My first time trial: What I learned from not finishing

These were the emotions I experienced when not just one, but both tires flatted during my two-person time trial:

Sh*t!
F*@#!
Frustration
Failure
Defeat
Deflated (I thought of this word before I realized the irony! 😊)

These are the emotions that followed:

Determination
Hunger (to do it again, kick a@* and FINISH!)

7:41:30a.m. Saturday August 1, 2015 My dad and I clipped into our pedals, successfully made it over the starting marker, and began our two-person time trial of the Firehouse 50. The first four miles were hillier than I had anticipated they would be. My legs screamed in disapproval not yet warmed-up to the challenge before them and my lungs wheezed in anxiety and pressure to not fail so early on. Finally the terrain leveled, my legs found rhythm, and my anxiety eased. I began to write a version of this blog post in my mind (many blog posts I write are conceived and written while riding my bike—my mind focuses on writing which keeps my legs pushing). I was crafting a piece on what I learned from my first time trial, much of which follows below, but never imagining a flat tire would be the something that would go wrong, let alone two flat tires. I distinctly remember my stomach cramping and thinking that, even if you eat the same thing you normally eat every morning, you still could suffer from cramps. Until race day comes, you cannot predict how your body will react to the situation, no matter how prepared you think you are.

Not more than 2 miles later, 16 miles into our time trial and descending after a solid effort up a tough hill, a sudden loud noise accompanied by my bike wobbling and weaving beneath me caused me to almost lose control. At first I thought I had lost my chain, an easy fix that wouldn’t set us too far back. A quick look down to see that my chain was still in its rightful place made my stomach drop; I knew it had to be a flat. I slowed and stopped and waited for my dad to bike back to me. Within 30 seconds of standing there discussing that we couldn’t go on (I failed to bring a patch kit), we heard the hiss of my front tire also losing air. A double flat. It wouldn’t have mattered if I had had a patch kit anyway. Like a biker’s kiss of death, a double flat wrecked any goal I had of finally finishing the Firehouse 50 time trial with my dad, at least for that day.

I wanted to scream and I wanted to cry. My child within was creeping up to the surface wanting to let any and all emotions let loose. My heart ached for my dad, who wouldn’t be able to finish the time trial—to be labeled DSQ (disqualified) or DNF (did not finish). More than anything I wanted to make him proud, yet in this moment I felt like an utter failure. The only thing we could do was wait for a Good Samaritan to stop and hopefully have room for my bike and I. We watched as other time trial racers pedaled past and cars upon cars zipped by without a care. Finally after several minutes a man in a minivan, Steve (as I would later come to know), stopped and asked if we needed help. Steve had just enough room for me and my bike, so I hopped in and my dad biked back to the time trial start. It turns out that Steve was driving the team car for a 4-person time trial team looking to set a new record in the mix (male and female) time trial. (Unfortunately however, they missed the record by roughly 5 minutes.) He filled me in on the course, his family, and his love of the area and biking (he would be racing in the Firehouse 50 bike race that day). He offered me food and water and was the most pleasant driver I could have hoped for in this situation. A huge shout-out and thank you to Steve! (Steve is a Regional Ambassador for WiSport Cycling, an organization I plan to now join!)

I learned a lot from not finishing that day, but here are six key takeaways:

  1. No matter how prepared you think you are, you aren’t. Inevitably something will happen—your nose will perpetually run, your stomach will cramp, your legs will scream at you to stop, and the list goes on and on. Even if you eat the same thing you always eat, your stomach could still cramp up on you. Even if you’ve trained day in and out, your legs still may scream in disapproval. Until you are there on race day, you don’t know how your body will react.
  2. Expect that something will go wrong, maybe even really wrong—double flat wrong! Accept that this will happen, be angry, but use it to make you more determined the next time. Life will throw things at you to see how you react. It is in those moments that your true self, your will, and your determination will shine.
  3. Don’t be intimidated by those that dress the part to a T, have the $5000 bike, and a team car. It isn’t the equipment that makes you fast; it’s the push in your legs and the determination in your soul. Focus on how good you are, how far you’ve come, and how determined you are to be your best. Don’t worry about how good anyone else is or the fact that they’ve spent a zillion dollars to look the part. It’s skill and determination that will get you to that finish line. Note: This applies to more than just bike racing!
  4. Enlist someone with experience to be your time trial partner or race buddy. They will give you pointers and push you to your max. They will be your rock when you are nervous and introduce you to the world of racing and time-trials.
  5. Train with someone that is better than you. This will push you to be the best you can be. This works for me because I am a competitive person and I want to be the best. Training with someone that is better than me allows me to push myself more than if I trained alone.
  6. Get up, dust yourself off, and move on. Maybe this is the same as accepting that something will go wrong, but it’s so important I have to stress it again. You may not finish first, heck you may not finish at all, but you showed-up, you tried your hardest and you won’t let failure stop you. Sure not finishing—for a lack of a better word—sucks, I mean it really, really SUCKS, but if you turn that failure into your motivation, the sky is your limit. There is always tomorrow, the next week, the next year.

My husband said to me when I told him I felt like a failure, “Success is about what you do when you fall, not that you fell.” He also told me that people won’t remember my failure, they will remember my success.

I may not have finished this year, but it was out of my control. This experience allowed me to grow as an athlete and as a person. At least I know what to expect next time. I am more determined than ever to be the best I can be and especially to finish this time-trial alongside my dad. Destination finish line, here I come!Dad & IDad and I the morning of the Firehouse 50. 💜

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One thought on “My first time trial: What I learned from not finishing

  1. Pingback: Reflections & intentions | Ironwoman Diary: Destination Finish Line

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