This blog series follows me, an extremely average cyclist, as I go all in to complete the legendary Leadville 100 race on a singlespeed mountain bike.
The thing with minor injuries, other than the fact that they are blessedly minor, is that it’s sometimes hard to differentiate if the pain is coming from the ego or the body. If I had been riding at any decent pace, on a more difficult trail, or attempting a hard obstacle when I fell, then the small avulsion on my palm, the set of bleeding scrapes on my calf, and the already forming bruises on the inside of my upper arm from where I fell on my bar end would have been a really small price to pay. I, however, fell while climbing up around a switchback, one I knew was there because we already did this section of trail, at exactly .5 miles per hour, essentially at a standstill. So that hurt. Like with a lot of the riding we did that day, I saw exactly what I was doing wrong as I was doing it, but was unable to correct course. Some might call it progress that I at least noticed my mistakes.
That whole day had been a little weird. I woke up with a sore throat, and aside from a bit of whining, I chose to ignore it. Lee and I drove down to Buena Vista to get out of the snow, with plans to spend the night in the area and head to Canon City the following day. It was supposed to be all in good fun, and another chance to shakedown the new bikes, but neither one of us were in the right head space. Small things, like the temperature outside, or trying to get our shit together, or trying to figure out where to start, became big things. I also typically have a really hard time riding new trails and trying to get a feel for them, so I was not riding very bravely or well. There were a lot of obstacles that I should have just stopped to session, but we were already stopping so much trying to figure out how to piece the trail system together and not get in over our heads, that we just kept pushing forward. A couple hours in, after stopping at an intersection to decide where to ride next, a discussion turned into a fight that was a continuation of an earlier fight we had that day, and now we are divorced.
Just kidding. He can’t get rid of me that easy. But it is important to highlight some low points of that day, because as trite as it sounds, we can learn so much from them if we let ourselves. For starters, even though I am always right, I hope that I can see my mistakes when I behave wrongly towards Lee, even if my thick skull and big mouth aren’t able to correct them before they happen yet. That would at least put my marriage skills on the same level as my mountain bike skills. I hope the same for him. Awareness usually leads to action, so I trust that we will both eventually improve at riding bikes and being married.
We were able to ride away from that intersection, and from that fight, shaken and still upset, but moving forward. That was when I fell, and that was when I could have thrown a fit, could have demanded we end the ride ASAP and head for the trailhead. Instead, as Lee rode away, I sat up to assess myself, with my right foot still clipped into the pedal, and looked down at my bleeding palm, my torn glove, and the grit in the wound with the piece of skin hanging off, I thought “neat!” I extricated myself from the bike, got back on, and went after Lee. I knew he didn’t mean to ditch me, and I couldn’t wait to show him all the blood. When I caught up to him, I asked him if he heard me yelling, because in my mind it went something like “aaaaaafkhsdehfeifnfg wait for me!” He told me all heard was “Doh!” and thought I just stalled out. We did a couple more small loops, and worked our way back to the truck. It took all day, but Lee started to feel a bit better with his new bike, and I was finally starting to flow with the trails a little more.
We spent the night in Salida, and though I was feeling pretty stuffed up, we drove down to Canon City the following morning for some more riding. With our moods lifted, we were excited to try the Royal Gorge trails recommended to us by friends. We met up with our friend Staci, who we just met earlier in the year at Fat Bike Worlds, at the trailhead, and went off to explore. We were blown away by the views within the first two minutes of our ride. The whole day just went better than the day before. Lee rode up ahead, and Staci and I would catch up eventually, primarily because neither one of us would stop talking. The trails felt more flowy to me, the rocky features were more fun to session. I put my front wheel into a wheel-sized ditch and went over the handlebars, and I couldn’t stop laughing. We went for an early dinner at a Mexican place in town, and drove the two and a half hours home with our bellies and our hearts full. From then on, my week has been a shit show.
I woke up Wednesday morning with a full blown cold. Calling in sick to work made me look really good after posting about our bike trip on social media the night before. I had to skip a planned workout, fully aware that the past two days of riding did not meet specific training needs as prescribed by Coach. After a miserable day, I spent a miserable night on the couch, drugged up on NyQuil, sleeping upright so I can breathe. I managed a super light workout the following day, and forced myself to go to work the following afternoon, where I continued to be miserable, so I went home two hours early, without calling the boss first. Oops. I spent another night on the couch. After getting an earful about leaving early the following shift, I managed to piss the boss off again by not being good at following directions, and was punished with two days straight of cleaning heavy equipment. Other than being on the boss’s shit list, as well as my one coworker’s, since he had to clean equipment with me, I had a pretty good day. I chatted with other coworkers who were ending their shift, I put on my podcast, and I got into a sort of Karate Kid groove, pretending this was good training for something. Wax on, wax off.
At the 4,398th Wax Off, I felt my back go out. I barely got through the rest of the shift, crawled into bed, and woke up with a back that would let me walk upright sort of, lay flat on the floor, and not much else. I stretched, I attempted a spin on the trainer, failed, and gingerly managed my way through another shift of cleaning equipment. Now is a good time to mention that we are heading out towards Austin, Texas tomorrow, for the 60 mile Austin Rattler MTB race on the 13th. We will be racing our new singlespeeds. I have ridden mine exactly four times. The race is four days away from the time of this writing. I missed two more days of work because of my back, the same two days I was earlier begging my boss to let me work so that I wouldn’t have to use as many vacation days for this trip. I went to physical therapy yesterday, because Coach made me. The diagnosis was cautiously optimistic, a slight disc bulge that with proper rest and stretching, should subside and allow me to attempt the race. I also asked my PT to write me a note to excuse me from work, in the event the boss doesn’t believe that I am actually hurt because the boss’s wife walks by me at Wal-Mart as Lee is trying out all the folding chairs in the aisle the day before I’m supposed to leave for a bike race. True story.
On top of getting sick and being a little injured, there is a lot stacked up against both of us for this race. Lee feels under-trained. We do not have enough time and miles on the race bikes to trust them to run smoothly. We will be dodging sketchy weather to get there. I missed quite a few crucial workouts that could have had me running more optimally come Saturday. The venue is new, the course is new, and by all secondhand accounts so far, it is rough. I’m also going to miss my cat for five solid days, and I am dreading that. This race may not be my best choice, especially if you are someone who subscribes to facts, but I honestly just want to see where this goes. Can I work hard and enjoy myself regardless of setbacks? Can I handle the mileage and time on the bike that may be double anything I have done since September? Can I make the most of whatever situation I will find myself in? And will I still have a job when I get back?
Stay tuned for the race report.