I thought the nerves wouldn’t be as bad for my time trial after earning my bronze medal in the 3K on the first day of competition. But this was the event I had spent the last two months exclusively focused on. I practically put my life on hold, foregoing school and work in order to dedicate my time and efforts to training. And now the day was finally here.
Jen Schuble and I were taken to a hotel right by the start/finish late the night before. So while out of the routine I had developed at the village, I had the opportunity to sleep in a little bit more and away from the distractions at the village. Unfortunately the hotel didn’t spray for mosquitos like the village did, and what I thought would be a good night worth of sleep turned into being woken up at 12:30 a.m. to deal with mosquitos and trying to fall asleep in a room where the air conditioner didn’t work for about an hour.
Nevertheless, I woke up ready to race my bike. I was tired, but that was something an extra cup of coffee could fix. And my legs felt good. I had raced tired before and had done well. I wasn’t worried. I felt confident I could get a podium spot, I just didn’t know which color medal would come with it.
Because we had over half the team going off in the morning, the staff set up a secondary outside pit for us to warm up and get ready right outside the hotel.
30 minutes before my start I got off the rollers and put my shoe covers on while Creed hooked me up with my race radio. I had used a radio once before and didn’t necessarily care for it, but I wanted one this time. Not only was this another biggest race of my life, I knew Creed’s advice would be valuable and help me when my legs wanted the suffering to end.
Getting to the start line was a bit of a challenge, and I got to bike check with 10 minutes to spare. My bike was put in the jig, weighed and scanned for a motor before I was cleared to wait in line. I sat down on the circular ledge the start house was put on, awaiting my turn. This was it.
Once the clock hit 8:24, I walked up to the start line and clipped in. 30 seconds. Breathe.
“15 seconds” became five fingers in front of my face.
50 meters in, I caught site of my follow car off to the right. “Come on Sammy, nice and smooth,” I heard in my ear. I turned the corner to the main road and through the start finish line for lap one when I heard Andrew almost tell me the same thing. “Come on Sam, settle in.”
Our time trial loop was a 10K out and back with a small rectangle portion right before the u-turn to the finish line. Right along the beach with little blocking of the wind. It was a tailwind for me as I headed out to the first u-turn. “Catch the motor, just follow the motor. Good job, Sam.” Creed kept telling me.
I went through the first u-turn and headed back towards the start/finish in a head wind. “This isn’t so bad,” I told myself as I pushed the pace. Through the dog-legged rectangle and another u-turn. I caught the leaderboard as I came through the finish and back into the tailwind to start my second lap, registering I was sitting first but with Sarah Storey and Ania H still to come through. “All right, same thing as the first lap,” I told myself as both Andrew and Creed reinforced I was doing well.
“Okay. Back off a little here to save some for the headwind,” Creed said as I approached the turn around to head back to the dog leg and then the finish. I was glad I listened. My heart rate at this point was 192, higher than I’ve held for a time trial before, and the headwind this time around was much harder. “Come on Sam, this is where you win or lose. Fight,” came through the radio in my ear as I approached the dog leg. My legs were screaming, my heart was pounding and all I wanted was the finish line. I pushed as hard as I could as I counted down the tenths of miles left my first Paralympic time trial. The radio had stopped working and all I heard was honking and Andrew yelling at me. This was it, I had to keep giving it all I had. One last u-turn, a few hundred meters and I was done. Sitting in first by 35 seconds with four riders left. I immediately pulled over into the median and laid on the grass trying to catch my breath.
“35 seconds, Sammy. That’s a big amount of time,” Creed said as Chad, one of mechanics, got out of the car to help me before he took off to follow another rider.
I came in third.
I had gone the fastest I had ever gone in a time trial and held the highest power and heart rate. And I was the closest I had ever been to both Sarah and Ania. I was a little disappointed. That’s the competitor in me; I had wanted at least silver. But I was still happy to secure a second medal and making progress towards moving up the podium. My competition is strong. And I like that. It creates a need for even greater dedication and hard work, which in the end makes me a better person all around. That’s really what the competition is about.