November 15, 2008

No More Miracles

I'm done with miracle powders and energy drinks for a while.
For the second time in two years.... ok, possibly the THIRD time in two years, my old standbys have failed me. This time, I'm not sure what the blame is - too long on the LBS shelf, dropped in shipping resulting in a bad seal... who knows. But even when I realized earlier this week that I was out of my usual cocktail, and the one I had bought to replace it (Perpetuem) had not worked so well for me, and I headed to my LBS to get a small tub to get me through the weekend's 217km suck-fest - even then when I got home and cracked the lid open, there was an odd smell. "Ok, maybe it's just been a while, maybe that's normal" ... maybe I didn't remember what it was supposed to smell like or something -- but Sustained Energy is not supposed to smell or taste like ANY-thing.
I still mixed it up, and divided the rest into baggies for the back pockets, as usual.
This morning, at 2:10 AM, I choked down the pre-ride bottle, mixed with Hammer Gel Espresso flavor for a little caffeine kick. I've been a vegetarian for a while now, so I can't really tell you what it tasted like...but the closest I can tell you is rotten fish, blended. YEAH - SERIOUSLY. Something was not right in the sustained nutrition world when they made this. I have no idea.... Unfortunately, bike bottles are capped well, and I didn't realize there was a funky taste until half of it was inside me, because that first gulp,gulp,gulp swallow was to assist in downing the morning vitamins. I didn't pre-smell it or anything, but when I pulled the bottle back, and swallowed, there was an undescribable finish to the flavor, almost metallic. I gagged, and blew it into the sink - vitamins and all came up shortly later in the aftermath. Later, I would gag again on the garage floor. Opening the bottles, each of the three I'd pre-mixed - one for pre-ride, two for the bicycle - had the same smell... the smell of ... again, like dead fish, or something backed up in a sewer line. "holy....." a little more comes up. Not good. Then cue the post evacuation chills. It's 2:40 am.

Ok, now... let's go outside. I kept a very cool head about today's weather. I knew what I was up against, and I knew these last three R-12 200k's were not going to be a cake walk. That's not what the R-12 is about. NW winds howling through the screen door at 25 MPH, check. Light snow. Check. I'd get down to Pleasanton, KS in record time, and it would take maybe three times longer to get back. Whatever. Bring it.
But, when something is laid out in my head so well, the total plan is only as strong as the weakest link. There are a lot of things I can safely take for granted -- taking ANY-thing for granted in this sport is dangerous, BUT... I have an excellent mechanical track record. I care for my bikes very well, and they are always ready for the event. My clothing choices can almost be charted on a graph. The route, completely memorized. And, yes, my fuel has always been taken for granted. Even when it stopped working at Tejas, at the 600K, I was able to MID RIDE change things up. At that point, I'm committed, and the goal is to finish what I'd begun. Carboplex stepped in a few times, and other times it was the fare at Casey's or some other C-store. But here, at home, having blown three times already, feeling dehydrated because of it, stomach rumbling - NOTHING sounded good. I just plain felt sick. I wasn't that there wasn't any push, or I was tired of drinking it -- no, this time I was not holding it down. That was a first.

The understanding that my entire fueling strategy for this ride, a ride that was going to be conditionally tough, was out the window - that was a huge hit, mentally. Fig Newtons? Casey's? What should I do? I haven't eaten breakfast now, the clock it ticking, do I risk riding on crap like donuts and junk? Can I make good choices? What if I bonk into that headwind on the way back? My brain was suddenly a-flood with doubts surrounding trying to figure out what the heck to do about this, this thing that I'd been able to take for granted for so long. Mix, drink, repeat... not even having to think, just ride and drink what's in the bottles. You know, someone in a better mental place than me at this hour would have been out there riding, and writing about how difficult the conditions were... I wasn't able to FIND that someone this morning. I drafted an email to the perm coordinator, and went to sleep it off.

I've been graciously granted a pass and I'll repeat tomorrow AM - and tomorrow's conditions are FAR better, which concerns me. Should I take it as a gift? Should I mark an asterisk next to November's 200K success? It's hard, in these pages, to know how to feel about such things - holding oneself accountable when the option of keeping ANY-one in the loop lies solely on my shoulders. I don't have to write about ANY of this - but the gentlemen's agreement, the ethos of RUSA, and my personal character all drive me to be honest. I think that I earned my stripes back in March, with the sleet and snow and rain for six hours, and then the NW headwind on the way back. I was prepared to do it again, to a slightly lesser extent. Something, though, stepped in - today wasn't right. My stomach certainly didn't think so. Hours later after sleeping of the chills, as I washed the rancid SE mixture down the sink and caught that smell again, I knew it was real - not mental, not something manufactured, that kept me in the house today. Freaking gross. Live to ride another day. There is plenty of November left - and while the Border Patrol route is never easy, it will be slightly easier tomorrow. How I sleep with that is up to me.

It's not how hard or easy the ride was - it was that I did it at all that counts.

I'll keep that in mind - make myself some waffles in the morning, and realize that far stronger riders have survived longer, harder rides, on far less - without even ever having bought anything in powdered form. THINK DANNY. Re-hydration, and 24-hours of reflection, and I'll be back on the road tomorrow AM.

Stay tuned...

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