The start line for this post-race story is not a party of 1,500 like-minded souls on bikes with streets lined by cheering spectators and a noisy helicopter circling overhead. The adrenaline has worn off, along with the extra carbs. The reality of getting pulled at mile 63 has finally sunk in. Exhaustion from the mental and emotional strain of preparing for the most demanding physical challenge of my life while dealing with some logistical upsets in the weeks before the race has almost overridden the memory of the joy I felt in the moments spent racing.
I would be doing the subscribers of this blog, my friends, family, and crew a disservice by not taking enough time to process the day and lessons learned before putting pen to paper. My goal for this blog is to share the realities of a middle-aged woman who decides to start racing her bike despite the aches, pains, and tragedies experienced so far. I also want to inspire others to be more active, shoot for the stars, and realize they are far more capable than society might give us credit for. But I also want to tell the truth. And the truth is, the bike race was not the most challenging part of all this. As a matter of fact, it was the most fun I had all week.
My only goal was to finish. I had no contingency plan, secondary objective, or "It'll be OK as long as I get to XYZ cut-off." Nope. Finish in twelve hours. I even bought a buckle-less belt to mount the silver sub-12-hour buckle on. My dedicated crew was on board to stand around for eight-plus hours and wait for me to come through both aid stations twice. We put expensive drink mix into many bottles, much of which got dumped out later, and didn't plan how I'd get a ride home if I were pulled. I taped one pacing strategy to my top tube. Despite all that, I'd be lying if I didn't say, deep down, I knew it was a long shot.
Ah! So you doubted yourself!
Uh, yeah. What had I to go on? All the other 105-mile races I've done at 10-12,000 feet elevation in less than 12 hours?
Denying doubt is more pointless than the doubt itself. It is partially doubt that pushed me to train so hard for the last ten months, to hone my nutrition plan, buy a race bike, spend weeks acclimating, and bring out four crew members for support. I knew I needed to throw everything at this goal to achieve it. It was going to take a lot of work. My fitness has come a long way, but it has a long way to go. Marginal gains are powerful when the margins are so thin.
I had trained for so many things, but there were some that I hadn't. Namely, the van went out of commission a week before the race, causing a logistical nightmare and emotional impact that I never planned for. The van is more than my transportation across Kansas. It's my rolling bike shop, perfectly organized closet, specialized grocery store, comfortable nest, and Hazel's safe place. Despite everyone's help, dumping it all into an Airbnb a few days before the race had a "shit rolls downhill" effect that resulted in extreme stress, wasted time, exhaustion, and borderline illness in the days leading up to the race.
I didn't have much time to worry about the finish because I sometimes wondered if I'd even make it to the start.
And that is why this blog is called The Victory Lap. Because once I hit that start line, chatting with fellow racers and feeling their excitement build as well as my own, I knew it would be a great day on the bike. Everything else in the days leading up left my mind. Its impact may not have left my body, but I didn't dwell on that. I was here to race in the Leadville Trail 100, finally! Just try taking this smile off my face.
Next week I'll get into the nitty-gritty of the race, including facing down an ambulance while descending Powerline, blasting through the teeny bit of singletrack, and my first experience on the legendary climb (and decent) of Columbine.
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