Ten minutes. Ten minutes to go in this interval. I tell myself I can do this. Sweat droplets streak my sunglasses, obscuring my view. Why am I doing this again? Most of the races have been cancelled. People are dying all around the world from a virus. Why am I working so hard?
The gravel beneath my bike is smooth, I roll quickly over the surface. The smell of freshly cut hay brings a sense of comfort to me, I breathe deep.
Nine minutes. Nine more minutes left, and I feel the muscles in my legs talk back. The pain is familiar and uncomfortable. I have been here before. I look up to see the mountains in the distance, the farmland that surrounds me is uniquely beautiful.
Eight and a half minutes to go, and I’m back in Chile, 375 miles into a 900 mile bike packing race. The sweat pours down the side of my face; my eyes sting as droplets fall past. I remind myself why I am here. The suffering is only temporary. The pain will subside and the reward will be worth my efforts. I am racing to raise money to get more girls on bikes. I am racing because I love this. I am racing because I want to win.
Snapping back, I look down at my Garmin, seven minutes to go. The sun is beating me down. I think about reaching for more water but decide to keep my focus on the task at hand. I’ve got this. I love this. I will win at this. The gravel becomes deeper, the road surface fights back, but I press on.
Six and a half minutes remain. I can feel the muscles in my abdomen tense up; it’s a familiar sign that reminds me how hard I’m working. My mind returns to another race, this one in the cold, this one with another surface that fights back, this one on my snow bike. I’m back at Fat Bike Worlds crossing the finish line in victory, feeling the pain in my muscles subside as I relish in the win. The pain is temporary but the victory is lasting.
Four more minutes. I tell myself to keep the power steady and embrace the pain. Why am I working so hard at this again? The sound of the tires rolling across the gravel is almost mesmerizing, I remember why I love gravel cycling. It’s not always as straightforward as road riding. I’m quickly reminded of this fact as I begin to roll over
deep washboards. I tense up a bit, determined to keep my cadence and power steady. I embrace the suffering a little longer.
Two minutes! I look up. I see my finish line. I’m out of the saddle as a mix of sweat and saliva dribble down onto the top tube of my bike. I am suffering because I want to achieve my goals. I want, so desperately, to be better at this sport. I want to win races, whenever they may come.
With 30 seconds left the wind picks up against me and I am back out of the saddle. The gravel is more forgiving, but time seems to slow down. Twenty seconds. A lone car passes me, I’m riding through a cloud of dust. Ten seconds. I’m breathing deeper and a smile, or perhaps more like a grimace, is plastered on my face. I’m riding today for the love of the sport.
I finish the twenty minute interval. The water that I pour down my throat feels like a healing elixir. One interval down, three more go.
I turn my bike around, grateful to be outside. Grateful to be a cyclist. This feeling of gratitude swells in my belly and I smile as I hit the lap button for another interval.
Super thanks to the folks who, despite there being no races are still supporting:
1. To the folks at Rodeo Adventure Labs; the Traildonkey has become my favorite bike, and I am SO thankful for the ongoing support provided.
2. To Challenge Tires; the gravel grinder is my go-to for all my gravel and single track adventures.
3. To Sportful; thanks for keeping me looking so classy and keeping me comfortable on all my gravel adventures.
4. To Nobl Wheels and Onyx Hubs; the quick engagement of the hubs combined with the light yet stiff wheel set is comfortable and fast!
5. To Selle Repente; my behind has never been so comfortable on a bike seat.
6. To Seven Points CBD; the combo of the high quality gel caps, tincture and cream has helped me sleep better, recover better and relax.