I ride alone more than not. I like the empty space on the road, in the silence, in my head. I like to suffer without encouragement and without judgment. But sometimes in that silence, in the whirring, my own thoughts will misfire.
Doubt and dread, in the heat of the day, miles and miles away from what feels OK, the racing heartbeat and the light head that were symptoms of a hard ride become triggers for panic. So alone, as I usually am, I encourage myself.
“You are fast, you are strong, you are capable, you are swift.”
I would whisper it over and over to myself until the rush passed, until it felt like I could breathe. That mantra was my coach, and for a long time, the emphasis.
I was going on rides to see if I could do them. To see if 70 miles, 80 miles, 7,000 feet, 9,000 feet, to see if these things were in my wheelhouse, to see if I could out ride the fear in my brain. And for a long time, it worked. The personal kudos I received for accomplishing things like Rapha Rising and Levi’s Gran Fondo, and taking the QOM on a segment I’d once walked, these things felt amazing, but they also proved my capability leaving me with an open slot in the goals department.
It was then that the mantra — You are fast, you are strong, you are capable, you are swift — still my stronghold, began to feel more like a list of goals than attributes. I made myself capable.
Now I needed to be fast, I needed to be strong, and I needed to be swift. And it seemed the only way to prove it in any way more significant than neighborhood QOMs was to race. So I registered.
That first race, 47 miles in Pescadero, California, proved yet again that I was capable. But it did a fine job of illustrating that I was not fast, not swift, and not strong (physically or emotionally) as I pouted more than any grown woman can claim is reasonable most of the way back to Los Angeles. But as the cloud of disappointment cleared, it left a road clearer than the one I’d just ridden. There were actionable wants. There were clear steps to be taken. There was data and science and training plans and my left-brain salivated over all of it.
Ride data had always been a highlight for me. Tracking my progress week to week kept me focused and ambitious. It should have been a given that I would love the more regimented training that came with preparing for racing. The structure incentivised me and gave me a reason to get out of bed at 5am. It also made me healthier.
Enough sleep, enough food, enough fuel, enough water, things I’d been so lackadaisical and cavalier about before suddenly became part of a rule book I was willing to study if it meant I might be able to win. But a curious thing happened amid ordering a heart rate monitor and researching power meters: the more I treated my body like a machine to be maintained, the more my body took care of my brain. The triggers were too hydrated for the heat, too monitored to spike my heart rate, too well fed to find me light-headed.
While I was training to be good at racing, racing was training me to be good to myself. Asleep at 9pm, fridge full of fruit and greens, and plenty of data logged, I was happier than I’d ever been. I only clocked that one race this season, but I’m logging the hours.
I’ve already proven I’m capable. Strong, fast, and swift are next.
Follow Kelton on Instagram: @Ktonic