Do things really come in threes?

Hilary Billington is forced to drop out of Redlands due to illness

For the third time in the last two years I've had the unpleasant experience of getting to a race and either not starting or pulling out right away because of illness. 2008: Mt Hood. 2009: Nature Valley. Now add 2010: Redlands.

I'm in California ready to start Redlands and the day before the race I spike a fever of 103 and am fighting off another potential bout of pneumonia. Needless to say, Redlands this year was over for me before I even had the pleasure of starting. Please let the saying that things happen in threes be true and let this be the last time my health gets in the way of me racing!

Anyone with a competitive spirit can understand how frustrated I am. My winter has gone so well! I've not been sick since H1N1 went through our house in October. I had fun racing and surfing in Australia in January thanks to Jamie and Annabelle Drew and the great folks at Pitcher Partners (and the great girls on that team – thanks, Liza!)

Lately my fitness seemed like it was really on track – I raced for three consecutive weekends in Oregon with my hubby and good friend Brad in the 1/2 men's field and did better than I've ever done there. My friends at www.HammerNutrition.com have really helped me out with food, supplements and awesome clothing. And I was excited to race with my cousin Kathleen, the rest of her BWM-Bianchi team, and Amber Neben. Now it's time to get healthy and figure out what to do between now and June.

In my last diary entry I talked about how the lack of opportunity for women to focus on racing can dilute the competition in women's fields. I'm not going to say that had I started Redlands I would have made a big difference in the racing. I fully admit that my getting sick was not the result of a lack of opportunity (my problems are that I have asthma that makes me prone to lung infections, and I have to little germ factories at home - also known as two little boys).

But getting sick is a major risk factor for competitive cyclists. We all know that there is a fine edge between being really fit and being sick. For women who are able to focus on their health, training and racing the chances are much better that they are going to make it to the starting line healthy.

For women juggling work, flying to races the night before and cutting corners just to get to the starting line – well, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that those gals are much more likely to have compromised health before the race even begins. Then think about what happens during the races – the women who are on composite teams or on their own are spending energy putting their bikes together, carrying all the food/drink they'll need during the race, driving themselves to/from the race, etc. I wonder how many of the women started Redlands with compromised health or got run down from events not related to racing while at the race?

Like I wrote last time I pointed out that it takes very little to support a female cyclist. A budget of $100,000 can go a very long way. What does a company get for $100,000 or even $500,000? A whole lot of great advertising is what they get! Did you watch the Olympics? Did you see all the products that were associated with female athletes during those two weeks? Among the products I saw associated with athletes were bread, credit cards, sport drinks, yogurt and clothes.

As a female consumer, I take notice if I see an ad where a healthy athlete is eating / wearing / using a product. As a mom and a wife, I make most of the day-to-day spending decisions in my household. Companies advertise because it works. When you sponsor a female cyclist you have a world of advertising opportunity available to you. . . .

So, once again, I challenge you: If you work at a company that advertises, mention the killer advertising opportunity that comes with supporting female cyclists. You'll help support your company, and you'll help support faster, more exciting, and healthier(!) women's races.

See you at the races (when I'm healthy again!).

Hilary

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