Depending on your point of view, bike racers are blessed or cursed with extreme selective memory. Take Saturday for example. My congestion and general fatigue was finally on the rebound so I was looking forward to racing at one of my favorite venues in nearly ideal conditions.
I started conservatively (at least as conservatively as possible on the Little Stick climb) at the back of the group with a plan to work my way up to mid-pack. Unfortunately, my body didn't sign up for this plan and I spent the entire race at the back suffering in a big way.
The last lap was not "I'm hurting but racing guys" kind of suffering. No, it was "I'm all alone, going to die before I make it back to the car" kind of suffering. I was sure my entire body was going to cramp a couple of times and I was going just fast enough to keep from tipping over on the climbs. It was the last two hours of the E100 kind of suffering. Without encouragement from my wife and the good Doctor, I would have bailed after two laps.
After a good start and a building a solid lead, Tanner and a similar last lap experience.
Near the end of the 2nd lap, he moved off the trail into the grass to pass a lapper and hit an unseen rock resulting in a hard face-plant. He moved his lower front teeth, chipped his upper front teeth, cut his lip and bruised some ribs. He gamely carried on but due to the crash effects and his lack of eating and drinking during the race, he bonked hard on the last climb. He was passed by the guy in 2nd and lost 3 minutes in a short distance but hung on to 2nd.
Needless to say, we weren't a pretty sight after the race. Me wondering around cross-eyed and incoherent and Tanner with an ice bag on his bloody lip. The entire last lap I kept thinking things like "why do I race and do this to myself?"; "this is stupid, I'm never racing again"; "I'm way too old for this kind of self-inflicted pain"; and "I actually paid money to do this".
Normal, sane people would remember these painful experiences and move on to something else. However, after a couple of hours and some food, Tanner and I were talking like this: "You know, that really wasn't so bad." "If I'd have eaten more, I could have won even with my crash." "I really suffered, but I think this is a turning point and I'll get competitive after a few solid weeks of riding." "Man, the single track descent was really fun." "Snowbird should be a good race for me."
I had decided that I'm not racing any crits until I feel better. Instead, I plan to do more bike commuting to get some base fitness back. So today, I rode to work but spent all day debating with myself if I should race RMR on the way home. I even threw my crit plate in my commuter bag. Why? It's a sickness. How can the painful memories go away so fast? I settled on taking the long way home, but it was close.
Tomorrow, I'll be lining up at Round Valley and will probably be suffering at the back again. However, I remember the good results from last year's series and I'm sure I have it in me somewhere. Why not, I'm a bike racer and that's all I'm capable of remembering.