A Sudden Stop

1 Dec

I should have been wolfing down some oatmeal and mixing up bottles of Cytomax.

I should have been putting the bike on top of the car.

I should have been debating which base layer to wear under my skinsuit and whether the thawing mud meant I should run a different tire pressure.

Instead, I was watching my kid play with his new-enough-that-he’d-only-broken-one-of-them birthday toys and trying to find an internet feed of the World Cup CX race going on in Belgium.

I got sick a couple of years ago, wound up in the hospital for a time.  In part, it was because I raced when I should have rested.  The docs were firm on the risk of recurrence, that in the future even the slightest cold means laying off the bike almost completely.  So when I went to bed Friday night with tender sinuses and a scratchy throat, I desperately hoped it was the drier New England air and the woodsmoke from the fireplace and that I’d wake up ready to go.  It wasn’t, and I didn’t.  Sick?  No racey.

So there I was at my mother-in-law’s kitchen table, listening to the commentators on Sporza and watching the pros trudge through the sand dunes with bikes on their shoulders.

There’s a human fragility in us that most of us — especially bike racers — try to ignore, to ride through.  Otherwise, a bad crash renders you unable to sit in the middle of the pack or stay off the brakes through that slippery off-camber.  The weeks, months after my hospital stay were full of that fragility.  It lasted into the spring, when my teammates were adding intervals and hill repeats.  I felt funny on the bike, didn’t know if I really had a green light to push it.  Every twinge, every ache — the everyday sensations that come with impending middle age — they were like  a door creaking in another room when you thought the house was empty.  Just the wind, or something more sinister?  Is it back?  I was, bluntly, scared.

This cold last weekend decided to play with my head the same way.  Fever, chills, aches.  Just the cold?  Normal stuff?  Or did those openers on Friday do me in?  Is it back?

It’s not back.  It’s just a cold.  (One that is particularly vindictive, as I have been voiceless for about 36 hours now.)  But it stopped me in my tracks, and with that, cyclocross season is over for me.

The problem with never wanting to admit that a race is your last race of the season is that when it actually becomes your last race of the season, you haven’t prepared yourself for that fact.  So, unlike FatMarc, I haven’t managed to put the race wheels away yet.

Maybe next weekend.

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