If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing in style… (Or it’s worth doing well).
The course for the Individual Time Trial National Championships would pose to be a difficult one. The rolling hills, wind and 40km brutal effort would crack or destroy the competitors. The stress level around the start was high as athletes were informed about the rule changes from earlier this year. The reach on the TT bars would be measured to the tip of the shifter, not to the centre of rotation (for those of us with mechanical shifting). If you had Di2 you were in the clear. I wonder how that rule changed…?
Preparing for the start I got my short warm up in. 20 minutes. It worked for me as a junior so I wasn’t going to change it. Even if my body wasn’t completely warm it would warm up as I got going – this would save me from blowing myself too early.
Rolling up – since I live on the edge – two minutes before my start time, I quickly climbed up into the start ramp. No time to think, I liked this, all business. And then it happened…five, four, three, two, one. I was off! The 40km of brutal had begun. I quickly settled in.
This was a hard course; I knew I needed to pace myself. It was also a course where recovery was key. The climbs were steep, and I lost lots of time on them, so it was important to go deep on the climbs and get aero on the downhills to save some watts. This was not a course where your fancy CP20, or TT wattage was going to save you. The wattage varied throughout the course: hard on the climbs, steady on the flats, recover on the downhills. The hardest part of the course came after the first 10km at the first turn around. That’s when things got rough.
It was a steady climb on the way back into the wind. I had trouble staying on top of my gear. My legs weren’t screaming – I had tuned them out – so it just felt like I couldn’t get them to move. I knew I was going really deep when I couldn’t breathe. In a TT position, being bent over so far, it is hard to get a full chest of air. So to overcome this, and allow me to go a little deeper on the climbs, I began sitting up or standing. Powerhouse like a mountain biker would – out of the saddle just ripping as hard as I could. I would attempt to stay in TT position until my legs couldn’t hold the cadence, then one gear easier and sit up. Trying to hold this new gear, power steadily rising, until the legs weren’t responding to the commands to turn over. This is when I was up out of the saddle. It would be a few extra watts to push the wind but I could go faster. It was worth it to me.
To you reading this right now you think I’m just babbling about going hard, well this was a very emotional race. I have struggled mentally this year being a first year U23. Many people say that I am too hard on myself since it’s my first year racing with the big boys, but I know where I want to be. When I couldn’t get my legs to turn over a cadence I wanted them to and had to change gears I got angry. When I hit the top of my cassette I was furious. I thought I was stronger than this, why wasn’t I feeling fast? This is when self doubt starts to come into your mind. You start to question why you are here. I am not a quitter, even when things get hard or seem impossible I will not quit. Yet today, at the first turn around I felt like quitting. Self-doubt had got to me; I was deflated. I didn’t want to continue.
This isn’t who I am. And I knew it.
So I got in gear and started telling myself that this is where I belong. I wasn’t going to listen to the thousands of voices in my head saying I can’t do it, I should go home, I should quit…no! This was fuel. I went, holding pace, back to the turn around to start my second and final lap. I was in this game, my head was now in the right place and I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I remember telling myself, out-loud, that no one feels sorry for you for hurting this much, so you might as well make people proud of you for putting forth such an effort.
At the final turn around, turning back into the wind, it was go time. Anything I had been doing for pacing, saving energy or recovery didn’t matter at all now. Now it was time to lay it on the tarmac and let the cycling gods and physiology take care of the rest.
Blisteringly hard was the sensation cresting thefinal climb. Then it was time to cook it downhill, not purposely trying to recover anymore; unfortunately you can only go so fast on a 53/11. Laying it all out just before the line I crossed disappointed. I was disappointed because I mentally cracked at the start. The accumulation of bad races, not feeling good on the bike and not being able to keep my cool yanked at me (yes I’m hard on myself).
I was spent, I had destroyed myself, but at least I laid it all out there like I knew I would.
Oh side note, Alex was in my follow car and was on the horn the entire time. This was aggravating when I mentally wasn’t in a good spot, but once I flipped it around I was “flying”, said Alex.
Apparently between giving it my absolute all and positive self talk I scraped up third. This would mark my first U23 National Podium. I was extremely excited. I finally felt like I belonged in the category – I felt competitive in the category. I do not enjoy racing when I feel like I have no control and/or I am not a contender. I like to know that if I work hard, I will be there; I will have a chance to snag excellence. Today I had that chance; putting Jet Fuel-Norco on the map here in Lac Megantic.