The thud in my left hip. That is what I’m waiting for. While I’m spinning on the rollers early in the morning, with my down vest and Team USA stocking cap on, my first goal of the day, before racing even gets started, is putting my hip back where it belongs, so that left leg can do its thing. Smashing into the track at 66kph did it’s work on the left side of my body. And 4 months later, I’m still not sure what’s totally wrong with it. But it’s cold, and I love it. This is where I thrive. I’m spinning, I do my first effort..nothing. I try again. And it goes. “Clunk”. That sudden release of tension and pain, flowing into power and speed. Ok. I’m ready. The collarbone on the other hand…I must have slept wrong, or my body’s rejecting the plate and screws. But I only have to hold onto the bars for eight laps. Completely doable. Do I want to wrap my arm? I think I’ll be ok. Like I said…eight laps. Let’s just get through this round. Let’s not have a recap of last year. Let’s prove everyone wrong, because I’m back.
I felt like a pinball. Getting bounced around, getting thrown to the back. What just happened? But it’s ok. There is a rep ride. This is my first real keirin back from crashing at 66kph straight onto my face. I got the first one out of the way. And this is south america. You aren’t going to get this much contact anywhere else. It was time to line up again. I was ready to get bumped this time. I was ready for all the illegal moves that are somehow legal in these countries. And I went through, by the skin of my teeth. You could feel the lack of belief in the air. But that just made me more pissed off than hurt. And I was going to prove everyone wrong, because of it.
I was ready for the second round. My hip was still in its place. I wrapped my wrist tight, pushing the pain aside. I had two more rides. And I was going to make it happen. The motor pulled off and I went straight to the front. 500m to go. I pushed the speed higher, and higher, and higher, and at one lap to go, we were going. I stood up, but there was nothing left, we went into corner one, and I held that black line as hard as I could. Still in the front going down the back straight, I told myself, “Just keep pushing. This is just like training.” I pushed. Coming around corners three and four I could feel them breathing down my throat. But I led through the finish, and won my semi-final, putting me into the 1-6 final for gold. Just like the world cup in Colombia. That was the first time I felt like my old self again. I wasn’t timid, I wasn’t scared. I didn’t feel the pain. I was just, me. And I was proving them wrong, one pedal stroke at a time.
One more ride. I’ve been sitting on the floor of our hotel room applying for jobs, grants, and setting up interviews. I’ve been fighting with insurance companies and hospitals. I didn’t go through all this to give the doubters what they were looking for. But, I fell one place short. A 4th place finish burns worse than finishing 6th. One step from adding to the medal count. One step from coming home with my first medal from a pan am championships. Even though a 4th place finish was the highest finish of both the men’s and women’s sprinters over the entire event, when medals are all that matters, it might as well not have been.
So just like that, it was over. Back at home, it’s been non-stop calls with insurance companies and hospitals. Threats taking my bills to collections because I can’t make the payments. Taking on every interview I’m granted, and accepting every position offered. I have had the opportunity to work alongside the owner of ERO personally, finally taking up his offer to train me and I’m loving it. I’ve got a class full of second graders as a teacher, who love to raise their hands and giggle as they say, “Ms. Missy! I need help!” And working as a coach and all around helper with Big Picture Cycling has been fun too! Although cycling is being put on the back burner for a little while, I’m hoping with all the work I am doing, I can pull together enough funds to keep this dream alive just a little longer. I don’t have the funds to get me to a world cup right now, I’m thankful for the support that has come forward to help me get there in the future.
I’m optimistic to what that future holds. I have some incredible opportunities set in place, I have an incredible group of supporters and sponsors, who have always stood behind me, through the thick and thin. I know I wouldn’t have gotten to the 2015 Pan Am Championships without as those following and the amazing words I have received. It’s been a crazy last few months, and an even crazier last 3.5 years, but the things I’ve taken away from it have changed me for the better so many times over. A lot is outside my control, and I will continue to control what I can. And in doing so, I know I will find where I need to be.