1 to go

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.

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