Seeing as I don’t currently (and hope to never) have a real office, my body is pretty much my workplace. I found this on my desk this morning:
Body Of Lydia
MEMO Windham, NY
14 August, 2009
We have had enough of this bike racing nonsense. Normal duty will be terminated unless our ice cream wages see a significant increase before 8/14/09. And for god’s sake, shave us more often!
I wish I’d seen it sooner- racing in Windham really did feel like my legs had rallied a strike.
I’ll back up a bit first though. The week leading up to the race was relaxing, if not ideal training. Like I mentioned in my last post, we were holed up in the backwoods of Vermont, a half-hour drive from the nearest store or any consistent cell service. It was excellent. I ate breakfast on the porch every morning, eventually went on a leisurely ride with whoever was interested, and then usually had a nice nap before cooking dinner and reading a bit before bed. We were surrounded on all sides by green forest, and the winding dirt roads gave plenty of opportunities for challenging riding- if only I’d had any desire to take advantage of them.
The whole week I struggled with being what Ann calls “oxygen drunk”. Because I live at altitude and am perpetually starved of oxygen, the air down low can have some funny effects. At first when I step off the plane I usually feel like I’m being smothered by a pillow. After the panic subsides, I can usually pull off a good race (vermont) because my muscles are all psyched about the abundance of oxygen. It’s at about day three or four that someone really needs to cut them off, because they’re making fools of themselves. Oxygen drunkenness, while not really capable of causing you to run your car into a tree, is nonetheless debilitating. For me symptoms include (but are not limited to) excessive lounging, tendency to fall asleep after breakfast, tendency to fall asleep after riding, and lack of interest in activities that require a heartrate of more than 130 bpm. My body was the sloppy one at the party who keeps finding more supplies, long after their friends have cut them off. It felt great to be getting tons of sleep, but I was arguably not much of a fighting machine come race day.
Unfortunately, like i said, my brain didn’t get the memo, and I was psyched about the course during my preride. Aside from the trail itself, Windham is known for the whimsical touches they put on their course, from naming sections of trail (“G-spot”, anyone?) to setting up all sorts of gnomes and stuff in the trees. I mean, even when you’re having a bad day like the one I ended up having, you can’t help but crack a smile at a christmas lawn ornament wearing kenda tape tied ninja-style around it’s head. It’s just got good vibes, that place.
And I needed all the good vibes I could get. From lap one it became clear that I was totally shelled. It didn’t help matters that I had a bunch of bizarre crashes within the first twenty minutes- everything from running into trees to pitching it over the bars. At one point I actually got stuck upside down in my pedals, and ended up thrashing around like a turtle for many valuable minutes while the more competent riders (everyone else) flew by me. It was a disconcerting start to my day, and I never really got my mojo back. By the middle of lap two I knew I was going to get lapped, and with the 80% rule in effect, it was only a matter of when (not if) they would put me out of my misery. They let me suffer for one more go-round, and then it was over. An inglorious, somewhat embarassing end to the season, and I was left wondering where my will to live had gotten off to.
With lots of time to stew with myself while the rest of the field finished, I was able to take a good long look at my season. The first thing I realized is that I’ve been a lot of places with my bike. In fact, with the exception of Germany, I havent spent more than two weeks in one place since the first trip to Moab in March. This means I’ve seen a lot of strange beds, couches, and floors, a lot of cool scenery, and a lot of stir fry. I’ve had good races, I’ve had bad races, I’ve had races I couldn’t even start (food poisoning, dislocated shoulder) but the point is that there have been a lot of them. Coming out of this season, like every season, I’m a different person and a different racer than I was going in.
So even though i didn’t get a glorious end to the year, I’m content to just set my sights on the next one and keep pedalling. On my last day in Winham I went on a quiet, slow, and gorgeous ride through the countryside. The road rolled gently, and everything around me looked totally vibrant and full of life. I tried to do a little interval but my legs made it clear they were having none of that, so I just settled in to enjoy the ride. I’m excited to do more of that this fall.
The rest of the trip was fairly mellow, with that sort of embarassed sentimental vibe that comes when you realize that there are quite a few bike people you’re not going to see for a few months. We carelessly gather friends and acquaintances throughout the season, always parting with a “see you at the next race!” After which we go off and train for the week, anticipating the shenanigans and comraderie of the next event. At the last race we still say pretty much the same thing, but it’s got a little more weight to it, because the scale is bigger. Instead of a week, we’ll all go off and do what we do for months of fall and winter. What stays the same is that we’re all still just jonesing for the shenanigans and comraderie of the next event.
Yes, it’s all quite mushy and lovely, but the real story of Windham is its out-of-control bug population. Seriously. Someone’s gotta do something about it. I believe I’ve got over twenty mosquito (or spider!?) bites, most of them in places that look really impolite to scratch. It’s maddening. And it’s not just mosquitos- we saw a sort of scorpion/wasp concoction on the wall in Ludlow, and on the last night in Windham we were terrorized by a bug the size of my head. I never got a good read on exactly what it was but I know that at one point it was on my leg, and that it was gigantic.
SO. I say good riddance, east coast. You are far too buggy and oxygen-rich for me. I am going to go home where the air is thin, the mountains are big, and the bugs all got killed by that August cold-snap.