The day after the house fire, I raced in the Roswell Criterium, a 90-minute, high-speed circuit race run through the closed streets of downtown Roswell, Georgia. Over 100 of the country’s top criterium racers fly around the racecourse at about 30 mile per hour. It’s a feat just to stay in contact with the group.
My head was still swimming from the house fire. I wasn’t sure where my family was going to stay that night, and I didn’t know how much of our stuff had made it through the blaze. I wasn’t in a bike racing mindset.
As soon as the race started, I was struggling. I had to sprint out of every turn, only to slam on the brakes to slow down for the next turn. I did this for about ten laps before I heard a familiar voice.
“What are you doing?” It was coach, friend, and professional criterium racer Adam Myerson. He had seen that I was in trouble. “It’s all about exit speed. Follow me.”
I did as I was told. As I followed his wheel around the course, I noticed that we were moving up the field, but my heart rate was down. Instead of braking hard into turns and sprinting out of them, we stopped pedaling well before the turns. Initially we would lose ground, but when other riders began to brake, we coasted past them. Because of the speed we carried out of the turns, we didn’t have to sprint; we just started pedaling again to resume race speed. By backing off a little before each turn, our exit speed was substantially higher than it would have been after hard braking. We were going faster with less work.
This way of racing went against my instinct, but it worked. My gut told me that professional criteriums involved brute force and reacting to what those around you were doing, but Adam taught me how to “surf” the momentum of the field.
Recently, I have gone back to speech therapy (I’ll cover my decision to go back in another post). Over the past few weeks, I have been mindful of speech in a way that I haven’t been in years. This mindfulness has made me realize that I have been approaching stuttering the same way I used to race criteriums. I’ve been struggling through every block only to “sprint” into the next. It’s exhausting.
This awareness of my speech was initially very painful for me. I hate stuttering. It doesn’t jibe with my image of myself, and it doesn’t jibe with the life I want to lead, so I hate to think about or deal with it. As I strive to let go of my hatred for stuttering (this will be another blog post), the pain is beginning to subside, and I have been able to approach speaking with a new perspective. Like Adam in the Roswell Criterium, Tim Mackesey, my speech therapist, is helping me figure out how to “coast” through blocks and carry my speech momentum.