Three. Two. One. Go. !!!!!!
In a flash of a second, I see my opponent pedal away faster than expected. I keep on her wheel and tell myself that I am ready for this, this is what I was made to do. The pack starts to separate, with a few top men taking the lead. “Don’t look at your heart rate,” I think as I stay on her wheel. We are half way through the first lap and I’m feeling good, it’s time to pass her. I make the pass and just keep pedaling. “Don’t look at your heart rate,” I tell myself again as I focus on the path ahead. She passes me. I cheer her on as she storms pass, but I stay on her wheel. I’m smiling because I love this. I love working hard against someone who I know is extremely talented and experienced. I begin to think about how inexperienced I am; perhaps I don’t have the talent? I immediately push these thoughts out of my head. “You were made for this,” I think as I pass her again. I take a corner too hot and immediately wreck. Thankfully, this is a fat bike race and all I do is fall into fresh snow. I watch as the small group of riders fly past me. I don’t think, I just jump on the bike and work my way back up to the pack. “Don’t worry about your heart rate.” I jump on her wheel and then quickly pass her. I’m in the lead as we round the corner finishing the first lap.
We take turns leading the women’s race for the next two laps. I know I have to keep a steady pace and keep fighting. With two, six mile laps to go, I push a little harder on the fourth lap. I allow myself to look at my heart rate; 155 bpm. I know I’ve got this now, and I know I can push harder. I do. As I round the corner finishing my second to last lap, I hear the announcer say that there is a gap in the woman’s race! I’m in the lead. I’m smiling as I start the last six miles of the Crested Butte Fat Bile World Championship. I’m worried that she is right behind me, I’m worried that I’ll still come in second place. I don’t look back, but instead I try and pick up the pace. I look up at the mountains around me and remember that one of my coaches said he would there in spirit cheering me on, and that I need to stay relaxed. I take a deep relaxing breath and push on. When I round the corner to the finish, I hear the announcer say that I am the champion. I still don’t slow down. What if she is right behind me? I finish strong.
As soon as I cross the line I am overwhelmed with the feeling of victory, but this feeling doesn’t last long. It never does for me. The doubts and negative thoughts soon come into my brain. Now that the race is over and my energy is tapped, I can no longer keep them away. “You just got lucky today.” “Maybe she, and everyone else, hasn’t been training as hard as you, and when the summer comes you will be crushed like the imposter you are.” On and on these horrible thoughts circle as people are congratulating me.
Marcus Aurelius said, “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” I believe this to be true. I do have power over those negative thoughts, but it is a fight to stay ahead of them. Just like in the race, I have to fight to keep the lead and not let negativity win. It is this struggle that brings me back time and time again to racing. To me, a race is an analogy for the battle that is much more difficult and ultimately more cruel; the battle of life.
My mind is not the only thing that I can control in a race situation, and it is important for me to be aware of the details. I am in complete control over my nutrition. I must stay vigilant and eat healthy foods that help and work for me, not against me. I am in complete control of my clothing choice. This is a fact that I have, very often, let slide. When it is 7 degrees outside, I cannot afford to be under dressed. I am thankful to have more support in the clothing realm since I started riding for the Amy D Foundation. Pearl Izumi made us a great thermal skin suit that is perfect for these cold conditions. I feel like I can work up a sweat climbing a big hill, and then stay warm while bombing down. I’ve never had proper clothing until now, and I am so thankful for this company. They also gave me a new pair of carbon soled shoes that I am very proud of. I believe the stiffness of the sole make a huge difference in power transfer, plus they match the new Amy D kits; a fact that just makes me smile. I cannot control my opponent’s fitness, but I can control mine, somewhat. I have great coaches, Jim and Tyler, who I trust completely. They continue to be an encouragement to me, and I would not be able to perform at a high level without their support. And last, I cannot control the event of a mechanical, but I can make sure that my bike is in the best possible shape on race day. The guys at my local bike shop, Kokopelli Bike and Board, are a huge help for me, I am so thankful that they endure my overwhelming enthusiasm and high energy levels. All this support brings me joy and confidence as I step up to the start line. After that, it’s just my own thoughts that I battle.
Up next, Fat Bike Nationals in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I know that I will get to that start line with confidence. To me, it doesn’t matter so much whether I win or lose. What matters is that I do my personal best, race with the passion that I have been given, and bring joy and encouragement to all the other racers and spectators out there. Let’s face it, in the end, we’re just racing bikes. It’s the community and culture of cycling that I have fallen in love with. It’s the freedom and joy that cycling has brought to my life. These are feelings and thoughts that I can control, and these are the feelings and thoughts that make me smile every time I step up to a start line.