So the other day I won my first bike race since my tumultuous year in 2016. The actual ‘winning’ part I’m not so focused on, but what I’m prouder of is my ability now to manage and adjust when faced with adversity and challenges throughout this journey back to full health. This morning I woke up to a message from Cam Mcfarlane, a good friend and the backbone of my local Cycling Club Brunswick. Cam witnessed me riding my first track bike down at Brunswick Clinic 20 years ago, he also witnessed me bed ridden and unwell ‘hiding under the dooner’ as he described it last year in June. I still remember Cam sitting at the end of my bed unpacking my ‘survival pack’, which included all the essentials, wine, cheese, and chocolate. Acts of kindness like this is what makes life worth living. During my ‘dark days’ I was facing suicidal thoughts intensely for weeks on end, something I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. But my family and friends kept the fire faintly burning inside of me which I am so grateful for. Not everyone is so lucky.
The false portrayal of life that social media displays can adversely affect ones’ perception on happiness. But It has its purpose and I must accept this fact. Behind the scenes, HB Supermint has faced some problems, all teams do, that’s just the hard cold fact when dealing with low budgets, team understaffed and overworked, multiple personalities, competitive females, personal v’s teams aspirations, and living in close proximity to one another for long periods of time. Can you imagine leaving the office with your work colleague, arriving home with them to then share a meal and a bedroom? It’s a unique circumstance this bike racing world. But luckily, I’ve been blessed with a great group of girls and I sincerely enjoy the individuality everyone brings to our team, staff included.
The tension was high after Winston Salem Classic, our results falling short again, 3rd in the criterium and 4th and 5th in the UCI 1.1 road race. Learning to race with new teammates takes time, the ability to understand individuals race styles can be tricky, and the breakdown of communication is generally the catalyst to where things go south! I could identify that my mind was beginning to negatively spiral at this point and I needed to change things up. So, I decided to ‘sit out’ of the next 2 races and get myself back on track into a good headspace. This is where I experienced more ‘acts of kindness’ and the goodwill of strangers. My host in Winston Salem Barb welcomed me to stay as long as I needed and she looked after me like an over protective mum. We enjoyed each other’s company and shared stories over long walks, meals and glasses of wine. I could see that the company was good for the both of us. Barb lost her Husband to cancer 2 years prior and I could see her grief on a day-to-day basis. I think at one stage, we both were in tears, loneliness being the common denominator.
The family next door
The acts of kindness continued and I was invited along for a weekend away at Lake Lure with Barbs neighbours Doug and Jill and their 2 young children Joseph and Renee. Lake lure is famous for its appearance on the movie ‘Dirty Dancing’, one of the dancing scenes shot lake side on the jetty. The weekend was spent cruising around in a $85,000 speed boat with my new family, occasionally stopping to take dips in the pristine, cool water or holding on for dear life on the donut behind the boat. The nights were spent chatting about life with Doug and Jill over good food and wine whilst sitting on the balcony looking out to the lake. I managed to get in some great training around the area, surrounded by solid climbs with stunning views of the lake in all directions. Out on my bike I could clearly reflect on all that was good in my life right now and be grateful for the people and opportunities that have been surrounding me thus far. Another core value I am trying to live by, gratefulness.
One great thing about the cycling community here in the US is the Aussie entourage. Because I have no ‘home base’ here in the states, I was at a loose end to where I was going to go from Lake Lure. I decided to send out an SOS to Lauretta Hanson, a fellow Victorian who is racing for UHC this year and based in Asheville, North Carolina (50km away from Lake Lure). Both Lauretta and the United Healthcare team came through for me, providing me with a bed and roof over my head for a week. Thankyou!
I then flew to Washington DC, Virginia to race with 2 teammates at the Airforce classic. It was my first-time racing with Julie Kuliecza who has been sidelined from injury all year. This was both a hometown race for Lindsay and Julie and I was welcomed into Julie’s parents’ home for the weekend. We rode as a small but tight unit and I came away with 3rd overall for the weekend. But our main focus was to just have fun and race our bikes and we certainly did that. Julie and Stu took the stray (aka me) in for the remainder of the week at their home in Richmond, Virginia with their 3 dogs, Brisket, sandwich and banana. The names depicting the quirkiness of the whole family. I had such a relaxing and enjoyable time getting to know all 5 of them and I left with a new-found tolerance of dog hair.
After 2 cancelled flights from Richmond to Milwaukee, 430am wakeup call, 3hr delayed overlay in New York and then one broken bike in transfer, I finally arrived 3 hours prior to stage one of The Tour of Amercia’s Dairyland. You could say I was at the end of my tether and I was ‘just’ holding my shit together. My anxiety and stress were reaching pressure point at this stage, and like my forks, I cracked and fell into a blubbering heap. All I could think was, I want to fly home. Jono listened to my melodramatic rant and then went and fixed my bike, swapping in a spare pair of forks. Easy fix. I kitted up, cried some more and road to the race 60km away with the GPS directing me on roads I had never been on. My ‘old self’ would have thrown in the towel and shut off from the world, lying in a pool crumbs and then hating myself for giving up. This year I’m learning to sit with these ‘uncomfortable’ feelings on a regular basis. I’m not reacting to them but instead recognising them and being ok with just ‘being’. Throughout my life, my impulsive nature and over thinking has fuelled unhealthy behaviour and coping mechanisms. For the first time, I feel somewhat ‘in control’.
A few tactical errors caused me to lose both the race and a podium, finishing 5th. Riding over the line I veered straight to the nearby ocean and jumped into the water fully clothed to cool off the steam that was blowing out of my ears. I then began to cry out of frustration and exhaustion. Coincidently at this moment, an old teammate from Vanderkitten rode past and stopped to give me some encouraging words and a hug. Thank you Jeanie, that meant a lot. I then cowardly made my way back to the team van to apologise for my mistake. The team weren’t even worried. A perfect example of my ‘over thinking;’.
The following day I was determined to not make the same mistake twice and HB Supermint worked like clockwork in stage 2 of TOAD. I was finally able to execute a win for the team. Praise the LORD! Day 4 we lead the competition and look forward to some money rewards by the end of the week...cha ching! $$$