Not your typical post race report. I’m going to write this before the feeling goes away. Cause this post race discomfort will. After a while I won’t remember so vividly the angst, the ache, immobility, heart rate still up; at which point the report will be as dry as a race report. Maybe that happens in a few days. Not sure yet. I entered the master’s category this year. Anxiety about turning 50 prevails; on some days, almost terrifying that so much life has passed, so little ahead. But on the good days, I’m feeling reborn, like any thriving, healthy, happy teenager; with ramifications for sure, but with the curiosity, spirit and tenacity, ready for just about anything.
I just finished my first 12-hour race of the season yesterday. This time last year, I would’ve been on my 3rd. I raced a Moab stage race instead, a month ago, trained more intervals in, back country skied, working power and my body in any possible mode of foot powered transport for long hours. Lacking long hours in the saddle... Not quite ready for the ramifications of butt sore and the shoulders, being in that position that long, supporting some pretty rabid downhill sections.
I’m still in bed. Just waking up from the first of a few naps, and the emotional physical aftermath is upon me. With a flood of regret for only getting 2nd, I'm drinking coffee. Why did I take 20 minutes in transition in between the last few laps, hanging out with my trainer, rolling out my shoulder…messing around. Physical, emotional aftermath, regret, and some satisfaction sneaking in; is reaching a peak, just like everything. It'll wind down, like a toddler's tantrum, by tomorrow.
Crawling uphill for a total of 7200’ throughout the day, and feeling solid and fluid on the downhill, it was a short, painful, beautiful day. The course delivered all the diversity of a valid single-track on a decent size mountain side. I loved the people, the fact the everyone camped but me, and the weather. It was an epic beautiful race. More pros showed up this year- 400 participants total. Zia Rides, the organizer, is growing, becoming notorious for their epic 12-24 hour racing. I’ll probably keep coming back, even if I move to Iceland. We’re family now.
During the race, the only way for me to get through to the other side (to my pillows) is to be intolerant of my negative voices. They come in many colorful forms. Visual descriptions of types and sensations of pain, fear of hand numbness and losing grip, hence losing my braking. It feels like a systemic break down on all levels after about 6 hours. The first half of the race is steady, the second half kind of a very slow torture. I had dropped to a slow crawl, sometimes struggling to stay upright on the bike. I moved so slowly. Now, I’m wondering if it may have been nutrition, low on carbs, but I’m thinking I just shirked on training. Or because I didn’t sleep more than an hour the night before…..? I'm going to sleep in a minute.
My anxiety, attitude, discontent is palpable now. I’m trying to stay positive.
No sleep the night before the race. I opted for a motel right on the highway near the casinos. Last year it rained all night and I didn’t sleep more than 15 minutes in the back of my car, with my bike nestled on top of me. I started falling asleep a few nights ago right when about 10 drunk 30 yr olds right outside my door were getting prepped to go to the casino, slamming doors, yelling, partying. It ramped up my heart rate many notches, before dozing off around 2, to wake up at 4:45. Kind of an angry start to the day. And I forgot my phone- probably a good thing.
Post race, I gloriously hobbled across the field to the food trucks with a friend, my eyes and stomach on fish tacos, ending up with a super tasty gyro, stopping a dozen other friends who all commented on my limp. That limp. I’ve really had a limp for the last 5 years on the right leg first, then the left. First one was my hip replacement; this one occurred after a contusion in July that I never treated. As all my surrounding muscles recruiting to support the impacted muscle in my quad, psoas, adductors, TFL, glutes, flexor, IT, and sartorius contracted over the course of 6 months to pull me into a near hunchback, barely able to walk, slowly grinding to a halt position until I was bedridden for 2 weeks. Myotosis ossificans; when the bone tissue grows in through instead of muscle tissue in an attempt to strengthen the damaged area. There’s a lot of activity in that quad zone. I finally found the answer through the support of a local rolfer who had undergone a similar injury. Now, I use e-stem, a TENS device that seems to be loosening the vampire grip on the IT. Subtle electrocution.
I recently started work with 2 healers- using self-adjusting chiropractic movement and acupuncture, soft tissue massage. They’re ‘healers’; meaning they're using unconventional techniques- tapping, crystals, vibration rods, and ‘energy work’. I love their energy. One’s from a line of healers from Taos, the other just does her thing- drawing in a lot of athletes. We all depend on her to adjust what we can’t on our own. Most everything. Most athletes i know worship the components on their bikes, and know next to nothing about the subltties of their bodies. Other than the science.
So, I’m hobbling across the field post race, and a friend I love and respect dearly says something like, ‘oh- of all the things that have been going on in your life, this doesn’t need to happen, I’m so sorry Beth.’ She’s young. And doesn’t know….
I’m a ‘masters’. What that may mean for the sake of discussion now, is that by this time, after 50 years, if you haven’t experienced at least some combination of the following, maybe life hasn’t happened for you yet: one successful marriage, one divorce, watched loved ones come and go out of prison, watched some attempt or commit suicide, and die in various ways. Moved several times, watched a business succeed and fail, felt the pang of your parents growing older, let your children go off into the world leaving an empty, quiet house, move in and out of the hospital countless times for varying reasons and surgeries, received a diagnosis for multiple mental disorders, overcome addictions, experienced countless concussions, almost died in the hospital and outside skiing in the middle of a winter night, watched more than a dozen pets die, maybe that’s life. I was going to say maybe you haven’t lived, but if you get to avoid that, that’s fine. If you’re in deep with any of that, it’s fair to say you’re living a normal life. I only have 1 tattoo. I don’t respond at all to my friend’s well-meaning comment. I have nothing to say. It was fair and said with compassion. Still wondering how my experience could look so out of the norm to her…..
The day before, on the way around my late afternoon pre ride stroll, I pull into the shade to settle in to a long discussion with a good friend about concussions, the aftermath of TBI, having Aspergers, and recovering from that toil- She’ll recover. I won’t. We’d both had different but similar head injuries. She’s recovering from a recent blow. I tell her I don’t know that I’ll ever recover. And that I’d taken a series of impacts, from an early age that may have led to the Aspergers diagnosis I currently possess. That I live in a state of mind that I’m familiar with, that’s harder for others, and I’ll protect my experience, my identity, my idiosyncrasies from others because I don’t feel like there’s anything I can do about it. And because I feel like I often alienate people.
I do well alone, so riding for 12 hours isn’t theoretically difficult. It hurts, but what else am I going to be doing on a Saturday. Work? Ride my bike somewhere else? Watch Netflix? I can maneuver my mind through rough spots if my body’s ready for it, and there’s no dysfunction, but if the pain concludes in an inability to pedal, I get off the bike. I did that in the last 3 laps- hopped off, rolled out on a rock up at the half way point, stared up at the tree branches- every lap. And it worked enough to get in 6 laps, 7200’, vert, 70 miles. My numbness subsided cause I languished around the tent rolling out again with the trainers, rolling out my trap, chatting.
People call us soloists crazy. Often. It kind of surprises me. It’s slow and gets really painful for a while, and then it passes in a few days. I’ve done more difficult things. Sitting in a desk every day all day is crazy. What’s crazy- to whom? Sitting in the same desk every day must be excruciating. I literally can't imagine tolerating that.
It’s late April, still early in the season. I’m just starting to train on the bike. I'm slowly getting off skis, but if I expect to race, I need to get a bit more excited. Been traveling a lot to the mountains, wanting more snow time, high mountain adventures. Then, I dip down into the desert, loving both worlds right now- the flexibility of moving around when I can, taking work with me.
This Spring, I soak up the sun like a sponge, move into a deep rhythm quickly with my skis and bike, feeling the silence and sun of spring activities. It’s magical and powerful, this spring season. Transition seasons lend themselves to a release of energy- either from a cold hard winter, or a hot dry summer. If I don't capture that, or I miss out on this intense vibrancy life has- if I miss out on that, I lose several notches off my stoke.
It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of racing in New Mexico. ‘Pretty amazing what your old body could do!’, my mom says the day after. I guess so. For sure grateful and happy to be a part of it all. Ready to start training a bit more. A little more curious about how the top step feels like.
Jeez- fighting the noise that wants to tell me to shut down, in a mind that most of the time feels more like a 30 year old- in maturity and development. I'll give the bike a rest this week, then see.
Bought a new training plan, hired a coach, maybe she'll get me ready to get the top step. We’ll see……