Thursday, April 05, 2007

Thug Mama Cyclist Meets the Yodeling Mountain Goat

Have you seen that movie Hoodwinked? Well, if you're not a parent, probably not. It's actually pretty damned cute for a kid's movie, but the part that seems relevant today is a song yodeled by a banjo-playing mountain goat with removable horns whom a witch has cursed to only be able to sing, not talk (yeah, the movie's strange.) The chorus goes something like:

Be prepared, be prepared,
This lesson must be shared,
Be prepared, be prepared,
And unless you got a spare,
You got one life, so handle it with care!

I obviously forgot this lesson this week. You see, there was this cycling time trial Tuesday night. And though I would've liked to have been prepared, I really wasn't (see previous post about three-ring circus, I was still making pizzas ten minutes before throwing my bike in the car to head out to the course.) But life lessons have a great way of coming around to kick you in the arse when you're not paying attention.

With triathlons, I'm almost always prepared these days. First of all, I've been doing them for over twenty years now, so I sort of know what I'm doing. Secondly, my uber-geek nature took over years ago and created spreadsheets for every conceivable aspect of triathlon racing, from what to buy in the week before the race to what to pack for each aspect of the transition area. I print out my sheets, check the little boxes, and I'm squared away. When it comes to TTs though, I'm not nearly that organized. On the surface it seems much simpler: one sport, one bicycle, some shoes, a helmet, show up and ride. No wetsuit, no changing, running shoes. Easy, right?

It started earlier in the day when I realized I forgot to change the battery in my bike computer. Took care of that, but it put my whole day behind schedule. By the time I was throwing the bike in the car, I realized I didn't change my wheels, so I threw those in too. Got to the registration just slightly late, but got signed up and got my start time. Set to work changing wheels. It's damned cold outside. Realized I forgot to throw in the bag with my warmup clothes, but an old black hoodie sweatshirt of hubby's takes most of the chill off even if I look like a thug. Get my wheels on and take 'em for a little test spin. Damn, it seems like I'm going really fast but I chalk that up to a little pre-race adrenaline and forget about it. Don't have time to throw the bike on the trainer and also realize my pre-ride nutrition was in the bag with my warmup clothes - at home. Eat Trader Joe's gingersnaps by the handful from a bucket in the car (sometimes it's useful being a mom, there's always food in the minivan if you look hard enough.)

Looking around, there's lots of really serious and professional-looking cyclists warming up on their fluid trainers, in with nice long-sleeved skin-tight thermal jerseys, disk wheels and those funky aero-helmets that look like something a Sith Lord might don for a night out on the town. Meanwhile, here I am, gangster-mama eating her kids' gingersnaps on the tailgate of her minivan. But no time to worry about my public image, they're calling my number.

Now comes the part I've really been fearing: the standing start. You might think that someone with a background in skydiving, motorcycle riding, and other assorted dangerous occupations would not be as big of a chickenshit as I am, but you'd be wrong. The one and only other time I've done a TT, I backed out of the standing start at the last second and took off by pushing myself with one foot repeatedly like a total idiot. This time though, I got tough and went through with it, and I was off. But my complete and total lack of preparation made this race a very long and hard one.

Mentally, I was off of my game from the first mile. I wasn't warmed up enough, hadn't had time to jump on my trainer, had gotten chilled from the breeze blowing through the cotton sweatshirt, and the gingersnaps were sitting a bit hard in the ol' stomach. Still, I was making some really good time, or so I thought. My speedometer was going crazy: 24 mph in the first few miles alone. But then I looked at the mileage and knew something was wrong. I was in the wrong place to have put so many miles on already. Eventually it hit me: I changed the battery in my bike computer, and that wiped out my settings. The computer is automatically set for 700 wheels and I ride 650s. Crap. So much for my blistering speed.

Now let me explain something. For the kind of geeky brain I've got, numbers are everything. I can't live without my numbers. I dream in Sudoku. I was a Vulcan in a former life. So I'm out on the course without Any Meaningful Numbers. Except for my total time. If I hadn't had that, I might've really gone crazy. From there on out, time just spiraled out into the long kind of misery that every athlete has endured sooner or later. Nothing feels right, the universe is pissing on you, and you just have to gut it out. I eventually crossed the finish line 30 seconds slower than the last time I did this (and I definitely should be faster).

So I felt kinda demoralized by the whole thing, and not even my nutty tri friends suggesting a brick run after the TT could cheer me up. I ran in my thug sweatshirt and a black watch cap of my hubby's that was in the back of the van, while the cyclists heading home goggled at us setting out on a run. Since that evening, I've been really dwelling on how much of a mental difference it made to be completely unprepared to race. And that mental difference carried itself over into my athletic performance, making me slower than I knew I could go.

Today I looked up my time on the results page on the web and was moping about how bad it was when my hubby pointed out that really, I came in 2nd in the Cat4 Women, and I was only about 30 seconds behind the woman who finished 1st in the Cat1/2s. Even with the Thug Mama duds, the lack of aero anything (except bars), no coach, and no warmup, I didn't do as badly as I thought. My friend and teammate Megan really rocked and rolled, beating all the other women entirely. And she did it all without even a disc wheel or Sith Lord helmet. She is really inspiring.

So next week, the hubby has offered to come chair my pit crew. Get me warmed up, set up, nutritioned up, and see what I can do when I'm feeling more like my usual self. Next time I'm going to listen to that damned yodeling mountain goat, next time I'm going to Be Prepared.


Summer M said...

*whew* I'm tired just reading that! LOL You've got some incredible endurance and willpower. :)

TriGirl 40 said...

So wait - doing a "brick" usually cheers you up?

Congrats on your great times - and under less than ideal circumstances!

13akbal said...

I'm still laughing about your stash of food in the minivan and borrowed hoodie..

You probably have the spreadsheet for the next run, but I would "guess" you will be the one rocking the course.

GP said...

Hey Ironmom! I found your blog on blogher and am inspired by your success in triathlon and the game of life. You keep bricking and showing us how it's done!