On Sunday, I rode my cargo bike laden with bike tools and spare bits on a 25-mile roll around Sunday Parkways-North as a volunteer roving mechanic.
In hindsight, this was a mistake.
Monday morning I woke up feeling more tired than usual, and while I was looking forward to the race I knew I would be hanging on for dear life. At breakfast, my stomach felt vaguely Crohn's-y, like eating a banana and not getting much out of it energy-wise; there's no pain or discomfort going on but still you get the sense that your body isn't going to give you your money's worth today, and the warranty expired ages ago so you have to just roll with it. It's annoying.
I carefully rationed the smallest expenditures of energy in careful doses through the day. Once at the venue I limited my pre-ride time to ten strict minutes and mostly stuck to the singletrack in the cottonwood trees, giving the modified "logs" a go a couple of times (actually rolling over them this week!) and dialing in some very twisty, technical turns in the dusty, rutted grass. The cottonwood trees were blooming, releasing soft white tufts of deadly fuzz all over the course. I was actually grateful when Kristin suggested that for the kiddie race, I NOT be the rabbit, but instead be in charge of directing the kids where to stop and get off the course and head back for treats. Perfect.
I watched Kristin, Erinne and Tomas race the first part of the Cat 3 race and managed to get some pictures.
Erinne ended up finishing in 2nd place in her category (Erinne! When you leave a trail of bodies in your wake after every race it's time to cat up). Kristin was racing the double again and as soon as she'd gulped some water she was lining up for the Singlespeed race. I sort of want to envy her but I recognize that our difference in age is a big part of why she's able to pull off a double every week. (Did I mention hat she also races in the Fixed Gear category on Mt. Tabor on Wednesday nights? )
I needed to get warmed up before my race, and that required some hot laps around the parking lot between the short-track and criterium courses. Roadies and mountain bikers share this part of the facility on Monday race nights, turning constantly to the left and trying to get in some deep, stronger strokes now and then to elevate the heartrate and catching up with each other from the previous week's racing.
Of course, I'm making this all up, talking through my left nostril here. I still don't know exactly how to "warm up". I generally follow the wisdom of taking a number of laps around the lot, and on the straightaways I try to pedal faster for so many pedal strokes. Then at some logical point I veer out of the parking lot and go line up for my race with the other Singlespeed and Cat 2 women. Not sure if the warmup really helps in my case, but I feel like it's better than NOT warming up, so I go ahead and do it.
Last night I barely hung on for dear life. Getting up the berms was very hard and I was forced to get off and run or walk up more times than I care to count. I had my inhaler with me and needed to use it during the race; I waited until I got to a discreet place in the trees before taking a huff; it's perfectly legal but still looks bad to do it out in the open. In my mind I struggled with trying to focus on riding and the overriding desire to quit before I was done. I really, really wanted to stop last night, especially when I realized that I would not pull out more than three laps again and that getting in that third lap was really going to hurt. And it did. When I was done I felt like I wanted to simultaneously wheeze, cry, and puke up cottonwood tufts. Results for my category haven't yet been posted but I'm pretty confident that everyone else in my category did at least four laps to my three.
This is the part where I just don't know what to do: other people get faster over the course of the series while I am lucky to last three laps. In my Walter Mitty heart of hearts a part of me really wants to improve, to get faster like everyone else and not gasp for breath so much and not run out of gas halfway through a race. It is so hard to NOT compare myself with everyone out there at times like this, even when I know I shouldn't. The truth is that it's racing, and it's natural to compare against others in the field. Looking at the results that have been posted so far, the women in the Cat 2 45+ group, I noticed that the fastest women all managed just one ore lap than me. So did the Cat 2 35-44 Women. So really, we're talking about one lap, at least this week. And that one lap remains elusive.
Still, I finished. And that is always good. Having your teammates cheer for you is even better, and certainly helped to ease some of the sting of my internal struggle. And the course was very technical in a way that I enjoy riding, with lots of turns and sharp, punchy uphills through the singletrack section that remind me how fun it is to handle a bike in the dirt. So in the end I was glad to have been able to finish, even if it completely wiped me out. After a sandwich (thank you, Kristin, for getting the goods from sponsor People's Sandwich! Yum! If you go, get the Turkey wrap) and lots of fluids, I still felt like utter dogflarb so I skipped the post-race beer with the team and went straight home.
I'm halfway through the series and I'm still upright and breathing, a good sign. My goal is to race every single week of the eight-week series, without DNF'g. No racing next Monday -- It's the 4th -- so hopefully that will give me at least a little time to mellow out and recover before racing resumes on the 11th.