It probably seems like a strange quote to attach to a race report, however, if you’ve ever suffered a major injury or setback you’ll know exactly what I am talking about!
My quote relates to my own sense of self before my crash and after my crash – but more on that later.
Last week, I was complaining to my friend Mel about my lack of confidence that I’d ever be able to return to racing a bike at the previous level I had before my crash. One quality I love in Mel is her ability to get to the heart of the matter. She suggested that we do the Lifecycle “Racing to break the cycle of violence” crit at Nundah together, which was organised to increase awareness of domestic violence and support and education that is available.
With a bit of wobbly bravado I agreed and then later in the week, events conspired that meant she couldn’t race it with me. Whilst I understood her situation, I was disappointed – because I was fearful about doing the race, especially within the realm of “would I be fit enough? Would I be able to keep up?” etc etc. I didn’t want to embarrass myself, yet I didn’t want to sell myself short either. By Friday I was having a rather splendid internal dysfunctional dialogue, peppered with “I can”, then “I can’t” – yup, I was feeling internally deranged. I eventually phoned Cycling Queensland who agreed to downgrade me for this event. I phoned the Lifecycle Club President, who probably thought I was a lunatic, but who kindly put me in D grade. After all, if you are going to make a start, this is where you belong.
Sunday finally came and I headed off to the Nundah Crit track trying to look cool and unflustered, however there was a volcano of emotion simmering internally. I was panicking about what I would feel like – would I feel like a has-been approaching-middle-age over-the-hill lady who had no place racing a bike anymore or would things be different?
“F**k it,” I thought, “I’m going in C Grade”. It was nice to know that my desire to “have a crack” hadn’t totally disappeared. Salvation appeared in the form of new friend Laura Brazier, who had decided to move up from D to C grade and have a go too. We trundled off to Nudgee Beach to warm up, chatted easily, then turned around, then… yikes, only five minutes until the start of the race and about 10km back to the crit track. All I can say is that Laura is a complete powerhouse and I gritted my teeth, sat on her wheel and felt my heart hammering in my chest and thought, “I hope C grade isn’t going to be as hard as actually making it to C grade!”
Finally we reached the track and to my dismay saw the peloton moving towards me. The race had started. Still wanting to give things a try, I did a bit of bush bashing over the grass and jumped on the back of the pack yelling at the commissaire that I would not contest for a place. After all, it’s not really good form to start a race like this, but knew that it would make for a good story, so kept going.
The first ten minutes of racing I would describe as tough. I felt twitchy and it felt strange to be moving around with the bike, especially into the corners. Then, things began to feel more natural. I focused on positioning myself well throughout the bunch when suddenly the Kangaroo Point girls jumped, trying to form a breakaway. Without thinking, I was out of the saddle, sprinting and reeling them back in, closing the peloton back to a bunch.
“Inner Mongrel, where have you been?” I asked.
“The truth is….I never left,” replied another voice. Who’s voice was that? Mine!
During the second half of the race, my heart rate seemed to settle and I started to enjoy myself. Despite my legs protesting that they hadn’t worked this hard in over a year, I was beginning to have fun. The final bell lap was called and I looked across at Jackie and I’m sure my eyes were twinkling behind my sunglasses as I said, “I’ll give you a lead out!”
Off we hurtled around the outside, I was starting to see my speedo go up – how exciting. Jackie jumped and sprinted like a maniac but it wasn’t to be our day.
However, that was the least of my worries. I had achieved my goal – to represent Koiled Petbarn in at least one race this year. The best outcome was that I know with each race I will get better and better. It was a definite confidence booster.
To sum up, a big thank you to Mel for giving me a push. Secondly a big thank you to my Koiled Petbarn teammates who have been so genuinely supportive of my return back from crashing and surgery. Thanks to Jackie, Sue and Yvette who were super supportive during the actual race. Though Sue lived up to her “Speedy” nickname – leading out Yvette for 2nd place – those track riders sure know a thing or two about sprinting! Thirdly a big thanks to Lifecycle for putting on such a well run event with such a friendly atmosphere. I am looking forward to the next one.