Tuesday, August 3, 2010

what to do? and why?

Word (specifically, from the race organizer, with some subtle hinting from OBRA officials) is that the addition of a Womens' Singlespeed category to the Cross Crusade series is "not likely". Primary reasons given were the size of the start fields, which rival small nations during cyclocross season; and the added administrative headaches involved in trying to keep track of yet another category when lap counting.

If I want to race 'cross, that leaves me with three choices:

a. Race with Beginner Women again;
b. Cat up to Master Women 45+;
c. Cat up to an almost entirely male Singlespeed category.

If I choose A, I can't say my chances of success are improved over last year. I lost a lot of preparation time due to illness and allergies, and truthfully I don't feel like I've gotten any stronger by racing nearly every week of the short-track series.
If I choose B, the field will be smaller, perhaps fewer than 20 racers; but they will all kick my butt and do it on geared bikes.
If I choose C, I may as well go lay down on the MAX tracks and wait for the next train to run me over.

I enjoyed Short-track, I really did. But 25-30 minute races felt like about the longest I could handle and still remain standing afterwards. Suddenly, the prospect of a second season of 'cross, with its 45-minute races through mud and cold, doesn't sound nearly as exciting, or as fun. And I don't know what to do.

The fact is that, without knowing how to train, or even how to manage my time so that I CAN train, I'm honestly not sure how I'd prepare for cyclocross this year. Then there's the issue of not being able to know when my fatigue is mental or physical. Some days I can will myself beyond my comfort zone and make myself finish a race. Other days I am gasping for breath and all I want to do is stop, and some days I don't want to race at all. Because my Crohn's has never been in remission -- that is, I've never had a period of time since my original diagnosis that I could lay off the meds and eat whatever I wanted, I cannot know what it would be like to have a body that is fully energized -- or fully fueled or recovered. And that's what makes this so hard.

I am 47 years old and today when I woke up to go to work I felt like an old lady of 67. My body was bone-tired and my mood felt deflated. The part of me that I'd been trying to cheer up and buck up all summer was finally having its say, and this morning she asked me, "What is the point of racing if you never finish out of last place, if you're terrified of passing people and racing in tight packs, and you're constantly on the verge of being out of gas every time you race? And if you crash, you have to worry about getting hurt and not having health insurance (or ever being able to to get any). Why bother doing this at all?"

So today my self-doubt has taken hold and won't let go. What AM I doing this for, really?

I've signed up for the OBRA Championships, because they're offering a Womens' Singlespeed category and it seemed like the thing to do. But now I'm not so sure I want to do it. I looked at all those healthy people last night, all the other racers, and I HATED them for being so healthy. And today, now that I can admit that, all I want to do is go home and cry. Because there is no way that I can see my way clear to being the kind of human being who can go out and do this stuff every week and actually get stronger. I just don't know how people do it.

It is possible that all of this is based on lack of good sleep, on the fact that I raced twice last night and that I am quite tired today. So tonight I will try to relax, elevate my legs for a little while, get to bed at a decent hour and see if it helps.


cyclofiend said...

Do what you wanna. It'll make sense at some point.

There are times which are not the time to be making Big Decisions. Sore and worn out is one of them.

Reasonably speaking, it probably takes 4 weeks under the best circumstances before you start really getting "faster" or feeling better. Lots of times it can take a while longer.

So, even if it feels like there's been no change for the better, that probably isn't accurate.

A lot of training is based on four-week cycles, where you steadily increase load for three weeks and then back off in the fourth. Then you start it again.

Anything at max effort - where you've been working for the races - takes a significant amount of recovery. Maybe more than you are able to give yourself in a given week.

So, Fuhgeddabouddit for a week. Ride easier than you think you should in lower gears than you feel you ought to for a week. Spin easily. Walk. Stretch.

Then think about it a bit.

When you think about it, remember, you toed the line for a series, and did it. Good job!

bikelovejones said...

Sore, worn out and envying Sweetie's fresh spinach salad to boot. (It has been DECADES since I could eat spinach.)

As ever, the voice of reason. Thank you.

I am giving myself till the end of this week to decide about OBRA Championships. I may do it, I may not. Today I am going Multi-Modal without guilt.
Thanks for your wisdom.

Bicycle Kitty said...

Hang in there, BikeLoveJones.

Who cares about cyclocross season right now? Just recover and enjoy that spinach.

Even if you never get faster or stronger and even if it never feels easier and you never win - you win. Really. Just by showing up.

Could it be time for you to think about organizing your own race(s)? For people just like you (and me!) who are scared to get run over and scared they'll be the slowest.

bikelovejones said...

I don't carry enough private insurance to run my own sanctioned race, even for folks like You And Me.

However, I would be TOTALLY up for helping to organize a "play date" -- hey, today's kids have them all the time, why not us too? -- for women who wanna take their bikes out in the dirt and just Screw Around. There MUST be a few places where we can go and not bother anyone.

Call me at Citybikes or shoot me an email and let's put something together.

Meanwhile, I am taking it SO easy this week and next, and am On The Fence about OBRA Champs. I'll see how I feel next week and then decide if I'm racing it or not.

Thanks --bh

Crystal said...

This post hit a little too close to home. I have been sick my whole life with the uber mysterious digestive disease. Possible diagnosis has been everything from Crohns(not true) to celiac(true) but eliminating gluten didn't relieve the pain. The current theory du jour is that I can't digest certain proteins which means my diet is now restricted to meat, eggs and vegetables.

I also ride cross (race seemed a little presumptuous) and this will be my third year starting as a beginner.
I have good days and bad. I don't improve at the rate other people do but I hope that by next year I'll be able to move up to B's (I'm only 30 and also race singlespeed).
I haven't had much luck with the Cross Crusade races. They are so packed they make me feel like I'm fighting just to be there and to be perfectly honest a lot of what I do in life feels like fighting, so it doesn't amount to much fun for me. However, I have had a great time at the smaller races like Willamette Valley Series.
If you would like a ride to the Willamette Valley Cross Series, I would be willing to pick you up. I leave very early because I like to do as many practice runs on the course as possible before the race. I usually just take my homework (I'm an electrical engineering student) and fill the time until the womens race at 2.
Just let me know if you are interested. My name is Crystal Eppinger and you have my email address from the list of women who were interested in signing up for a singlespeed division. I have a roof rack that can fit up to three bikes and a car that seats 4.
Also give yourself a little credit. Most people have no idea the strength it takes to go out there every day when you feel like crap and give it your all. Perhaps you need to erect a podium at home and give yourself 1st place for "biggest heart" or "most inspiring". Just so you know I get first place for "going the wrong way in the barn at the Astoria race two years in a row". Sorry, you can't have that one. I've earned that title.

bikelovejones said...

How does one go the WRONG way in a race? Do they switch the cones around when no one's looking? Turn the directional signs? Sorry, that one had me rolling on the floor.

Thank you for your response -- and your offer. I am waiting to hear back from Brad Ross to sink the nail in the coffin -- and to post a list of locations for the races -- before I pick a category. Based on my health issues this year and how WIPED I was after seven straight Mondays of short-track, I will probably give myself a break and race with the Beginner women again.

meanwhile, I don't know about the Willamette Valley series -- it will depend on what days and whether I have room in schedule. So far, I plan to race just the Portland-area local races of the Crusade and possibly one of the two days at USGP-Portland Cup (I did this race last year and while it was probably the stupidest, hardest race I ever attempted I got a lot from the experience.

I will email you off-blog. Thanks again and happy riding!