Pride comes after numerous falls
On Sunday I competed at the National mountain bike marathon at Bay View in Brisbane known as the Bay View Blast. As last year there were only myself and one other female in the elite category I decided to enter the female elite 90km marathon. I then realised that there were to be 7 in my category which included a National champion, a Commonwealth games road cyclist, a rider as quick as the male elite riders and another couple of high calibre riders. I was very tempted to change category but then I decided to stay where I was and face the competition.
The Friday before the race I volunteered and helped set up the event centre and then went out to bunt some of the tracks. I had great fun and met some new friends. Then the torrential rain started and there were rivers flowing off the course which was getting wetter and muddier by the minute. There was also the matter of the massive lake which had appeared on one of the fire roads which there was no way around.
The start on the bitumen was friendly and I thought I was doing an alright job at keeping up as one of the girls hadn’t turned up for the start so we were down to 6. The females started with the males and we were mixed up. We turned onto the first fire road and up the hill – in hindsight, I should have probably ridden the start 10km loop before the race and I would have realised how steep the hill actually was. I got to the bottom and pedalled as quickly as possible and then made the mistake of glancing up just in time to see the entire group disappear over the top of the hill it was if they had all floated up the hill and I was stuck going nowhere fast (a turtle going backwards!).
The race in some respects went downhill very fast after the very ordinary start. In order of appearance, these were the errors which I made which would make quite a good comedy sketch!
As I had lost sight of the group I came to a trail turning on the left and although there was a clear signpost in blue I had convinced myself at the height of my exhaustion from the previously mentioned hill that we were following red signposts. The bunting was down (I think a kangaroo has taken it down) so I continued up the fire road as I then saw more bunting. I turned a couple of circles here trying to decide and I half thought I would wait for the riders behind me who had started 5 minutes afterwards to catch up and show me the way.
I then reached the rocky hill and was very aware there was a male rider just behind me so I hesitated and moved over to the side. I then promptly stalled, lost balance and fell down the small cliff side. I quickly jumped up proclaiming I was fine and jumped back on.
On the second lap, I lost my front tyre in the mud bog which had appeared after the torrential downpour and ended up hard on the floor. I quickly picked myself up and reassured the rider behind me that I was fine and had a look at the bike. The handlebars were out to the side which I then tried to correct but I was worried the girl behind me was going to catch up with me. I completed the last 35+km with the handlebars moving spontaneously to the side if I even remotely knocked them and being very sure the headset had been damaged after the fall. The weird knocking noise and loss of control of the front end of the bike should have been the warning cues! I thought oh well I can’t quit now I’m coming 5th I will just have to nurse the bike home and I’m sure I can ride a unicycle!
I then had tree blindness and whacked my shoulder very hard on a tree and felt like I was in a pinball machine as I then hit every tree for the next 5 minutes. I, however, managed to stay on the bike. I blame it on the skewwhiff handlebars!
The last fall was trying to negotiate a small hill with a little log onto the top I got halfway up, lost momentum and then fell backwards with the bike landing on top of me. Again I quickly got up I think the ‘oldest guy in the race’ who was encouraging me the last hills hadn’t realised I fallen off again (no thanks to the moving handlebars!) and I managed to finish the race.
In the end, I had never been so glad to sit on the solid ground and my arms were paralysed from trying to hold the bike together I fell onto the ground and my personal trainer and commissioner of the event (JR) came over to check I was ok and that he ‘thought I was dead!’.
When things don’t go to plan is the time you learn the most about yourself.
I actually inadvertently gained an immense amount of confidence from this race. I faced adversity and tackled each hurdle head on without ever having the thought of giving up. I just thought each time something happened oh well that happened, move on and hopefully the next section will be better. I was able to keep repeating the same mantra to myself ‘I believe, I believe’. If I can race with a broken headset, in the rain, in the mud, semi-injured after the numerous crashes and finish I am capable of racing well with a fixed bike in much better conditions.
Yes I was over an hour and a half behind first, I came 5th out of 6 women, I was 20+ minutes behind 4thwhich to some may not look like much but to me, this was a massive achievement.
I felt I turned up to race in an elite category in a National event for which I had not specifically trained for nor tapered for and still managed to finish in a respectable time. I demonstrated true grit, resilience and determination out on a track which was technically challenging due to the dire weather conditions. I believe the character and strength I demonstrated to myself out on course together with my fitness and strength provides me with an ideal base for which to launch my campaign at the 24 hour National and World championships coming up this year.