First race against the ladies
Racing is a world of its own. Sport, really is a new way of living I feel more and more fortunate to have found. There is so much that goes into a race, and then when it is there in the moments of it everything built up and prepared for is thrown into a huge caldron of chance, anything could happen…or not happen…. I was never involved in any kind of sport before, so maybe the whole experience was more novel or romanticized for me knowing nothing to compare it too…but I tell you, this heroine has decided she very much likes being an ATHLETE, a BIKER, somebody to revere, someone to admire. I felt like a queen with all the attention! No wonder athletes feel so much pressure and expectation- all the people not competing put a lot of energy into the sport and they demand reciprocation- or at least reciprocation is perceived at needed.
The Performance- the anxiety alone is enough to terrify and mash up, never mind even getting to the start line. To the beginning then: a novice into an unfamiliar arena with opponents seeming as twice the size in experience and ability. Ladies who throw around phrases such as “Pam AM games, been there done that…like three times.” Ladies whose competitive histories include iron mans and international training camps.
We arrived a day early to do what I felt at the time was a ‘fattening of the hen’ before a slaughter. We~ Miranda Fellows Grandison, Reggie Douglas, Winston Crooke, and me~ were shown to our huge beautiful hotel rooms with triple beds and a walk out deck onto the beach in Simpson Bay before heading out to Zee Best Breakfast…and it was! The food and conversation abated the growing anxiety of what was to come… we explored the Tri-Sport bike shop and then back to our room to meet our other room mate: Sue Brown of St. Croix, and what a delightful roommate! After a bit of a clean up we were ushered to a three course meal on the French side for more indulgence and fine conversation. The following morning Sue, Miranda, and I had an enormous and nutritious breakfast and fretted the rest of day what to eat and when…. and we putted about on our bikes to the many and expert adjustments of Reggie and Winston. Making sure everything was just right, greased, and ready to roll. The time came, to the race we went where they were finishing off the veterans race, Ah, the anxiety growing steadily now. We warmed up a bit and admired other cyclist’s cycles. Reggie and Winston were anxious for us too which I think may have alleviated some tension for Miranda and me vicariously. And to the start line and we were off.
Everything that Reggie and Winston and James had told me lately was playing in my head. Stay 3rd wheel back, ok, can do that, and around the bend and we were flying around the circuit…which we had to do twice then go up some hills and then the circuit another 6 times to make 70k. The first two laps we kept tempo and warmed the legs, fit our bodies to our bikes. And then to the hill, I was told to stay behind Sue and that is what I was trying to do and up we climbed and I hugged her wheel, and then her wheel made an inch advantage on mine, and then another inch, and then Terri sped by and the two of them accelerated past my reach. I could hear Reggie yelling behind me, Push the bike Krishtina, Work the bike, Faster, Go Go Go… not just in my head, but right there behind me and I pushed and worked and went, to the top and then down with wobbly legs and then up again, oh no, here comes the girl from Guadeloupe, and Reggie screaming again: Do not let her get ahead, Go Kristina, Go, Push the bike…
Oh no, my legs were not steel any longer but some kind of rubber that offered no resistance, but still I tried to make them work, rose out of my seat and gave it, and Guadeloupe’s chain fell off and she stopped and Reggie was yelling To Go and I went up over the next hill and down then over the third hill and back to the starting point, and there just behind me was Guadeloupe with two ladies caught up from Martinique. Just ahead were Terri of St. Martin and Sue from St. Croix. What do I do now I wondered? Now that my legs were almost back to normal…do I push hard and try catch the first two….but the boys always said do not take the lead as I would be pulling the other three with me. I did not think I could leave them. And what was their plan? I was calculating but uncertain. Well, I thought, I will see what they want to do as they will probably take some easy laps and build the pace to where it eventually will get hot. With 6 laps I wanted to have my strength for when the pace picked up so I moved behind Guadeloupe. Then coming around our first loop Martinique pulled in front and I was behind her, and then I sat at the front a bit and then pulled to the side thinking the next girl would pull forward and we could work pace lining to catch up some time, but that did not happen. I did not know how to communicate and did not know how to work with them. And all the time the coaching the TNCTC had given me, never, never stay in the front too long- Ride behind someone else, and so I cut the pace and moved behind. After a couple laps I was feeling pretty comfortable, instead of fighting the bike to work for me I felt as if my body worked for it…we were a single unit, my legs rolled over nice, my body felt good, I was rested, but still anxious knowing the pace would rise and I would have to keep up with it when it did. I did not take any chance, but preserved my energy and stayed cautious. And always behind me were my team, Winston and Reggie, and Reggie’s voice Close the gap…..Drink your water…..Eat…..and their honking horn and encouragement. Truly, even though the traffic was more severe then Nevis I not for a second feared my safety. At every bend the scooters were there honking to stop traffic, or traffic would just stop. People lined the streets cheering; sometimes a scooter would come by and spray water on me or offer water to drink. And all I had to do was pedal. I felt then that I had the fun and easy job of the bunch, all I had to do was pedal and I did. Now two laps to go I braced my self for the surge and it did not happen, should I do it on my own? But they said not to go in front of the pack for long. And so we continued as. And then 1 lap to go, surely this one would be ferocious? But still, it was the same, mind you I was working hard, but I was attempting to strategize and did not know what to do, I looked the three French opponents in the face, they looked the same as me, tired, but there was the possibility of more. And then coming around the last bend I looked into their faces again trying to discern what it meant- what was going to happen. And I smiled. And they smiled, and I could see too they had more. And I had some so coming around we would have to sprint? Around the last round about Martinique shot out and- I saw it all before it happened so when it unfolded it did so as if in slow motion, pre destined. I had pulled to the outside thinking it would be an advantage but stayed behind the wheel of Guadeloupe. However, by coming around the round-about I was put on the inside, so when Martinique shot out, the other two were tight beside me, I was momentarily cut off and had to brake- and at that moment they stood and went. I geared down to gain cadence and momentum and again stood and then geared up to chase them, but it was too late they were gone and over the finish. And I lamely followed. I thought I would have disappointed Winston and Reggie but when I came in they were all smiles and hugs
Fantastic they said, fantastic. They never for a second let me believe that I had failed them or the team. For them it was an exciting race and they complained their legs were more tired then ours from following us in the car imaging themselves on the road for us. Miranda too did well, with her heavier bike, a cold, and less training then most. Her strength and perseverance, fitness and endurance kept her, and in the mid laps she caught, carried, and then stayed with the pack. She is a very strong cyclist and with a little more training will put this heroine in a tough tangle of competition. And that was it. Race over, we waited for our trophies, I was called for fifth, and then we returned to our rooms to clean up and go out for dinner and then to the movies and then out to the night life of St. Martin. The following day we had to board the plane home to Nevis and I had to wish it was not over. That the dream could last a little longer. Tell me now something that is better then racing, then Winston and Reggie’s encouragement; try to tell me something because I am sure to be a hard one to convince.
And this weekend coming is a chance to battle again some same opponents. In the OECS Championships there will be a female division of 45 miles. It will be a race barren of the pampering of St. Martin, but a race again. Just thinking of it again I am nervous. What will happen? It is strange to consider no matter the preparation on the day the race could be anything. I could get a flat, or maybe Terri, the second place champion, who will be here…speaking of her- will I be able to keep up to her? What will happen on the by pass…once, twice, and the third time around? Hopefully my experience has sharpened some abilities to think tactically in a race…but truly every race is its own, and I may imagine a possibility or outcome but can not expect it. And let me tell you, I am imagining myself crossing the finish line first. First, yeah, that sounds good.
Will it be easy…No. but if it was easy it would not be worth it.