optimism is an endurance sport

UNION PACIFIC WEST LINE // CHICAGO-BOUND — Two weekends ago, I got my ass kicked in a spectacularly embarrassing fashion. I had two criteriums (a kind of bike race), and I was severely underprepared for them, hence the ass-kicking.

Of course I did poorly. March was a bit of a disaster for me, and even though I knew I had to turn things around, nothing sent that message quite like getting dropped in the first lap of a 50-minute race, riding alone nearly the entire time and finishing second-to-last.

I’m better than that.

That is, I’m better than that when I stick to a good routine, which have never been great at. When I get derailed, I really fly off the tracks, bounce around like a hunk of banged-up metal and sink into the ground a bit, once I’ve skidded to a halt.

This particular train wreck started in the first week of March. It was busy. I was out of town. I drank too much coffee, didn’t sleep enough, slept through alarms and didn’t do four days of scheduled workouts.

I’ll get it back together, I told myself at the end of that rough week. I sort of did, and I ran a half marathon three weeks after that mess at the start of March.

It went pretty well — even though I wasn’t trying to break my personal record, I came close and missed it by just four seconds. I felt strong (I went with some Hammer Nutrition Heed before the start and had a tropical-flavored Hammer Gel at mile 7), which is a serious improvement over how I felt when I set my PR in November. The point of the weekend was to have fun with my friends, so it was good all around.

make friends with strangers who have selfie sticks, and you will find happiness.
make friends with strangers who have selfie sticks, and you will find happiness.

That is, it was until I got to recovering from that race. Or not recovering. The recovering thing didn’t really happen. I worked a lot, ate a lot and sat around a lot, rather than going through an active recovery like I knew I should.

Another week of mediocre workouts went by, which brings us to the embarrassing crits. The first one (women’s category 4) was OK — I finished middle of the pack, even though I should have been able to do better — but in the women’s open, I got destroyed. It was to be expected, because the field included some of the best cyclists in Chicago, but I should have been able to hang on for more than a lap, or even a single lap, which I did not.

I’ll keep going until they pull me out, I told myself, as I faced turn after turn of a windy course, all by myself. Well, the officials never pulled me out, even as the field lapped me four times. I spent 50 minutes riding alone, trying to soak up the encouraging cheers of the crowd, even though I felt a little pathetic.

so lonely. »credit: Jayloo, photography by Jason L. Ward«
so lonely. »»credit: Jayloo, photography by Jason L. Ward««

Actually, I slowed down to spend about 10 minutes with Kate, the other woman who had been dropped. Kate and I chatted, enjoyed the somewhat-pleasant weather, and talked about how much we love riding bikes. It made the defeat a bit more bearable. Thanks, Kate.

Last week, I got back into a good rhythm. I raced my bike Saturday (still didn’t go well, but that’s another story), and I’m happy with the consistency I’ve been able to maintain in this week’s workouts. If I’ve learned anything as an endurance athlete, it’s that I have to be flexible and optimistic, because as frustrating as the bad weeks are, as depressing as it is to fall behind, it’s possible to continue moving forward and make progress toward your goals. My first triathlon is in about a month — we’ll see how the goal-reaching goes.

{image: post-race cheesin’ with some friends from all over. dallas (aka tacos) treated us so very well.}

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