Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Lesson in Pain

It's been a surreal first three weeks in Basque country. I have not been active on my blog simply because things have been more about adjusting to life here and trying to experience as much as possible. Last week was probably the biggest race in the schedule for this year, The Tour of Bizkaia. This was a world caliber junior race, the level was very high and the courses were very hard. Consisting of 5 stages over 4 days, with 2 mountaintop finishes, over a dozen cat 2 and 3 climbs, and one double stage on the last day with a Road race in the morning and a 12k Time Trial in the afternoon.

My entrance to the race went pretty well. I felt good for stage 1,  besides the rather eye opening experience of going 80kph down hill with hundreds of other riders packed around you, it was rather uneventful until the finishing climb. I was ran into by another rider at the base of the climb and nearly went down, we hooked bars and he crashed. Because of this, when the gaps started to open I wasn't in the first group. I trailed in the next group back for the rest of the climb and finished pretty happy at 55th place out of 200 some riders, confident for the next day.

After the 1st stage the race got a lot harder. No one was holding back for a final climb, so the whole day was very fast and hard. On stage 2 the lead group finished with an average speed of 41kph despite two cat 3 climbs that day. At some point my seat slipped down without me noticing and I paid for it dearly. Between that and getting hit by a car recently my back started to hurt, and a lot. I fiddled with my position over the final three stages but never quite figured it out and became familiar with an ever constant pain, both physically and mentally. You see, I've never actually quit a race. I've been pulled out, but never taken myself out of a race. This is something I take great pride in and it was the stage for a battle between myself and I over 7 hours of collective racing

I did a lot of solo riding over the week, no resting, nothing to distract myself from the pain besides the occasional cheering from spectators. For the last 30k or so of stage 3 I simply repeated the line "pain is temporary" out loud over and over again. I'm sure from an onlooker I may have looked a little bit insane. In the moment, there was many times I would have gladly been kicked in the balls if it would have some how transported me to the finish line. The physical pain itself wasn't the hard part. I'm pretty used to that. It was the idea that I was enduring this pain as the victim, not the aggressor. Pain can feel rather good when you're doing well in a race, but when you're dropped it serves only as a reminder that you're not good enough. I told myself I was going to quit many, many times over the weekend. In the end however, I just couldn't bring myself to end it.

Now that it's all over, I can look back at it with pride. Sure, I did terrible results wise, even if you consider the caliber of field. However I made mistakes and I'm learning from them. The biggest thing to me is that I didn't quit. I endured. For now, that's enough.

Don't think I haven't had any fun though! The past weeks have been just that almost exclusively, racing or not. Over the next week I'm going to catch up on my experiences, but I think this will be all for now.