I have been quiet lately, all over social media, BookTube, I haven’t been reading or writing because I did this thing which all my brain gremlins spent the last month tearing me apart from the inside out.
I participated in my first race ever.
That sounds kind of lame and a little sad considering my age, lack of fitness, and skill but I did it. (I have ~40 rides under my belt, Total. Mostly from last year. After a long winter, loads of tacos and doughnuts) It was a mountain bike race, a 6km loop consisting of 2 laps. There was 138m climb & some technical bits. I hit 4 trees, fell off my bike twice, walked on each lap when either my legs, lungs, heart, or brain forced me off my seat & my foot to touch the dirt. I cried, I staved off a massive panic attack, I was lapped, I got lost twice (I couldn’t find the trail tape which turned out to be RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME) and there was a bear (she wandered off).
Leading up to this race I have been a mix-tape of mental states from hardcore death metal focus to weeping ballads of 90’s emo. I signed up on my 35th birthday as a present for myself, as a challenge and as a goal, to ride more and to get myself out of my comfort zone. Finally, the day arrived. I donned my official club jersey, my rainbow yeti socks, ate my hobbit breakfasts & in true “me” fashion accidentally miscalculated the travel time, missed the warm up because the sign in line was too long. I performed the race on cold legs (bad idea).
It started awesomely, my coaches smiling faces kept popping up on the sidelines, shouting encouragement, smiling cheering loudly. I cried with joy until I realised I was wasting energy by crying. When I was about 10 minutes into the race, one lung left on a tree somewhere and I was leaving breadcrumbs of heart tissue scattered along the trail, I realised that this wasn’t a present, I like to make myself miserable. This was torture. I continued to berate myself & that was when I slipped on a few boulders, hit a tree, and got lost the first time.
Right after the first stream crossing, I had an idea to break a bone or possibly impale my arm on a tree so I could NOT finish with a legitimate excuse, basically, my brain went on a rampage, eating me alive. In the middle of a race. I stopped riding. I started walking. I was afraid of everything. I was down, the world was going dark.
As I was contemplating one of my brilliant injury plans I heard a voice behind me. It was this rock star Austrailian woman from my training group who is one of the bravest, funniest and wonderful person I have met. She heard me cross the stream and realising she was there gave me the spirit to move on. I shut down all the voices telling me to quit. She was my trail spirit. She has this determination and advenureous soul that inspires me. I gave her space to pass & followed her the rest of the way down. This was the point I was lapped by 4 or 5 men (the leaders on finishing their final lap), I tried not to have a severe panic attack, my breathing went out of control and I lost the ability to ride for a few moments. I had to stop and focus on gaining control back as I watched everyone disappear over the crest of the hill.
I descended to the lap area, I saw my sweetheart and my coaches there, they were cheering me on with these huge smiles and my heart exploded in joy. It was short lived as I went back up again, forgetting I lost a lung on this very climb minutes ago. I slowly caught up with my Australian buddy and we bunny-hopped each other up the climb until I lost her in the pines.
Before we parted, on the worst slog of an up, I tried to tell her how glad I was she was there but I know we were both trying not to throw up/pass out. This is an example of my horrible timing:
Her: *huff huff* “I think I am going to throw up” *huff huff*
Me: *huff huff* “Me too.”*huff*
Me: *groans* “OOOOooooOOoooOOO” *weebles over loose gravel on weak legs*
Me: *huff* I *huff* am*huff* so*huff huff huff huff huff* gladyouarehere*huffhuffhuff* *dismounts jogs with bike to technical part, continues to run/jog/walk/jog and disappears onto single track*
I didn’t know I was not going to see her again until the finish line. *face-palm* Hindsight says this was an inadvertent dick move. I regret not saying this to her before we even started.
I left my other lung up there, dropped off the rest of my inner dragons in pieces &. I started down. Remembering why I ride, all the features that tripped me up before, I shuttled over (or around). I fixed mistakes from my first lap, I figured out my gears.
I couldn’t believe I finished. I was awestruck. I was surrounded by my riding club, tears were springing from my eyes grateful they were there. They were proud of me. There I was at the tail end of all the citizen racers and the women in my club were proud of me. I was stunned. My sweetheart was proud of me. My soul turned to gold.
My reborn heart spent the day gushing beer gardens, rainbow mountain goats, dancing bears, glitter kittens and more cowbell. I stood by the sidelines and cheered on the rest of the other riders so enthusiastically the MC for the day moved across the field. My fingers were glued to my phone on the ride home sending out messages of gratitude and awesomesauce to the rest of my club and training teammates. I messaged my mum and my BFF. I googled my race time (not found yet) repeatedly, googled more races. Endorphin highs are incredible.
As the day wore on I realised how much my brain held me back. I saw the pattern of the destructive forces of my mind like a fog. I studied it in my mind’s eye and saw the way in which it slowed me down. It was as if my riding has been done with a 300 lb bag on my back, uphill and through sand instead of the real 30lbs that were there, riding over normal terrain as it is in reality. The effect is draining. The clarity as I thought on this was staggering.
I do not have the mind of an athlete (yet) and my closest friends know I have low self-esteem and enough self-loathing for a continent stuffed with individuals (I am working on this). For some, this race would have been nothing but a warm up and an easy workout. There were people there who could do 1 lap in 17 minutes (or less). For me, and I am sure a few others out there this weekend, it was much more. It was a finish, it was a conclusion, it was fighting mental thought patterns, & slaying those dragons. I left with a newfound appreciation for those who compete, those who train, those who commit fully to themselves and those who can be present and let it all go.
Things I learned:
- Pre-rides – chaotic, fun, kind of ridiculous. Important to remember where you have been so you know where you are going.
- Warming up – kind of a big deal. Don’t miss it.
- I can’t turn right (it is a thing) TIGHTY RIGHTY’S
- Backpacks are heavy
- Boardwalks = fun!
- Gearing = important
- Me: the embodiment of a tiny living megaphone
- Those who make ascents look easy to know they are a challenge, for everyone. I have the climbing prowess of an ancient turtle, suffering from a food coma.
- Coaches are the best thing ever
- As are teammates
- Having a support system is crucial (sweethearts, family, friends – even complete strangers are insanely supportive – embrace it)
- Keep Moving
- No shame in walking, the day will come when you ride by that part
- Everyone wants to see you succeed
- Laughing is possible mid-race
- So is crying
- Let the bad moment pass, choose the next moment to be positive
- It is your race, no one else’s.
- Lines = hold them
- Don’t look down
- Remember the “next” (yell it at yourself if you have to, it’s where you are going!)
- Forget numbers
- Moments – seize them. Have fun.
- You will be passed and you will pass. This is not the Balrog
- From the story above; don’t choose the worst moment possible to express gratitude and then disappear into thin air (like I did)