, part of me wishes I had been able to sit down and talk out the course with someone beforehand. I went into this race very unaware and naive, and had a shitty day (ALONE) on the bike. I cried my eyes out after the race, feeling the disappointment swallow me whole. Crying is a normal thing for me post-race. I’m an emotional bike racer. It means more to me than most people can wrap their head around.
In spectacular Megan fashion, I learned a lot about bike racing the hard way at Dilworth. I made all the wrong choices and walked away with a broken spirit. I can look at every single mistake and point out where I failed, and I now understand what I could have done to have a better outcome. You can teach technique. You can teach tactics. You can’t teach experience. I have to earn that on my own.
After an amazing night’s sleep, I woke up at the crack of dawn to prepare for NODA. I had no real expectations for this race, mostly because it was a 3/4 field. If I can walk away with experience and no broken body parts, I consider it a good race. It’s definitely a plus if I can walk away happy with my effort, and today was my day.
This was my biggest road field yet, with 24 ladies toting the line. I sat on my bike, took a few deep breaths and tried to relax. After a long wait, the official blew the whistle, and we were off. I sprinted for a good start, because I didn’t want to be off the back in the first turn. I managed to sit in 5th until the hill climb, where a few girls passed me. I clutched to a wheel and hung on for my life…these chicks were fast! They slowly started pulling away from me, but I gave my best effort to keep up.
As we made our way around for lap 2, I thought I could grab the last wheel in the lead group, but my hopes were quickly crushed into tiny pieces. I looked behind me and saw no one. I wasn’t sure if I should slow down and wait or keep smashing…so I did what any sane human would do…I KEPT SMASHING. Did I say sane human? I meant to say MASOCHIST. So for the next 3-4 laps, I rode as hard as I could, by myself.
I eventually heard the voices of the chase group behind me. I couldn’t hang on to myself anymore, so I sat in with them. I managed to recover pretty quickly, but I still wasn’t sure what my body would allow me to do for the remainder of the race. I was getting ready to take my turn in the front, but as we rounded the final turn, I heard the lap bell. I guess I was so deep in my pain cave, I didn’t pay attention to the lap sign. 1 to go…I had to push the envelope a little more.
I knew if I could hold out for 3/4 of a lap, I could throw down in the sprint. I struggled to hang on until we crested the climb, and started going through my gears. I came out of the corner and stood up. I pushed through the final turn and sprinted as hard as I could, digging my legs into the ground. I think I let out a grunt or two. I saw spots. I couldn’t breathe. I made it to the finish line and knew I had nothing else to give. I started dry heaving as I took a cool down lap. Success.
I placed 16th out of 23 women, in my 3rd criterium, after riding a bike for a little under a year. Yesterday is a distant memory. I still have SO MUCH work to do, but today was a day I can smile about. I needed a good day on the bike. I needed to see my hard work in the present moment. I needed to mend my broken spirit. NODA did all those things.
One of the things I love most about bike racing, whether it be ‘cross or road, is that it’s the only time in my life when my mind is quiet. My mind constantly spins like a top, but for those 30 minutes, it’s like white noise. It’s an amazingly beautiful thing.
And my new bike is the jam. Watch out, ladies…I’m getting faster.