The countdown to surgery continues but I refuse to sit and wait. I've finally been back on my bike without discomfort and the doc says it's great to keep my muscles strong before surgery. Perfect. So with the last couple of group rides I've been on I figured I'd try to put down some power to see how the knee felt. When it did it felt surprisingly good. Not perfect but I was really happy with the way it was performing. So why not try a race? ;)
This past Sunday was the MTBNJ short track. I signed up a few days before knowing I was completely unprepared for this - but what the hell. I have the fat, out-of-shape, and injured trifecta going on so at least I'd have a lot of excuses. So I packed up the bike rolled around and got to the starting line.
I came off the line slow towards the back of the starting field and began to ramp up to speed. I got out of the saddle and pedaled hard and the knee felt good so I went with it. I passed a few going into the first section of singletrack but definitely wasn't going to be towards the front of this group. I was riding pretty well but definitely with a lack of confidence. I got caught in traffic a few times and had to clip out once and I was very tentative jumping back on the course and lost a few spots. That left me to chase those riders that passed for the next few laps. I did finally work my way back up to and through them - completely out of breath and hoping for much more fitness that I should have at this point in the season.
The race continued and the knee felt good. So I kept on it feeling better and better and just aiming to catch whomever was in front of me. I saw a guy way in the distance and used him as my carrot for the remainder of the race as I had 3 laps to go. By the time I had 2 laps to go I was only 20 feet behind him. I figure I can get this guy. Ride up to his wheel and then when there is one lap to go then give it all I've got and I could open a gap in the singletrack and get past him. Plan worked like I'd hoped and rode his wheel to the turnaround where I would make my move. Only problem - we got passed by the leader so the turnaround was now the finish line. By the time I had realized the race was over I had no time to pass the rider in front of me which I could have easily. Ooops. Live and learn. I finished 22nd of 35 racers.
The best part about this day was that my knee felt awesome. I felt like I was my old self again. Not as fast or skilled with my forced time off but at least in the ballpark. Mentally it helped so much knowing that I basically came off the couch with a bum knee and did pretty well. It's not a result to boast about but the fact that I had no body or mechanical issues makes it a great day. So much so that I might have to do more of these before surgery. There are 3 more left that I could do...