The post-race elation can sometimes be the cause of forgetting the challenging journey to get there. People often only see athletic photographs from the race or symmetrical documentation of number pinning which completely masks the effort and unglamorous moments behind it all.
To make it to the start line, most women will have beaten demons, problems and early starts. Bike issues, self doubt and food spillages in their bag. Whether it's the uncertainty of what lies ahead or the monumental amount of faff, racing is built up of many hidden steps than most people don't see. As the first Road Race of the season finishes, here is a small insight into a few of them.
You'll visit the toilet on average 103 times before a race. Unfortunately, the facilities are often restricted and far removed from any lightbulb framed mirrors. You become accustomed to getting changed in very small spaces and finding the inner patience of a buddha on a bike when there's only one toilet for 50 nervous women.
Race organisation never gets easier and plagues your mind for the entire weekend. Accept the fate that you're now a slave to faff. Rediscover your Tertris skills and pack that bag like the child computer game hero you used to be. Or buy a KitBrix.
Unfortunately it's not a family of superheroes or the sequel to The Incredibles - the uncontrollable's are exactly that - unplanned and un-avoidable issues. Like that time my gel exploded and not only caused my hands to be covered in gunk but flew over the face of a fellow racer. Or this weekend, when Gem punctured and her race was suddenly over after all that effort and preparation to be there. The uncontrollable's are unfair.
I'm a porridge advocate. Ambassador to the oats. However, 'best served when' is not eating them at 0600, in tupperware that's leaking and whilst my stomach is more interesting in butterflies than bananas.
After finishing a race, we forget the nerves in favour of finding the elation again. But those nerves - those stomach turning, mind numbing, pant shitting nerves - are nothing short of horrific.
A race doesn't end at the finish line. After travelling home - when you want to be a couch potato and eat a kg of the latter - your body, bike and bag all need some TLC. If your race hasn't gone the way you wanted, there's nothing more demoralising than unpacking the remains of a sweaty jersey covered in the smell of failure (and the rest of that exploding gel).
As in life, racing favours those that are willing to put the work in. We're constantly served up opportunities but fall victim to the belief that the tough emotions are stop signs (I've lost count of the amount of times I've wanted to bugger off after the race sign on). But I've come to realise that these unglamorous moments are why I'm so obsessed. Heightened emotions, no matter how uncomfortable, are hypnotic. They provide something so raw that it strips you back completely. We shouldn't fear them. We should thank them.
Racing is bloody tough. But, darling, women are tougher. To all the women who make it to the start line, I see those hidden moments and congratulate you. You too have beat the uncontrollables to become your own, often unseen but forever faffing, superhero.