Hanging out at my first Cross Race of the season at Xilinx turned out to be a lot harder than I thought, and I'm not talking about the long day helping the Beyond Limits guys put the race on. I'm talking about how hard it is to NOT race. I really thought that I was going to be "good" with not racing this season. Turning out, it's being a lot harder on my brain than I thought it would be.
Since confirming what I had suspected since early this spring, that my Hairy Cell Leukemia had built back up to the point it was seriously affecting my already pretty poor aerobic performance on a bike, I had come to terms with me missing this cross season. All was well. A season off was good. More time to spend in the fall with my long suffering, cross-widow wife. Rest up. Do some other things. Hang at a few races. Drink more beer. Beat myself up less. Sounded good.
Turns out, This silly bike riding and racing thing seems to fill a pretty big part of my life. While I AM enjoying some of this time, the extra time with my wife, NOT flogging myself with the odd interval session in a semi futile attempt at turning my limited bike racing talent into a somewhat less limited talent, that is good. The rest is not doing so good. It is amazing how the slow & ongoing deterioration in the ability of my body to ride a bike up some hills, or for more than a few hours at a time can influence your mood when you have spent SO many years working on the ability to do just that.
I have had to watch myself slowly degrade from this spring, where I could still ride "reasonably" well, at a moderate pace (no full efforts, but could still get up a hill..), to here in the fall, where even an "easy" ride is starting to really leave me pasted. In the last few weeks it has gotten bad enough that I have been declining ride invitations, as I don't feel like I can gracefully do some of the rides, or get up a larger climb without unreasonably holding people up. Picking rides based on how much climbing, or how long it will take to finish, or the altitude, rather than what is a "good" ride just plain sucks. Looking at who is going on a ride, making sure they will be "OK" with my "new" pace sucks. All my riding friends would say they don't care, but you still think that way.
I'm still getting out some, but I am finding riding more & more frustrating, not how you would ever want to feel about riding a bike. Going to a cross race just drove it home. Nothing like reality slapping you right in the face, reminding you of where you are REALLY at, no matter what your desires are. That is just what one has to live with for any chronic medical issue, cancer or not. That being said, it still just plain sucks to be in this mindset sometimes.
I was given my choice of when to get treated for my Leukemia on the last visit to my Oncologist. Looking like I'll go do my Chemotherapy after Christmas, just so I can have a real riding season next year. The other symptoms (Strange, not much of the info on ANY disease talks about your Vo2Max or Functional Power Threshold as a symptom of a disease....) are starting to show up, and the timing for a New Years treatment should be good. Now I just need to get there without getting any more misty-eyed about how I "can't ride". Compared to so many, I am a VERY lucky person, given that my cancer is a "baby" cancer, an "easy" one and it could be SO much worse. Riding like crap is really a pretty petty whine in the big picture when it comes to this disease.
I caught myself thinking I hoped the weather would turn crappy, so that I could have an excuse to not ride. But really, that is not what I want. This weekend, We'll be heading up to Frisco to catch the race, stay with good friends, and maybe take the big bike out for a easy spin before the high country changes seasons. The following weekend plan to hook up with some folks for a quick trip out to Moab for a "Whole Enchilada" run, and then a few days of relaxed riding in Fruita. Riding may get a little frustrating right now, but it ain't over yet. Cancer does NOT get to take that away.
The Whole Enchilada: Top to Bottom - Moab, Utah from Phil Shep on Vimeo.
Thanks for listening.
I feel better.