Here I am with the last race of 2013 in the books. This proves that you don't necessarily have to be having fun for time to fly. On the bike, this really was a difficult season for me. I have a real unfulfilled feeling after two seasons of racing well below my expectations and abilities. Now, even though that is a pretty long down spell, that feeling is something that all of us experience at some point. High high's and low low's. The biggest difference here for me is this.....I know that unless I have a surgical operation, that I will never return to form and in fact will probably continue to decline. This is the new reality. There is no forging ahead hoping that if you train smart and work hard, things will turn around. I can expect small gains here and there, but what does that really matter when you've had like 20% permanently chopped right off the top?
It is interesting to note how this has changed me as a rider over the years that I have dealt with this condition. It has created a complete 360 in the characteristics of my racing. When I was racing mountain bikes as a junior my strong talent was on the technical side of racing. I wasn't super fit but could make up a lot when the trail got rough and twisty. These characteristics continued right into my transition to road racing. My lower category racing was fairly pathetic. I could sprint fast but my sustained effort was way off the back.
At some point things changed. In the matter of a few years I had flipped around 180. I was racing road full time and signing my first pro contract. I was a legitimate domestic pro level all-rounder, but I was strong in the TT and uphill. Two things I couldn't do well enough to hang with cat 3's a few years back. When I dabbled in CX those days I found that most of my skills had been forgotten and I made do by just smashing the pedals.
By the end of my two short years with a road contract, unknown to me, things were trending back the other way again. Signs of this circulation problem were beginning to show up but I was still able to ride decent. Then 2009 is when an alarm bells really went off for me. I was set to race my first full season of CX with Richie and was doing some road events to prepare. I did my training as usual but I just couldn't do what I used to be able to do. It happened that way all summer long and was completely unexplained. This was before my days with health insurance (a lot of good it's doing me now!) so I wouldn't have done anything about it, but I may have thought about looking into it if it weren't for a successful CX season that fall. I found myself dredging those old skills back to the surface to add to what was left of my ability to push the pedals and I ended up with a good racing season.
There is that break from racing in there but since then I've lost more and more on the pedals and have been pulling out all the old skills I can find to make up for it. It is to the point now where I go backward on any given straight and have to get back with skill alone.
There is some positive light here. I have had to get those skills back. Because of them I have been able to notch a UCI win and a bunch of UCi top 5's in the last two seasons. If I ever am able to have this operation and can recover even a modest amount of my previous abilities I am going to bring those skills with me and end up better than I would have without this whole ordeal. Also, if a racing season isn't going well on the bike I still get to hang out with my friends who are also teammates and fellow racers. These are really great people and the weekends through the fall isn't ever enough time spent with them.
Looking forward from here, the fight on the bike may almost be over but the fight with beaurocrats for access to health care is far from it. As I pointed out above, the "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger" saying looks accurate for the bike, but unfortunately with regards to this fight I don't see how that could be so. I just need to put my head down and keep fighting this one.