Saturday, July 21, 2012

2012 Road Nationals

It has been a month since the time trial at Road Nationals that served as the Paralympic Trials.  It's probably time that I finally sat and thought about all that happened.  I'm not a fan of not doing what I set out to accomplish.  And let's face it, that time trial could not have been further from what I thought would happen.

Strom Thurman Damn

We arrived in Augusta on Sunday after racing in Ocala, FL for the weekend.  We spent a lot of time on the time trial course, refreshing our memories and teaching our bodies how to ride it.  On my final ride before the actual event, I felt good.  I was shifting through the rollers a lot better, my body was acclimating to the heat and I was feeling good.  

Pretty sure I will never actually like skin suits.  (This picture is actually the time trial in Ocala - I think all the other women in my category thought I was going to be fast because I was wearing my CA State Champ skinsuit. HA!)

Thursday arrived and we followed the same routine we had the entire week. We left for the time trial course around noon.  My start time was 3:28:30.  We arrived at Strom Thurman and found a parking place that was far enough away from the rest of the parathletes, but close enough to know what was happening. I flew through bike check and got ready to race.  As I arrived at the start line, I saw Allison, but no Barb.  Barb wasn't coming.  Immediately I knew this changed the game.  I didn't have anyone to chase or base my speed upon.  The next person was a handcyclist that started about 3 minutes ahead of me.  Allison started thirty seconds behind me.  I started to let my mind get the best of me before we even started.  And it just spiraled out of control from there.  The beeps counted down, I pulsed the pedals and I took off across the same bridge I had ridden across so many times in the previous few days.  I felt OK, but not spectacular. First mistake allowing that to be a conscious thought. In my mind, I knew that Allison was not that far behind me. Second mistake. About ten minutes in to the time trial I committed the mortal error of looking behind me. I saw Allison gaining on me and began to lose hope.  And when you lose hope and faith, there isn't much more to go upon. About 1/3 of the way through the race, Allison passed me and I mentally and physically imploded.  I lost power. The final hill before the turn around (which I had practiced and rehearsed hundreds of times - OK, it just seemed like I did!) kicked my butt.  At the turn around, Allison was already about 30 seconds ahead of me.  It wasn't pretty on the return ride.  I finally crossed the finish line at 35:02 minutes.  Yes, more than three minutes faster than last year, but still much slower than anyone had anticipated.

I was beat. Pure and simple.  I did not handle it well. I didn't talk to anyone, but burst in to tears as I rode up the hill back to the car.  I spent an hour alone and then decided to ride my bike home back to the hotel.  

Second and last, all at the same time. Again.  

I am disappointed in my performance and was pretty sure that it couldn't get worse.  Oh how I was wrong!  
The next day was the crit, essentially a circuit race around a city block.  The course was 1km and we were supposed to race 15k.  I went over strategy and thought it would be a good race.  I made sure I started behind Allison and was clipped in.  At the second turn, the guy in front of me wiped out.  I ran off the road, onto the sidewalk and through a grass patch. I went off the curb and tried to chase back on.  But as one of the most disabled members of the team AND a woman, it's pretty rough to chase back on. The race became a time trial and I continued to suck.  I caught on to a few wheels and stuck for a few seconds and then got dropped.  I'm pretty sure I yelled at a team member who was cheering me on and I flicked off my coach. Again, losing is not my good side.

There's me - all alone. Dropped and pathetic.

It was disheartening. I just wanted the second day of embarrassment to be OVER. As I rolled through the final straight away, I saw Allison and Meg Fisher approaching from behind. Although I couldn't win, at least we could have a sprint at the end.  Coming in to the last 200 meters and the sprint, we made a left turn.  I remember my front wheel crossing Ali's back wheel and thinking, "Oh crap, I'm going down." Then I woke up in an ambulance.  


I ended up with a broken collarbone and a CT scan that showed I had a severe concussion and evidence of "blood on the brain." I spent the next 24 hours in ICU in Augusta, GA.  The road race commenced on Saturday, without me.  Although at that point, I was mentally out of the game anyway.  

I am very blessed that my teammate, G rode to the hospital with me and stayed with me until she had to leave to be nominated to the London team.  My coach stayed with me while they x-rayed me and poked and prodded me.  My best friend, Kate, had come from Atlanta to see me race. I am so grateful she was there. She stayed with me in the hospital, helped me change my clothes and brought me Fig Newtons and Diet Coke.

I flew home with my coach on Sunday.  Definitely not my finest flight home. There is picture evidence of how pathetic I looked, but we'll leave that on someone's phone. My parents picked me up from the airport.  I had surgery the next Friday to mend my collarbone.  

I think I'll get a tattoo under this seven inch scar that says, 
"I went to the Paralmypic Trials and this is all I got."

Well, that's not real pretty!  

"Do not be afraid of failure, but learn from it."
--John Wooden

Road Nationals 2012 will serve as one of my biggest failures to date.  I've failed before and perhaps even as significantly - but this is the first time I had publicly laid my goals out. I wanted to at least put up a good showing and in my dream of all dreams, I wanted to go to London.

I don't like to lose.  I really don't like someone else to win.  In a very demented way I am glad that I got hurt. It allowed me to leave all of the negativity that I acquired in Augusta.  The past month has been difficult for many reasons. First of all, rehabilitating after surgery has been strange. I'm not used to being cut above the knee. At first, I was thrilled because pain medicine actually works on a part of the body that doesn't suffer from neurological destruction.  But soon impatience began to set in. This wasn't big surgery. I should be better by now.  Second of all, it has taken my emotional side a little while to come to the grips with the whole situation. The disappointment of months and months of hard work culminating in nothing is a difficult pill to swallow.  Athletics is a different game (pun!) than academics.  There are so many things that I need to learn to be a bike racer.  That's all I am going to say about that.  I want to be able to learn from what happened, move on and be more successful in the future.

What happened in Augusta will not truly be a failure unless I don't take what I learned and apply it to the next season.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

And so we begin...

It's been three weeks since I crashed and broken my collarbone (amongst other things) in the National Championship Crit in Augusta.  I would love to say that I have spent those three weeks cementing my commitment to the next four years to Rio.  But I'm not sure that's what I've decided and I'm OK with that.  That doesn't mean that I haven't been thinking and figuring things out.

I am acutely aware of how blessed I am to have the people in my life that are in my life.  I don't remember anything after thinking, "Oh crap, I'm going down," until I woke up in the ambulance.  And I woke up next to G. I couldn't have asked for a better person to keep me calm and stay by my side.  My coach, my best friend and my parents all took care of me until I was able to take care of myself. I can't put in to words how grateful I am for all of those people.

Since I haven't been allowed to ride my bike I've had a lot of down time, which I am not used to.  I've remembered how important having people in my life is to me.  The people that I have met over the past year, through US Paralympics and other areas have changed my life.  I like the person that I am now much more than the person I was a year ago.  I am disappointed that I let my head get beat at Nationals.  I want to have a chance to make up for that.  I want to be able to say that I rode my bike and won.  But I know (kind of) the commitment and sacrifices that come with being able to say that.  I need to find who I am as an athlete and capitalize on my strengths instead of taking what works for others as what will work for me.

Tomorrow, I'll go back to the gym since I'm not allowed to ride my bike outside for another three weeks.  It isn't going to be pretty considering the fact that I've sat on my rear for three weeks.  I want to be resolved that I am going to commit to the bike for the next two years until Greenville.  Given the amount of reading I have on my nightside that revolves around learning to ride my bike, you would think I'm quitting my day job sooner rather than later.  There are a lot of things to consider.  I'll keep you posted...