I'm losing it.
I was riding to work this morning, watching my HR spike as I was watching my speed drop over a small incline. Granted, it was 32 degrees at the start for the second day in a row, and I'm wearing an extra 42 pounds of clothing, but I wasn't overheating, just hyperventilating.
It occurred to me how much work I need to do on a regular basis, just to keep up in the masters. Last weekend was a good example. I "raced" the New England Velo-Cross Challenge, mechanical-ed in the first 1/4 mile, then crashed half a dozen times times just trying not to get lapped. The last crash resulted in me jamming my left rear canti underneath the rim with my right leg on a run-up. I had to deflate the tire and open the skewer to get it free. I DNFd with about 2 to go.
I sense myself getting slower and slower, and I'm not sure why. I did a 5 K road race about a month ago, and had the slowest time I've had all year (including the second 5 k of a duathlon in may). Then at the pinnacle challenge I ran even slower. I _haven't_ been over training, if anything I've been taking it easy for the past few weeks.
That's when I started thinking about the time I need to put in on the bike just to stay with the genetic freaks in the masters field. Freaks like this guy:
He rides a few dozen times a year, and rarely races any more. He showed up Saturday on his old 'cross bike that he hasn't ridden in three years and got 3rd in the master 35+ (ok, there were only like 6 guys, but he was in like second for a long time before he faded). This same guy, at the CX national championships at fort devens in '96 (?) had never raced 'cross before in his life, showed up on a borrowed bike, and got 3rd in the "B" field. He made a comment after wards something like, 'I was wondering when anyone was going to chase the two leaders down and no one did, so I attacked'. Then there was the time in 2001 that he had the flu for a week, was running a fever of 102 on saturday, got up on sunday for a 3 hour drive to race the jiminy peak road race, and got 10th in the masters 1/2/3 (full field, btw). Don't get me wrong, I like the dude, he's friendly, humble, and genuinely a nice person. He's just a genetic freak.
I can train all year, and just barely keep up with guys like him.
So I'm riding to work this morning, numb fingers and toes, wondering why I do it. I started thinking about all the guys I've known over the years that claim undying passion for the sport of cycling, that I haven't seen at a race in years. Of course their excuse is always the same, 'family/job'.
Hmmm....Me too. I have a family, a job, I even own a triple-decker rental in a a city 40 miles away that I have to maintain (it sucks, I hate it, I never wanted it, and I'd be just as happy to let the fucking bank have it, but I have a wife who is deeply concerned about the credit rating implications. She's right, but my emotion of the whole fucking thing is enough to let it go and deal with the fallout).
But I ride, I train, and I race. I can't let it go. When my wife and I first started discussing long term 'arrangements', I made the point clear that the racing will continue. She would have to accept it as part of me and who I am, or the deal is off. I was racing 30 times a year when we met, and our second date was to one of the first iterations of the Watershed Wahoo MTB races in new hampshire. So far, so good. It seems she's glad sometimes to get me the hell out of her face (like that wasn't predictable). However, I get _no_ sympathy for injuries related to bike racing. She's helped scrub out a few wounds over the years, but I better be able to move those 5 yards of loam the next day, whether I'm nursing a case of road rash or not.
By the same token, a rather common critique of my training and racing is "you know, if you took it seriously, you'd be pretty good".
what a conundrum...I enjoy riding and racing so much that accepting it was a prerequisite to get married, but I don't take it seriously enough to really post any decent results. This is true.
Many years ago a local former pro offered to take me under his wing - "I could definitely get you riding as a good cat two". He wasn't asking for money, and I knew him well enough to know he was serious. I didn't take him up on it, because I knew how much work I was already putting in as 3, and I really didn't want to work that hard - yeah, it was the slacker in me. I had a full time job, had been recently married to my _first_ wife, and was enjoying life. I enjoyed getting out on training rides a mixing it up, not worrying about 'training', just interested in having fun. Making me a 2 would have been a _lot_ of work. Besides, it would have interfered with my drinking.
It won't be getting any easier. I'm getting older and I have more non-cycling distractions in my life. But I just can't see giving up on it. I feel it pulling at me in the winter months. I get bitchy when I don't ride enough. I have to keep at it.
So The next time you see me, don't hesitate to yell out "slacker".
(Did you ever feel like you've just wasted five minutes of your life? If you've made it this far, you have a lot more patience than I do.)