SA Champs 2016: I’m only human

“Sometimes defeat is way more valuable than success. It’s hard to deal with, but once perspective is realised and the lessons are learnt, it makes you super motivated to come back stronger!”

SA Champs, Road Race, Road Cycling, Cycling, Women's Cycling, South Africa, Durban, An-Li Kachelhoffer
SA Champs, Road Race, Road Cycling, Cycling, Women’s Cycling, South Africa, Durban, An-Li Kachelhoffer

National Championships is always a big day and this year was no exception, especially since I lost my title.

Everyone was telling me not to race. I had a symptom list that kept getting longer ever since I had come home from the Bigla team training camp in Mallorca. I thought it would pass with a few easy, sleepy days. But it just kept getting worse. Sport has taught me to mentally push through any challenge, so I convinced myself that I would get better. I was going to be healthy for the race, and I would race to win.

Of course, there’s a point where mind over matter just doesn’t matter. Even when I decided to pull out of the Time Trial Champs a few days before the road race on doctor’s advice, I still didn’t believe I was at that point.

The road race started slowly. That was probably a good thing for me but that’s not the way I like to race. Before the end of the second lap, I put in an attack and that seemed to break the ice for other riders to get involved too. Usually I like to attack a lot and wear the bunch down to a smaller group, but this time I was just wearing myself down. When it came to the winning move on the final drag to the finish line, I had nothing. I felt like I was going 110% but my Garmin computer was telling me a different story. The race was telling me a different story too.

I crossed the finish line in 6th place. Not exactly a result I was ready for. My head had made me race like I normally do, but my body wasn’t in a state to cooperate and the disconnect was hard to deal with. I lay down after the finish line and I felt awful, but it wasn’t just my body that felt bad. My mind felt awful too.

Of course I had lost races before, been sick or DNF’d, but I had worn the National Champs jersey for four years, and it had become part of my identity. Now it felt like I had watched that part of me slip through my fingers. I was overcome with regret that I had decided to race.

Losing my title was a big blow but the regret about racing subsided. The support I received after the race helped me step back and ultimately realise that when you’re sick, you’re sick. I’m just like everyone else on the start line: trying to maximize the mental and the physical. Knowing I am human and beatable makes me more hungry to be on top of my game for all the big goals I have lined up this year.

Hats off to An-Li, a former teammate of mine, for earning the National title and riding a great race.

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