Before a race, I always ask my coach the same question: What are 3 things I can do to achieve my goal? She always provides me with three solid and honest guidelines for what it will take. I read those, combined them with my own thoughts and came up with a plan for this past weekend's race.
Race it: Race it like you’ve been racing all year. Forget winter, forget that it's February, forget the trainer, the treadmill and snow. Accept that you are as fit as you are going to be for February and take a risk. Test your limits and push through. Race it, chase it and see what you have.
Hurt it: Push it to redline and make it hurt. Hurt it like you can handle it because you can – even if you think you can’t. Your legs will not explode. You will not blow up.
Let it go: Let go of who is there and what you think they will do. Race your own race. Let go of what you think you will do and just let your head lead the way. Push with your head and your legs will follow. Let it go and take that leap.
And so, my race report is simple: check, check and check. There was racing - and hurting - and letting it go. And I think that is what every race is about. Not your splits or who you beat or how you placed in your AG. It's about you. It's a race within yourself. The victory you are looking for is within yourself of just taking the risk, pushing yourself to hurt and letting it go.
This was by far one of the most exciting races I have ever done. It meant something more than just 'how did I do' or 'what did I bring home'. In fact, this might be the first year since my first year that I don't bring a darn thing home. And that's ok! Because in each race I'll learn something new or get just a little closer to my end goal.
The most exciting part was after the race (and not just because of coffee and cake!). They asked the pro’s to assist with the kids race. Chris, myself and two other pros escorted the children on the bike portion of the race. Imagine this – a young girl comes into transition and runs to the mount line. I’m thinking – no problem, this is about 7 miles of me in my small ring just cheering for her to push. All of a sudden she bolts and I’m going 19 mph to catch up to her, big ring, aero helmet, disc wheel trying to catch her wheel. She was chasing her brother in front of her plus being chased from behind by her sister! Together, we all climbed a long climb for over 2 miles. I rode back and forth cheering them on as they pushed up the hill. No one gave up. No one cried or backed off or DNF’ed. These kids were determined and driven to finish this race. They pushed the pedals, breathed hard and made their way up the hill.
Going down the hill, I wanted to catch up with Austin. Nine years old and there he was hauling big gears down the hill! He was squiggling all over the place and I thought to myself oh dear god I better go stay with him to keep him from oncoming traffic. At one point his feet were off the pedals sticking straight out – careless fun only a nine year old couldn’t resist. As I chased after him silently pleading for him to put his feet on the pedals and hands on the hoods, I watched.
And I thought to myself – this kid is a lot like me this year. Just riding down a big hill into the unknown, squiggling all over the place, maybe a little out of control, a little out of his league on a hill too steep, a bike too big, going a bit too fast. He seemed completely fearless, lost in the moment, the joy of doing something fun and all of the excitement along the way; no fear of crashing, no fear of the hills being too hard or his legs blowing up. He just kept at it, full speed ahead.
I realized I could learn a lot from watching this kid. To be fearless. To hang on for dear life and to know no matter how much I squiggle and squirm, I’ll be ok. I’ll make it to the end. I’ll arrive at my goal. It will be a little shaky at times but I’ll get there. I will. Until then, I will continue to race, hurt and let it go.
And every once in awhile, I will unclip from the pedals, stick my legs out and revel in the fun of knowing that getting to the finish is nothing compared to the exciting journey of experience and learning more about myself along the way.