I've been feeling like a slug for the past couple of days, a little unsure about the point when my body goes from "recovery" to "atrophy while eating Tostitos on the couch." I hit the gym today because I thought it would be good for my energy level to get my heart rate up without stressing my impact injuries. Can't say it helped, but at the same time - it didn't seem to hurt. And that led me to another question - if 72 hours after a 24-hour race, I feel well enough to run for an hour, maybe I didn't push myself hard enough during the race itself. But how do you make that decision? Where does "pushing hard" turn to "massive meltdown in the middle of the woods?"
I am still dealing with Kincaid fallout. I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever get the feeling back in my three middle fingers on my right hand - they're disconcertingly locked in that "asleep" phase that usually precludes the tingly feeling that leads back to normal circulation. I also regained that constant, sharp pain in my left shoulder, proving that it's not a camelbak injury, but rather a consequence of hanging over handlebars for 24 hours. As for my fingers - I blame the roots.
At the same time, I do feel pretty good for just putting my body through the 16 circles of hell. It has me asking those "what if" questions, and I'm already formulating a plan for "next time:"
1. Race more competitively. Now that I know I can ride it out, I feel like it wouldn't take an unreasonable amount of effort to ride faster.
2. Take less chatty breaks. This goes with being more competitive. On Saturday and Sunday, I wasted a lot of time stopped at my camp, nibbling on sandwiches and chatting with Geoff. This added to the enjoyment of the race for sure, but did nothing for recovery and generally slowed down my progress.
3. Experiment with liquid nutrition. Peanut Butter Sandwiches, while delicious, just don't ride well over the long haul, I've learned. I probably don't need to elaborate.
4. Start keeping closer track of my progress. If I had decided to make a push beginning at 5 a.m. rather than 9 a.m., I could have easily completed 17 laps instead of 16. As it was, I came up only 10 minutes short.
I already feel excited. It's amazing how quickly we forget the pain in the aftermath of one fleeting moment of triumph ... how I wasn't able to eat - and hardly drink - for the last 40 miles of the race as I struggled with sensations that my body was about to turn inside out ... how my forearms vibrated with intense pain as I flew over roots and rocks, unwilling to slow down and waste perfectly good gravity ... how after 18 hours in the same pair of sweaty shorts, I ended up with the equivalent of a diaper rash ... but that didn't matter anyway because I already had a saddle sore on the verge of bleeding.
And yet, every time I rolled through that checkpoint, I'd get this self-fulfilling surge of energy -adrenaline and dopamine, a dangerous cocktail that turns even the most unlikely candidates into endurance junkies. It reminds me of a quote I heard by Alaska endurance racer Bill Merchant that applies to his epic Iditarod Invitational race, but works well in this context, too:
"We go into the Alaska backcountry to see if we have any cracks in ourselves. We go back a year later to see if we've done anything about them."