I ended up doing a ride almost identical to the NCVC Monday night hill ride, but instead of riding with a pack of hammer-hungry drop-happy muscle men, I was riding with a group more mixed in speed and ability. Don't get me wrong, this is still a fast ride that I wouldn't have dared to try last summer, but instead of totally kicking getting eaten alive, I chewed up all 1100 feet of climbing. I was in the front pack most of the ride, and passed people on a lot of the climbs, especially towards the end, and averaged high 18mph for the ride. Now, I know that this was the first Conte's workout and many of these cyclists were on their bikes for their first real workout of the summer (it was easy to tell which ones, they were wearing their "winter weight" in their "summer spandex"). I'm sure this ride will hand my ass back to me at some point this summer, but I've spent the past month feeling really really bad about myself and my cycling fitness. Every Monday night NCVC ride I've gone to, I've left feeling like a complete failure - which is the result of riding with a group that is MUCH faster and stronger, and while I know I'll be a better cyclist for it in the long run, it sucks right now. Last night was a real confidence-builder exactly when I needed one.
I was pretty sorry to have gotten separated from Emily, but we hung around afterwards for the first-Tuesday-of-the-month-food-festival, plus beer, plus cupcakes I'd brought to celebrate her birthday!
2. Race photos were finally released from the Earth Day 5K. The next best thing to the worst race photo ever? Playing with the photographer while zipping into the finish (trust me, you definitely want to click on them to make them bigger).
Also, not trying to choke yourself to a PR actually resulted in one of the better race photos I've had in a while, despite the massive heel-strike I'm rocking.
3. As an athlete, I don't have a lot going for me. Don't argue with me, shut up and listen for a second. I wasn't a competitive swimmer from ages 3-24 like many of my triathlete friends. I love to run, but no matter how careful I am with my training and how many stupid planks I do, I get injured, over and over and over and over. I have zero natural athletic ability. I fall down. A lot. I am not, by nature, strong or fast at anything. This past winter is the first time I've ever run even a single mile that started with 8. It took me two years of regular swimming before I could do 100 yards in less than 2 minutes. It took me TEN years of running to run a 5K faster than 29 minutes. My sweet ass makes me a fast cyclist while descending, but that's a lotta honky tonk badonkadonk to haul up a hill. And I'm okay with all of this. At the end of the National Half, I said that I'm not really sure WHY I have to work so much harder for things that come so easily to so many of my friends, but it's my goddamn journey, not theirs.
What I do have in spades is a ridiculous ability not to give up. Some may call it stupidity, or just being incredibly stubborn. Why continue to beat your head against that wall? I've had to call on that a lot lately, in these last two high-volume weeks. In the first NCVC workout, I talked to myself all the way up every single one of those hills. I call myself "girl" when I talk to myself, isn't that funny? And all I kept saying was along the lines of, "Girl, don't give up. Not today." And somehow it works. Yesterday morning I needed to run 5 miles to keep up with my every-other-day schedule, and the only way I could do it was to be out the door at 6am. When I looked out the front door at 6am, it was a torrential downpour. I sighed and headed out. I had to talk myself through every step of that run, and I have no idea how I even completed those 5 miles, especially when I ran back by my house at 3.87 and had to keep going. It was a crappy day and a crappy run, and if I had cut it short, who would have ever known? Would it really have made a difference, in the grand scheme of my training? Probably not. But I did it anyway. Because I don't give in. And when I got home, I changed my clothes and climbed on the bike and rode to work through the hellish weather because that run wasn't enough, I can't just slog through it and get on with my life, I have to fight back. And I know that I'm going to need this next Saturday, when I show up for my 70.3 having trained to the best of my ability, but still hugely under-prepared for the last 13.1 of that race. I feel confident that I will finish. I won't be pleased with the time on the clock, but unless I drown in the lake or crash, I will cross that finish line.
I have a lot of fast friends, a lot of friends who regularly run 100 miles or get up on the podium or who can run 26.2 miles with a faster average pace than my 5K PR or who start cycling one day and are at the Olympics the next. I love all of them and I cheer my lungs out for them, but I don't secretly envy them. Because maybe I'll never be that fast, maybe I'll only ever be able to run for 5 months at a time before I get injured, but I will never give up. The mantra I choked out to Amy last weekend as we were climbing the last hill somehow fits me, it's the rhythm of my life. Your heart is a weapon the size of your fist. What I do, what I'm all about, is the ability to never stop fighting. It's gotten me through a lot of tough runs and rides, but it's also gotten me through a pretty bumpy life. It's about being in the darkness and being able to rut through out into the light. It's the only weapon I've got, but it's sharp and I've got great aim and I will kick your ass with it every time.