This is probably where a coach would come in handy…

March 26, 2007 § Leave a comment

I hate losing as much as I love racing, which can complicate things. It means that I see many potential victories as failures, that I have a hard time taking lessons away where I can kick myself for mistakes and that I can’t see little improvements nearly as well as the need for more of them. It’s too bad, but I haven’t figured out how to help it yet.

Anyway, the race. I love Hanford. All those turns, the downtown crowd, the money, the carousel…it’s just a kick-ass race. And I have to admit that I loved Orosi, despite that hill. Just gorgeous. Maybe I wouldn’t have liked it so much if I had done two laps, but the one lap I did really hit the spot, and I even managed to get some good hard efforts in there by myself. Mr. Man & I even drove back up the hill at dusk to look for snakes in the rocks. But I digress.

Back to Hanford. Being the lone mint at this race and feeling like I could do well, I decided to play it a bit safe and sit in as much as I could. I hadn’t really slept the night before, due to a wedding party happening on our floor with drunks coming and going (slamming doors, fighting with the vending machines that were right outside of our room, talking loudly in the hall at 4am…), and I could definitely feel the efforts I put in the day before. But I love this race and (as usual) wanted to win, so I put the negative thoughts out of my mind – a little victory. The focus on staying positive may have been what distracted me from eating before my race, but when I realized I’d slacked in the fuel department I made sure not to panic and just ate a little more during my warm up. Another improvement over my typical “freak out first, think later” routine.

Once the race started, my plan to sit in kinda went out the window. I don’t really have the patience to stay tucked in during a race, especially when I don’t have teammates and I really want to win. So when the breaks started to go, I was able to bridge to a couple that looked promising. One of them was “the move.” Of the six of us who ended up in that move, four had teammates either in the break or in the field, and two of us were flying solo. A couple of times I noticed that the other solo rider and I seemed to be doing just a little more work than others, but didn’t think about the tactical part…I just wanted that break to succeed with everything I had. I pushed. Hard. I pulled through when I didn’t want to, when it wasn’t my turn, when I knew that people were playing games. From the time I made contact, making that break stick was my race.

Unfortunately, making that break stick was not really the same as winning the race that I really really wanted to win. When I realized that on the last lap, I also realized that the other girls had played it smarter than me, and that I should start “playing it smart” (read: pick the strongest wheel). Unfortunately, this thought blocked out my plan to attack a little early, and someone else got that jump. As she dove inside the leader through the second to last corner she hit a pedal and forced the leader out in front of me (everyone stayed upright, luckily). I grabbed a handful of brake and lost the race. Last in the break. As the fifth person passed me right at the line, I must have had the opportunity to look at how the race played out and say, “wow, I really helped drive a break that almost caught the field, and I had the savvy to see the winning break and the strength to bridge to it, despite not having a full nights’ sleep or a proper breakfast.” Unfortunately that phrase was drowned out by the howling banshees of disappointment and defeat. Even now, after four hours in the car talking to Mr. Man about what I learned in this race and the improvements I made over last year, I feel an overwhelming sense of failure. Ice cream didn’t really help.

It makes me crazy that I’ve come away from the last two crits with excuses in hand after a bit of bad luck. I know that’s bike racing, but honestly I would prefer to just flat-out fail on my own accord than have to say, “I had to hit the brakes right before the sprint.” On some level I know it’s my own fault for getting myself in situations where I have to do that, but the taste it leaves is much more bitter than going for it and just plain not being strong enough. Maybe then I wouldn’t feel like I was pretending so much – I’d know. Maybe I’d be able to go into a race and enjoy the things I did right instead of wondering whether the things I did wrong mean that I’m no good. Maybe then I’d be able to take a step back and realize that I only started doing any kind of physical activity five years ago and that I’ve only been racing for three years, and recognize that I’m probably doing pretty well in the greater scheme of things. Or remember that it’s just bike racing. Maybe.

Sorry for the depressing post. Had to get it out. It’s about time I had a rest week, anyway…

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