The crash after the high
When I was running marathons, I'd read about it all the time - the emotional letdown after finishing an event. Never had an issues with it it then - maybe because I always had another race coming up quickly and I used most of them as training for a few key events. When I had great race, I used it more as a learning experience for the next race. What went wrong, despite having a successful race. What worked - in training, recovery and nutrition. There wasn't time to have the let down after a race - it was already time to build up for the next. If I had a bad race, it was the same thing. I always had another marathon in the cue, another shot for redemption. The few really bad races were always followed by some great races and I was honestly reaching way outside my ability levels at that time. So even with the crappy races, I was still pleased with my progress towards the long term goals. I never reached those long term goals, but it was more due to me modifying my goals. It was a similar story from the triathlons. Sometimes I had no goals besides just finishing, other time high expections that I somehow managed to reach. Each race a stepping stone to something else - which kept me focused.
And now, a month after 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest and I finally understand. I have another big event in September - Vapor Trail 125 - but the last few weeks have been strange. I took the needed recovery in the first few weeks - sleeping and doing what I wanted. Still riding the emotional high of finally reaching one of my ultimate goals. It was great - congratulations from all over, my name out there in the articles. People knew who I was - on almost every ride, someone would stop me and ask about the race. But with any high, comes the crash....
The first hint of the coming crash was during the spectating at the USA Cup at Pulpit Rock. People I knew were racing and doing well. Why wasn't I racing? It was a home course and I should be representing. But while mentally I felt like I should be ready, I knew I wasn't. And that frustrated me - recovery was the primary goal and I felt like I should be recovering faster. And the next two weekends - two big races with lots of friends toeing the line. I did get some solid training in but still could sense the deep fatigue. Still tired, stiff and just not 100% and by now - I should be. I've never needed this much time to recover after a race. I saw another friend having fantasic race at the Breck 100 - and she'd ridden just as much in June as I had! I love that race - I wanted to be there, riding over the continental divide three times. Frustration because I wanted to race, wanted to feel spunky and recovered again.
But the final piece of the emotional crash was the anonymity of the weekend. I can ride my bike - I have the technical skills to keep up with many guys. Yet every time we caught a group of men over the weekend it was the same thing. "Oh shit, a girl is getting ahead of us. That's gonna just ruin the rest of the ride." Did it matter that we'd just caught them? Obviously I'm moving a little faster then they were. Did they even realize that we'd not taken the shuttle up, instead climbing to the divide? No - but that wasn't the point. Deep down I knew, but I was hoping that there might be a glimmer of recognition - that girl's in the blue and yellow of Procycling.... But there was none of that. Just the traditional pony tail factor that I've been dealing with for years.
Ugh. I'd had a great weekend, showing some fabulous fitness gains coming off 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest. I'd gotten on some new singletrack and put together a few more pieces for Vapor. But the reaction of the guys on Silver Creek soured it - what more will I have to do to finally earn the respect of other riders? Maybe it's not so much a post race let-down, but still. I've put some much work into the last six months, have achieved something very few people ever will and still remain an "obstacle" on the trail. How much longer will it take before people see the ponytail and don't automatically assume that I'm going to be in the way, that I can't ride or that I shouldn't be doing what I'm doing?