Monday, July 24, 2006


yesterday was eastern cup. i went out saturday with the crashcos to inspect the course and preride it. actually, i was supposed to have met with them at 0900 to help set up the race stuff, but i was too hungover from my sleeping meds and didn't wake up until they called me on the phone sometime later.

so i got there in time to ride. course conditions were good, too, but it appears that i only have a finite amount of courage, which is being used for simply living, so a lot of the technical elements of the course are beyond my reach. and not just the ones i always have a hard time with; elements that i have had a good handle on for years are suddenly ouside of my ability.

for instance: after you come out of the old BMX course, you get deposited on bee tree hill. it's fairly straightforward. you keep your balance and you fly down it. it's rough, but completely do-able. the surface is all loose dirt and rocks and roots and old leaves, but there are no turns, no "must-do" moves, and it opens up onto a straight easy uphill. nothing to worry about, right?

except i get there and i'm paralyzed with fear. you see, if you use your brakes here, all that happens is that you skid out, and at a pretty good speed, too. you have to be able to trust your balance and to trust gravity.

but i can't. i'm paralyzed with fear. which represents a dangerous situation, so i have to get off and walk. granted, i cleaned little ridge run, but i usually can clean it. and i cleaned that nasty little uphill singletrack over on the hillside, which i never can do. and i nearly got over the rock wall, but when i was almost over i wasted my concentration by thinking "hey, i'm getting over this!" and i had to foot down.

but then it started to rain. it rained all afternoon and all night and all morning. when it rains, due to some unhappy geology, at catamount what happens is that the top layers of soil, due to their high clay content, become very slick.

and i am frightened.

let me recap my week for you: for the first time in a long time i was feeling good, so i rode like i feel good.

monday i rode my road bike twenty-some-odd miles up the huntington road.
tuesday i ran my 5 k so hard i collapsed at the end.
wednesday i rode two thrirds of the course with no seat.
thursday i rode my time trial hard.
friday i sat at home and didn't do squat.

saturday i rode with the crashcos and then we went unsuccessfully geocachiing in what started out as a light drizzle and ended up being a soaking rain.

sunday i manage to wake up in time to get ready for my race, but i am still hung over from my sleeping meds.

at the beginning of the eastern cup course we always go down and around the elbow; there's a small trench at the bottom of it, and there's loose gravel on both sides. because at eastern cup there are often racers who have traveled from far away, it is my practice to hant to the back of the starting pack and ask if everybody knows about the gravel.

often they don't all know, and it is useful information. i have seen more than one promising season come to an abrupt end at the bottom of the elbow.

anyway, out of the start, i can't even keep up with the back of the pack to ask. by the time i emerge from the elbow, i have lost contact completely with the pack, and about a minute later on the gravel road i am overtaken by the next wave of riders.

at the first hairpin (a technical element i have been riding easily since my first year) i am overtaken by the next wave of riders. i am slow, slow, slow. by the time i get to moosepoop, i am very nearly at the back of the entire field, not just my start. and i am completly out of contact with even the tail end of the pack.

and i'm having to use my granny gears. i feel like i'm dying. i have to walk little ridge run, which i habitually clean. i'm really pushing my limit by the time i get to the oven. now granted, the oven is a long gradual climb and in some conditions it can really take a wide strip out of you. it was very slippery, and a little difficult to maintain control.

and i came out of it, having finished about the first 5k of the 15k course and now i'm facing all the hard climbs and all teh really technical riding. but i am at a major intersection one leg of which leads out of the woods.

i didn't have it in me; i quit the course and turned in my number.

it nearly broke my heart. but you see, it's not just a bike race for me. bike racing has become for me kind of a metaphor for my life: it's difficult and it just hurts and hurts and you have to stay out there and keep going until you get to the end.

and i quit early. made me feel like i could quit early at that other, more important race. i didn't feel like goign out to lunch with the crashcos or caching or doing anything. i wanted to go home. but rumblestip came with me and was very kind and patient and sat with me for a time while i cried and cried.

it was an astounding amount of pain. and finally when she had to leave, i was afraid of what i might do, but somehow i managed to get online and play some cards and then after a while i watched the final tour coverage.

and by some miracle i slept soundly and woke up at eight, feeling pretty good. maybe today i'll go reactivate an old disabled cache i have. maybe i'll go find some things. it won't matter. it's going to be a good week.

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