I'm not kidding, I'm actually very serious. I went straight to the EFTA tent on Sunday at Willowdale in Ipswich, MA and told The Maz - I don't want to be accused of doping years later and having to turn in my socks and beer mug.
Second, I can assure every person reading this blog that these steroids are hardly performance enhancing, at least not while in my bloodstream. At the moment, they are quite the opposite.
For the past week, I've awoken to the jitters, heart palpitations and nerves and anxiety that take a good couple of hours to shake off. Yes, I have a lot of rather overwhelming stress in my life at the moment, but that's become the status quo - and any hard-working single mom working multiple jobs can attest to that. But the past week or two, I've been feeling it more and more. This new course of medication has made it very difficult to know how my body will respond to various things. I was told to take the year off altogether from cycling, which I told my medical team was not an option. I learned on the 5 Boro Tour that it is a bit more challenging to find a means to carb up before major events. No gluten, limited fruit and vegetables, virtually no dairy, etc. I also have to be mindful of when I take my meds, especially on days with very early starts.
If Sunday is any indication, I clearly do not have this new regiment figured out yet.
Saturday, my stomach was feeling somewhat "rumbly." As a result, I wasn't very hungry and I didn't eat most of the day until 10 or so, when I realized I had to have something in my stomach, if at the very least, to make sure I wouldn't collapse on the course the next day. I had a small dinner, but I had to force myself to eat.
When I got up at 4:45 am to load up the car and get ready to meet with Sean, my carpool buddy, my stomach wasn't bothering me, but I felt flush and jittery. I plugged along, packing up the bike and my gear, drinking green tea, and kitting myself out. On the way to the car park, however, I started feeling a bit nauseous. At one point, I had to pull over and came close to getting sick. A few minutes of slow breathing and cool air, I was feeling better and kept on driving.
By the time we arrived in Ipswich, we were a bit behind schedule, but early enough Sean wasn't going to miss his 10 am start time. I knew I had a couple of hours before my start time, so I started eating my stash of almonds, apricots and chocolate (the closest thing to an energy bar I could put together that was in keeping with my nutritional guidelines), along with another liter of green tea. I was feeling ok. I still felt a little flush, but the cool air felt good and I didn't have my usual nerves before the race. I was calm and collected, especially after hearing that this genuinely wasn't a technical course, there weren't crushing climbs, and it wasn't a mud pit.
|Me and the fellas. I'm the one who looks petite with the blue rims and LIVESTRONG helmet - #4|
I come around a corner and I see one of the novice women walking her bike in the other direction - she flatted out and had no supplies. I take off my saddle pack, throw it to her and tell her to leave it at the finish for me to take home at the end of the race and I ride on. I was feeling good about my riding. Whether because it was overcast enough that my darker lenses made it hard for me to see rougher terrain that would usually cause me to use my brakes or the fact that after a year of riding last year, I started gaining more confidence, I was having a decent run.
Then, the very windy single-track that is the signature of the Weeping Willow race starts. I start weaving in between the trees, slowly and carefully, but chugging along. I went around a hairpin turn, and when I straightened out, I still felt lopsided. Somewhat disoriented, on the next turn, I skidded into a tree. I didn't fall, but I stopped to regroup. Only I wasn't regrouping. I was getting sick.
I rehydrated, and decided to walk this incline, and this nausea off, and remounted once it was flatter and smoother. I continued to ride and came across a windy path where the ground was not level. A tiny teeter to one side, and I'd land in a very smelly swamp. Just looking threw my compromised equilibrium off and that familiar, unsettling feeling came back in the pit of my stomach. I chose to walk this section.
This continued for a while, and I lost track of time and place. I honestly didn't know where I was on the course, and then I got nervous when I realized I didn't see anyone coming behind, nor anyone ahead. I texted my friend, Sean, whom I sure had finished by then, to see if he could help me figure out where I was on the course and how much farther I had to go. He didn't have his phone on him. I realized that I had an email from the organizer, Aaron Millett, on my Blackberry which included his phone number, so I gave him a quick call. Based on what I could describe, I was only 1/3 of the way through, and it was my call as to whether or not I should come back or go forward. I hoped for the best, and went on to where Aaron said the mid-way point, manned by a marshal, would be. At that point, we'd re-assess how I was and what to do.
So, the pattern continued - ride a stretch of single track, get woozy, throw up, drink up, mount up and repeat. At one point, I looked up and there was a deer, maybe 5 or 6 feet away, giving me this dirty look, as if to say, "Hey, do you mind? Are you done puking on my front yard?" A few minutes later, I turned a corner and almost hit another deer. I'd been on the course long enough the wildlife returned.
I finally got to the only real hill on the course, and I clip out and start hiking up. I know the checkpoint is at the bottom, so I'm getting closer to the end, and hopefully have someone that has some fresh water and can give me some insight of how the rest of the course is. I get to the peak, look around, and I see no one. Crickets. Well, no, not even crickets. The deer have moved on. Not a trace of life. I descend the hill and continue following the course. I pull out a Honey Stinger, start draining my camelback and ride on. At my next stop, I get ill again and look for my lookout. No one in sight.
All of a sudden, I'm brought back to my first day in gym class at Fox Lane High School. I'd transferred over from a Jewish high school as a junior, so I hardly knew my way around indoors, let alone outdoors. That first Thursday, our gym teacher decided that we would go on the nature trails on the vast wooded campus. The catch is, at my old high school, we didn't really have gym. And I wasn't used to having to change and really have to lock my lockers, so I got to class late. I got into the gym early enough that I could check in, but late enough that I had to chase the class into the woods. Before I even knew where we were, everyone disappeared. They took a turn and I had no clue which way to go. So, I used my best judgement. 3 hours later, after falling, getting covered in mud, dirt and leaves, and coming out a few miles away from school, I was found when I stumbled upon a nature reserve. I got back just in time to catch the bus back home.
Now, here I am, lost in the woods, and the person I should have met up with is gone. I'm having a flashback. I throw up again.
I call Aaron, and it turns out that the guy who had been at the midway point left, but he was biking the course in reverse so he will run into me. I was much farther in than I thought, and by the time he caught up with me, we were under 2 miles from the finish. Phew! Aaron rode just ahead of me, leading the way (which helped me choose the best lines so I didn't have to start concentrating on the twists and turns and kept me from getting nauseous), and getting me to the final stretch. I rode in, on two wheels (well, almost - there was a final slope that I walked over as I wasn't going to risk puking over it) and I finished.
While I was the last person to finish the course, I still managed to come in 9th in my class. Granted, the 10th rider didn't finish the race, but still. I came in 9th. And one other person had a longer time - I came in over 20 minutes ahead.
Some syrupy drink, Coke and, believe it or not, potato chips, and my stomach settled. Sean drove my car back, and there was no car sickness or vomiting. There were a lot of window-rattling burps, which proved entertaining, but that was about it.
So, I earned 64 points towards the Championship Series for Team LIVESTRONG. This should prove interesting this year, as last year, I only finished 2 races, but I made the podium for the season, and this wasn't one of them. This year, I plan to do all the races I did last year, plus Weeping Willow, and I'm determined not to DNF on any rides.
I will say this: It always keeps me motivated, focused and able to push through pain and not give up when I know I'm racing for someone. I encourage you to donate to my LIVESTRONG fundraising efforts and let me know the name of the person you want me to race for.