I almost died last week.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a great story about how I cheated death while daring a high-speed 2-wheel descent down a mountain pass or a base-jumping accident. Or even better, saving an elderly woman, children, or a litter of puppies from a burning building. Nope, mine happened while doing yard work. Exposure to something caused an anaphylactic reaction while mowing the lawn. This earned me an ambulance trip to the ER. But in every cloud… there is silver, yet I say, platinum lining! I now am free of all yard duties until I can assess the culprit. Yes, in a manner of speaking you might say I am allergic to yard work! Which in itself made this the best week of my life!
Actually, I don’t know how close to death I really was, but I needed an attention grabber for the blog. I will say that seeing my face and hands swell up before my eyes, having my breathing, blood pressure, and vision shut down, while my body was fully covered in hives and uncontrollable muscle spasms is not an encouraging way to taper off my training week for my big race event. But due to some fast thinking neighbors, great EMT support and some quick-moving ER techs I was fortunate enough to be cracking a smile and some bad jokes just a few hours later- or at least until the medical bills show up.
What I am thankful about now is not that I did not actually end up in a worse condition, but rather that I was able to race in my one year post-surgery race goal! All I could think about while sitting in the ER being hooked up to the monitors was, “I hope I can race this week! That and I wonder if that 46 on the monitor is actually my resting heart rate!!!” A couple days later, I was back to feeling like myself and ready to race.
Unfortunately, I was not able to embellish this post with an amazing story of amateur, over-weight, and middle-aged return to glory. Nope, my race ended about 10 seconds into the start. My “dead” left leg failed to respond to my efforts and as I struggled to click in to my pedal I watched the field and my team ride away. As I had mentioned in past posts, still have some sensitivity issues with hands and feet. It may have been the long pre-race wait or the all-too short ineffective warm up. Either way it was head-dropping as I really had some higher expectations for this race. I had been feeling really good but it was a great lesson in pre-race focus, routine, and preparation.
Once, I finally managed to clip in and hit crank it up to full stroke, the majority of the group was leaving me behind. I tried in vain to catch up picking past riders but this was one of the fastest starts I had ever experienced. I was chasing through traffic for 2 laps. When an accident in front of us split the field, any and all remaining hope to catch the main field was lost.
A few days earlier I was in a dark place. Today I was once again I found myself in a hole. I did all I could to turn the race into a positive. I felt like I had let down my team and those who came to watch me race. I tried to stay motivated and raced till the end- and kept going with a group of about 7 riders. In my mind my goal was to keep a strong pace and try not to get lapped.
On the second to last lap apparently my plan fell short once again as the lead lone rider (apparently a bad-ass retired Navy Seal) who had dropped and distanced the rest of the field caught us. Down to the last lap our group sprinted for the line. As we set up I had little left, and what little I had was mostly apathy. Actually, I could have sprinted harder but I had no passion for it. Frustrated, and angry with myself, I rolled across the line in complete disgust.
Ironically, enough the rest of the day turned out to be a fantastic day. Family, friends, teammates and ton of racing was enough to remind and re-channel my focus towards what I enjoy about all this. It’s about the full race experience. The energy, speed, positivity, camaraderie, motivation and all things coming together to motivate and challenge ourselves as we take ourselves way outside our comfort zone. In addition it was one of the nicest courses I had raced on. New black top, a sinewy winding route with an exciting chicane to challenge our bike handling, leading into a few long straights and an uphill finish. I actually looked forward to the pain each and every lap!
As I arrive at my one year anniversary, I remind myself that the race was a benchmark that motivated me to get back on the bike and strive for recovery. Set for re-strengthening my body, getting my muscles, and nerves to begin working together again. To get me back to living effectively day-to-day. Being able to race is really the reward from the effort and work I have put in to date.
Knowing I have so much further to go to meet goals is what keeps me driving onward. Consequently, it now makes me want to strive harder for a few more upcoming events, and adjust my pre-race preparation, routine and technique. But for I now plan on taking a few days off the bike, for some family time and a mini vacation. I will most likely eat some ice cream, and maybe even a doughnut or two. And while reflecting will realize that in this case, it’s not just about how I finished, as difficult and disgustingly heavy to swallow as it that may be, but that I was even able to start at all.