Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Trans-Slyvania Backiotomy

We last left off with the Rapha Gents Race. A little insight into my mind on April  6th. When I had been notified by Ciclismo I made the squad.

Email to Coach informing him of the race and my role:
This is a week before TSE, I realize a 7 hr ride a week before an A race is less than optimal, however  this is why I send you cash every month, to help me figure this stuff out!
We are also going to do a "century" on May 15th to test the waters. I put all the dates in TP for you.
Kuhn’s response was priceless.
Hmmm.  mmkay.  We'll sort it.
He sorted it and the workouts showed up in TrainingPeaks. The plan was set. Do the ride. Recover. Open up, Race.
And then my back imploded at mile 40 of RGR, pretty much screwing the plan to bits. I spent the week taking muscle relaxers and not doing a very efficient job at anything. I was sleeping like 15 hours a day.
The Friday before TSE I sat on my couch debating what to do. My back was iffy, my legs felt like lead, and I was pretty scared. This is the race I thought about slogging out efforts on the trainer throughout the 83 snow storms we weathered over the winter. Not going would not do anything good for my mental state or motivation. Going could seriously eff up my body and jeopardize my other goals for the year. For the first time in a long while I just wanted to eat food, drink beer, and get fat instead of race bikes.  
I decided to give it a go. I felt the regret of not starting the race would be far worse than that of a potential DNF. I promised myself to take it day by day and back it down if I felt like I was ripping my back in two.
Showing up Saturday I gave myself a chance to preride the 12 mile prologue. I took Lauren with me. She hadn’t touched her mtb in a while, and went on a pretty fast arch from freaking out, to riding smooth in about an hour. I was surprised what she was cleaning as the course was not easy. Go Lauren.
A.E Landes/ Zach Repp
My back felt ok, and my legs started to come back a little. Definitely not firing at 100% but I hoped to ride into them as the week went on. I got a massage. I felt ready. I was smiling for the first time in the better part of a week.
Stage 1: At 3:03 I went off on my way. I got the legs to open up. I finished somewhere between mediocre and crappy. I rode smooth and only fubbed a few things. I felt ready to actually race my bike. It was uneventful, I was happy with that. My back was so so, but hanging on.
After dinner with Lauren, I started to get a headache (not from Lauren!). Not a normal headache, but the broken brain headaches I got when I was 12. The process goes like this. Get headache. Lay down. Puke. Feel better.
At 8:30pm Dinner ejected from my body. No big deal I wouldn’t need to be fueled up for Stage 2, which in my opinion takes the title of hardest stage in the race. I remained relatively dehydrated from all of the sleeping and puking. Killing the Pedialite helped a little, but was not the silver bullet.
Stage 2: 43 miles 5300 ft of climbing. Rocks everywhere. 90 degrees.
We went out fast. I made it down the first descent, and was climbing the first dirt road climb. The legs felt almost back. At CP1 I saw Lauren and took on some water. I was currently in the first chase group and comfy. We continued climbing for a bit before we hit the trails. I went into the first singletrack behind Ben Cruz and Mike Wissel. I hit a rock and by back went ‘uh dude” Then I had to twist to keep balance in the mud, and the back yelped again “Mike, WTF” I fought for about 10 minutes and then had to back it off. Ben and Mike were GONE. I was floundering and unable to really lift my back wheel over stuff. The thoughts of quitting slipped in.
Finally at speed I went to hop a rock I had noticed late. I pulled up and went to unweight the rear of the bike. Nothing happened and the back slammed into the rock. I stayed up but it made me realize I was done.
I had roughly 15 miles to the next checkpoint. The way it works at TSE is that if you do not finish a stage you don’t’ technically finish the race, but you are allowed to ride the next day. I figured I would make the decision at CP 2.
8 miles out I ran into Wissel messing with a broken bike. His derailleur ripped off and he was in the process of creating a ghetto single speed. I lent him my chain tool and told him I would ride with him. We had to stop a few times as his gear slipped and he would have to stop and fix it. We realized it was slipping off the cogs because his frame was actually broken. The derailleur must have sliced through the seat stay on the swing arm when it ripped off. He started walking as I pressed on.
Now on my least favorite trail in the race, the narrow rocky climb that lasts seemingly forever until CP2. I was riding at 1/3 gas just riding fast enough to make it through the rocks without falling over. I knew I was done and was just trying not to hurt myself anymore. My back hurt and my motivation was long gone.
My mood was not what I expected. I usually become angry at myself when I fail. I don’t like to give up, and I hate to quit on such an amazing race. I had time to reflect on a lot on the climb. I was reminded that no matter how fucked my current situation was, I was still doing what I wanted to do; racing a ridiculously nice bike, on amazing terrain in beautiful weather, in good company. Racing doesn’t always go your way, and the body often tells you when you’re done well before your mind does. I am still currently oscillating between pissed, motivated, crushed, accepting, and proud.
Proud? I bailed out right? Yes, I quit but with visions of accomplishing everything else I set out to do this year. Failing at TSE will translate into wanting to accomplish something else. I feel I was disciplined enough to save that opportunity for myself. In my case defeat motivates, I feel that’s a good place to be. I woke up this morning to the feelings I was experiencing in April. That ‘Christmas Morning’ feeling where you are beyond excited to do some stupid office park crit in 45 degree rain, just because you can. It’s back.

1 comment:

Chris N. said...

Nice report, Craiger and I will be there next year with you.... just think, if you had been able to finish Transylvania you wouldn't have had the opportunity to get dropped by Scott Zwizanski last night at Malvern.