Sunday, January 11, 2009

That fine line between stubborn and stupid

Determined and dumb. Relentless and ridiculous. Committed and should be committed. Getting the picture here? This all refers to my ride on Saturday.

I started off my morning just like I do whenever I've had training in Marin County: I got lost. My lost percentage is still a sparkling 100%, I've never arrived where I should on the first try. Again, thanks to my iPhone, I pulled up directions and figured out where I had gone wrong and found where I should have been in the first place. After much internal eye rolling at my absolute inability to follow directions when the signage isn't clear, I pulled into the lot.

It was chilly in the morning, but nowhere near as bad as it's been the past several weeks. Funny how warm 40 degrees can feel after spending so much time in the 20s. We left the staging area in a couple of large groups, headed out from a College of Marin parking lot. Our start was late due to a great talk by a local sports psychologist, but that made it warmer. The sun was shining, the air was clear, it was a great day to be outside doing something we enjoy.

Unfortunately my cold wasn't gone, my cough wasn't gone and on top of that, my allergies were active. I decided to take it mile by mile and after the first couple I thought I'd be lucky to make it to our first water stop at mile 17. My dry hacking cough wasn't impressed with the cold clear air. I was actually enjoying the uphills more than the downhills, because the air wasn't shooting into my lungs. Although the scenery was beautiful, my eyes were running and most things were blurry.

When I got to the first SAG I was attending a lovely pity party, thrown by and attended only by myself. I was even in tears, wondering how in the world I was going to ride another 30 miles. I decided to gut it through, decided that I was going to complete the ride no matter what. I didn't care about consequences, I mentally needed to ride the scheduled 50 miles. I headed off, deciding to delay any decision until the next SAG at about mile 36. This decision kept me just barely on the side of stubborn, determined, relentless and committed.

Things got worse as the route got more scenic. We were riding in an area where I had never been, on roads I had never seen. There were many cyclists out on this gorgeous day, lots of drivers careening along the roads at high speeds, some runners, lot of people out and about. Bree and I were riding together, she was concerned about me and was wonderfully protective and took the lead for the most part. We'd catch up with some teammates and be passed by others. There were long smooth uphills, short twisty uphills, relatively flat parts, straight long downhills; all the variety you could hope for. But my cough got worse and my attitude was plunging. I finally pulled into the second stop at Nicasio and there was only one big question:

Where the hell is Nicasio? Well, that was the immediate big question. I had no idea, in the general scheme of things, where I was. Sure, I had a little copy of a portion of a map of Marin County, but beyond that I was totally lost. We all know I have no sense of direction and I didn't even know where the cardinal points were. I could have been in any valley in any dry part of the country.

The other question was whether to continue on. I wanted, in the worst possible way, to ride 50 miles (although I knew at that point it would be more like 52 or 54 miles, and it turned out to be about 56 miles). I wanted to cross that half century barrier, wanted to ride with my team, wanted to be a good sport. It was the best riding day we'd had, but I couldn't breathe. Not only was I coughing up a storm, but I realized when I went to talk it over with the coaches and Claudia that I had lost my voice. I wandered to and fro, thinking furiously, stepping lightly back to my pity party, and realized it was no choice at all. I had to stop or make myself so sick that I'd miss another couple of weeks of training.

So I never crossed over the line but if you think that made me happy, think again. Grumpy, cranky and sad! I hate making the sensible decision when it goes against my desires. We put my bike in the car, waited for the last couple of riders to stop by, and then took the ride of shame back to the parking lot. My first DNF. Yes, I know it wasn't a race so it technically wasn't a DNF but it felt that way. And yes, I know there was no shame in quitting but it felt that way. When it only took my throat and chest a short while to clear up, for my voice to return, I questioned everything I had done. Because I'm like that. I think I made the right decision. Maybe.

During the long miles Bree and I had a heart-to-heart and decided that we were sadly mistaken when we thought we could train for a marathon while we trained for the century. Neither of us could imagine running 8 miles, let alone 13 miles, after a long ride. Buh-bye thoughts of running Vermont this May, hello enjoyable short mileage. Seriously, how over-achieving were we trying to be? Neither of us has ridden this length before (although we've both done metric centuries on minimal training) and neither of us remembered how fatigued our legs would be after 50 miles. Talk about a bummer and a downer and that just added to my unhappiness at stopping.

So the score is 40 miles on the bike, a cold that probably won't be gone for days, a knee that's still sore from last Sunday and the notion that I really need to listen to my body more. I repeat, I hate being sensible when it contradicts my hopes and desires. But I know I'm lucky to just get out there, lucky I can manage any miles at all on my feet and my wheels, lucky to only have a cold instead of something dire, lucky to live in such a scenic, gorgeous area. I'm going to attempt to focus on that!

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