Monday, November 29, 2010

Worth A Thousand Words

Well, since the last post I've been trying to return to the world of cycling, slowly, but surely. That's been great, but the real truth is that I have really just been happy to be able to return to work and everyday life in a somewhat normal fashion without feeling like death every moment. Sometimes you don't realize how bad you felt until you don't feel that way and this illness has certainly held true for that of myself. I also have grown to know that I can walk around and "act" pretty normal on the outside when I feel like killing over on the inside. I'm not sure if that's good or bad, but I'm blaming that trait on my Mom for now.
Over the last few days I finally think I have dropped the massive headaches that accompanied the meningitis (that is a wonderful feeling) and I've slowly gained some energy back. I've learned that this can linger for about 6-8 weeks and I'm trying not to rush into thinking I should feel normal too soon. I've slowly tallied up some rides. I've enjoyed being back on the bike when I can and buckled down and hit some pretty cold rides as the weather is getting pretty chilly these days. I also have decided to try and stay outside for most of my training this winter and invested in some lights and winter Specialized defroster shoes thanks to Summit City Bicycles in Fort Wayne. I can't wait to really put them to the test!

This season has certainly been a roller coaster ride for me and this weekend I decided to keep that crazy train rolling a little more. Given that my overall ovcx standings were pretty much in the dog house since I had missed so many races, I decided to do some other races that I had always wanted to do, but could not since I was in a points chase. I really wanted to do the Gravel Grovel, but decided that the distance would be a little much for me to tackle with so much recent time off the bike. I had always wanted to hit up Jingle Cross in Iowa City, but

it had always been difficult to get the timing just
right with the holiday and my work. Somehow,
it all seemed to line up just right this year, and I decided to head west. I had to work Friday, so I was bummed about missing the night race, but in the end, I'm glad I didn't head out that day as family time would have been tight on Thursday to pack and get ready. So it worked out.... my sister Beth and I took off late Friday after work and had a nice trip to Iowa City and enjoyed catching up with each other and settled in to the hotel for some rest before heading out into the cold on Saturday... and so it began. I had always seen pictures of Mt Krumpit. I love how they say pictured say a thousand words, but somehow, that saying failed me for this venue. Funny how things never look as steep and gnarly in pictures as compared to what they really are. When we pulled into the venue on Saturday, we rounded the corner, saw the hill, and collectively said, "oh sh**." I knew I hadn't been training much lately, but I figured I had some sort of lingering fitness to hold on in this race, but my recon in pre-riding of this hill had me out of breath. It was a 200 ft "run" up and it was pure mud... and we ran up it 4 times in the race. I'll get back to that. I loved the rest of the course. It was held at a fairgrounds and had some really fun features and I felt right at home since I do most of my cross training at my local fairgrounds. I was excited to get racing, but really had no expectations since I had prep for this race in almost ZERO ways. I just didn't want to come in last. At the start we had a pretty competitive field of 25 gals and I struggled from the gun with clipping in as the pic shows above. I finally got it together once I was dead last and started to work back up. About 1/2 a lap into it, I had worked back up to 12th place and was feeling pretty good and then it hit me- the Wall. The stupid Mt Krumpit wall. Who's idea was it to put that stupid hill in the way of the cross course anyway? I started the run up and I started going backwards - it was all downhill from there. My body just didn't have it in me to exert that sort of upward effort just yet. Every lap I would gain on the bike only to drop a few more places on the run up. It was frustrating to have everything else go smoothly and watch it all become pointless on the hill. I ended up finally trying to fight the frustration and not get so ticked at myself for not being able to run up a massive hill after being really sick for the last month.

I just chilled out my attitude and enjoyed the venue and kinda rode like I was in cross practice. I think hitting the deck kinda helped me do that too (as seen in the pic above). Nothing like a high speed endo in to a downhill pile of hay bails to help you not take things too seriously. I ended up sprinting for last place on the last lap. I could have done a little better, but it just wasn't realistic for me to expect it. I have never finished last at a race like this and I would have never imagined being okay with that result, but I really didn't mind. I had fun, I did a race I've always wanted to check out, I had my sister there cheering me on, and I was able to race my bike at a pro UCI race. It easy to be the Monday QB and look through the results of the weekend and look at the snap shot of how races turned out. We all do it. But a thousand words of that snap shot isn't nearly enough to tell the whole story of what happened or what events lead up to the results. I was last on the results, but at least I was able to show up, which is something I hadn't been able to do for the previous 4 weeks.

After the race, Beth and I did some shopping after dinner. There isn't much else to do in Iowa! We both faded pretty fast while shopping and retired to the hotel pretty early. The second I hit the hotel lobby, I was exhausted. The buzz of the race was wearing off and the reality that I was still recovering from illness hit me. I was asleep by 9pm. I woke up Sunday and still felt exhausted and I had to decide what to do. I was afraid that if I raced that I wouldn't be able make the 7 hour trip home alive enough to do anesthesia Monday morning. Given how exhausted the previous day had made me, I was sure another day of My Krumpit would only compound things more. I decided to skip day 3 of Jinglecross. That decision just about killed me, but it was the smart thing to do. After all, I'm a professional and I have to assure that I can do my real job above all else in the end. Beth and I opted to have a nice breakfast and worked our way back home at a nice pace, stopping and having fun along the way. We really had a fun time together and it was a nice trip despite my race results.

Jingle cross is now marked off my "to do" list and I can say I have no desire to ever do this race again in the future. I've done enough races in my life to know that I will never be good at Mt Krumpit and if the Grinch wants to own that hill, he can have it for all I care. I'm glad I went and found that out before taking a lot of time off from work for it next year. The event was run great, the fans were wonderful and I would recommend this to other people, but it wasn't for me. I'll mark down Jinglecross on my resume as a 25th place result. It will be there visually for years to come and I'll look at the number and chuckle a little to myself knowing that it was a last place finish. I'll even chuckle a little more knowing that that is only a number and a snap shot of the journey I had to get there and fun trip I cherished with my sister.
Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words, but a memory is so much more valuable in the end.

Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles he has overcome.
-Booker T Washington

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Life Is What Happens While Your Busy Making Other Plans"- Lennon

So as an update, it's been 3 weeks now that I have been off the bike and down and out with illness. Not only have I not rode, I have done no type of physical activity of any kinda making this the longest period in my life that I have ever been inactive (from what I can remember). That's been a huge lifestyle shift for me, but in all honesty, I really have been too sick to really stress over it too much. After a lot of testing and talking with the Great Dr Coates, we have come to the conclusion of viral meningitis and now lingering ear infections. I'm finally rounding the corner and starting to feel better, I'm so happy to be back to work but even a day of work makes me ready to sleep the entire evening and night. Coates can't really give me a time frame for when I will be 100% recovered and the basic conclusion is that I have become chronically fatigued and that just taking things day to day is how it has to be right now. The next step is taking a look at my cortisol levels to make sure my body can get back up to snuff. That pretty much means no short term goals and no structured training plans that I'm so accustomed to. That also means no trip to Nationals for cross. When I finally came to that realization last week I was pretty devastated. I had banked my entire season and comebacks on that trip to Bend, and now some silly brain infection was gonna keep me from it and it is completely out if my control. It's was depressing to me to think back about not only overcoming the ankle surgery, but also fighting back from the emergency appendectomy in July, staying positive the whole time, putting in all the hard training days, planning, family sacrifices, equipment prep, and juggling both professions with precision, to see that all go down the drain... an entire waste of a season. I'm not looking for any outside pitty party here, I just saying I was extremely disappointed for myself. What a waste.

Was this all wasted time? A wasted season? I was forced to think back and I once again turned to my faith and my family to look at the positive side of things. I had focused my whole season on the end point... cyclocross nationals. We live our whole lives (or should) finding and doing what God has put us on earth to do to assure our eternal life after death in heaven. The goal is heaven right? Well, surely God didn't put us here simply to focus on the end point and not enjoy the journey of getting there. I had PLANNED on nats and a full cross season, but turns out, life happened while I made those plans, and looking back at the season, I had a wonderful journey, made so many memories and learned so much about myself that I really, really enjoyed the journey! It really is about the journey and sometimes I get so caught up in the goals and outcomes that I forget to take it all in and enjoy it. Life is what happens while were busy making other plans. That's something every goal driven person needs to brake check sometimes and remember. It's all happening right now as we all take in each breathe.

I did have a good season. I didn't waste my time. I had results that most people would kill for. I had a good mtb season, unexpectedly, after 2 major operations, and eventually won the DINO elite women's series. I had respectable results for a full time worker in the the major cx races, and good results in the ovcx races as well. Aside from struggling with a very bad case of hot foot all year that made every ride miserable, I had fun riding my bike. Which is really what it's about, no wasted time. Most of all, I've had a great time with my teammates, other riders, mechanics, and family this year and I really miss being out there adding more memories to that list. I love cycling, the culture, the people.

Looking back now its easy to say I pushed it too far, I pushed when my body was pulling. I have essentially drove myself into the ground. Racing 2 weeks after the appy in July probably cost me this last half of my cross season. A body can only do so much and mine did all it can do and I'm pretty impressed with how I held up even when I was in complete failure. I pretty much think that by the time the KY USGP came around, I was on fumes, but I somehow turned out a 16th and 19th! It's a good last memory to sit on for a while until I can race again. No regrets.

So I'm not sure what the rest of the year will hold for me. I hope to get back to riding pretty regularly and maybe even make a couple late cross races. I'm just gonna listen to my body and go with the flow. Since my series overall standing for ovcx goals are fading away, I really hope to be able to hit the Gravel Grovel and do some mtb riding which are things that get pushed to the back burner when I'm in cross mode. I also have some big changes happening next year and I'm really excited about those and hopefully I can let you all in on that in the not so distant future.

I'm already looking ahead to next year, and CX Nationals in Madison... but most importantly, I'm looking forward to Life's journey of getting there. Thanks for reading everyone!

"Out on the ocean sailing away
I can hardly wait
To see you come of age
But I guess we'll both just have to be patient
'Cause it's a long way to go
A hard row to hoe
Yes it's a long way to go
But in the meantime....
Life is what happens while your busy making other plans."
-Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)
John Lennon

Friday, November 5, 2010

Iceman Fever!

Photo by Roberto Aviles
(Last year's Iceman finish. Photo:
I think we all know how much I love doing the Iceman Cometh, heck half the country loves to do the Iceman. The last couple years it has been a nice divider to my cyclocross season and has served as a small weekend break from cross that brings me back to the days of crispy, fall mountain bike rides that I used to do before I took up the cross craze. This year's Iceman is shaping up to be a perfect set-up for me personally. I LOVE tough weather conditions (except extreme heat), and the Pro women's field has a good showing of riders, but not too many gals are signed up this year that get paid to ride their bikes. This gives a nice level playing field for us commoners. Going thru the start list I placed myself in the top 8 hopeful. But that hope is not going to happen this year. I've had a fever for 2 weeks and that doesn't mix well with a race called Iceman. Like I said in my last post, I've been battling a super bug, and after hopes it would be a quick recovery, it has been the opposite and has been a very long one. Funny to think that I was on my bike quicker after my appendectomy than what I have been with this flu bug.

In the last 2 weeks I have only been on the bike 2 times and I can't honestly see when I will be on it again. The good news is that after forfeiting a good amount of my blood for testing, I do not have mono, pneumonia, or lupus. I DO however, have the flu and I AM having a hard time fighting it. It seems I had pushed myself a bit too far and required way to much of my body to work over full time, mend busted ribs, race, train, and fight off bugs. I had been too stubborn to listen to the warning signs and figured I would push through it, but God has given me the red light and has left me no other choice, but to lay around and rest. Even though I'm bummed about missing the iceman and a few weeks of cross racing, I'm sure He has it all planned out and I have to trust that as hard as it is. I now am hungry to get back to riding and look very forward to Cyclocross Nationals on the next 5 weeks in Oregon.

In the meantime I have discovered a few things: Black kitty is super happy to have me home to keep her warm and she makes an excellent heated pillow. I have also found that 50% of tv shows involve drugs, or migration issues. I have found that I really, really dislike people who doping more and more everyday and that this probably stems from my Dad's zero tolerance to anyone who cheats in any way. I also have found that The Dog Whisperer is a much better dog trainer than the "it's me or the dog" lady. Lastly, I hate my furniture and the way it is arranged, but I'm too sick to move it or figure it out. I may just hate it because I have to be around it all day. I can't quite decide.

(Eby, aka, Black Kitty, helping to coach me on how to rest)

But in good news I've also discovered this: despite feeling like the bike industry is full of a lot of snobs and people who love themselves way too much; plus feeling like some people (ie usgp) only care to cater to the big time pros- I do realize that there are A LOT of people in the industry and around me that remember one thing: that riding a bike is fun. The person beside you rides a bike to have fun, I ride to have fun, and the 6 year old down the street rides to have fun, and we can all have fun together. There are a lot of good people in cycling and always has been and thank you to all those people.

People who race with enhancement are not having fun- they don't provide their successes, they must be in some sort of private Hell and I pray for those people to find a way out. People who snob those with entry level bikes are not cool- the person who rides a decked out Harley is enjoying the ride, but so is the guy riding a Shadow. If I had no means to ride the best stuff, I would still find a way to roll around on a department store bike and enjoy it. I'm glad I don't have to do that, but think about that personally; is it the ride or the Ride? I really believe a lot of us would go clunk over nothing and it's refreshing to feel that way.

Now go ride your bike! Someone should since I can't.

Good luck to everyone I know who is doing the Iceman this year!

Hopefully my next post is a race report or something a little more exciting to blog about.

Thanks for reading.

Matthew 16: 26

Matthew 16: 26

For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but lose their soul?