The day before the race I went out on the local club run, 50 miles, enough to get the legs ticking over – I spent the afternoon and evening eating, resting and sorting out everything I’d need for my first road race! I went to bed at 9pm…early but I had to be up 530am…very early.
My alarm went off and I was out of bed like a bolt, so looking forward to riding my new bicycle and mixing it with some decent riders. I shoved some food down me and got my gear on. My first ordeal of the day was the 15 minute ride over to my mates (Nick Spencer) house…I needed my iPhone navigation so I had no gloves on, usually I wear no gloves but below 5 degrees is a bit cold even for me! I got to Nicks house, sorted our gear out and set off for Cockermouth. It took about 2 hours to get there, the nerves slowly building over that period as I forced down some energy drink and a nutrigrain bar.
Three years ago when I first got on a road bicycle I’d thought about this moment, a car park full of lycra clad cyclists, not a hairy leg in sight (expect mine and Nicks) – I was enjoying it, although I was nervous, would I hang on! My number for the day was 61 – I’ve had a few numbers on my back now, I remember my first number seemed important but they mean nothing. We quickly warmed up by going up the finishing hill (hardly a hill – more a drag) and eventually found ourselves in the bunch ready to start 5 minutes after the E/1/2/3 race. I was in awe at what looked to a highly competitive bunch, loads of teams, lots of slim guys and lots of expensive bicycles – I still don’t feel much of an athlete and don’t think I look serious (even if I am).
We got going eventually and I waited for the pain to start…it didn’t. Someone attacked up the first climbed at roughly the 1km mark but our group was very nervous and not really going anywhere or prepared to work. I wanted to stay in the bunch till the last two laps, at which point if I had anything I’d take some hard turns at the front. Being in a big bunch is fantastic but will take some getting used to! There is a lot of moving forward, a bit of bumping and a lot of slowing down up hill, you need to concentrate and be in the right gear. We got going after a few kilometres and went flying into a bend, unfortunately a few guys (including Nick) overcooked it, thankfully they got back on quite easily. Shortly after this we went up a series of hills, short sprinter ones (that I had predicted in my last post), and on each one we would grind to a halt. On one of them a guy touched his brakes and I had no time to react – bang – I was on my side. Quickly I got up and tried to get going again…the chain was off, I was in the big ring…I walked to the top and got back on. I entered flight mode and powered on for a few miles, I could just see the bunch…I’ll catch them. It seems harsh that if you crash nobody stops, you really are on your own at this level – I asked another faller if he wanted to chase back on, he shook his head. I gave up. I don’t like giving up.
And so it happened. I unpinned my number. I handed it back in to the organisers. One of them suggested I’d been dropped, I didn’t react, I obviously don’t look strong. I left the room and sat down next to the bicycle in the sun. Warmth. I looked up into the sky and realised it isn’t all bad, actually it’s part of the game, another battle scar – pain is temporary, if I quit it lasts forever.
Nick got 16th, a great result, I expect more to come from him – as for me, I’ll keep fighting.
Read about Nick’s more positive result here: http://bityres.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/race-report-18312-embleton.html?m=1
Photo’s are here: http://www.emmafelton-photography.co.uk/section590348_491284.html