So I went to PIR tonight after work, to volunteer and learn the ropes of registration.
Of course, I brought Stompy along. As I got off the light rail train and rode the mile or so to the short-track area, I negotiated with myself, really with my body:
"So here's the deal. I've already signed up for this, and that includes volunteering every single week (in order to race for free, but it's not exactly free because I'm giving my time). So as long as I'm there and volunteering I'll bring Stompy along. On nights I feel like total crap I will not race. On nights where I feel like I have a little in the tank, I reserve the right to say I might race. On the few nights where I actually feel like I've got thirty minutes in me, I will definitely race."
There are seven weeks in the season. I figure if I can manage five weeks of racing -- based on my current form and the recovery still to be done from the staph infection -- that would be enough to make me really happy. If I manage to finish at least three of those five races -- in a new and much harder category -- I'll be satisfied. I can live with satisfied.
So tonight I took a very short, very slow practice lap of part of the course. I began on the moto track, went for the steep uphill that marks the laps, and proceeded off the moto course and into the singletrack area, where I threaded my way through the trees and around some off-camber stuff. By the time I'd gone halfway through the singletrack section I was really tired and starting to run out of breath. I pulled over, let faster riders pass me, and continued on to a little "neutralizer" -- a feature where a deep gully had been dug wider and re-shaped, with two trees close together on either side. You had to either ride through the gully or clear it, and not hit the trees on either side. I slowed down, listened as the course marshals advised me to get way back behind my saddle, and then I finessed it (because I certainly wasn't going to jump it). It felt good. It felt fun. I wanted to go back and do it again but by then I was pretty much out of gas. I went off the course, circled back and watched some other riders do it. Yup. Definitely a fun feature. I hoped I'd see it in a race.
I rode half-heartedly a little farther around the course, and then suddenly my body said, "enough". I was spent. I got off the course, rode the gravel drive back to the registration area, got some more information for next week, and went home, feeling both happy and terribly nervous. Happy, because I'd gotten to try a little pre-riding; and terribly nervous, because after tonight it's all racing and all for real, and omigod what was I thinking signing myself up for a harder, tougher category where my races are now ten minutes longer?
..::slam head against tree multiple times::..
Meanwhile, I saw the fruits of my labor tonight when Dot handed me my series plate.
And in spite of my fear at being so dreadfully out of shape, I smiled.