Today is the first stage of the Joe Martin Stage Race, a 4.84 kilometer uphill time trial. Then we have two road races and a crit over the following three days. Stage racing is great! Supermint is great! Bikes are great!
Last time I was at this race in 2014, I had a massive meltdown.
Things were bad that year. For reasons I’m still trying to understand, I fell apart completely and lost half a season to panic attacks, performance anxiety, and endless crying spells. It took months to climb out of the dark hole and stop hating racing and myself, and sometimes I still worry that shadow is going to come back.
Joe Martin was one of the worst periods in that time. Things were going to pieces before I even made it to Fayetteville and on the night before the first stage, I took the team van, drove to a local bar, and inhaled alcohol and cheesy dip. Then I melted down at the TT start and tried to ride 40+ miles back to the host house with my backpack so I could escape. Then (I am embarrassed to be typing this now) I had a hysterical sobbing fit when I wasn’t happy with my TT result and hid in the team van to cry on the phone to my mother. And finally I quit the race a few meters before the finish line on the second day to be prevented from starting the next two stages.
It was ugly and messy and humiliating and defeating. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine and some life changes, it’s also in the past. But being here now feels like running into that ex you totally stalked by calling a million times and showing up at his work all weepy and sloppy and crazy-eyed. [Note: I have not actually done THAT.] I know that was long ago and I’m healthier and happier now, but I still feel fragile being in these same places taking on this same race that defeated me before.
That’s okay. Sometimes it feels good to remember how crappy things were and how that passed and things are okay now. That’s life. I’d rather poke my eye out than say “it’s the journey, not the destination” because that’s completely opposite the point of professional athletics (“it’s the fun of the race, not who got there first!” = do a charity century), but there is something to be said for the process. I got better. I came back here by choice. I want to be racing my bike. My backpack is going to stay in the team van until after the race.