The Family Man. When adversity peaks, the Family Man will sometimes struggle to maintain his composure. But, for the good of his family, he will put on a brave face and soldier on, meeting his adversity head on. This final installment in our project documents the story of one particular Family Man, as he struggles to keep his cool with the pressure of competing in the Western Open looming over his head.
Part 4: Race Day
I did not sleep well last night, again. Too anxious about the race. The balance of this week-long trip, combined with the last couple nights, is catching up to me. I am bagged.
It takes all my effort to climb out of bed. Damn this RV bed. I can't wait to get home to my own bed. I try to eat, have a coffee. I need to get going up to the hill if I'm going to get in some warm-up runs, but I can't go without my family, who are all still sleeping. The pressure is sinking in, and my stomach is in turmoil. I try to relax and keep my breakfast down, but it is difficult.
Funny thing about stress and pressure. You can't reason it away. You can tell yourself to relax, or that it's not a big deal, or that you'll do fine, but your stomach knows when you're lying. It is a big deal, and you might not do fine. But it's not a fear of crashing or injury or anything like that. It's a fear of the clock, and what it's going to say when your done. It's a fear of yourself, of your own body, and whether the training you did was enough to prepare you for this. It's a fear of failure. Okay, I'll be honest, there might be little fear of crashing sprinkled in there too.
By the time the family is awake, I am left with two options. I can leave them and go now, by myself, get in my warm-up runs, and come back to get them after. Or, I can simply skip the morning runs and hang with the family until race time, saving all my energy for the race. I go for the latter option, and here's how we spent the morning: Aidan takes one for the team, and sings the "Alphabet Song" to get us some cowbells from Tippie Kids love stickers, and Kirt came prepared Thanks for the photo Kirt. I'll plug in Kranked 6 for the kids when we got home
By 2:00 O'Clock, my wife is ready for lunch. I know I can't eat, my stomach would never allow it, so we go our separate ways. I head back to the truck to start warming up. Wearing a hoodie in 25 Celsius weather, I'm doing warm-up exercises and stretches in the parking lot, trying to get my body, especially my back, warm and loose. An hour later, I'm as loose as I'm going (without pharmacological help that is). Suited-up in my armour, I'm ready to go. I head back into village area, just as my wife and kids are finishing lunch. Kiss for my wife, fist-bumps for the kids, and I'm on the gondola, heading to the starting gate.
Race time. Not much to say here. Legs screaming, grip failing, the trail pounds me relentlessly. I fight back, I hang on. I ride switch-foot to give my right leg a break. I pace myself, force myself to control my breathing. When will this end? Finally, I'm through the steeps, through the rough. Let off the brakes and breath. Hope my legs can resist the g's through the berms. Almost there. Pass Richard Ratte, cheering from the sidelines. Pedal, pedal, PEDAL!
. Cross the line. Finished, finally, thank God. My kids want to high-five me. Tippie wants to interview me. But I've left it all on the hill. I feel weak, faint. I don't know what to say. I make a joke about needing a beer. Seriously though, someone get me a beer!
I leave the finish line and find a place to sit. My hands are cramped and I can't unbuckle my helmet. I am spent. After finally getting off my helmet and gloves, I make my way back to the truck. Exhausted, Sam helps me get me gear off: Daddy's little helper
Changed, comfortable, beer in hand, we head back into the chaos to look for posted times. Anticipation building, we arrive at the dj booth. I find my category on the side of the booth, and scroll for my name. Not believing what I see, I double check. My wife looks over my shoulder and confirms. 05:43:35. I have just carved over 2 minutes off my time from last year. Psyched! Sure, I'm over 1 minute off from top 3, but this is a massive improvement, and a huge personal victory. "Today, we spell 'redemption'... R-O-N." (seriously, what fun is a blog without an "Anchorman" quote?)
Now that it's all said and done, I guess the only question that remains is whether I'll do this again next year. Honestly, I don't know. While I'm glad that I put myself through this experience, and glad to have had the opportunity to prove to myself what I'm capable of, it did come a large cost, both physically, psychologically, and financially.
But hey, that's racing, right?