We went to Canada for American Thanksgiving. I got terribly, terribly sick on the day we drove back and I've been sick ever since. I think I might have had the flu. I had a slight fever, my throat was sore, my joints and muscles ached, and my skin felt really sensitive. I was completely wiped out until last Thursday. I felt a little better on Friday, so I tried to catch up on a few chores--did the dishes, vacuumed. By Friday night, I was totally miserable again. Missed the team ride on Saturday because I was so sick. I knew I wasn't in any kind of condition to race on Sunday, but I'd already signed up and paid for my entry, so I went anyway.
I arrived at 8, even though I wasn't racing with the women's 4s--this was my first race as a cat 3! I wanted to cheer my friends on, though. I warmed up on the course, and felt okay. In fact, my legs felt really good, and the course felt like a good one for me! I thought I could probably get a podium, even. But then as soon as I stopped pre-riding and sat in my chair, I felt like baby elephants were sitting on top of me. I was totally wiped out again.
I lined up, anyway. Got a pretty good start, and went into the first section in the top 10. I had my eye on a few ladies that I knew I should be able to track throughout the race (if I were healthy). I managed to stay with them through the first few sections, still in touch with the front. My first indication that my body was not going to cooperate was on the run-up. I willed my body to go faster, but it wouldn't. I barely managed a jog, but that was enough to pass a few women who were walking their bikes. I should have been able to ride the second hill, but accidentally unclipped my right foot and had to run the rest of the way up. A girl tried to run past me there, and I was able to put in a surge to get away from her with a sprint, a good re-mount, and a little dig up the hill.
But at the top of the hill, my body told me, "Nope! You're sick!" I couldn't catch my breath. I got chills all over--you know that feeling when you've run out of glycogen towards the end of a hard interval workout and you feel like you've been dipped in ice water? I got that. I had to soft-pedal, and everyone I'd passed came around me. I recovered through the next several sections and had a good ride down The Chute (a long, swoopy descent courtesy of the Lake Fairfax mountain bike trails). I made an awesome attack on the punchy hill going up to the team tent area, passed on the outside, and cut in to take a great line through the off-camber switch back. It was beautiful.
And then my body sent me another message: "Nope! Still sick!" Same thing. Ice water, couldn't catch my breath. Since the first signals, I'd been debating in my head whether or not to pull out after the first lap. I knew I could make it through the race okay, if I would just soft pedal around the course--that is, if I would just ride the race "for fun." But every time someone would pass me, something in my head said, "No way! I am faster than you!" And I would put in a surge and try to get that place back and then my body would remind me that sick people don't get to do that.
So at the last second--literally, right before I crossed the finish line for the first lap--I pulled off the course and told the officials that I was pulling myself. Went back to the tent and changed and stewed over how well I could have done in the Super 8 finale if only I hadn't gotten sick . . . but that's cross! There's always next year. And I did make Emily's day by coming home and telling her, "You were right. I shouldn't have tried to race." She loves being right.
I'm afraid I may be one of those bike racers who takes herself too seriously, who's incapable of doing the race for fun. It may be that the part of racing that I like is proving that I'm better--stronger, faster, better at cornering, whatever--than other people; I don't ride bikes just because I like it, but because it's a way of proving my superiority. Does that make me a jerk? It might make me a little bit of a jerk. I do make a conscious effort of riding with the mantra, "Don't be a jerk," so maybe it balances out.
I hope I get over this cold/flu/sickness soon, though. I'm ready to start base-building for the road season!