I remember my first ‘cross race like it was yesterday. I had been riding on the road on a semi-regular basis, and felt like I was in decent shape. I figured I would perform well since I had an athletic background, but I was definitely nervous and skeptical.
The pain I experienced was like nothing I had felt before.
Fast forward. A year later and almost 30 pounds lighter. I literally worked my ass off. I had a love affair with pain and suffering, but in a very fulfilling way. There were highs and lows, but I managed to pedal through whatever it was holding me back and dragging me down. And then there was ‘cross, ready and waiting for my return.
I remember how it felt crossing the line that painfully hot September day. It was close to 98 degrees, nothing like typical ‘cross weather, and I was near collapse. I had shelled myself to close the gap between myself and the leader. I could feel my head pounding as the sweat ran down my nose. I was dying. The fact I could see her right in front of me blew my mind. What happened to me? How was I in front of all these women? More importantly, how was I so close to someone who kicked my ass just 12 months before?
When I crossed the finish line, I burst into tears. There’s no possible way I can put into words what I felt, but it overpowered anything I’ve ever known. I finally realized how far I had come, and how far I wanted to go.
This weekend had highs and lows. I raced 3/4’s on Saturday, and barely recognized the girl riding my bike. I was patient, poised, and intelligent. I attacked when I needed to, and recovered when I had the chance. I studied the other racers and identified where I had the advantage. I rode the technical sections smoothly…something I have struggled with in the past. I didn’t panic. And I crossed the finish line first.
I spent the rest of the day basking in the love and acceptance of my friends. I was proud of myself for putting in the work, and grateful for those who didn’t give up on me when I had given up on myself. I knew Sunday would bring a different feeling, but I was ready and willing to challenge myself.
Being a new cat 3 isn’t an easy job. Unless you are a cycling anomaly, catting up will eat you alive. If you let it, it will eat you from the inside out. Learning how to accept myself after an ass whooping has been a task all in itself.
Pro 1/2/3 race. Very small, but stacked field. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay with the women toting the line with me. My only job? Ride for 45 minutes, giving everything I had, and gaining experience for the next race (but the officials jacked up and we raced for 58 minutes). So I went out with plans of hanging on for as long as my body would allow. I bobbled in the barriers as we came around for lap #2, and watched all hopes ride away from me. I sat up to stretch my aching back, and screamed out in anger. Time to ride by myself. I felt disappointment creeping up, and I thought about quitting, but I knew I had something to prove to myself.
So, I buried my head and found a way to keep digging. I raced my own race.
I decided to lighten up a bit on the final lap, and I took a rubber chicken hand up. I mean, I was racing women who have years of experience. This is my second season. I have to give myself a little credit.
Cyclocross has changed me, not only physically, but mentally and spiritually. I’ve made friendships that will last forever. My mind is stronger than ever. My body is unrecognizable. The joy I’ve been able to experience in this sport is more than I deserve. It’s been a rocky road at times, but I feel like I’m a better person because of it.
It’s hard to see the good when everything around you is so negative. This weekend put things in perspective, and I am fortunate. I was surrounded by people I love, doing what I love. How can you not feel good about that? It simply felt good to feel good. That’s all any of us want. We want to feel good about our place in life and about ourselves.
My bike has patched me back together once again, and I am focused and ready for whatever comes my way.