Monday, September 29, 2008

Equilibrium: Battle at Barlow

I'll start this post by admitting that I really had no business racing at Barlow yesterday. So I ultimately feel like I got everything that I had coming to me: a big fat DNF.

For the second straight year, I had a cold coming into the Battle at Barlow weekend. Last year I felt OK about driving out to Gresham and deciding to skip the race. It was pissing rain that day and my illness had kept me out of work for a few days the previous week.

This time around it was a very different story. My cold was Las Vegas-induced and I felt that if I could rally enough to stay out until 4:30AM on Wednesday, I sure as shit should be able to race on Sunday. (My full report on Interbike will come later this week, but for a preview, check out Heidi's blog.)

D and I got in a really nice pre-race ride Saturday evening. I did a few sprints on Highway 30 and was feeling really good about my legs. Not so good about the lungs. About 20 seconds into each sprint, my lungs would fill with gunk and I couldn't take any more deep breaths.

On the way out to the race, I felt pretty good. There was a track in my head playing over and over again: "Seventy-five percent is well enough to race...you'll be fine."

I pre-rode the course, then spent a half hour on the roads around the high school warming up. And by warming up, I mean continually trying to clear out my lungs after every hard effort and ignoring the track in my head that had now changed to "Bag it and take care of your body."

Ignored the track and rolled up to the front of the line in the B race. I'm feeling really confident about my starts right now and although I knew that this week that I wasn't going to be able to hold on up front for very long, I figured that a good start would gain me a position or two at the end of the race.

I shot out into second place going into the first corner and felt pretty good--for all of about 2 minutes. Barlow is known for the horrendous run-up. Halfway up that run-up, I could no longer take a deep breath without, literally, choking on snot.

For every measure of oxygen deprivation, I lost a measure of common sense. When I made it to the top of the run-up, I immediately tried to remount my bike. Only to tip over when I couldn't get enough momentum to make it up the next riser. Jeezus-its not like I've ridden this loop A DOZEN TIMES and know better.

I can't remember when my chain started dropping off, but once it started, it happened often--especially frustrating because I run on a 1 X 9 set-up for the sole purpose of avoiding this problem. I would finally cough or puke up enough crap to start pedaling harder when the chain would drop. By the fourth or fifth time, I didn't even have enough voice left to swear...it became more of a resigned squawk.

I can't remember when I finally decided to cut my losses and take the DNF. It was probably about the time that I coughed on an off camber section, completely lost control of the bike, careened off the course and ended up on the high school track. Have you ever seen "Better off Dead," when the psychotic newspaper delivery boy flys off the side of the mountain screaming "Two Dollars..."? Thats how I picture it in my head.

I hauled myself up the run-up a second time and soft-pedaled the rest of the lap. My throat felt like I had swallowed a fist of glass chips and I was covered in cold sweat in spite of the heat. I pulled off the course in the parking lot, puked up snot for the final time, then threw a minor adult temper tantrum once I had reached the privacy of D's car. I'm not quite sure what prompted the tantrum-the fact that I knew better, but still raced, or the fact that I just didn't have it in me to finish.

I can tell myself a dozen times that this is how racing works--sometimes you have it, sometimes you don't. The good days always end up being balanced out with the not-so-good. Death by drowning in one's own phlegm would be a particulary undiginified way to die. But all of this knowledge doesn't make quitting suck any less.

We helped the Veloce folks take down the course and stopped for a quick bit to eat on the way home. By the time I finally got home, cleaned up and started the laundry, it was obvious that I had a fever again. My body's way of telling me that it told me so.

The plan this week: lots of sleep, hydrate, resume normal training routine (hello 5am) and stay the course on D and I's plan to reduce our collective beer babies.

1 comment:

Heidi Swift said...

I am joining the anti-beer-baby club. Weekday drinking is so last week, dude.
Great report and I am so glad you didn't drown in your own mucus. I like you alive and stuff.