This blog post is probably long overdue. I’ve had a lot of time to think about things while I’ve been M.I.A. I didn’t mean to disappear, but I felt like I had to get my head straight before putting energy into anything else. There are things I miss, sure, and some things I may not have been ready for. And I’m not even sure what the point of this is, but let’s just call it an ice breaker.
When you find yourself at the bottom, you eventually realize the only way to go is up. You have to come up for air, even if you don’t want to. The hole is only as deep as you dig it, and skinny arms don’t last very long. My offseason was the official end of self-pity, self-guilt, and all the emotional bullshit I had collected over the last year. Party’s over, bitch.
With my newfound focus, I was able to train again. If I couldn’t ride outside, I found myself up at 4:30 to ride the trainer. If I couldn’t get my lazy ass out of bed, I would wear a bear suit and ski gloves, and ride outside after work. I tagged along with the boys on 4 hour rides, sometimes dropping a few of them, sometimes getting dropped. I put every ounce of emotion into my legs.
I had a lot to work through.
Training on my own has always been my biggest hang-up. Hell, let’s just be honest. I’ve always had a hard time doing ANYTHING by myself. I guess you could say I have a fear of being alone. I finally had to face this fear, because things were different now, and I had to be strong, and I had to learn how to be alone, and I had so much anger to burn off…and…
Well, I was just really fucking mad.
My 4:30 am trainer rides continued. I started going out after work, all alone, and making my eyes bleed. Solo rides became my most treasured part of the day. I can remember the first day I did 50 miles on my own, on a closed Blue Ridge Parkway. It was a sunny 60 degrees, and I was blasting down from Ox Creek when I started laughing hysterically. I thought, “I don’t need anyone to validate how I should feel about myself. I don’t need other people to push me. I have the power to do it all alone.”
I considered it a special treat to ride with other people.
My first race of the season took me to Nashville, Tennessee, and the Cedar Hill Criterium. I met Don Fields at the 2012 USGP in Louisville. He was wearing a Ritte shirt and a unicorn head. We instantly became buddies, and I thought visiting Nashvegas and his race would be a great way to start the year off right. I had no idea what would happen. I had no idea what to expect of myself.
The whistle blew, and I remembered I was supposed to chill out, but I didn’t want to get stuck behind 20 women in the first turn. I did exactly what I wasn’t supposed to do, and I sprinted from the gate. I wanted to be the first one there, and I was. I backed off and let the others catch up to me, and we were off.
Cedar Hill was tough, and had a lot of climbing for a crit, but I was ready. Asheville isn’t the easiest place to ride with a standard 53/39, and I had been training for this. I kept waiting to blow up, but I never did. I attacked. I covered. I worked. I also hid for the last few laps, because I wanted to test out my new legs at the finish. And they didn’t let me down. I got 4th.
I made the journey to Rock Hill for my very first SOLO race trip. I had never flown solo to a race, and I decided this would be a good time to go. Rock Hill was also my very first road race, and I was nervous as hell. Even though it was only 32 miles, I was scared I’d get dropped, crash, or be crashed. Oddly enough, road racing scares me more than crit racing.
I blew myself up in the first two laps of the crit. I took a chance, and realized I wasn’t fast enough to stay with the break. I felt like shit, and rode solo for a few laps until I sat up and waited for the other women behind me. I took a few pulls and caught my breath. With one lap to go, I went for it, and managed 11/16 for the day. I was pretty disappointed, but I knew where I made the mistake. A lesson learned.
My first road race was an experience I won’t forget. I just want to say how much of an honor it was to ride with a pack of talented women. I took another chance, and went with the break. We worked incredibly hard for the last 27 miles, and it was a beautiful thing. There were moments I didn’t feel like I could keep up, and someone would take an extra pull for me. On the climbs, I would repay the favor (Thanks Asheville!), because apparently I’m good at climbing. Who knew?
As we rounded the final turn, we all gave what little bit of legs we had left. I’m still waiting to see the photos, because I’m sure we all looked like zombies crossing the line. I know I was wearing my finest pain face, because I could no longer feel my feet.
And with that, I took 6th place.
And then my car broke down.
And then I was saved by some kind-hearted folks. Thanks to Spencer Leuders, and all the people who made Sunday night/Monday morning manageable. Accepting help is something I’m not good at, but I’m fortunate to have helpful people in my life.
Well hello, Charlotte.
The most anticipated race of the season, Dilworth, was my first taste of discouragement on the road last year. I was DFL, and dropped within the first lap. I couldn’t hold any speed up the hill, and I couldn’t stay on anyone’s wheel. I rode 25 minutes by myself last year. It crushed me. I tried to keep low expectations, but I very much wanted a good result this time around.
So I busted my ass. I busted my ass so hard, that I didn’t have much ass left to bust in the final sprint. I lost 3rd place, but I had come so far, it didn’t matter. And I didn’t even cry! Shocker, I know.
The hottest race of the year thus far, Belmont, was another big shocker. The field busted up so quick, I had no damn clue where I was. I found Amy, one of the ladies in the break at Rock Hill, and we worked together. We were, by far, the strongest in our group, and did a lot of work together. I tried to let the girls behind me take pulls, but they couldn’t hold the pace, so Amy and I just kept going. I felt safe with her. I finally let the bike go in the turns…and it kicked ass.
To make a long, sweaty, painful story short, I came in 8th. I was the 3rd cat 4 to cross the line. I stayed up too late at the Novant crit, spent too much time on my feet, only slept for 3 hours, and had an allergy attack….and I got top 10. Oh, and….I WAS IN THE MONEY. I’ve NEVER won money. $30 felt like $3,000. I was happy.
And tired as shit.
I’ve been so let down and distracted over the last few months, and somehow I woke up and found myself in this body. I woke up and found a strong woman in the place of that scared little girl. I woke up and realized I control my own destiny. I AM worthy. I AM beautiful. I AM capable. I AM THE SHIT.
And I think I’m starting to believe that I am a biker racer…
How’s that for an ice breaker?