The days leading up to Sunday’s race were not what I would call filled with good omens. First, there was the second degree sunburn I foolishly allowed myself to suffer on Wednesday’s ride-through of the 90 mile route. Actually, those burns were largely a result of the cottage cheese I foolishly ingested on Tuesday night, which left me in the bathroom and sick in bed long after my 5am start time. By the time I rolled out of the house at quarter past nine, I wasn’t in the mood for stopping to find sun screen. But cloud cover was heavy, so I blew it off. By 9:45, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and wouldn’t be until I arrived at the finish six hours later. Note to self, **SLAP!**
Three weeks ago, I had barely ridden a bike all summer. Only twice had I broken ten miles. But a recent 20 holes of golf in which a ran most of the course had gotten me to thinking that my health had somewhat improved. All earlier attempts to ride had left me feeling half dead, not sensing any ability to recover. So, I now wondered to myself whether I should find out once and for all if I indeed were better. And, also, I sensed a small window to do what had become a ritual for me, to ride my bike around the lake, a mere 75 miles. Of course, I don’t have a rode bike that works and have to ride my modified mountain bike, so it takes longer.
Tuesday, August 4, I was up early, had the bike loaded and hit the road at 5:50. Due to switching winds, the first 60 miles were slightly wind-abetted. After I finally got the wind behind me, I frolicked around taking pictures and such and coasted home in 6 1/2 hours. I had done it, so now to focus on work.
By Saturday, August 8, the work schedule was still full of holes. Finding myself with the afternoon free, I decided to try it again, this time more seriously. Based on what I’ve come to learn about muscle recovery, it was the fourth day, so I should be ready. 5 hours and 15 minutes later I was successful again.
Thoughts turned toward the “Race the Lake”, a 90 mile race held every year. Turns out if was coming up the next Sunday. I’d ridden 75 miles twice in a week, but had never ridden my mountain bike 90 miles in one sitting. Could I do it? Should I? I decided that, based on four days’ rest, I should try the course out. As yes another work hole opened up on Wednesday, perfect timing.
While I felt good again on Wednesday, the aforementioned mistakes had me feeling pretty miserable for the rest of the week. Sleep was hard to get, as any little movement caused burn pain. Also, there was the fact that work days were going into late hours. Even Saturday, a rest day, involved too much running around, such that I finally collapsed at 10pm and hope I could get a few hours of sleep.
By the time the 3am alarm sounded, I was just falling asleep. I got up and contemplated punting the whole idea, instead of diving into the pre-race itinerary. Suddenly, I’m half-way through breakfast and realize that it’s already 4:15, I’m half an hour drive from the race start, and I haven’t even packed the car yet. So now the real race begins. Managing to pull a rabbit out of the hat, I arrived at the parking lot a 5:05am. Race is at 5:30. Cutting it close but OK.
So, I jump out of the car and they start my division of the race! Oops, they told me the wrong start time at registration. So I slap my bike together and go off by myself, 15 minutes late. Like and idiot, I try to catch the guys in my division. Not a smart move on a 45-pound mountain bike with no pack for sharing the wind break. By mile 22, the elite rode bikes, who started after me by 25 minutes, go rolling by. I try to catch a draft but am already too spent. By mile 36, I realize that I am gassed and think of pulling out. At mile 45 comes the first big climb and I need to get off and walk. Also, we have now turned into the wind. Several gatoraides and some welcome downhills later, I’m sitting at mile 65, still gassed, but thinking I can do this. Four hours have elapsed, and I’m thinking there are only about two to go, so just keep turning the pedals. Two more excruciating hours bring me to the finish line.
Now it is Friday post-race. The sunburn is almost healed, now. The last two nights finally brought sleep, but I’m still feeling fatigued. Now the questions for analysis.
- Should I go back into bike racing? NO! My time of six hours wasn’t bad, considering the bike I rode and the messed up situation that saw me solo the whole race. But, the winners all posted a time around 3:23. When I was 25, maybe I could have competed with that. But I remember being on the bike 15 hours a week. I remember how hard it was to stay awake at my desk during my day job. I remember not having a life. And I remember still getting beat by the younger guys who didn’t have a day job, which meant more rest and more hours of training. My hobby was their job.
- How am I doing at 55? After a year of really questionable health, I thought I was never going to feel like a younger man again. I’m happy to find that that is not the case. No, I didn’t recover very well this week. But, I do notice a difference. My knees stopped complaining. My heart rate is back under 60. Even my fingers stopped feeling arthritic. Other issues are still nagging me. But, I think some of that is from the stress of 330 miles on a mountain bike in 13 days. As biking makes me want to eat everything, I got a little lax on watching what I eat and ate things I know don’t sit right with me, like dairy (Hello! Cottage cheese? What were you thinking!) I will have to see if things start improving again when I get off the junk food.
- Will I be back next year? It’s a long way and God only knows what comes in between. But, I feel like my old self again for the first time since February of 2014. I lost my sister that month, which couldn’t have helped my health much. But it was pretty bad before then. And depression from a failed business venture couldn’t have helped either. But, I’ve read so much about how the body needs oxygen to be healthy. I’ve learned so much about eating right and have done a much better job at it. And I think it helped. But I always had the sneaking suspicion that conquering the lake was going to help me conquer my health. I think I was right.
Going for a little ride tomorrow. Around the lake. Anyone want to join me?