A few days before race day I had the conversation with myself about not being ready. It ended like this: “you’ll never feel ready – so you might as well just go for it”.
I knew I hadn’t done nearly enough training, that I wasn’t confident enough on corners, that my leg speed wasn’t up to standard and that in every way possible I wasn’t prepared. Even without all that, I was really, really nervous. I had just one objective: finish the race!
Never mind finishing the race, getting there and starting it was a task in itself for me. As is my style, every time something went not quite to plan, I briefly considered running (cycling) off and going home.
So you can imagine my panic when, despite checking the contents of my bag about eight times, I realised that I hadn’t packed a pair of matching arm warmers. Instead I had packed one arm warmer and one knee warmer. On a normal day I could probably laugh at this, but I WAS ABOUT TO A RACE IN AN ACTUAL CYCLE RACE. So I ran around in circles for 5 minutes in a flap, and then decided to get over it and brave bare arms.
I almost felt like a pro when I was warming up: sat on the turbo, slurping energy drink, in my team kit. My friend Matt – who is a team mate and, rather helpfully, a bike mechanic – was on hand to make Claud race-ready (the beginnings of an entourage, I feel.) This feeling of confidence quickly subsided at the point that I got off the turbo and almost passed out. I rapidly returned to my nervous novice status, and had to stand with my head between my legs for a bit so I didn’t throw up..
Eventually it was time to get my arse to the start line. I was all warmed up, so, once again, you can imagine my joy at having a 25 minute delay to start the race. Having no arm warmers was slowly becoming a big mistake, as I shivered away with the other 3/4 women and men. A couple of Kent-Velo-Girls commented that I was very brave to go sleeveless – I pointed out that it was stupidity, not bravery.
At long last; time to go. I was so keen to warm up that my need for movement overcame my nerves and I was raring to go…sort of. Being massively catious, I made the mistake of starting right at the back, despite having been told by everyone I know that this was precisely what NOT to do.
The least said about the race itself the better. I went round and round the track, not fast enough, for about an hour. I didn’t fall off, or crash, or knock anyone sideways. I finished in one piece, a whole lap behind almost everyone else. The winner could have stopped for a latte and a slice of victoria sponge, got back on her bike, and still beat me. But do you know what? I didn’t care. Once I’d got my self together after the race, I was on a massive high the whole way home. So yeah.. I was a massive loser. But I’d beaten every part of me that was telling me I couldn’t do it, that I should run away, that I should give up.
The race on Saturday was also exactly 365 days since I first picked up Claud. I can’t quite believe how things have changed since then. A year ago, if you’d have told me I would not only enter, but also finish a cycling race, I would have laughed in your face.
Bring on the next one!