This past weekend saw my first race of the season. I chose to start a bit later than my (first) season last year due to a niggling knee injury and trying to get more organised in the personal life.
In mid-March, as the posterior knee pain started to subside from overextension and I was upping the training, getting the miles in, I planned to start racing in May and use the 6 weeks or so to get race fit again. However, I got over ambitious – I rode London to Paris solo in 20 hours (beating my 24 hour goal); and then did 250km completing the Tour of Flanders in Belgium. At that point, the knee was feeling strong, I was getting itchy to race and felt my excuse was slightly invalid given the recent rides.
So I showed up Saturday to my club’s promotion of Hog without the Hill. I love the course, with or without the hill; and in fact I won two in the series last year! So was feeling good and excited to get back in with my teammies. The pre-race jitters were there and were slightly heightened due to most of the other girls having been racing for two months. Either way, it would be great training right?
Due to heavy downpour the day before, the bottom half of the course was flooded. Shit, now what? We had to reverse the circuit and it turned into about a 900m loop with two big climbs; meaning it would be relentless. I got about a third in and the strain was just too much on the calf and knee. I’d have to pull. I couldn’t believe it. I felt a failure. First race of 2016; first DNF; and it was all a bit shit. The girls hung in and did amazing on what was a brutal course, and I so wish I was able to finish with them.
I rode home and won’t lie – there were tears and frustration and calls home. The same comments – ‘every athlete has had to pack it in at some point’; ‘you’ve just done some epic rides, give yourself a break’; ‘you listened to your body and saved yourself plenty more damage’ but in those moments it’s hard to say anything right isn’t it?
Ever the journo, I knew there would be a teaching lesson in it all and a great story. Once you figure out the problem, you can work on a solution. It gives you a bite and something to fight for. As I said, it’s the start of the race season for me, which means I’ve got a whole season to fight back.