On Thursday I got a haircut. My hairdresser is a Japanese gentleman in Ivanhoe named Hiro, who apart from being a great hairdresser is a life drawer, photographer, and gentle lover of life. He reminds me of a small boat, gently rocking in the ocean, buoyed by nature and happy to go wherever the winds take him. Hiro also assures me that his haircuts are unique in that they impart Good Karma. This I love. As it happened, this week I was in particular need of some Good Karma. In no particular order, highlights included being nailed at work, moving house, dealing with a spineless prick, and spending more time than I cared for curled in a foetal position vomiting. Don't get me wrong, my life is generally awesome, but this week was not-in-any-way-pretend-it-was-awesome. With the exception of a lovely dinner with a friend it was absolutely shit. Hiro's haircut came at just the right time.
Hiro's Good Karma kicked in the moment I arrived in Ballarat on Friday night and reconvened with the VIS chicks (@VIS_Chicks, for all you Twitter folk). It is a rare treat for all of us to be around at the same time and national champs is one of those times. The 2013 roster comprises Jo '2nd at NATIONALS!!!' Hogan, Chloe 'The Enforcer' McConville, Kendelle 'Timmy' Hodges, Taryn 'Star Recruit' Heather, Jess 'Jallen' Allen and myself. Led by the Donna 'Supercoach' Rae-Szalinski and Ryan 'Diamonds' Moody, it is a fun crew to be a part of. They always make me laugh and going on tour with them is one of my favourite things in the world.
The decision to race nationals was one made 3 and a half weeks ago when I was caught off-guard during the VIS training camp and there were too many witnesses to back out of it. Actually, it wasn't a decision so much as a case of trickery and entrapment, but that will teach me for taking on a freshly-caffeinated Supercoach. (As you may recall I committed to taking the Summer off racing after a certain bike race in East Timor...)
And so, following my week riding the porcelain express I arrived at the start line sporting a PB for number of pre-race poos (not good) and a secret stash of toilet paper in my race bag. Things would be fine, I thought, so long as I could do a couple of laps, look after Jo and bow out gracefully. But the thing about road racing is that, much like ordering off a chinese-only menu, you never quite know what you're going to get. When Lucy Coldwell from Holden Racing went off the front in the first 400m I figured I could cover the move early, then I'd have done my bit and could exit the race with a clear conscience. But then we were joined by Jessie McLean from Orica-GreenEdge and Bec Werner from SA Specialized and suddenly all the major teams were represented. So the bunch stopped chasing, and suddenly our gap was out to over 2 mins (we hit 3 mins 14 at one point) and we were 65km into a 106km race, the four of us still out there. And I was shitting myself (fortunately only figuratively).
Knowing my predicament, the rest of the VIS crew were on the job and shortly after I imploded JoJo arrived on the scene leading the bunch up the climb, joined by Taz and McConville. Jo's 2nd place capped off some pretty awesome teamwork by all the girls. You don't always see the full story of a bike race if you're not in it, and behind the results sheet lie strategies, efforts, counter-moves and mind games. Every one of us worked our asses off for one collective purpose. I was pretty stoked to be a part of it.
A few people have asked me why I was smiling during the race. I was smiling because, after the week I'd had, I thought I'd just be making up numbers today. And because this time last year, I was a full-time athlete, in the form of my life, and having less impact on the race than I was now, working full time and having endured The Week From Hell. As I imploded going up the hill after I'd finished in the break and started going backwards, I heard the commentator on the race radio say, 'Well, I would have expected more from Lisa Jacobs' (both a compliment and an insult, if you know what I mean). But to me, it was such a nice surprise. Thanks to everyone who cheered, because it made my day. Yes, it would have been nice to have had better legs, but that's about it. And a top chick won (the awesome Gracie Elvin, who survived the AIS Selection Survival Camp and just keeps getting stronger). So there were lots of reasons to smile. It was a great day.