As I sit here in the comforts of my home, miles away from the painful, yet rewarding stages of the Breck Epic; feeling pretty “ok”- all I can come to the conclusion of is my race was “bad timing”. Maybe 50% of the population won’t quite understand, but here it goes…
The background story to the past month of ups and downs leading up to the Epic is something not even all women have experienced, and men are definitely the lucky ones to never have the chance of going through, but it’s been my reality-and I apologize in advance for explaining. You could also choose not to read.
Since I can remember, I have always been very sensitive to being on any hormone regulation medication; ie. birth control. Going on and off makes my body freak out in ways that could potentially classify me as ‘crazy’. You know, the days where anything can trigger tears, laughter, or fury; usually all at the same time. Not only has this been fun to manage, I also am one of the lucky ones who gets completely taken out the first couple days of my period. I run a fever, have to stay close to a bathroom, cramps that no position or dose of ibuprofen can mask, zero appetite, and depleted energy.
I have been able to cope and manage this, avoiding most everything that involves me being alert and alive- until I realized it was going to hit the week of the Breck Epic. Trying to be preventative, and still make that week of riding work I went into my doctor to explain what was up and see what my options were. This was one month prior to the race, and what we came up with was no guarantee. She concluded that I could have what’s called endometriosis. This is where cells from your uterus (yes, I just said uterus) grow in other places – causing the severe symptoms I was experiencing each month. The only way to 100% diagnose this is with surgery, and I knew I didn’t have the time or money for that. So, next she suggested I try an IUD, which is meant to help regulate and diminish getting your period- and in my case my monthly “I feel like I’m dying” days.
Knowing I was going to be sick anyway I figured why not give it a try. So, I did… and there started my month long roller coaster of good days and bad days; not to mention basically have a period this whole time. The days before the epic, it got bad. My normal symptoms were knocking on the door and I was out. I went into the doctor to see if this was normal and if everything was ok. She empathized and apologized, saying that in a small population symptoms can even be worse for potentially 6 months to a YEAR! She insisted I keep at it for at least another month, and at that time if my body isn’t regulating they’ll take it out. Oh JOY! Thinking that it would be like my regular schedule and would pass- I figured I would be good to go on Day 2.
So. I convinced myself I was good, got a specific prescription level pain medication for my symptoms and lined up. Having not raced for over a month now, my excitement masked any reality that was going on and I truly enjoyed the first stage. I felt strong, kept a lid on it, and when the cramping and nausea started – I just stayed calm and finished out the stage in a very tolerable pace. Leading for the first half of the day and finishing just 5 minutes off the lead woman’s time had me convinced I could manage a week of this pace and not be completely out of contention. Ignoring the heavy blood loss over the two and a half hour stage, I went on with it like ‘no big deal’ and prepped for Day 2.
Day 2, thinking I would be ok. I decided not to take the pain meds as I had already been taking them for a week as I read that was not advised. Starting out, I still felt good… I was climbing strong, staying in a controlled below XC and threshold pace, and holding it together. Then… the wheels fell off. A second day of soaked through chamois blood loss (ew, gross) and today accompanied by having to use mother nature’s bathroom pit stops once before Aid 1 and another right after Aid 1… I had zero energy or drive. It’s amazing when your pace slows up so much, reality is much more visible.
I was done. No more pretending… the physical demands of a stage race was just out of my scope at this time.
Having to deal with people’s questions, “What happened”… was never a concern -and as a friend reminded me, “People get sick, and you owe no explanation to anyone”. So I write this, not necessarily as an explanation- but just to give an example of the extra hoops some of us female athletes have to jump through. No one wants to talk about it, because a lot of people just don’t understand it, or want to- and frankly, it is a little embarrassing.
On the bright side, I got to ride and race with some pretty stellar women for a day and a half and show that my fitness doesn’t necessarily suck. Am I bummed? Of course I am. I put in a lot of work leading up to this week, as well as my sponsors. Not only do I feel like I was letting myself down, but them as well. That’s hard to swallow when other people have so much faith in you, and you just cannot perform.
Is it worth it to stay bummed? Hells NO! I’m focussing on what I can do. Our sweet Colorado summers are too precious and I will not sit around and watch it pass by.