In the month since I last wrote, I observed the one-year anniversary of the injury that threw such a wrench into my athletic career. On March 14, 2009, I was racing in a rainy criterium when the man in front of me slipped in a corner. I tried to avoid him, but I could not avoid him and negotiate the turn at the same time. As a result, I went off the road and into a tree. I broke my bike in half, I broke my collarbone, and I shattered my scapula into eight pieces. Five days later, I had surgery, and I spent four days in the hospital. I missed a month of work, and I went to physical therapy for about fifteen weeks. Today, I have three pieces of titanium in my shoulder, and I have two pretty sweet scars.
Following this, I had to spend a lot of time thinking about whether I wanted to get on a bike again. Actually, that's not quite true. Rather, I knew that I wanted to ride again, but had to spend a lot of time thinking about what sort of rider I wanted to be. Bike racing felt out of the question; no competition was worth the pain and stress that I put myself and my family through. At the same time, though, simply riding was also out of the question. I enjoy having competitive goals and doing the hard, focused training that having specific competitive goals requires. Since I used to be a runner, my first thought was to become a triathlete, but this lost a lot of its luster when my wife tried (quite unsuccessfully) to teach me to swim. Then, I decided to pursue ultra-cycling. This blog is a testament to my earnest attempt to train for ultra races and my ultimate realization that the training is not for me.
Finally, now, I have decided that indeed I will race again, but not with the abandon that I did before. That is, my goal is to do well in a handful of carefully selected races and challenging rides over the next several months. I won't race just to race, gather points, and get upgraded, which is the approach that inspired me to go ahead and do a sketchy, dangerous race that I had no chance of winning last March. Turning my focus to shorter, faster races has required me to begin doing workouts on the trainer to build my strength and power. (In the winter, these workouts were taken off my schedule and replaced by longer rides.) I've also been doing hill repeats and climbing a great deal. The training is going well. Couple the warmer weather with my renewed enjoyment of the training I'm doing, and I'm a new rider.
So far, I've competed in three events. I've done two time trials, where I finished around the middle of the pack. I was happy with each effort, even though I was frustrated not to finish higher. (I attribute that in part to lack of TT specific gear.) I also did a 200km brevet last weekend that went well. I was the first finisher, and I rode about the same time I did for the brevet in February (even though the course was much hillier and about six miles longer). Overall, I'd say that I'm coming along well. This weekend, I have a mountainous ride, but I actually have no events scheduled. This will be the last "event-free" weekend for the next few months. Between now and July, I have races or rides scheduled for nearly every weekend. Next weekend, it's a time trial and a road race with a hilltop finish. I'd like to do well in the TT, and I'd like to win the road race. Given my increased fitness of late, my propensity for climbing, and the fact that I've dropped about twelve pounds since starting work with a nutritionist in February, I think that that is a legitimate goal. On subsequent weekends, I'm doing Issaqueena's Last Ride in South Carolina (a very hilly century), the Cheaha Challenge Century in Alabama (that goes to the top of the highest mountain in the state), the vaunted Three State Three Mountain Challenge Century, and the Brasstown Bald Buster Century (which finishes at the highest point in Georgia). On the weekend between Three State Three Mountain and Brasstown Bald, I'll probably toss in another century, but I haven't decided which one yet. I am excited about each of these events.
All in all, I'm enjoying myself, and I feel as if my quest for the most pleasant exhaustion has taken a new form. To be honest, though, I'm not certain that I am on track just now to find it. While I will continue to work hard and take myself to the limit, I don't know that I'll experience the sort of physical drain that I had been anticipating when I decided to undertake ultra-cycling (and undertake this blog). It begs to question if that is really what I seek, or if it is, if I really have what it takes to get there.