It happened slow enough yet so quickly I didn’t realize it was happening until it happened. Somewhere along the miles logged, races being raced and conversations I stopped racing for me. I lost my love of racing bikes.
After a December riddled with colds, I started out 2016 better than I had in 2015. Able to do the New Year’s Day ride sans antibiotics. By team camp three weeks into January I had a routine and was riding well. And by the end I had a new coach, one that would continue to push me and make me faster as the days went on. Fast forward to track worlds in Italy and my 3:55.3 personal record for the 3K pursuit. Seven seconds faster than my last race just over a month earlier.
I came home after that trip carrying newlywed excitement over finding a bottle of Bosco wine to bring back with me and share with my husband, and an opportunity to race for The Happy Tooth Pro Women’s Cycling team at Redlands Bicycle Classic. And that went well too. I made the ultimate sacrifice for a teammate in the second stage, giving my wheel to Gokey when she flatted knowing it would get her back in the race.
Then I went to Tour of the Gila. And everything I didn’t know I had pushed aside that was slowing eating away at my love for racing came barreling to the surface after bonking on and not finishing the first stage. I felt more than horrible. I wanted to stop racing bikes all together, then and there, feeling as though I had let down everyone who had supported me and backed me this far.
But really, I had let myself down. Somewhere along the way I had stopped racing my bike for me.
I finished out the stay in New Mexico riding the stages in front of the group while Andrew continued wrenching for the team. I battled my emotions. And as the miles ticked down on our drive home, the negative feelings and emotions turned into lessons learned.
I went into training with more focus. More intent. My eyes were on trials and doing everything I could to make sure I put in the best fit for a slot on the Rio roster. Andrew, The Competitive Edge Cyclery the shop works for, Cycling Connection and Psycho-lists put on a fund raiser ride to raise funds to get us to Charlotte so money wasn’t a stressor. I went from two online classes to one, made sure to recover properly, communicate more, and listened deeper to my body. I began working more closely with our team dietitian and even closer with our new team sports psychologist.
But it wasn’t until I got my new Giant Trinity Advanced Pro TT bike that the switch flipped for me.
Andrew was meticulous when building it, making sure it had everything it could possibly have to be the fastest bike for me. I was in love. On its maiden voyage, we even joke that the bike could sleep in our bed with us as long as Andrew didn’t get kicked to the coach. We held off in naming her though; a name just hadn’t come to mind yet.
My next ride on the bike I couldn’t stop thinking about racing. How I started racing bikes again after not racing for over a decade and after retiring from rowing. How excited I was for the doors paracycling had opened for me, in and out of racing. And why, now, I had lost my excitement to race. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I stopped racing for me and started racing to not let others down. How I had started to base my success on how I compared to my competitors and not on my achievements, whether I had won races or not. This new bike beneath me was fast. It didn’t deserve the negative attitude I had developed. To do anything but race my heart out would be a disservice to the bike. To me.
And that was the turning point. I came home wanting nothing more than to race for me. To race against me and push myself to be stronger and faster than my last race. To race with my instincts again, knowing I am fully capable of winning a race and not just being a teammate. To be supported by those who wouldn’t be disappointed in me if I didn’t do well at a race. To not hold myself back.
After telling Andrew about it on another ride, we found the perfect name – shadow. Because when it comes down to it, racing bikes is just about me and my shadow.