I’ve just finished my first weekend of epic adventure on my way to turning 50 – participating in the Queensland State Individual and Team Time Trial events, held in Rosevale, which is a small town west of Ipswich. My weekend didn’t get off to a great start as I managed to take a wrong turn and get lost on my way out there on Saturday morning, close to the start of my individual time trial. Despite it being the start of spring, the weather was unreasonably hot and dry and it seemed like I was consuming a ton of fluids even before I got to the start line. Getting lost meant that I hadn’t had a chance to quell the barking dogs, who were not only nervous about the event, were whining at me for not reading my map properly. I met Masters 5 athlete, Amanda, during the warm up and shared my idea of having adventures to lead into turning fifty. She shared that she ran a 50km race for her fiftieth birthday and then doubled that figure heading towards age 51. Hearing such an amazing story put my mental dogs firmly back into their kennel momentarily which was a great help.
Despite the ‘getting lost’ hiccup, I managed to start the event strongly – the course was hillier than I imagined but I managed to make it to the turnaround point in what I thought was a reasonable position. The wind whipped up on the way back and to concentrate, I tried to think of a mantra to repeat over and over again as I was riding along. My usual favourite, “ride strong” was being rudely interrupted by the Spotify “Golden Oldies” playlist that had accompanied me to the start in the car. To my horror, I had Michael Bolton warbling in my ear, singing, “Time, Love and Tenderness”. This tune featured in one of my girls’ favourite childhood movie, “Snow Dogs”, in which an African American dentist finds out that his father is an Anglo Saxon husky musher. By this stage I was wrestling with the ideas of genetic improbability as well as a good dose of wind. I was now willing myself to get home as quickly as possible. I could see fellow competitor, Andrea, in front of me and I cajoled myself to squeeze out every last bit of energy as I hurtled (in my imagination) towards the finish line.
After the finish, a smiling Andrea excitedly informed me that provisionally we had been placed in equal third spot. Amazed and pleased, I said, “imagine how dirty you’d be if you lost by hundredths of a second!” – and when I wasn’t called up to the podium with her, a check of the results had determined that it was exactly what had happened – she had beaten me by 0.1 second. Ouch! I have to admit feeling a bit deflated, but that’s sport and you just have to accept that thing are not always going to go your way. I resolved there and then that Michael Bolton was never going to feature on any pre ride playlist and instead focused on eating well for the rest of the day so I’d be refreshed for Sunday’s team time trial.
Sunday rolled up and it was drier, hotter and windier than the day before. The lack of colour in drought affected landscape reminded me a little of Mad Max: Fury Road. I felt desperately sorry for the livestock standing on the parched grass and gazing at the dust, uttered a silent prayer for rain. I gulped some water and then met team mates Mel, Lynda and Cherie and we all warmed up – not that we needed it much, as the temperature were starting to rise and a haze was beginning to bounce off the bitumen. I marvelled at a black snake that had been killed at the side of the road. Oddly, I wasn’t feeling nervous until we were all held at the start. I have visions of accidentally running into someone but thought to myself, “straight wheel!” And just like that, we were on our way, swapping turns as we had in our practices and expressing surprise that the event that we had thought was 30km had now been extended to 40km.
Unfortunately we lost Mel at the 10km mark. However, we had agreed that if anyone was to lose the group that we would continue on with three – so Lynda, Cherie and I kept at it. I tried to be as smooth as possible and being the weakest link on the hills I worked them as hard as I could. My eyes were smarting with the dryness in the air and the U turn point was a welcome sight. I was starting to feel really tired at the 33km mark and both Lynda and Cherie stepped up to encourage me to keep going. Lynda offered me a gel and all I can remember that it was surprisingly tasty and gave me a much needed energy boost – who knew that “rhubarb and custard” flavour could be so enticing? It was a great feeling to finally cross that finish line and realise that we had been able to nail first place in Women’s Masters 4-7. For me, this was the highlight of the weekend – winning was great, but the camaraderie amongst our team as well as with our fellow competitors made it just that little bit more special.
Every time I participate in a time trial, I learn something new. What struck me the most is the power that older women have to endure. Is it because we’ve had children or just dealt with just a little extra life than our younger counterparts? Who knows? The best time triallists in the state are in their forties and fifties – how amazing is that? It’s definitely inspiration to keep at the training and racing – and just trying to better yourself one pedal stroke at a time.