What I find myself writing this Monday morning is about 180° from what I had hoped I would be writing.
What I hoped I would be writing:
“I’ve been planning revenge at the Koppenberg Circuit Race for the better part of a year. Last year I was in excellent position in the depleted front group of about 15, marking the moves of the strongest riders. On the third of four laps I ran over what appears to have been, judging by the cross-sectional gash that instantly deflated my brand-new $95 tubular, the blade of a machete.
This year, in good form and having scouted the course on five separate occasions, I survived the early squirreliness, drove the dwindling field over the top of the climb each of the first three laps, dug deep to mark the attacks on the last lap and then sprinted out of the lead group of six for 3rd, or 2nd or…”
But instead of reporting this glorious result, my report is as follows:
“DNS because of illness.”
As I mentioned last week, I woke the morning of Mead up feeling a little rough. That didn’t stop me from a decent performance and although I felt like I had hit by a truck on Monday due to a combination of the affliction and the race, I figured all I would have to do is back off early in the week in order to get healthy again for the big race on Saturday.
Nice idea, but whatever was ailing me got progressively worse as the days went on. I went through the motions of preparing for the race. This included three short rides (took everything I had to get off the couch), prepping all my gear on Friday afternoon and crossing my fingers that maybe if I just took a bunch of Tylenol and sinus meds I might be able to muscle through for a result.
I even went so far as to Google “racing while sick” to see if I could divine some web wisdom that might help see me through. The results of this search revealed two things: 1. It may or may not be a good idea to race while you’re sick and 2. It probably is not a good idea to get medical advice from a mob of amateur athletes on the internet.
By late Friday with no energy, a low-grade fever, a wickedly sore throat and a left tonsil swelling to the size of a golf ball, I pretty much had to accept that Koppenberg would deny me yet again. Disappointing given how much I had prepared for this race, but also because all the guys on the squad had lined up to help me get my revenge result.
So while the first wave of racers tackled the circuit on Saturday morning, I headed to the see the doctor about a mile away. She was impressed by the size of my tonsil and immediately prescribed a course of strong antibiotics, although the exact cause of the illness remains a mystery (Strep tests came back negative). I was slightly amused when when she told me that this particular antibiotic (Clindamycin) works well on infections caused by both aerobic and anaerobic type bacteria.
I was still ambulatory at this point, so after leaving the doctors office I headed over to the course to wish my teammates luck and watch race from a grassy curb near the finish line. They performed well amidst the carnage of the race (two major crashes and a number of race-spoiling hiccups on the climb), with Aaron and Greg putting in their best performances of the season at 7th and 10th.
The rest of Saturday and most of Sunday were pretty rough. I was feverish and laid up on the couch watching a bunch of movies on cable, a stage of the Tour of Romandie and handful of NHL playoff games, the results of I didn’t really care about since my [defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston] Bruins got ignominiously bounced last week.
Anyway, when I started writing this blog I promised myself I would focus on stories and avoid moaning about adversity, roughly defined as any of the numerous physical and psychological setbacks that every endurance athlete has to overcome on a regular basis to keep training and racing. That said, I hate when people talk up some big feat they’re going to tackle and, when it doesn’t work out, they disappear and you never hear what happened.
I missed a big race that I was hoping/primed to do well in and I’ve likely lost some fitness at a critical point in the season. There’s a temptation to become despondent, but It’s taken me most of my adult life to realize that such a reaction is counterproductive. You can’t worry yourself into better fitness, you can only do the training. It’s a long season.
Here’s to turning the corner on this freak illness, regrouping a bit and picking up things at the Deer Trail Road Race this coming weekend. As for Koppenberg, you can expect that I’ll be back next year looking for payback with interest.