Let the racing begin!

Let the racing begin!
A feeling of relief after my first ever crit- 11th place out of 26 girls.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Learning to race while learning to live with MS

The hopes of being this all star cyclist are slowly diminishing with each crash I have. I expected that racing would be a challenge, but I was also expecting to have the god given talent of kicking some butt. It seems that the only butt I have been kicking is my own…

Tour of Champaign-Urbana was another learning curve, but over all a great time. Went to the race with my good friends and coach Mark and Isaac. The weekend was filled with good times and good laughs and a little harassing on their end. We all raced, some did better then others. I’ll let you guess who was who: Cyclist “A” finished the race and came in 6th over all, cyclist “B” was a great teacher and showed what not to do in a race by trying to catch a breakaway in the first 5 minutes and cyclist “C” crashed for the second time in 5 races. You guessed it- I was cyclist C….

Nervous as usual before the race, I tried snapping out of it and strategizing on what I was going to focus on for the race. I was trying to think of the one thing I wanted to improve on from my last race at Monsters of the Midway. I decided that I needed to work on my sprint to the finish. During the Monsters of the Midway race, I stayed with the lead pack the entire race but fell back a couple spots on the last turn and sprint to the finish. Still ended up 14th out of 41 girls over all (even with some Cat 3’s in there). I knew if I had sprinted to the finish I could have definitely broke into top 10 and gotten close to top 5. Tour de C-U was my chance to see what I could do.

The Race
There were 16 girls in the Cat ¾ race some of which I recognized from previous races. I think it was 10 out of the 16 girls were Cat 3 leaving just 6 of us Cat 4 girls to get schooled by these beasts. The official got us to the line and we were off. The race started FAST. We hit it hard getting up to 27 MPH within the second turn. I was doing well, holding my own and remembering to stay in the front of the pack. The first two corners were good, I was feeling strong. The third turn was decent but I dropped back a spot or two. Then came the dreaded 180 degree turn. Booking it at 26mph to the turn, the girls quickly began hitting their breaks anticipating the 180 degrees of fun. Once cornering it was a quick sprint to catch up to the lead pack. This was hard- going from 26mph down to 16 mph then back up to 26mph within 5 seconds 15 to 18 times was ROUGH! I quickly became tired from this turn and by the 5th time around I was falling to the back of the pack.

Letting MS Win
It was at this time I started having a little bit of a mental road block. It was a gorgeous day out,

hitting in the mid 80’s, but with the sun beating down on us and the quick race and sprints making me hit new max HR’s I became worried. All I could think of was that my MS was going to flair up. Over heating was not a favorable thing to do for someone living with MS.
Everyone’s MS is different and different things make people flair up, this I fully know and understand, but sometimes I think that being around people who live with the disease too much is letting things get to my head. Everyone ALWAYS asks me if the heat bothers me. When I say no, they are relatively surprised by this. For them, the heat makes them tiered, weak and unable to go on with their normal day to day routines. Over heating has caused them to flair up and even sometimes go to the hospital. All these thoughts and more were rushing through my head as I started to get tiered and what I thought, began to over heat. It was at that point, I gave up, I let the lead pack go and fell off the back. I gave into the disease….

Fight to the Finish
Angry at myself for not pushing harder I spun a little to give my legs a bit of a rest and to get my HR down. I kept going, thinking that maybe I could catch up to the lead pack and make a miracle happen… ya- wishful thinking. I felt bad, like I let Mark and Isaac down as I passed them along the route cheering me on. They kept yelling at me to push forward, to catch some of the other girls who had also fallen off the pack ahead. I figured, what the hell, at least I could try that.
With 5 laps to go, I put it into high gear. I put my head down and tried hammering it out the best I could. I finally caught up to one girl who had fallen off the pack and told her “lets work together”. Her and I worked through another lap and caught up to another girl who had fallen off the pack. The three of us worked the best we could, trying to catch up to the lead pack with 2 laps to go… uh huh, not going to happen. I just started focusing on kicking those two girl’s butts to the finish line.
Last lap and the three of us stepped it up. As we began approaching the final 180 degree turn and I started focusing on my main intention for the race, the sprint to the finish. As I went into the turn I took it hard and sharp. I wanted to get as far ahead of the girls through the turn as possible because I figured they had more in their legs then I did since I pulled them for the last half of the lap. As I took the turn I began pedaling through to get the momentum started, and as my left leg made the stroke through it hit the pavement and popped the bike out for underneath me and down I went… Crash #2 of my racing career!
As I slid towards the curb I watched the other girls fly by me and sprint to the finish. “There goes all the hard work I put into the race,” I thought to myself. I quickly got up, shook it off and jumped back on my bike. I wanted to finish the race no matter what. I had my sprint, just by myself, but crossed the finish line with my head held high. Even though I had given into the disease, I fought through it in the end to bridge the gap to some of the other girls. And even though I had fallen, I got back up and finished the race coming in 12th out 16. All and all, I raced and I learned.

The Learning Curve
I got this tattoo back in January to motivate me, to make me fight harder, be stronger and to inspire not only myself but others around me. I didn’t want it to be a reminder that I am living with the disease, but a reminder to fight it and push through the barriers that it puts up against me. Right now, the tattoo is representing just the opposite. As the change of weather approaches I have noticed flair ups here and there from blurry vision, fatigue and even a little bit of what I used to make fun of my mom for (calling it her “tap-a-tap-a foot” for those Simpson fans), drop foot. I keep forgetting that I have only been diagnosed with this disease for less then a year.

There is still so much for me to learn regarding my limitations, what does and doesn’t make it flair up, and how much I can push myself. Sometimes I think I am an idiot for trying this whole racing thing out. I feel like I’m trying to pretend that I don’t have this disease, that it isn’t going to impact me and my life as much as I have seen it do to my dearest friends and family. But in all reality it is going to impact my life. There are going to be those times that I can’t do something I wanted to do because of my MS, but there are going to be times that I DID do something despite having MS. It’s all a learning curve for me right now. Learning how to race and learning how to live with a disease that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. MS might have gotten me at the Tour de C-U, but all I have to say is watch out. I’m not letting it get me again….. Suck it MS!

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