Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Iron Hell

this weekend kinda sucked cycling-wise, because I had my first DNF in a race, ever. I would say the worst part of a DNF for me is how I torture myself the entire afternoon and days afterward with doubts about my commitment and fitness level. Maybe I don't train right, maybe I have a lower tolerance for pain than my competition, or maybe I just suck. My teammate John DNFed also, which was mighty convenient for me, because he was my ride home. Saturday at Iron Hill Park in Delaware there was 100% humidity, it had climbed to 98F during our expert race (we started at 11) and they were saying the heat index was 107-112 depending on which weather service you listen to. It was also the first day of my period and that day I am always weak and pretty intolerant of stress (like, more than the rest of the month, I swear.) It was so hot that I aborted my warm-up after 18 minutes (I'm the type who really does not get warmed up for 50 minutes, which sucks, because I hate warming up; if I could just show up without the extra bike and trainer and all the crap and just race at the whistle I would like this whole lifestyle a lot better) because I was sweating so badly in just my sports bra and shorts I was afraid I would cramp after the 2nd lap. My game plan was not to sprint out at the start, just take it easy and keep a steady pace and not worry about beating anyone. Just to keep it steady. So we started and I found myself with Sally McLain, Sarah Lichtenwalter, and some other roady who hit her brakes on every rocky downhill so hard I almost ran her over. Great, right where I should be, I was feeling OK, and thought "I can do this for 25 miles." Then we hit the first big hill, actually the ONLY big hill in the race and my heart rate went to 175 immediately, I could not breathe, I mean I was sucking air as if I were not on any asthma meds, and I thought I was going to have to walk up the f'in hill. It was so weird. My heart rate, which usually drops like a stone, would not come down, even after softpedlaing for minutes. I felt awful, awful. I actually got off my bike and sat down on the side of the trail, it was pathetic. There was no way I could just ride slowly and just get the miles in a la Fair Hill, no way. So I stopped to talk to Amy Breyla and when I revealed the period cause and effect she said she was having the same problem. So I could complain that I paid $30 to ride 5 miles, but I learned something today. No more racing under those conditions when I have my period. Ever. This was one of those times I wished I were a man, but then I came to my senses.

To make up for it I signed up for the Lake Nockamixon Century, a really nice award-winning ride (read = pay some money to support our bike club and we send you on a 100 mile scavenger hunt to find these teeny tiny little white markings on the roads, while plying you with brownies, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and gatorade) that a bunch of my Guy's teammates were doing. Long story short, I got there 10 minutes late because of the construction they have been doing on 309 for the last 10 years, my 12 male teammates saw me, said hello and left anyway. Thanks Guys, and you wonder why there are no f'in women on our team. I asked them to slow it up for the first 5 miles. I then rushed so quickly to get my shit together, I did not even pee or put my pack on my bike (so no tube, no inflator for 75 miles). I then proceeded to ride 75 miles faster than I ever have, and these were hilly Buck's County miles. A few guys tried to keep up with me a couple of times but I always moved on. (Before I pat myself on the back too much these were mostly recreational riders I would say, and I did the 75, not the 100.) It was fun. My downhills have gotten much faster; (thanks Cadence Climbing camp) it was fun to weigh 118 and to descend much faster than guys who weigh 170, although the roads were pretty slick so it was kinda scary some of the time. At the end half of my team did the 75 (half did the 100), and they got in 10 minutes before me. I stopped at 3 rest stops to refill fluids (they had cytomax and it was good!) They left 10 minutes after me. They got to draft each other, and these guys are all pretty fast. I could have done the 100 but I felt the beginnings of a pseudo-cramp coming on. So I pretty much kicked ass, which I really needed after Saturday, but man am I going to be sore this week . . .

Friday, August 17, 2007

why it's hard to date cyclists

whoa, I was just looking at the staggering amount of men that I know who race bikes who have a blog. What is it with bike racers and their need to discuss every minute detail of their racing and training lives? Are they all (at least the men, sorry guys) totally self-obsessed or what?

Maybe that is why I am not in a serious relationship after all this time . . . I can't imagine getting into settling down with someone whose idea of a vacation is sitting on a beach. To me a vacation involves cycling at least part of the time. Yet I am thinking now that 90% of cyclists are more interested in their bikes and race results than they are in women. And by that I mean 90% of the straight ones. And it would be nice if we could talk about something besides bike parts and upcoming races. I mean that is all great, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about that stuff, but how about everything else that is going on in the world?

And then there are many of them who have chosen professions that allow them to be on their bikes more, which is commendable, but many of these professions do not leave them with much discretionary income. The farther I get from my twenties, the less patient I am for men who don't have their financial house in order. I mean, at least have a plan for christ's sake. I do pretty well on my own, but God knows I don't want to support someone else. . . . unless he is really fast and really good looking. . .

Sunday, August 12, 2007

mountain bike racing as a mirror of life

I did a lot or races in the 2005 season, and I finished pretty well. In 2006 I was diagnosed with a hamstring tear and did no racing at all, however, going into the season, before I knew I was injured, I was almost dreading it. I had, and still have, a little too much going on between the 2 jobs, the house, dogs, training, racing, gardening, cooking . . the list seems endless. Moreover, I have not had a lot of time to find creative outlets in my adult life and this has me wishing I could have made some different decisions regarding my choice of career. (read = I pretty much hate my job most of the time)

Yet I think back to those formative years in my teens and twenties and I wonder what I should have done differently. So what if I had asked for help when I needed it and taken advice from those with a bit more life experience than my own? What if I did not spend the majority of my twenties in the black abyss of depression? What if I had not met the man I spent 6 years of my late twenties/early thirties with who seemed so capable but was actually, quite, well, a mess. Was that totally wasted time, irrespective of all of the good times that we shared together?

And then there is cycling. What an effect that has had on my life. Racing mountain bikes is such a metaphor for life. Racing a bike over technical and grueling terrain for 2 to 3 hours at a time is the hardest physical task I have ever had to do; sometimes I cannot believe I actually volunteer to do this. Ah. . . the pain and misery of a race, with all of its dirt and sweat and seizing muscles. But that hardship is addictive, and in training as in racing, the commitment hardens us, and the adversity defines us. I have spent a lot of time and tears thinking about what should have been in my life. After all, to whom much is given, much is expected, right? I have spent hours ruminating on the effects of wasted potential and opportunities squandered and other self-effacing concepts that can be traced back to my perfectionist, emotionally bankrupt, abusive father. But, as with even the triumphs of my life, it is all water under the bridge. Thus although it sounds trite, would I really be who I am today if my personality was not etched by the ebb and rush of these waters? I can’t change the past, and if I allow its perceived weight to negatively affect my present than I ignore the benefits life has given me. Do I like who I am today? Can I live my life unfettered by the brash, unrealistic expectations of my youth; proud of my accomplishments and eager for the chance to better myself? Would I be where I am standing now without the clarity and self-confidence that only the experience of triumph over adversity could have rendered? I think not.