Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Nationals and an answer...

So I have to start this story by going back about 6 weeks ago.
As part of my Nationals preparation of long rides and hill repeats, I was due to do some short criteriums. So for the first time in a few months, I turned up to Murrarie for a quick 40 min race. Easy, I thought. After building up the k's, I have been doing lots more E3b and E4 stuff in the last few weeks, and my legs are feeling good... a race should be fun...
that's how it should have been, but I only lasted half the race. Sure I put in quite a few efforts and got my heart rate appropriately high, but after only 20 mins I found myself struggling for breath, felt like I was drowning, with just no power in the legs, and not even able to hang onto the last rider's wheel.
Oh well, I thought. More intensity to come in the program in the next few weeks, and I am sure I will be able to race well again...

Unfortunately this pattern was about to repeat itself.
Many times over.
It was frustrating. The training seemed to be going well, and I continued to push myself, and got the required hill repeats and distance on the bike in each week. But it seemed as though any time I was above my AT for any slightly longer period of time, I would quickly get that 'drowning' feeling again and just have no 'power' to go on. I distinctly remember jumping onto the back of a motorpacing group one Wednesday morning out to Dayboro, and lasting only 5 mins before being "popped"... again I couldn't even hang into the back of the last rider, and was so out of breath it was like I was suffocating and it took me almost half an hour to get my legs back.
It is silly how you can convince yourself of stuff...

I really started to believe I just wasn't fit enough. That somehow after putting in all these hours of training, I might just not 'have it' to be racing. Maybe I needed more kilometers each week? Maybe I needed even more intensity? Maybe I just wasn't ever going to be ready for Nationals?

My coach was confused, my boyfriend was confused, my work colleagues were confused... they could all see me put in all the hours of training each week to come up with such disappointing results.
I put my head down and continued the training program...

But it happened again. New year's day criterium. 4 laps in... after only 10 minutes of racing or so... "POP". Legs felt great for the previous few laps, everything going well, and then just as I needed to recruit some more 'power', I had absolutely nothing.
Now what?
The answer came with some quiet calming words from Shayne and Pip... "Go get a blood test".

I am not one for excuses. It didn't really enter my head that there might be a 'reason' for my non-performance. If I can't race well, I thought it was because I wasn't training 'correctly'... or that I just wasn't the cyclist that I thought I could be. It was getting to the embarrasing stage now... doing all this training week after week and not even being able to finish a short criterium.
So I took the advice and scheduled a blood test. Results would be due in a week or so.

The next question... if I can't even finish a criterium, what on earth am I doing going to a Nationals road race in less than a week's time?
Flights, accomodation, car hire were already booked and paid for. Why cancel it now? At least my expectations for the race were now fairly low, and tried to see the trip as a bit of an 'adventure'. I secretly still wanted to see if I could finish the race after all...

True to my current form though, I lasted only 11km out of 102. The first lap was easy. The bunch politely tapped it up the long climb and made me feel like I could maybe last at least half the race... even in the stifling Victorian heat... and then the second lap came.
I was positioned well in the first 3rd of the group, and saw several of the top riders get out of their saddles to start increasing the tempo. Let's get this going I thought. But I had nothing. No legs. No power. As the bunch increased the tempo and I slid backwards, I lost all willingness to continue on. I pulled out.

It was actually a terrific race to watch as a spectator... to see girls like Judith Arndt and Ruth Corset battle it out in the heat was great. But I was also preoccupied by my own 'problems'. Why couldn't I race anymore? Maybe the blood tests would show something?
And the scarier possibility...
What if the blood tests came back as all normal? There is nothing wrong with you...
Would I give up trying to race altogether?

It probably wasn't the best idea for me to go for a ride, to spin the legs and 'clear the head' that same afternoon. I was too worried about stuff and not thinking about the road that I was riding on. Seconds later I was on the ground, with some of the worst gravel rash I have ever had to the whole right side of my body, and with some new scars to add to my beautiful bike too.
Why on earth am I even riding a bike?

So after an unpleasant evening of wound cleaning, and while taking about a million pain-relief tablets, we watched the men's road race in the heat on Sunday, drove back to Melbourne and only just managed to catch the flight home to Brisbane.

Skipping to the end of the story...
While I visited my doctor on Monday for some advice on bandage changes, and to get another few scripts for things like oxycodone (great stuff by the way), he gave me the blood test results.
I have never been so happy to hear that there is something wrong with me.
"Iron deficiency".
It may take a few months to get the levels back to where they should be, but then I will finally be able to have some fun when racing again.
Thank goodness.
I was almost going crazy there for a bit.


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