It was a world of difference this year from last during the May long weekend races in Gatineau, Quebec. 365 days or so earlier, I was just making my way back into the world of road cycling after over 8 years away from the sport. With a difference in weather (hot humid sun compared to periodical rain and grey last year), along with a few days to practice the technical parts of the course I was stoked to race. The biggest change for me was being a part of quite possibly the strongest women’s cycling team in the world: Specialized lululemon. I felt sure one of us would pull off the victory in the time trial and road race.
But, this is bike racing, and as so often is the case, whatever can go wrong, most certainly will.
I should’ve known it would not all be smooth sailing when, upon arrival to Ottawa, by accident I took another passengers bag from the airport. I must have been spaced out because when I was dropped off at the host house for the week and realized what I’d done, the bag could not have looked more different. Oops. The nice benevol (french for volunteer) offered to take the bag back to the airport and fetch my bag in return.
Seemed simple enough. The owner of the home we were to stay offered to take me grocery shopping for some food. I was ravenous after a long day of travel from Utah that began at 7am. It was already 9pm. Munching on a big carrot salad, gluten-free crackers and sardines (yes, sardines! For some reason the owner of the house thought this was ridiculous and proceeded to make fun of my food.), I saw a big furry cat stroll across the living room. He must have smelled the sardines because next thing I knew, the bundle of allergy-inducing fuzz was right beside me rubbing against the stool I sat. Not good when one suffers as I do from pet (furry pet) allergies.
I felt bad but had to get out of the house. Immediately. With a rash already forming on my face, I made a note not to touch my eyes. It felt discourteous to ask to leave (at 10pm at that point) but with so much racing coming up I could not afford to risk an allergy attack which would inevitably lead to sickness, as it always does.
The owner was nice enough to drive me to the hotel where the team had reserved a room. Man, was I feeling high maintenance.
And my bag? At midnight I received a phone call from the front desk telling me someone had dropped off my bag information as he could not retrieve the bag. Thanks for the info, front desk. Did they really think I needed to know this at midnight?
So, two things wrong, two races to go.
I’d have to say I was pretty fired up for the time trial. Before the events Team Specialized lululemon had announced we were to dedicate our weekend to the Do It For Daron foundation. If you don’t know what it is, check it out: http://www.doitfordaron.com/
Steph and Luke Richardson, the heart and soul behind the campaign, were there for the time trial. I wanted badly to win for them to give DIFD more press. I knew with a win would come a good article highlighting the initiative. With all my aero gear: bike, helmet, disk wheel, shoe covers, etc., I had the purple bracelet over the skinsuit right in view. Not very aero but that wasn’t the point. Inspiration superceded aerodynamics that day. I looked at it many times to remind me what I wanted to do: win for Daron.
The year before I used the purple to urge me on after the crash; this time around it urged me on to empty myself completely during the race.
We even had our very own cheering section out of raucous lululemon girls on the highway stretch. I found myself trying to read their inspiration signs while trying not to giggle as they jumped up and down for their team. It couldn’t have gone better than what we did: 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th.
Beyond this inspiration, what satisfied me more than anything (performance-wise) was feeling the deep hunger and desire to exhaust myself in the race. I felt no fear, no worry or wonder; all I wanted was to stomp on the pedals and give it everything I had. This desire resulted in many minutes of intense pain, and it was all worth it when I finished with not a regret or wonder. I nailed a tt for the first time this season. Winning was not the difference in feeling more satisfied. Feeling the fire burn inside meant the world to me. Made me feel like I was alive. The fire that’s just begun to burn for London. Bring it on.
On the flip side of this motivational fire was the burning rage in the road race. I was taken out (crashed) by a bad move from a sketchy rider. The only person I can blame is myself for trusting a wheel I should not have. I can’t say I’m proud of my actions (or should I say reactions) after being hurled over my handlebars. It’s a good thing I’m not on twitter because I surely would have tweeted some regretful rant.
Anger is an ugly thing. Rage is even worse. Adrenalin can be a powerful fuel when used properly. Can’t say I used it well in the road race. Red hair rage is not pretty and I hope to not show the capacity of my hair color ever again.
After a trip to the hospital where I was treated with care and concern by Dr. Chow, the capable and kind Doctor for the Ottawa Senators when he’s not putting people back together in surgery, made sure via xrays that I didn’t break a rib or fracture a vertabrae. I didn’t actually hit the ground so there’s no road rash, just a lot of pain in the form of hematomas, bumps and bruises. I even have a bruised and cut nose.
And, by the way, Ina won the road race for us even after I screwed up the lead-out. Again, adrenalin is good only if used wisely.
Take-aways? Well, my teammate Evie had one from it all, “when I saw you after the crash, I made a note to myself that if we ever met in a dark ally, I would run the other way!”.
Like I said, not my finest moment.
The memory of winning the time trial in Daron Richardson’s memory certainly is. Just like meeting all the kids who waited after the awards to have their posters signed were. Both are reminders to always keep your cool, no matter the circumstance, even when someone causes you to flip over the handlebars at breakneck speeds. You never know what little kid might be watching.
That’s bike racing. You can go from flying on your bike on top of the world to flying off your bike, catapulted into another bike, body or tarmac in a split second. It’s this uncertainty and risk that I both love and loath.
Hopefully I’ll be good to go for the racing that starts on Thursday in Idaho!