On the precipice of a new racing season I am feeling the doubts.
I went to my final cross practice last night (hosted by the nice folks of Existential Velo), and while all the fast kids were doing eight, ten, fiteen laps around the little practice course, I barely manged three or four before having to stop, reach for my inhaler, and lean over my handlebars wheezing like an old lady. My legs felt merely okay, fine for commuting; but without a solid plan of action to learn how to train (and, frankly, without time, energy or the aid of someone more experienced), they turned to rubber halfway through the long, steep runup.
This was probably my worst cross practice of the season. Considering that I've only made the concerted effort five times now (two clinics plus three practice sessions on my own or with friends), I can't be surprised at the lackluster feeling of it all.
The truth is that cyclocross is NOT my favorite discipline to participate in. I hate running; and I hate having to run while carrying my bike even more. On top of that, cross courses are long and fast, with fewer transitions or other technical demands to slow things down enough for me to catch my breath. Once I recognized all of that earlier this summer, and decided that I do cyclocross more for the social aspect and the challenge of making myself do hard things, I was at peace with it. But still, it's hard to be so out-of-shape in the presence of others who are so consistently strong and fit. Reminding myself that I'm working with a different body doesn't always help me feel better; sometimes I just envy the younger and healthier folks and that's all there is to it.
I am torn between wishing I could devote more of myself to this so I could actually get stronger and better at it, and recognizing that so many other factors in my life make that difficult. I'm sure I'm not the only slow, somewhat heavy (by bike racing standards), middle-aged, racer-shaped object who struggles with this reality. But it still makes me feel wistful about what might have been, if I'd been healthy and had a family that encouraged athletic pursuits when I was young. The way I get past that wistfulness is to remember that nearly any day I get to spend riding my bike is better than many days I don't spend riding, and to be grateful that I can participate in this at all, at any level.
Alpenrose is Sunday. Family and friends are coming to watch. My goal is to stay upright, not get pulled early, and ride the entire 45 minutes. If I do all of that I will be very happy with my outing.
Although there's no Womens' Singlespeed category at Cross Crusade (this year), I still hope to see other women racing in their chosen categories on singlespeed bikes. (If you are a singlespeeding woman who will be at Alpenrose this Sunday, please look for me! I will be resplendent in my all-black Velo Bella kit, and Stompy, my SS Redline Monocog, will be accessorized in bright pink cable housing. I will also likely be the only singlespeeder in the Master 45's and therefore easier to spot. )
See you at the races.