That summed up my race last night.
I had hoped to go to bed by ten on Sunday and get a good night's sleep. I had also hoped I'd finally be shed of my stupid inhaler. Wrong on both counts. Pollen flew through the air all day and all night. Plus, I'd forgotten all about Independence Day; everyone else in northeast Portland besides us had fireworks. So between the cracking and booming of our neighbor's Ladyfingers, M-80's and Cherry Bombs and my wheezing every couple of hours and needing another puff of Albuterol, I got maybe five hours' sleep. Maybe.
I went to PIR and truly did not feel like racing at all. However, I'd already paid for the race (I opted out of volunteering this week to give myself more prep and recovery time) and decided that I would do as much as I could force myself to. I'd feel worse if I didn't even start.
The course was harder than last week, if you can imagine. A couple of truly tricky bits on the moto track (nice, steep re-route over the tabletop, Tad!) and a long start lap out on the "back 40" meant that I was just about out of gas by the time I'd completed half a lap. Approaching the end of the lap, I ran out of breath as well, and knew I was done. (I suppose I could've pulled out the inhaler and sucked it right there on the course but that would've been, well, bad form.)
I pulled off after one lap, informed the officials I was DNF'g (yes, in racing that is a verb) and quickly ducked behind the grandstand to discreetly take a couple of puffs of my inhaler, cursing my body, the circumstances of my life and the dismal, illness- and allergy-plagued spring that made it impossible for me to improve my fitness at all. As it turned out, I was the only person in all categories who did not finish her race the whole night. I spent about five minutes feeling sorry for myself, then was invited by Kris to staff the food table for a little while: "I'll comp you next week's race," he offered. I stayed for an hour, watching some of the Mens' Cat II under-35's and talking with racers who came to assemble a peanut-butter sandwich or refill their water bottles.
Finally, I went over into the single-track area and hung out with some friends. We all agreed that parts of the course were hard, and I worked up the courage to ask a couple of folks if they train. They both laughed, and said: no, not really; just ride a lot, and build up a base of miles. Try adding distance to your commute a few times a week so that one way is something like 90 minutes to two hours, they suggested. Then on the weekends go longer, maybe 30 to 50 miles. Every weekend.
I contemplated this and knew that, for a variety of reasons, I would probably not be able to train that way. The best I could hope for would be to keep commuting by bike, avoid serious illness next winter and find a way to live with my allergies better, and maybe tack on some interval training at shorter distances. As for the rest of this summer, I had to accept that I wouldn't get any stronger or fitter in the remaining four weeks and that the best I could do was go out, get dirty and have as much fun as I could at any speed, in spite of catting up too soon and dealing with everything else. So far, the person who seems to have the hardest time with how slow I'm going and how weak I feel is me. That's worth remembering, especially when other racers are so encouraging and helpful.
I'm disappointed that I DNF'd, but that's still better than not starting at all. Hopefully, I'll have enough in the tank to race better next week (when Sweetie and some of my friends are coming to watch).
Photo taken by bikey pal Cyclotourist near the end of my one and only lap (it was Casual Night and racer were encouraged to skip the lycra kits for something cooler):