Short update here.
The season is well underway now! Its already late June and I can hardly believe it. That means I’ve been on the bike for six months now, since I started soft pedaling in late December.
I’ve been making a point to focus on the process and not on results this season, because being a better racer is a long term project and not limited to a single race or year. It also is the only healthy way to approach a season where I am coming back to elite racing wildly undercooked.
After a couple of months of struggling, I’ve remembered how to be efficient and then downright AGGRESSIVE in a crit, finishing at about mid-field through Speedweek early in the season, placing in the money at Somerville, and most recently spitting out half of field in an early attack at the Historic Riverton Criterium.
Now I’m two weeks back into the track season at the Valley Preferred Velodrome and trying to remember how to hold my own on the banking. I’m not going to lie, having your second day back on the track be at a UCI C1 race is brutal. Racing at this level takes years, not months, of building and preparation. I’m catching myself making beginner mistakes in a field where there is no room for error, and getting gapped at critical moments. It’s humbling to be back at square one again, feeling like I’m flailing. Yet, I know I’m making progress – suddenly 96 gear inches doesn’t feel hard!
I’m undercooked – I lack depth of training this year because I’ve only been back on a bike for 6 months. I’ve only been back on my legs for 8 months! And, after a couple of years of illness, I still have a lot of relearning to do.
Part of that relearning is relearning to believe that I CAN prepare for racing, and that I CAN execute a plan or a skill. At this time last year, I “raced” a criterium that I was pretty certain would be my last – I was seriously ill but before medical catastrophe, between hospital admissions, and fairly certain that I had no future at all, forget athletic future. I wanted to race one more time, and it almost put me in the hospital again to hang on for 40 minutes – at that point I rationalized that if racing actually killed me, that would be a pretty good way to die. Now I’m actually racing. I’m remembering how to race for an end goal. And, that I have more years ahead of me to continue to build.
So, being undercooked doesn’t mean that I’m not giving it my all. The reality is that coming back to elite racing after being critically ill is going to be HARD. Racing at an elite level with all of the hydration and nutritional issues that come with having an ileostomy is going to be hard. Being a gender nonconforming person in sports is hard. And, that’s it. It’s not an excuse for results that I’m not happy with, it’s an acknowledgement of where in the process I am.
It’s going to be hard and I’m going to keep doing it. I have many more races in these legs and I’m going to become the racer I want to be.
Thanks to everyone on my team. And, by team I don’t mean a cycling team – I mean the friend who did all of those painfully slow early rides with me and continues to kick my butt up hills, the friends who have helped get me to races, the teams I’ve guest ridden for, my husband and his never ending patience and mechanical support, and my coach who points out the progress that I can’t see.