Quitter

1 and a half laps in. I was settling into a nice pace.  A swooping trail through the woods, and a welcome piece of free space in front of my wheel, lured me in. Hands tucked in the drops, willing myself not to brake. Eyes locked on to the tiny bank on the left hand side of the trail that I would be pushing my front wheel into. It would guide me around the gentle bend and help me carry momentum through. I was flying.

Eyes raised to focus on my next desired destination, further down the trail, I knew where the bike was going. Whoosh. Slam. Slide. Silence. A swear word muttered under my breath as I carefully picked myself up. Somehow I’d misjudged my trajectory. Hard, skinny cyclocross tyres had skipped and slid. Rather than using the berm as a tram track to gently guide my bike through, I ended up hitting it at a less sympathetic angle.

Other racers were already passing me as I gave the bike a once over. Twisted STI was easy enough to correct, as was the dropped chain. Aching wrist was definitely just an annoyance rather than a sign of a more serious injury. More racers passed. More swear words muttered. I looked down. My right shoe was loose. In fact, it was basically open. The buckle had ripped off.

An unexpected emotion came over me. Relief. I didn’t need to keep going anymore. I didn’t need to fight my way back to where I was. I didn’t need to keep going. I quit. I turned my bike round and started pushing it the relatively short distance to the start/finish. Already another emotion was beginning to creep in. Anger. Anger at myself. Angry for crashing. Angry for taking a risk. Angry for quitting. Angry for taking the easy option. Angry for daring to think that I was a “racer”. I stood, by the finish line, watching the masses carrying on. Faces of pain, smiles, death-stares, concentration. Racers.

“What happened?”

“Well, I….”

I was temporarily distracted as the race ended. Friends crossed the line, exhausted. Some happy, some less so, all had earned their emotions. They’d given all they could. They’d not quit. I love post race chatter. Excited comparisons of experiences, interspersed with declarations of tiredness. I joined in,  but I wasn’t really part of it.

The drive home was a long and dark one. Demons skipped around the far reaches of my brain, plucking at threads of thought as if they were badly tuned violin strings, leaving my brain ringing. Self-doubt, self-loathing, self-pity. It was all about me. It wasn’t “one of those things”, it was a direct result of me not being good enough. Not fit enough, not skilled enough, not tough enough.

Time provides perspective. I shouldn’t have crashed. I could maybe have carried on, although the rest of my race would have been very compromised. I was doing ok prior to crashing. I maybe wasn’t quite as far up the field as I would have liked, but, realistically I was doing fairly well. I’m now looking for another race to take out my frustration on. And I’ll be doing it on a new race bike. But that’s another blog post.

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