I was pumped: Race 2 of the Midland Women’s Time Trial Series was here. It was on the course where I had set my PB and judging from last week’s effort, I figured a new PB was on the cards. In an effort to avoid another time penalty for missing my start time, I set off with plenty of time to spare.

The weather forecast was not brilliant but in this moment the sun was out. I was driving along and the temperature was a lovely 10C. I toyed with the idea of racing in short sleeves. But chasing me were some clouds that told of nothing good. It got dark rather quickly. It began to pour and a snail was going faster than me. With the downpour, the temperature dropped to just about 3C. But as quickly as it came, it disappeared. Sun blazing I arrived at HQ. I was off first. In 90 min. Time for a coffee.

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When it was time to warm up, 3 things happened: an endless seeming carpet of grey clouds rolled in, the temperature dropped from pleasant to unpleasant and I started dithering. Instead of focusing on getting ready my mind wandered, thoughts jumping as quickly as the grey clouds were moving. And just as I was rolling out, it started raining. But that was not enough, within seconds hailstones were pummeling me. There was only one thing to do: shelter.

Again I watched the minutes tick by, inching closer to my start time. At the same ratio as the minutes got less, the hailstones and layers of ice on the cars increased. I was freezing. While I tried to keep it on the light side, my thoughts were running wild: What’s the point going out in this? There goes your PB. This is horrid and it’s only going to be a miserable ride. It’s cold. I’m cold. I’m so going to race with long sleeves and leg warmers. Seriously racing in this, you idiot. Tick tock tick tock.

With 10 min to spare to my start and the hail still pelting down, I went to check whether the start was postponed.  Male racers were returning, drenched to the skin, frozen to the bone, shivering uncontrollably. Sign on told me, it was definitely going ahead, in a tone that clearly said: man up! I didn’t think so and went to find the organiser. At this point, no one seemed to want to decide. Calling off a race is a hard decision to make, but postponement, surely that was doable. Eventually, 5 min to go, the  start of the women’s race was postponed by 30 min. Phew!

Meanwhile, the hail had been replaced by heavy rain. The temperatures were still near freezing. That little voice in my head went off and as much as I was trying to maintain a ‘let’s see attitude’ it just would not shut up. Hypothermia. Wet. Freezing. Slippy. Drenched. Shiver. Frozen. Idiot. Stupid. I was not alone though. A group of 10 of us assessed, risk assessed. Deep down, I had given up. And so I asked a friend to take my number off.

For the next couple of minutes I engaged in an exercise of justifying to myself that it was the right decision. It was smart. However, now the little voice went off the other way: softie, fail, softie, fail. What was I meant to do? Not racing was smart given the conditions and the way the men looked. Taking the risk of injury and illness with the European Championships coming up was not smart. But I would set the precedent for the other women, if I bailed, at least half of the rest would too. And what with my team? We wouldn’t have one.

10 min to my postponed start time. The rain lets up, there’s even a blue patch somewhere back there. New round of thoughts. Not smart. It’s going to be ok. It’ll be wet from below, but it’s only 20 odd minutes. Lead by example. Just ride around. No risk. But my PB race. Not happening. But it will be fine. Just get your heart rate up. You’ll be ok. Wet. Cold. The sun is coming out. Yeah, right. It all ended with me asking my friend to put my number back on. Meanwhile the playground still looked like this.

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Photo: Riley

I walked out to the shelter like a cowboy to a duel and a demanded my bike like a cowboy demands his gun. And this was fundamentally what it boiled down to. Me against the weather, against my own Schweinehund (that little voice that tells you to give up), and my weapon was my bike. I was going to go out there. No expectations of a PB, but I was going to race. Man up. And so I set off with the sun shooting small blue holes into the dark cloud. 4 minutes to my delayed start time.

My spirits brightened riding to the start. This wasn’t so bad. The rain had stopped. There was spray from below, but hey, it was fine to ride on. Maybe I could give this a bash. I was so going to give this a bash. Only, it was still so cold. Should I keep my gilet on? Probably smart. I got to the start with a bright: I’m here! We can go now! Only the organiser turned around and said: ‘I’m sorry, but I can’t let you race in this. The road down there is flooded.’ I expressed my thanks to the marshals for staying out in the atrocious weather and understanding that it was the correct decision (and it was). But truthfully, I was deflated. My energy zapped within seconds.
I rode back to HQ and really felt the chill. Within minutes I was shivering, my hands having trouble to control the bike. I would have never survived the race or was it because now all the adrenaline had gone in an instant? Possibly that too. But mostly, I felt emotionally drained. From all the dithering. It made it very plain to me just how much energy the whole process had taken out of me.

That was the race that never was. An old lesson learned again: don’t dither. Make a decision and stick with it.

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