For the past year, I have heard repeatedly about how this years race was going to be different, that there were going to be medals coming home this year. Last year’s roll, was heartbreaking for one and was resented by another of my sweet girls. Sisu is the word that comes to my mind when I think about this race for my girls.
Two weeks before the race last year, Kat broke her pinky at school, and was told no biking for a few weeks, she was not impressed when she realized that the roll was happening in that time frame. Kat was so angry that a little two millimeter piece of bone that had broken off of her pinky was keeping her from racing. Kat sulked the whole time that Sam and I were getting ourselves prepared and to the start line that day, by the time we crossed the finish line, I think she was glad she listened to the doctors and sat out of this race, because it was pouring rain!
I had promised my friend that I would follow her daughter who was pulling her 70 lb brother, who couldn’t race on his own, in a trailer behind her. That way, if there was any unexpected medical emergency I would be able to go get help for her while she cared for him. When we signed up for the race, Sam was planning on sticking close to me, because it was the longest race that she had participated in yet, she was 8 at the time. As we were lining up at the end of the pack, Sam decided that she wanted to start closer to the front, she didn’t want to be in the back. I walked her up to the middle of the group, helped her get her bike in place, and reassured her that she had this and all she had to do was follow the crowd and the signs, that I was right behind her if she needed me she could just stop and wait.
The Roll was 16 miles of a few good climbs, mostly downhill with a mix of pea gravel and pavement from one town to another. It was raining, not just a little drizzle but a full on downpour, we were soaked through within the first few minutes of the ride. In the back we were making pretty good time, I was happily making a fool out of myself and embarrassing my friends daughter with my very loud singing and yelling to the boy in the trailer listening to him call back to me. Then, around mile 6, I saw a little blue jacket ahead of us moving very slowly, mothers instinct quickly kicked in and I knew it was my Sam. I hurried ahead and caught up to her, she had blood streaking down from both knees. She had fallen where the pavement turned to gravel, and as she was following instructions and waiting for me to come help, many passed her as she was sitting at the side of the trail and asked her, “Are you ok?” “Where is your mother?” to each of these she would bravely nod and say yes, and she’s coming so they all kept on moving past her. Eventually she decided to get back on her bike and just ride slowly until I caught up to her, and when I did the first thing she said was “Do you have a Band-Aid?” well, I did, but with as wet, dirty and bloody as her legs were, a band-aid would not help anything. I asked her if she could at least get to the next aid station, and she bravely nodded. When we were getting near I said, Papa is up there with the car, do you want to get in and put your bike on the back and get cleaned up?
She looked at me like I was crazy for suggesting such a thing, she said, “Um, no! I came here to race, and I don’t give up” So the four of us kept right on rolling right through the aid station. 10 more miles, in the driving rain through mud with a gashed open knee, Sam showed me more strength, and maybe a little bit of stubbornness than I had ever seen in her. We finished the race together in a rag tag mess, one soaked and exhausted from pulling more weight behind her than ever before, one the biggest mess you might have ever seen because he kept pulling off the rain shield of the trailer and would laugh so hard when his sister would ride through a puddle and splash him screaming “again, again!” until she got to the next, one bloody and covered in dirt from her knobby knees down, and lastly me the mother hen, keeping everyone together at a slow as a turtles pace coming in 1 hour and 48 minutes. Once I got my Sam cleaned up, we realized that her knee was split open so badly that she needed stitches, she was not impressed.
This years roll was a year to take care of unfinished business. Kat was at full strength, ready to put herself up in the front with the big boys when the starting gun popped.
Kat was positioned for first place in her age group, to finish in under an hour, then the traffic hit at one of the intersections and she was stopped. The girl that was behind her had enough time to catch her. The two went back and forth, until Kat came upon a lady that had stopped (this lady found me after and told me about her experience with my girl,) she asked her if she was ok, she needed sugar, so my Kat quietly, opened her pack and gave her a package of hammer blocks, made sure she knew to drink lots of water with it and then got back to her race. Kat slowed down to a comfortable ride at that point, because it wasn’t about the race anymore, she knew she had lost all chance of first place, probably even getting close to that podium, so she might as well take it easy and enjoy the scenery. Kat finished in one hour and two minutes, fast enough to still get her in second place for her age group. Next year, she plans on taking first.
Sam was riding this year with her Papa (I had gone on my own ride that morning, and someone needed to drive the car to the finish line.) She was laser focused, and was going to push herself to get that 16 miles done as fast as her little legs could carry her, with the biggest smile constantly on her face.
After a stop to tie her shoe she was happily cruising along faster than she ever had, very much enjoying the speed of the downhill slope. Sam pushed hard, and finished with a third place medal for her age group, she was quite proud, especially because those that beat her were two years older than she was. She finished in an hour and seven minutes. As my Sam crossed that finish line she proudly yelled to me, “MOM! I didn’t crash this year!”
Where we live many use the Finnish word Sisu to describe people. It is a word that I hope my children see in me. One dictionary I found stated that, Sisu is a Finnish word that cannot be translated metaphrastically into the English language, loosely translated to mean stoic determination, bravery, guts, resilience, perseverance and hardiness. This is what I see in my little people, every day one of them does something that makes me stop and look at them in a different light, in awe of who they are, and who they are becoming. The Sisu in this house runs deep, and as both of these two ladies have said, “next year the goal is to beat my time from this year.” To be better than before, to learn from our mistakes, to choose to have a good attitude, to pick ourselves up when we fall and finally, to do our best and let that be good enough.