Friday, April 3, 2009
A Brand New World
I've been wanting to post since Wednesday, but...um....I've been busy :) Be forewarned, this is a long one.
Through Andrew and other girls at the races Andrew went to I had heard about the Wednesday night mountain bike races that were going on and I told Andrew/Paul on March 21st at Andrew's first race that - "What the hell! I'll race mountain bikes on the Wednesday races." I'd been mountain biking a few times (maybe 2 or 3 at that point). A month after I first experience mountain biking (which is a lot more difficult than road biking) and I decide I want to start racing. There are times I wonder what gets into me.
It turned out Andrew had to work on the first Wednesday night race so that meant no ride out past Sea-Tac, which meant no racing. I tried to find a ride, asking a couple of people and posted on a couple of forums, but no luck, so I was happy to go be picking up Damian after work after a week him being in the shop. After being in some meetings at work on Wednesday, I see an e-mail from Andrew at around 3:40 that he had a break in work, so he could take me out to the race - he couldn't race, but he would root me on.
I stalled and gave excuses. I was nowhere near mentally prepared to race. The word race even rolled off the tongue too fast for me. The actual thought of - Me. On my bike. Against people who were fast. - I was nowhere near ready physically or mentally - period. Not Ready. Andrew, for all his irritating insistence really is a positive influence in my life - he e-mailed me back when I threw silly excuses at him about dirty clothes and me not spending enough time on the bike recently. I think it's beautiful and motivating -
"I had a dance teacher who dismissed the idea of not being "in shape."...The shape we were in that day was the shape we were in, and it was never the wrong time to accept corrections and try to make improvements. I think racing is very similar. Everything can be analyzed to within an inch of its life before and after. But during the race, the only thing that matters is racing with one's whole heart. You're in more than adequate shape to do that, and everything else is just detail. ...So you should let me give you a ride to the race, go as hard and as fast as you can, and then you can figure out about stuff like time spent on the bike and clean cycling pants and sleep."
So I went.
I've not been nervous, in, well, what feels like eons. I left work, running to get on a bus and hurry home to quickly change because we were *just* going to have time to make it. I was shaking the entire way home. I couldn't think. I got changed/packed/out the door in under 6 minutes while Andrew put the bike in the truck and we left. On the way there, I thought - what do I have to be nervous about? I knew I was going to DFL - come in dead last. That didn't bother me - I knew I wasn't going to be physically up to competitively racing. It made me happy to think that even if I went every single week and always finished a lap behind everyone else, I would go. I would be that person who would try over and over again, even if they have no chance to win, because it would be good for me. I wasn't worried about hurting myself, or quitting, or wimping out.
I was afraid of disappointing Andrew, or having a lack of support after I finished. Once I realized that, I wasn't nervous anymore. I would like it, or I would hate it, I would suck, or I would do ok. But he wouldn't be disappointed and the support he has given me through this is really stellar.
We get there about 4 minutes before the start was going. It was super chaotic and they held the race for me. I didn't know how many laps I was supposed to do, or what the course was like, or anything. I heard a guy behind me say we were doing 2 laps, so I planned on holding back for the 1st lap and going as hard as I could the 2nd lap.
Racing is unlike anything anyone can ever describe. You won't know what it's like unless you do it. Saying it's hard is beyond an understatement. It was perhaps the hardest thing I've ever done with my body. Ever. It was really emotionally trying for me. It was mentally taxing and nerve wracking and at the end I felt simultaneously like throwing up, like I was going to collapse, and that midgets had been beating me with thick little sticks.
I can't wait to do it again.
The course itself was awesome, some really cool technical stuff, some great descents, mud and in a really varied beautiful area. There was also some really hard parts - some really crappy sand tracks up up up some hills, some mud that got progressively worse with each lap - I definitely ate my daily dose of minerals from the dirt that was flung into my open panting mouth, and there were some painful switchbacks I'm not very good at.
I held back the first lap, and about 1/4 of the way through the few people that were behind me I let pass because we were coming up on a hill and I wasn't going to be a jerk and screw up other people's race - I knew I was going to be the last. I was doing really good the first lap - the lactic acid hadn't started building up, I was going pretty fast for me and I was breathing in my "I'm still functioning well and okay" stage. The 2nd lap was brutal. I pushed myself too hard because I thought it was the end and barely was able to get to the finish.
At which point I realized there were no mud splattered people waiting around.....so I looked around, confused, and sought an administrator and asked if the beginners were doing 2 or 3 laps, to which he replied, "No - they do 4." I'm sure a mixture of consternation and weariness must have planted itself firmly on my face. He asked me "Do you just want to stop?" I just looked at him and said "Well, no. I'll finish" and then went on to my 3rd lap.
At which point I could barely see anything at all - it was raining and my glasses were mud splattered, fogged up completely from my heaving breath. I would consciously have to think about breathing regularly. My legs were burning, lactic acid eating me up from the inside out. The rocks and roots and tree branches over the trail were sending painful jolts through my body - even though Iri was SUPER cushy and a dual suspension. My brain was not functioning. I had a hard time keeping the bike upright and I was in no way a smooth operator on my bike at this point.
I had enough thought process to recognize I was a lap behind everyone and I would have to bust it out to finish anytime remotely in the vicinity of my own group, because the sport people were starting after us. It didn't look like it was going to happen. I went as hard as I could and fought against whiny despair ladened thoughts - "this is so hard, I'm already behind, I'll never catch up" Thoughts I wasn't expecting at all. Within a few moments of their beginning I thought only that - "There is a trail in front of you. Push the pedals as fast as you can. There is no finish. There is no 3/4 or 1/2 or 1/4 of a lap left. There is only this small stretch of dirt and rock and sand to push through. Go. Go fast. Go hard as you can." After that there was no thoughts. There was my feet on the pedals and my ragged strangled breath, and my aching arms helping me along.
I finished. I did 3 laps to everyone else's 4. I was quite a ways behind them. But I finished.
And I can't wait to do it again.