08 November 2010

And Now, Without Further Ado...

Before delving into my own personal sufferfest, I want to extend high fives to other people in this long weekend of sufferfests. Here's a vague high five to everyone who raced that marathon in New York or wherever, and to everyone who did the Iceman, which looks super stupid, and to all the loud and encouraging spectators who swarmed the Shut-In. A very specific couple of high fives to Jenna and Lydia for being wonderful volunteers on the deserted, snowy Parkway. And a whole round of "up highs" for all my friends who crushed the Swank. The KOP proved that he will probably get faster every freaking year until he is eighty, Geoff B got fourth with a broken rib, and Derek finished strong on three different bikes, which tickles me to no end.

Confidence, which is supposed to have all kinds of miracle uses and magical results, has never really done good things for me in competition. Whether it be soccer games, XC meets, or bike races, I perform best when I've achieved a subtle blend of grumpiness, pessimism, apathy, and disgruntlement. I approached the Shut-In feeling prepared, eager, and confident of success, and just like those malignant clouds over the mountains, I should've known this peppy optimism did not bode well.

Dear Julia: Fear me. Love, the Parkway

No, I can't really blame the awfulness of the experience to some abstract concept like a good attitude. Contributing factors included: the cold; the cramping; the coldness of my calves; the coldness of my water; the coldness of a single GU lodged in my gut, which kept me from eating anything else the whole run.

All right, no more excuses. The Shut-In was very hard, very painful, somewhat rewarding, and veryveryvery beautiful. Even as I zombie-staggered up the brutal final two miles, sobbing from oxygen debt and hating the panting progress of other runners as they passed me, I couldn't help but notice the sun piercing the snow clouds, and the glitter of the frost-laced puffs of weeds lining the path. If I had to die the dramatic, absurd death I was envisioning for myself, at least I would be in heaven on earth.

Oh, and to everyone who said, "Beat Baker Bill,": not even close. He had a great race and beat me by ten minutes. Despite falling apart, I did meet my target of a sub-4 hour finish (which I realize now was not an especially lofty goal).

A less than rosy experience after the finish did not help matters, but eventually we escaped the sub-freezing windy venue and returned to real life in the valley below. It's kind of hard to walk now, but safely ensconced in my warm bed, I am (as usual) forgetting that promise I made to myself during the last ten miles: "Never again, never again, never again."

Maybe again.

The view from the top (images courtesy of Ian Hilley)

04 November 2010

Four Weeks in 500 Words or Less

i'm settling into life post-college quite nicely. apparently all i ever wanted was an ambition-free, responsibility-free existence. it's possible this pleasant floating sensation won't last, but for the time being i'll enjoy my leisurely breakfasts, relaxed work schedule, and the occasional late night out.

the shut-in is in two days. perhaps after this weekend i'll give that a more in-depth treatment, but i've shirked a couple of race reports now, so:

at the tree shaker 12 hour sycamore cycles had a mighty showing, taking first and second in the three-dude team category. kwood, derek and i had to battle to the final hour for that podium spot, but in the end we got it. third place was well aware that they had been chicked.

some bakery patrons are still congratulating me for the collegiate team's showing at tahoe, and i have to gently remind them that although i WISH i had been there, i was slinging pastries while the kids racked up the stripey jerseys. i am super proud of them, especially captain america and tina.

i joined a posse of brevardians in boone this weekend for halloween festivities, downhill races, and some cross. i registered for the cross race to spite myself and i never stopped complaining, from the time i woke up until i pinned on my numbers. (two of them! ugh! nccx, it's like you HATE me!) by around thirty minutes in, when i remembered how to ride a bike and decided i was comfortable with my eighth place position, i started enjoying myself (sort of). it sure didn't compare to last year's second place, but it was the most encouraging crappy finish i've ever had.

and now those familiar symptoms, in remission for two years, are quietly regaining strength. hill repeats? carbon forks? series points? UGH! cross fever is like malaria...once you've caught it, all the quinine you take can't hold it at bay.

baker bill informed me that his sole purpose during the race was to make the course markings his bitch.