Numbers to Dream Of

Megan Kelly

Since the last time it was my turn to steer this ship, a couple big cycling-related things have happened in my life. One of them was Women’s Track Night (which was fantastic!) but it must be left for another post. The other started about 6 weeks ago, when I realized I was getting dropped in every collegiate race I entered. I had dreamed over the winter of getting my feet wet in the collegiate B field, kicking ass, upgrading to cat 3 (USCF), and upgrading to collegiate A before road nationals. I knew at the end of the first collegiate race that this was not to be. Two weeks ago I got a surprising e-mail from my conference director, asking about the possibility of 4 teammates and I going to collegiate nationals. I sat on my couch and typed response after response explaining that I couldn’t. That I hadn’t been expecting it, that I had too much schoolwork – but I deleted every last one of them. My brain was getting overridden by my heart. Finally, I wrote, “… I am always telling people, if the question is bike racing, if there is any question at all, the answer is yes.” Later that night, I got another e-mail: “USA Cycling support ticket #whatever, upgrade B to A, is closed.” Surprise! Upgraded! Going to Nationals!

I wrangled three teammates (one had already been invited for the road race and criterium) into doing the team time trial with me. The boys did the same. All of a sudden, we were a team of 8! Going to a national collegiate cycling championship!

Friday was the road race. Realizing there was a good chance I would get pulled from the crit, and due to the fact that I wasn’t prepared to see more than one DNF next to my name for the weekend, I went to the line for the road race with all the resolve I could muster. 58 miles, ~6000 vertical feet, 5 gels, and a whole lot of neutral water (thanks Emma) later, I crossed the finish line of my first national championship road race. The winner finished a full 70 minutes ahead of me, but I never got lapped. I bonked like crazy 1/4 of the way in to the final lap and dropped my last gel. I wasn’t the last one on the course. I was am 99% sure, the last D1 woman to finish, but not everyone finished.

After I dropped my teammate Alex off for the men’s race in the morning and watched him roll off, I went back into the nearest town for breakfast. The diner I found served homemade pie, and while I wanted to take a slice back for after my race, I knew I would feel bad if I was eating homemade pie in front of my teammates and not sharing. So I bought a whole pie, and in the end, I did not share a lot of it.

I think I finally made up the calorie deficit from that race a couple of days ago.

Then, we did the team time trial. To my knowledge, it’s the first time Minnesota has ever fielded a women’s time trial team at Nationals. We finished under an hour, over 20mph, and only got passed twice – all of our goals were met. Not only that, our picture was published on the website of a little publication you may have heard of, I think it is called VeloNews? They published it with what could be the least compassionate caption of all time:

“The Minnesota Ladies team struggled up the short climbs.” – VeloNews

We knew the truth – half of us were cooked from the road race, 3/4 of us raced a bike for the first time 2 months ago, and all four of us threw down for the best time we could achieve together.

That’s a win in my book.

Sunday morning the Criterium took place. I took Emma’s advice a day late and took an ice bath the night before. I awoke my teammates at an hour they were more than a little displeased about so I could ride the course before the D2 women’s race started and get a proper warm-up. The race started – I missed my pedal about fifteen times in a row, sprinted back to the field, couldn’t hang, and was finally “excused from the remaining distance” after about twenty minutes.

In the end, I got 2 59th places, and a 12th. These are not the results anyone lays awake at night dreaming of, but I’m going to dream about them for a while. Even though I got dropped in both races, it wasn’t immediately in either race, and the tiny glimpse of what I’m capable of if I can just figure out how to do all that, but for 10 or 20 times longer.

That should keep me in the saddle for a long, long time.

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