So Gail, firstly congratulations on your result, we are all so proud to have supported you through your first Tour Divide. Watching you make up time later on in the race made for a nail-biting final day, how did the race go for you? What were the high and low points?
Thanks so much, it was a wild first ride of the Divide. The race didn't start as I'd hoped, I was nervous and made some silly mistakes. I also developed a really chesty cough over the first week. It's hard to know whether it was something I picked up on the flight to Calgary, the altitude or the pollen and dust filled air - perhaps all of it contributed. But I was really not feeling my best, finding it difficult to breathe and coughing up lots of green phlegm.
So my lowest points were where I was struggling to rationalise what I was doing. I've never raced feeling unwell before, it was hard to know if I was pushing too hard, whether persisting was stupid, whether I was being unsafe. The coughing also made it hard to talk, this surprisingly made me feel really lonely at the start of the race. I wasn't able to engage with other riders like I normally would, it made me realise that interaction with people is a huge part of racing for me. It also made me truly appreciate my ability to breathe, for so many people it's their day to day reality.
Along with the worry of doing myself harm, I also had the challenge of managing expectations. There was definitely some frustration at having put in so much effort to training and preparation, to have the race be going in a completely different direction to what I'd imagined. However I always try to make the best of any situation and it wasn't lost on me that it was still a huge privilege to be there. I decided to give myself permission to slow down. I took a recovery day into Helena, prioritising eating well, sleeping well and hit reset. The next day I utilised the excellent bike shop, had a coffee with some of the local cycling community and took things easy over to Butte. Over the next few days I trod the tightrope of striving/recovery, trying to balance the racer in me that wanted to push on with the healthcare practitioner that wanted to take things steady. There were definitely days where I pushed it too far and then felt it the next day, but overall I could feel I was getting better.