May 29, 2012

Sisters Stampede: Earning the Belt Buckle

I really wanted this belt buckle. I don’t normally covet large metal objects and I don’t have leanings toward western style – but I wanted this belt buckle, not for the buckle itself, but for what it represented: incremental improvement, hard work, and increased confidence.

No matter how strong you are, if you don’t believe you can win, you will not.

This weekend, I believed I could win. Ben had a long talk with me on Saturday night.

“If you want to reach your toes, then reach for your toes. Don’t stop at your knees.”

As silly as it might sound, these were the words that allowed me to believe in my abilities, in my training, in my legs – and in the possibility of winning the Sisters Stampede.

I rode smarter than I did last year. I took my turn at the front, but I didn’t lead out of the gate. When Sue got a gap, coming out of the start loop, I dug deep, caught her wheel and then led onto the single track. 

Thirty minutes into the race, on the only real climb of the course, I put my head down and never looked back. That was the move that allowed me to get a gap. A gap that stuck.

It wasn’t until I crossed the line that knew I won. I was running scared – but staying focused – charging out of every corner, accelerating on every incline. One mistake and I could lose the lead.

With seven miles to go, the course curved around so I could see behind me; there were no other women in sight.

Go. Go. Go.

With one and a half miles to the finish, the course went from single track to double track. If someone was lurking behind me, this is where they would make the pass. I couldn’t let this happen. I shifted and pedaled harder. Even on the final straight away, I didn't let up.

I wanted to cross the finish line before I celebrated.

And then I smiled. A real smile. A real big smile.