For the most part, I think humans are pretty stupid when compared to most species of animals roaming this planet. I think it's the fact that we are capable of higher levels of thought (or at least think we are) that makes us this way. We tend to ignore common sense, which is nothing more than instinct really. All species through evolution have developed a specific set of instincts that have allowed them to survive, those species that have been around the longest are also the ones that rarely if ever go against their instincts. So why do we humans ignore our instincts? Probably because we think we're smarter than a few million years of evolution.
Athletes are probably some of the worst offenders among us. We're so intent on pushing ourselves to improve that we forget to stop for a second and take a break. I for one am a habitual offender of my own instincts and my body's signals to stop and take a rest. A few weeks ago I had a pretty decent crash on a training ride, removed some skin sliding on the pavement and twisted my right knee as I went down. Get up, ride home, throw some neosporin and gauze on my wounds and move on. Following week I throw down a few hard training days capped off on Thursday with a spin on the SS mtn bike. Wake up Friday and my knee is killing me, can't bear weight without shooting pains down my leg. Ok, maybe I need to rest it so I take Friday off even though I'm racing Saturday. I usually ride the day before a race to open the legs up but I listened to my body and used some common sense and stayed off of the knee. I wasn't concerned about Saturday as it wasn't a priority event anyway.
Saturday morning I wake up and the knee is still sore but it's race day so I pack up my bikes and meet up with Mike to head up to Hagerstown for the BCA 'cross race. I skipped this race the last two years but heard that they had made some improvements in the course. Warming up I realized I was still really tired from the week but that my knee didn't seem to hurt on the bike. My warm-up was less than sufficient and the start was fast with some long open grass sections between turns that required a lot of gas to stay on the wheel in front. Unfortunately, I slotted in behind some Coppi guy who I knew from the week before as having very poor technical skills. I desperately wanted to pass him but before I could get around him it was too late, he lays it down in a turn and I'm going too fast to cut inside to avoid him and endo on top of him and his bike. By the time we get untangled the field has almost completely gone by. I start to chase and get in with a group but starting the second lap my chain drops into my wheel twice, both times requiring me to get off and remove it. By that time I'm almost DFL and there's still 7 laps to go, the doubt begins to creep in for the first time this season, should I just bail, is it worth it to keep going? The thoughts went through my mind several times. This wasn't a priority race, I was already tired and injured and my bike sounded like a hanging muffler being scrapped along the road.
I pushed on catching guys one by one until I was at least back in the top 20 with a shot at some series points. Then, just before the start of the last lap I make a turn to drop down a small hill when I feel my bike's backend go out and a weird feeling of something holding me back. I look down and my rear tire had rolled off of the rim, fantastic. I'm a good 500 yards or so from the pit so I begin to run, on a bad knee which was screaming at me to stop while everyone I spent the last 6 laps chasing down ride past me.
As I run through the start finish my plan was to just stop but Gina was there yelling at me to get to the pit, so I trudged on. My teammate Stephen found my bike and helped me get going again. Managed to not finish DFL but also didn't make up any of the spots I lost.
Maybe this was a sign that I should have sat this race out, maybe I shouldn't have and it was a "character building" experience. All I know is that the knee is not happy but I want to go ride and I'm doing everything I can to keep myself from throwing a kit on and heading out the door, namely writing this post.
A few things I realized:
- No matter who you are or how you are doing, people cheer for you at a cross race like you're winning the thing
- Gina is a great supporter and I thank her for putting up with this sport, that is cycling in general, not 'cross specifically
- I love getting off of the bike after a hard race and seeing Maddy
- Sometimes we're to stupid or ignorant or arrogant to keep from being our own worst enemy