Last night after work I went and watched some road racing on Mt. Tabor. The race was one of the stages of the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, a multi-day stage race.
The racing itself was fast and thrilling. Between sixty and seventy riders sped around the short criterium circut on the paved drive through Mt. Tabor Park. The combination pf high speed, close bunching and wet roads from the morning's deluge accounted for several crashes, including one that happened right in front of me (In most cases, the riders got up and rode away, and as far as I know there were no serious injuries).
I found several folks I knew from the local race scene who greeted me cheerfully. But I don't know any of them terribly well, and found I had little to talk about with them; so I just stood by while they gabbed with each other and we watched the racers make lap after lap around the park.
In the end, I left a few laps before the race officially ended, wanting to make it down the hill before the traffic got too thick. I made my way home and retired with a weird mid-season allergy attack and a fatigue that was more mental than physical.
Today I feel, well, sort of slumped. Obviously, I can't even begin to compare myself with the elite male riders I watched yesterday; they're professional racers who eke out a living racing the domestic circut and they get paid to be fit and lean and focused. I also recognize that, because of the many factors in my life that prevent me from focusing that pointedly on becoming a stronger, fitter athlete -- age, Crohn's, my day job, music and other things I care about -- I probably don't have too many seasons of racing in me at this point.
It's much more than starting later in life, it's a life lived focused on largely unathletic pursuits and having surrounded myself, for the last three decades, with people who live pretty much the same way. The fact that I commute daily by bike and average roughly 2,500 miles of bike riding a year is no big deal to my most avid bike buddies, who race and tour and in general ride till their eyes fall out. But to my closest friends and family those 2,500 miles a year make me look like some kind of rock star. It's a strange place to inhabit, this netherworld of in-between, and it makes it hard for me to devote more of myself to a faster, more performance-oriented kind of bicycling on a regular basis.
Then, too, I've managed to find myself in the corner of the racing world that cares the least about how well I race, or even if I finish dead last every time. In our local short-track and cyclocross scenes, there are certainly those who care all about winning; I'm just not among their number, and never will be. Does that make me any less an athlete? Or can I remind myself that the point is to go out and do it, to participate, to celebrate riding my bike as often and for as long as I can? I look ahead to the impending short-track season (which starts in less than three weeks) and I know I am out of shape, really no better off or any stronger than I was at this time last year. The combination of allergies, fatigue, poor sleeping and the rest of my daily life has made it hard for me to establish a regimen and stick to it. Even yoga and curls fell by the wayside weeks ago as my sleep patterns failed to return to normal.
I don't feel physically sick, I actually feel mostly okay -- just completely unprepared to go out and kill myself for 30 minutes of racing for seven weeks in a row. The only thing that's easier this year is that I have a sense of bike-handling I didn't have this time last year, and I hope that will help. But I find myself flitting back and forth between nervousness and a weird apathy about the upcoming races, and I'm not sure what that means.
Sweetie's work will keep her quite busy the next couple of days and I find myself with a little free time to take Stompy out for a mid-day romp tomorrow. Perhaps a few laps in the mud will do me some good.