I woke up last Tuesday morning with a nasty and painful surprise. The entire length of my latissimus dorsi along my left spine was spasming, tight, and hard as a rock. I couldn’t even bend over to get my cycling clothes out of my bag. Buckling my shoes was painful. I didn’t have any choice but to pop a naproxen (I prefer this NSAID to ibuprofen) and hope for the best. Maybe it’d loosen up a little bit once we started.
Wrong. Dead wrong. We started ok, but the pain kept growing worse. I actually barely remember anything from the stage except for the raw pain I felt. It was excruciating. I remember at one point I had to get off my bike and carry it across a plank, and I could barely walk or lift my bike. It got continually worse and I would periodically cry tears of pain. It must have been terrible for Jeff to be going slow, losing time on the GC, and have your partner break down crying multiple times during the day. I might have lost some enamel on my teeth from gritting them so hard. (haha) I was…miserable. I also remember at another point, the cicadas were so loud that it hurt my ears. All my senses felt heightened and semi-loud noises made me feel anxious. I was going so slow, and trying as hard as I possibly could. Pushing through that kind of pain was a traumatic experience and even now, over a week later, I cringe just thinking it. I wondered how I could finish the stage and whether I’d be able to race the next day. At one point, Jeff even said, “I’ve seen you go harder on recovery rides.” That gives you an idea of how the day went for us. I felt bad because he was basically out for an easy spin and I was barely able to creep along. And of course! it rained.
I remember the cobble stone road in Rio de Contas back into town jackhammering my body and being extremely painful.
One of the coolest things about the race was that the village was a part of it. Everyone watched and it was cool that the people loved the sport of bike racing.
Upon crossing the line, I went to get off my bike and fell to the ground. I couldn’t stand. Mario, the race promoter saw me and helped me up and to a chair. I could not move. It was raining. It’s a blur in my brain, but I remember seeing a lot of concerned faces looking at me. We came in 4th place, 6 minutes out of 3rd. Disappointment. Frustration. Helplessness. Pain. Searching for the will to go on. I wanted to give up. I thought, “it’s just not worth it to suffer this much.” The shower was cold, and I could not bend down to pick up the shampoo or soap. Undressing was a task. I took some more naproxen and tried to lay in bed. I was depressed.
I took this photo of myself right after the race. It’s not a very flattering or beautiful photo and it’s rare to see me not smiling, but it gives you an idea of how hard stage racing can be.
I was very limited in the cash I brought, but I knew that I had to get a massage. It might be my only shot at even starting the next morning.
I also brought some kinesio tape and put that on. Anything to help.
As defeated as I felt, deep down I didn’t want to give up. The idea of riding another day in that kind of pain did not seem possible. I could only hope for a better day. I also knew the pain was muscular which is the best type of back pain to have if you’re going to have it. I went to sleep promising to put the day behind me, that tomorrow was a new day, and that I WOULD do it. I didn’t have my foam roller, but I laid on my nalgene bottle. I didn’t have fun in stage 3. I work really hard psychologically to have fun in all my races, no matter how painful or hard they are and I just couldn’t do it last Tuesday. I got through it by way of brute force and pure stubbornness.
“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.” ~Pema Chodron Stage 3 was a nose dive out of the nest. Head first.
I woke up for Stage 4 feeling better. My back definitely did not feel good, but it was manageable pain this time. Unfortunately, lady luck was not on our side.