I've been to San Francisco before but never for any amount of time. Theres a photo of me somewhere, I'm guessing not in digital form, where pre Sea Otter in maybe 2008 I am standing overlooking the Golden Gate bridge from the north side, way colder than I ever thought it got in sunny California with my hair blowing out of control, awkwardly trying to smile for the camera in that way I never can make look natural.
The city strangely feels a lot like New York but with the socioeconomic bar set a few miles higher and the diversity level considerably lower. I find myself drawn back to the similarities and wonder if it's largely based on the city by the ocean concept. The rush of NY has a heavy predisposition of streets, fumes, and noise. By far the most frightening things I've seen in my meager day to day outings has been the fog, wind gusts, and the new to me sport of competitive commuting.
Lots of time spend touring the country solo equates to much self analyzing and identifying. Who am I to see this slice of every day world from the perspective of so many different people? Perspective is at best ego driven and certainly relative but if I, in my van were the calm center of the universe, the crazy spinning of so many different lives around me would make for an epic impressionistic depiction.
It's a tough pill to swallow when when you feel like a fraction of your usual self and that depiction centers around someone not able to take it all in. My injuries from last weekend were minor but besides the physical, they are enough to instill a confidence blow in the form of "how might that race have turned out?" in not one but two events so far. I've been racing mountain bikes less this spring with the intent to be stronger in the fall but besides the endorphins and sense of accomplishment each race brings, I file the preparation, the action, and the result neatly into the bigger picture of what makes me me.
There's trepidation for anyone when an outcome isn't set in stone, I don't like my bikes being adjusted without my knowledge because I know the little quirks that they have at any given time. I like to race after racing because I know how my body responded the last time and what tweak it needs to move past it's previous hangup. Mentally I thrive on consistency and it takes a degree of separation to step back and accept that change is sometimes the best course of action.
I had a week of preparation for the Sea Otter cross country race. It was a big emotional adjustment for me to conclude I would rather race a cross country event that crossed country as opposed to the short laps and man-made features pro XC event has become in the last few years. It was strange not lining up for the usual first few UCI races of the season but even for those I was off racing other smaller, more home grown events. Standing alongside and watching my peers line up for the Friday Sea Otter short track opener was fascinating, I race better when I'm having fun and the long, flat straightaways of the motor speedway and consequently mundane course is anything but. I had barely a regret.
When the cyclocross race came up Saturday afternoon I didn't feel ready, my heart rate hadn't been race high in weeks, and even when it had been up there it wasn't very often or for very long. I started well but never found the "hum" of speed in my pace. As I tried to regroup on lap three and get back into it, I joined another friend out in the open straightaway with a random abbreviated conversation concerning eating wheaties and went for the pass when I wrapped myself around the concrete wall. I can't say that I'll be committing to the rut when it's next to something with that much pushback in the near future. But really what happened was that I wasn't as committed to the rut as I thought and instead was eyeballing that wall more than I should have been.
She later told me that it made a horribly noise, fascinatingly I hadn't heard that. I remember thinking that concrete was sticky as it ate through first my hand and then my forearm. Then the bike leaned in and the wheels got further away the wall progressed to my bicep and shoulder before I made contact with the ground. While this all happened in a split second, at some point a handlebar or elbow inserted itself into my chest and I must have come to a stop through that impact. Three spectators on the other side of the concrete and chainlink fence saw the whole thing transpire and were yelling to see if I was ok as I worked to detangle from my awkward, upside-down, pinned against the wall resting place.
I stood up and mentally evaluated while admiring the holes in my favorite gloves, everything was sore but nothing was catastrophic. I internally flashed an image walking in with my head hanging and tail between my legs, shrugged that off, mounted the bike and pedaled forward. There wasn't much to do besides keep moving, the race isn't over, the leaders hadn't passed me, so I continued through the finish line to pedal around another lap minus the few seconds it took to stop and swig a spectators beer. I like conclusions, finishing the race wasn't so much something to be celebrated about as it was to just put a cap on the day.
I couldn't can my next days race until the morning of. The med tent guys smirked at me when I said I was racing in less than 24 hours, they sent me off with enough bandaging for a small army and a strategically placed dump truck band-aid on a location I was pretty certain I hadn't actually hit. I had to play the non-race options out in my head though, it wasn't an easy conclusion to come to but I couldn't breathe and the swelling on my arm was angry when it was moved.
It provided a unique perspective to not follow through with something I had planned for. That 28 mile race was going to be hard even if it was at an amateur level, it was hot and there was all the poison oak, sand, and elevation gain a girl could hope for. The schedule change did allow me to spend more time connecting with folks at the show, the fitness gains from a hard days riding will be made up elsewhere with less recovery needed, and it was significantly less stressful to sit in California traffic leaving Monterey free of the layer of dirt and grime and urushiol from having just left my heart on the hillsides for a few hours. As I drove I eyeballed the mountaintops and bits of fireroads that peaked out with a feeling of resentment. I wanted to be up there seeing what I was made of. I wanted to test my fitness and determination to finish ahead of the other riders. I wanted the stories and experiences and memories and lessons learned from a solid day in the saddle. But not this time.
After a few days of easy rides I'll be sitting another weekend out, I had two fun events planned and while I'm regaining my mobility I have previously learned the hard way that racing hurt is just a good way to make sure the hurt hurts worse and that your loss of dignity adds to it. There will always be more races and meanwhile I will regain my mobility taking in San Francisco; dodging free falling recumbents, the guy practicing backwards spins on his fixie in the center of the crowded multiuse marina path, road intersections without clear stopping points that also seem to have a fifth or sixth unseen traffic flow, two way commuters on a one way bridge width with 30 mph wind gusts and a random lost tourist in the middle trying to flag you down to ask where the ferry is (there's a ferry?).