The first time I took the start at the Tokeneke Classic (back in 2014), it was my first race back after a knee injury. I was in pain and full of self doubt and did not finish. This year, I sought redemption. It was a tough race in the break with Cheryl Clark, whose fearless racing style made me dig deep and made this result mean a lot. My greatest joy in cycling comes from racing for my teammates, enabling success in others, and sacrificing to ensure the achievement of a team goal. It's not often I race for myself, and flipping that switch takes focus, effort, and belief.
A few days before the race, I got to ride with the juniors at the CCAP Summer Junior Road Camp, where I shared some of what I've learned about training mental skills in sport. Taking the time to distill some of what experience has taught me, I was reminded of how far I have come as an athlete, and how I might want to take my own advice more often! A big part of my motivation for this race was to live up to the advice I had imparted, and to be the best role model I could be.
Hanging onto Cheryl's wheel over the climbs required a panoply of mental toughness skills (plus a whole lot of watts), and I knew that to match her, I would have to be smart and find a way to use my strengths. After nearly three grueling laps of swapping pulls over climbs and through the wind, on the descent before the final climb, I got into the most aero tuck I could and managed to open a gap. I may not be a light little climber, but this was one strength I could employ. I then dug deep up the climb to the finish, convinced she was right on my heels the whole way.
The tactic worked, and I crossed the line for the win and the state title, completely spent. Cheryl's impressive strength and courageous racing brought out the best in me as a racer. I had to be on point both mentally and physically to find a way to cross the line first on a course that didn't suit me, and thanks to her, I left it all out on the road. This is really what racing is all about: challenging each other to be better and stronger than we thought we could.