Monday, April 27, 2009
I think I may be the butt of an evil joke, played by one super fast expert type who goes by the name of Silk. I'm not completely sure of this, because I'm too tired to think straight. Right now it kind of feels like the 2nd day back from the RAAM ordeal. It took me a week to feel normal after that sleep deprived journey, so this week is devoted to recovery. At least that's what Silk's evil plan calls for....or does it? Could this be another part of his insidious plot?
A few of us have decided to pursue the GA State Championship Series this year. The first race in East Macon Park was a real eye opener. The course had a lot more climbing than anyone really knew. I blew up hard! The last lap was about finishing, nothing more. After that, I quit skipping the interval workouts prescribed by Silk's plan. I decided to stay a little closer to The Plan, so as to maybe bring my game up a notch or two, before the next round. That's all well and good, but the next round came along during the hardest month of riding, according to The Plan. The Plan even said, "Do a C priority race, but don't expect to feel too sparky. You should be tired." Boy was that an understatement! I went all out at Columbus GA, for round 2. All out apparently meant I putted around the course on a Hoveround, like you see on those late night commercials. I looked at the trusty Garmin numbers later and discover that, yes, I was tired.
Stress will fool with your body as well as your your mind. I had a few things broiling in the stress oven the week prior, so hard riding, and hard thinking, with little rest equals, slow as all hell at the race. No problem, I'm not racing at round 3, the very next weekend. I am however, still going to Twilight. That race is so much fun to spectate. I already have my hotel booked and paid, it's nonrefundable, and my wife loves going to this event. Vacation week is in place. Relaxation, here I come!
It can't hurt to go ride the mountain bike course on Saturday, can it? I mean, I'm already up here, and Big Jim Slade and Marcus will be there. I'll just check out the course, and then we'll get on over to Athens to hang out for the evening. Ft. Yargo is a beautiful park, and the course is stellar. Lots of climbing, which doesn't really suit my style, but the super fast flowing singletrack that rewards those climbs, that more than suits my abilities.
By the time I finish the lap, it's after 2 or 3 pm, and I have not eaten real food since 9 that morning. Now, if I was racing, that would freak me out. Poor nutrition the day before a race is just dumb. But I'm just on vacation, so I'm not really freaked out. If you don't believe me, just ask my wife, who really loves it when I'm hungry.
We jet for Athens, check in to the hotel, get a shower, and head for downtown. The place is getting busy, and I'm super stoked to be at the races. I love watching these pro road crits. I've seen it so many times, and it still amazes me how hard they go. We head for a restaurant just off the course, and I try to control my twitching, as I'm afraid the race will start before I finish, or worse, even receive, my food. The timing all worked out in the end. I was out the door while Michelle covered our check, just in time to see the pro women's start.
I've got friends in this race, and I really want to see them do well. At the very least, I want to shout encouragement. It really does help to hear people screaming your name when you're in the hurt locker; like maybe your efforts were noticed and appreciated. When you're hurting so bad that it feels like you're breathing pure alcohol bred, blue fire. When every fiber of your body screams, "For the love of God, Please take that chainsaw out of my gut!". Having someone on the sideline yelling at you to ignore the very sound logic that your body is laying out in an effort to convince you otherwise, and just "GO, GO, GO!!!", somehow lets you know that the beating you hope to be bringing to your competitors, and most certainly are bringing to yourself, makes sense.
I was on my feet until the men's pro 1/2 race ended; around 11:30. Again, that would worry me if I was racing. Standing up all night, and not resting or sleeping, or drinking enough. That would be really foolish the night before a race. Luckily, I'm on vacation.
I crash back at the hotel and sleep the sleep of the dead. All the hard rides have really caught up with me. The back to back heavy duty workouts, the aggravations of life, and the long day on the road finally caught up to me. I'm wide awake at 7:30am. Maybe we should head over and check out the start of the mountain bike race. Marcus would appreciate the support. We load all the gear, hit Panera for breakfast, and return to Ft. Yargo.
It's a beautiful morning, the weather is great, and the park is overflowing with anxious mountain bikers. I watch Marcus settle into a modest start at the back. He still has a hard time realizing that he belongs in this class, and has every right to start closer to the front, rather than sitting in the back, only to wind up passing over half of the field. Once he was in the woods, I nonchalantly wandered over to the registration table and signed on the dotted line.
Now wasn't that stupid?! Oh well, The Plan calls for two hours at race pace today. What better way to get that workout than actually racing? I suit up, warm up, and line up. When the whistle blows, I settle in to one of those modest starts, too. I pass one guy, Junkman, before the singletrack. Once in the woods, the guy in front of me waves me around. The front three guys are lined up and leaving my time zone. No sweat, just settle in and ride my race. Junkman goes around, and actually starts giving me lessons in singletrack skill. I don't want to sound conceited, but I've been doing this a long time. I'm not used to guys just schooling me in the woods. I can go his pace if I'm on his wheel when the downhill starts, but otherwise, he gaps me. Luckily, he's slowing down on the climbs, and I'm actually bringing him back. Yes, clearly today is opposite day. As I reel Junkman in, I notice that one of the trio train up front has come unhitched, and we're catching him. We pass third place up, and send him out the back. Now I just have to hang on to Junkman, and try to unload him on the climbs during the 2nd lap. The thought of getting third has me pretty amped, and I'm riding hard to keep the dream alive. In reality, the thought of getting third was just an evil myth, more than likely propagated by The Man(Silk), designed to keep a brotha down!
I just kept telling myself that even though I was dying a thousand deaths, Junkman was dying a thousand and one. I just had to stay the course, and not let up. Never mind the fact that he was out of sight. He would be just around the next corner, begging for mercy. The only thing begging for mercy was my poor, depleted body. The adrenaline kept me up for a while, but in the end, it was all empty promises. I fell apart in epic proportions. The cramps found me around mile 15. I screamed to myself in the woods, as I tried to pedal through the twitching, malconforming, muscle mutiny. My common cramp is an inner thigh cramp, where the muscle tries to relocate my testicle down by my knee. Getting off the bike only makes it worse, so the only answer is to keep the cranks rolling over. It's truly ironic that the repetitive action that brought me to this painful state is also the only action that will pull apart the Celtic knot of muscle tissue.
I spent the remainder of the lap hoping that I wouldn't be caught by those behind me. I missed my downshift on a couple of the steep hills that sneak up on you after fast downhill sections. Twice I jumped out of the saddle to force the too big gear, only to have my legs fail me completely. Twice I wound up in a walk of shame up a short steep section. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
I sucked up what pride was left, and pushed as hard as I could through the last few fast sections to the finish line. No one else caught me, and I ended up with a fourth. Right after the finish line, I was getting a little dizzy, so I sat down and tried to catch my breath. Slowly, the sharper pains began to subside. I drank two more bottles of water and ate a granola bar while Big Jim Slade laughed at my predicament, all the while snapping away with his camera. I guess he wanted to remember that joke later. To add insult to injury, or injury to injury, when I stood up again, my inner thigh cramp returned with a vengeance. This time I was already off the bike, and couldn't find any way to make it release. I just winced and held myself up by bracing on a picnic table, until I'm pretty sure the muscle was just too tired to stay cramped any more.
I found a strange sense of pride in doing this race, when I could have just as easily headed for Dauset for a relaxing ride around one of my favorite trail systems, with my favorite Lady. I feel like I stayed the course, despite the all but guaranteed defeat due to bone weary fatigue. My wife said she was proud of me, which of course flatters the caveman in me.
Now I just want to rest. I may not ride at all this week. I'm gonna spend a little time pondering punch lines. If anyone sees Silk, tell him Bigworm's looking for him.