Argy Bargy Athens

When I started this bike racing journey, I never expected to race road, nor have the actual desire to.  I certainly never planned on taking my novice ass down to Athens, GA for Twilight to commemorate one whole year on the bike. Crit #4 was going to be big and scary, even if it wasn’t actually “Twilight”, and the only word that comes to mind when I look back at yesterday is…DEMORALIZING.

I did everything right on Friday night. I had a great dinner, stretched, and went to bed at a decent hour. I was a big ball of nerves, but managed to sleep well. I got up early, ate breakfast, and rode my bike to the course. It had been raining through the night, and was actually STILL raining during my warm-up. I had never raced on wet pavement before. My stomach flopped like a fish out of water. Time to put on my big girl pants.

I remembered J-man saying something about getting a good place on the line, so I watched the other chicks carefully. I saw one of them headed in that direction, so I followed and placed myself right up front. The officials stalled out our start time another 15 minutes or so, and my warm-up faded away a memory. At least everyone was in the same boat, though. We were all cold and wet. I could feel my heart beating through my chest wall. “On the whistle, ladies”.

I got a great start, perhaps a bit too fast, and managed to be the first girl through turn 1. Then, as if someone was pulling me backwards, I watched as people passed me from both sides. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…I kept falling back. I finally latched on to a wheel and followed the girls around to the start/finish. My left leg was already blowing up. This has been going on, noticeably, since NCCX in Charlotte. It only hurts during races, and I’m pretty sure it has a lot to do with a length discrepancy. At any rate, I was sitting middle of the field after the first lap. And then they got faster.

On the second turn, during my second lap, I got swept into the curb. Being the non-roadie, ‘cross and mountain rider that I am, I instinctively unclipped my left foot and put it out to push off the curb. I managed to use my brakes and my foot to keep my face off the pavement, and pedaled on. The pack was long gone by this point. I worked my ass off to bridge, but my leg exploded into a million tiny pieces. I pedaled up the hill, only to feel my leg cramp up to the point where it almost made me cry. I watched the pack slip away into the first turn. And then I experienced it…for the first time in my entire life…

I quit. It was quite possibly the worst feeling I’ve ever had. Just reflecting on it now fills my eyes up with tears. I got off my bike and couldn’t straighten my leg. As I limped over to the grass, a guy asked if he could hold my bike for me, so I let him. The overwhelming feelings of pain, disappointment, and failure took over, and I fell to the ground in a heap of tears.

That poor dude didn’t know what to do. Sorry, bro. Females are bat shit crazy.

I kept saying “I can’t believe I quit”, over and over. In a pile of tears. While a random dude held my bike. After a few minutes of this, I decided to get up and hobble my pity party to the other side of the course, because I was sure everyone thought I wrecked. Some of the AYC kids came up and asked me if I was ok. I tried to compose myself for the few minutes it took to assure them I was ok, and continued to walk towards the start/finish.

At this point, I was an inconsolable mess, and I ran into J-man. He asked if I crashed, and I could barely get the words out. “I quit! I pulled myself. I can’t believe I quit!”. He grabbed my bike as I wiped away my flooding tears with my skin suit. I was practically hyperventilating at this point, but he was calm and just kept telling me “you’re ok”.

“It’s part of it, Megan. You’re gonna have bad races and you’re gonna get pulled and you’re gonna get faster. It’s ok. I promise you’re gonna do better. This is part of bike racing. It’s hard. You’re ok. It’s all part of.” Jordan is wise beyond his years. This kid knows what’s up. But I kept crying.

I found Autumn, got the car keys, and decided to soft pedal to the car to change clothes. I cried the ENTIRE WAY. Some guy rode up to me and asked, “Are you from New England?” I’m assuming he was referring to my team kit. I started talking in my redneck, durty south accent, politely telling him I was on the grassroots team. I think he realized I was bawling my eyes out, so he patted me on the shoulder and told me to have a better day. I continued on the Trail of Tears to the parking garage…

I couldn’t even get dressed. I managed to wrap myself in a towel and take off my skin suit. Just as I was about to take off my shoes, Justin Bristol rolled up and asked how my race went. And the rain came down. I attempted to explain, but kept getting choked on my tears. So he hugged me.

I was standing in a beach towel, in a parking garage, still in my Mavics, crying my eyes out while being consoled by a dude in an oversized skin suit and full-fingered gloves. It makes me laugh now. I’m such a dork. Approximately 45 minutes after I quit my race, I stopped crying.

I met up with my Asheville buddies and watched some bike racing. I decided it was time to enjoy my first Twilight. I had the pleasure of watching Jordan Lewis qualify for the amateur finals, and have a few laughs with a great group of people. Sometimes it’s not always about the bike. Lance was actually right about that…

Taco Stand.  Tofu tacos.  Margaritas.  Amateur finals.  Women’s and men’s pro races.  Aggressive flip-flops.  The joy on Autumn’s face as her very proud kid won his first prime in front of thousands of people.  Twilight was amazing.

I’m fortunate to have the life that I have, and overwhelmed with the love and support from old friends and new ones. I’m lucky to be able to line up in Athens, even though 8 am is stupid and the Cat 4 lifestyle isn’t glamorous. I’m lucky to be part of a wacky group of people who I get to call “my team”. I’m lucky to have the health to pedal my bike. I’m lucky that I am able to feel emotions, good and bad. I’m lucky to know what it means to love something, whole-heartedly, even though everything inside of me wants to hate it.

“It’s just stupid bike racing, but it means everything.” And it does.

 

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Battle Scars

I know I’ve been pretty hot and heavy on the blog scene lately.  I’m getting about as bad as Rich Dillen, but much more emo.  I hope my writing brings a few laughs, maybe a few tears, and just maybe I can ease someone else’s pain with my experiences.  If nothing else, I will be able to look back and read about a bad day on the bike or a sad moment in my life, and realize I can pull through once again.  It’s all about perspective.

I spent the weekend in Asheville and had two great training rides while I was there.  My recovery week started today, so I ended my big week with a bang.

A small group of us hit up DuPont on Saturday, logging 20 ish miles.  We rode a few trails I had been on before, and to my excitement, I rode a ton of stuff I previously walked.  I never stopped because I felt like I needed a break, and the only time I got off my bike was to walk sections I wasn’t sure about riding.  Even though I was the slowest in the group, I felt confident my skills and fitness had improved a ton from last summer.  I definitely had a blast, with a little brief suffering mixed in.  I am looking forward to more time in the woods this summer.

Of all the rides I have done over the last few months, Sunday’s ride through Ashevegas is my new favorite.  A little West Asheville, a little Blue Ridge Parkway, and a lot of new places I had never been.  We even hit up a couple of gravel climbs, with one of them REALLY testing me.  Oddly enough, those two roads were probably my favorite.  It felt good to suffer.  It was an amazing feeling to wear my legs out and know I could keep going, not to mention the amazing view at the top.  Asheville is a beautiful place and I felt pretty peaceful at this point.  My beautiful part of the suffering, comes in mental silence.  No worries, no doubts, no heartbreak.  There’s nothing that can break that kind of mental silence.  Nothing.

And the descent was pretty rad, too.

I made the trip home last night, with some time to myself for the first time all weekend.  I had almost pushed out the memory of my mother’s birthday, but those emotions flooded back during the drive home.  I missed her.  I was sad.  I was angry.  I didn’t want to go home.  I wanted to be anywhere but home.

I woke up at 3am with a migraine straight from the depths of hell.  I suffered in a totally different way for the next 7 hours.  That’s enough time to do Pisgah Monster Cross.  And today…well…today wasn’t so good.  My heart just felt broken.

But I am a trained professional in heartbreak.  Don’t try this at home.

I managed to shake the migraine in enough time to make the ladies ride from Piney.  I needed to spin my legs out after 4 days in a row of chasing wheels and climbing mountains.  It was nice to be back on the bike.  I managed to muster up a few smiles, and even laughed a little.  I was able to flush out some of the negative energy I had built up, and replace it with something positive and freeing.  No matter what happens in my life, I can always count on my bike to cheer me up, even if it means I have to suffer.  Suffering is living.

I make choices on the bike based on what I want out of it.  Sometimes it’s to train.  Sometimes it’s for fun.  Sometimes it’s to blow off steam.  I’m ultimately responsible for those choices, and have to deal with the repercussions and aftermath.  I may not always make the best decisions, but they are mine.  I may lead with my heart before consulting my head, and end up going on a ride that’s way over my head.  I might go out with intentions of just having a good time, and end up broken and scarred.  Maybe I know what I’m doing, maybe I don’t, but that’s a risk I have to be willing to take in order to grow.

It’s risky.  All of it.  I can sit back and wonder ‘what if?’ or I can take a chance on something.  If I succeed, I will rejoice.  If I fail, I will have to find a way to pick up the pieces and move on.  Either way, my choices are MINE and I will grow into a better person for making them…right or wrong.  I might even walk away with a battle scar.  It’s all a gamble anyway, right?

Oh…we’re talking about the bike?

 

Aside

I rode the Thursday Night Ride for the first time since December.  This was the first ‘pack ride’ since last summer.  My goal was to see how long I could hang on before I popped.  Typically, I barely make it 15 minutes before getting dropped on the first substantial climb.

Tonight I made it 45 minutes.

While the fellas weren’t exactly breaking speed records, they were challenging me.  Lots of movement, sprinting, fast climbing, and little to no recovery.  Once we made it to the river road, the pace was close to 30 mph.  I gutted myself.  I hoped they would take a break, if only to catch my breath, but they kept pushing.  Knowing I had a 2 mile climb ahead of me, I let them go.

I was only disappointed for a few minutes, because I climbed Buffalo faster than I have in my lifetime.

Dedication and heart pay off.  A little pedaling, too.  Next year, they’ll be chasing ME.

All the King’s Horses

“Age gives you a great sense of proportion. You can be very hard on yourself when you’re younger but now I just think everybody’s absolutely mad and I’m doing quite well.”–MORRISSEY

It took me a lifetime to build myself, piece by piece, into something I thought I was.  It took a split second to smash my masterpiece, and two very long, gut wrenching years to completely tear me to the ground.  I have spent the last three years building myself up from the foundation, and I stand here before you better than ever.  And I find myself wondering where I would be without this tragedy.

Life is all about chances and choices.  We hope to make the best choices, usually don’t, and have to live with whatever path we decided to walk.  Second chances are rare, love doesn’t always prevail, and people aren’t always true.  Relationships end, friendships are built on lies, and important people die.  What we choose to do in those moments is what matters.  Our lives are forever changed with the blink of an eye.  We learn about who we really are at the core, and often don’t look back.

The amazing thing about life is this…we can’t control it.  We get dealt a handful of cards, but we can’t see what everyone else has.  We get to choose how aggressive we are, when to make a move, and when to quit.  Just because we make a decision, doesn’t mean it will play in our favor.  We must adapt.  We must be ready for upheaval.  WE MUST BE READY TO FIGHT.  Sadly, we also must be ready to throw in the towel.

When I look at who I was before my mother got sick, I honestly wonder how I made it this far.  I was burdened with self-doubt and fear of the unknown.  I was afraid…period.  Afraid to live.  Afraid to love.  Afraid to care too much.  Afraid to give zero fucks.  I was afraid of what people thought about me, and afraid to brush those people off.  The biggest obstacle I faced was simply letting go.  The day of my mother’s funeral, I had my first lesson in letting go.  I still struggle with this, daily, but I know that is one thing I actually have control of in this life.

I can’t control everything, though.  None of us can.  I can’t control what moves me.  I can’t control who I fall in love with.  I can’t control the hate other people have for me.  I can control what emotions I let people see.  I can control who gets to know the real me.  I can control how much I let negative people affect my life.  Those are choices I have control over.  What I choose for myself may be totally different from where you want to be, and that’s OK.  What’s the point of being here if we don’t live life according to our own hearts?

I chose to stay off the bike tonight.  I didn’t get home from work till late, my body is ravished from landscaping, last night’s ride, and two days of crit racing with no recovery day afterwards.  Aside from being physically exhausted, my mind isn’t in a place it needs to be for quality bike work.  My heart is heavy, mind is full, and legs are tired.  I will make it up over the next few days, but for now, I need this time.  I need this time to clear my head.  I need this time to remember my mother.  I need this time to make sure I’m on the path to somewhere.  I need this time to figure people out.  I need all of this.

The people I need are here.  The people who litter my life with their negativity are gone.  The choices I make are mine, and mine alone.  This is a lot like bike racing.  Words can take a person so far, but in the end?  Yeah…in the end you just have to pedal your guts out until you learn.  And then you can make your own way…