As bike racers we sometimes confuse approval of our successes for love. I remember the first time I got anywhere near the front of a race – the way people reacted differently as I came around course. More intense. More earnest. More approving. It felt good. I wanted to feel that way all the time.
It can get confusing. You have to sort that shit out and remember that you
are not your results. You are a human being who happens to pedal – amazing at so many other things, important for so many other reasons.
Bike racing can fuck you up, man. Don’t let it.
Stay in control. It’s ok, you’re ok.
Bradford was to host a round of the British National Trophy in Peel Park. Hoping to get some faster races in before Nationals this year, and to take a chance to race my first elite race outside Ireland i aranged to meet Alan Dorrington and steal his food and accommodation for a few days prior to the race. A quick ferry over, training session in the ice with Dave Haygarth and a trip to the Chirstmas markets in Manchester with Pauline sorted the first few days. Saturday was spent preparing bikes, getting all the little bits done and just waiting to race.
Sunday morning up early and inserting food into me, bikes into car, and extracting the contents of my bowls. Normal pre race roulette at the moment of if a toilet is close enough at any point in time. A quick drive out to Bradford saw us arrive with plenty of time to pre-ride the course before Alans race in the Vet's group.
Initial feelings on the course were: Hard, iced up, and rideable...even the off camber wall of death was doable. Then it happened. It started to warm up, the ground thawed and then they let 3 races go before us. It was never going to be a pretty race, but at the same time it was never going to be an easy race.
After the break we got a chance to re ride the course again. My previous tire choice went out the window, Fango's off, Rhinos and Mud's to try. Then it happened having ridden 'the descent' in warm up i was confident of both line options. But i wanted to try them both in the mud. I tried the left line and dropped the bike. Ok...not the end of the world go again...dropped it again....broke my shifter....felt like an idiot...the beginning of the end.
Lined up, last min on the line pee and waited to get gridded. Middle slot 4th row. Not ideal, but not the back either. Commissars checking wheels, brakes and all the bits they like too do. No issues with the wheels i was running which was nice. 1 minute to go call. Check HRM, check brain, check gear. 30 seconds. Hooter and rolling, working to clip in as fast as possible.
OK start, coming into the first corner where i wanted to be, take a few places in the first section, and get into the line-out going into the first fast descent and manage to get away with it by running hard and fast. Go as hard as i can for the first lap until the off camber mud traverse section, opt to run this on the first lap and see how it goes on the way. Approach the run up and realise just how many people have crowded around to watch the race. Very different than home. Cross the line and bypass the pit on the first lap. Bike still ok at this time. Hit the descent running and get a 'good option lad' from a local Yorkshireman as i pass 3 guys trying to ride the drop. Hill running experience paying off there again.
Then the wheels came off. I started dropping wheels, thinking about changing bikes to a bike that I'd borrowed from Alan. Thinking about THAT run-up again, THAT descent, and all the other things that cause you to ride like a dog on tiles. HR dropped, breathing increased, RPE went up, a shitstorm hit my body and i could not cope. I'd love to say that i kept it together, i'd love to say that i clawed it back from the brink and chased down the places i lost, i'd love to say that i fought on and was able to overcome my daemons.
I failed on all accounts to deal with my brain and put it in its place. I went backwards, worse than i think i have ever done. Last place, lapped on the 4th lap, looked at by the commissar and given the option to bail. Hit the pits, jumped out of the plane and didn't pull the cord. Race over. Disappointment, apologies to Alan and Pauline who did an amazing job pitting for me, clean bikes when i needed them, no complaints from them at any stage.
Experiences like this need to be learnt from. Nationals are 4 weeks away. I have to look at what i want to do there and see if it is possible. I have to work on my technical skills again. I need to sort my brain out so i can claw it back when it goes into spiral mode.