As I sit on a bag of frozen peas and drink a glass of red wine, I ponder how I got here. The year was 1985. I had just made the momentous decision to drop out of college for a semester and try my thighs out as a semi-professional cyclist (long on the semi). Our coach was a Polish man who had cycled his way out of poverty and good manners. We talked a lot about components and how to make our bikes weigh ounces less with the latest titanium petals. He laughed and told us to lose weight and stop eating pizza.
We were an all woman cycling team, The Bluebonnet Racers. I was a domestique, which is a fancy French word that means the worst on the team. My job was to race out ahead and try and pull the opposing team's best riders off their pace...wear them out and then make room for our top riders to take the lead. There were a couple of types of races: road races and criteriums. Crits are short races, usually under a mile that circle tight and have a high crash rate. I loved them because the domestique role was just for road races. Free to ride one's own race. That is always where I get in trouble. I have never been good at pacing, the excitement of competing pulls me out of having any sense.
That day, we were racing at an army base, about 30 miles south of Austin. It was drizzling and the racing conditions were sketchy. Our team was racing for cash, and I felt a certain obligation to make some money, as I was no longer in college and felt that winning highlighted the professional part of my new path. The course was 1/2 mile, with tight turns around the barracks. This time was going to be different; I was going to stay with the pack and actually pace myself. I managed to override my instincts for several miles. Things looked good.
Then, the drizzle turned to rain and the next minute of the race is still a blur to this day. The lead riders went down and started a domino effect of falling cyclists and crumpled bikes. All in all, 10 cyclists went down, most with broken collar bones. I dislocated my hip. The army docs did not seem to be phased by their barracks filling up. Lucky venue for us.
I was on crutches for several months and during that time realized a college degree probably had more staying power than my bike. Still, I cherish that time, those women, and even my irascible coach.
Today, 28 years later, I felt a bit out of shape. I tried a 20 minute "tone and tighten" regime that included some push-ups, crunches, etc. My hip started screaming "remember the barracks" about an hour ago. Our past lands on us and goes along for the ride.
My crash and burn days may be over, maybe, but I wouldn't trade 'em. Even if it means I have to sit on peas.
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