How far the mighty have fallen. Last night I did the Belmont "race" for the first time in I don't know how long, I guess a couple of years. I left work at 3, I spent an hour in traffic to visit my dad at the hospital, finally made it home and rode out into the woods towards the start. I knew my technical skills had suffered since the shoulder surgery in December, and also from the last couple of seasons of injury, heart surgery, collisions with trucks, etc, but Belmont had always been my favorite place to ride and I could, at one time, pretty much nail every rock, root, tree and stream crossing in the place.
Well not anymore. I started at the back and elites had to do three 3-mile laps. Sounds pretty easy, right? It was not an easy lap for me as I felt myself having to hit my brakes too much to navigate the twisty turny bits which was a total waste of precious momentum. I even had to dismount several times because of gnarly tree trunks or crudely-hewn logovers which pissed me off. I had no "flow." I was felt like a clumsy Sport rider. Granted it had been a long week of training and with trying to get to the hospital every day, I was tired, and I'm not an XC racer anymore....but still I finished about 20 minutes after everyone else, by my reckoning, although I could not be sure. Harlan was 3/4 into his second beer by the time I set my bike down and sat in the grass next to him, the smell of cigar and weed intermingling in the evening air.
So even though I knew it was going to be hard to claw my way back into form, I was feeling a bit discouraged. Harlan tried to get me to race Michaux on Sunday with him so we could drive out together but I don't think a 40-miler at Michaux should be my first race in 2 years, especially after how I rode tonight, and besides I had no one to camp with. So late last night with 20 minutes to go before pre-regging was over, I signed up for the 4-hour enduro at Granogue instead, even after looking at the confirmed rider list and realizing that the women's open enduro was much more competitive than the 40+ XC. Oh well, I could finish at the back and at least get the training in. I'm not going to get any faster if I spend another weekend riding the same old trails in the Wiss.
I just wish this constant trudging uphill came with some clarity of purpose, some mantra I could play over and over in my head on those long painful climbs that would give me the strength I needed to dig deeper. Perhaps I will find some when I get out there and come in dead last.