My last post was sooo long ago. It was about Nicole Dorinzi and I winning the Big Bear 2x12. Things really went downhill after that!!! Robbie and I camped the night of the race and then headed down to Durham, NC the next day to find a place to live. Yes, Robbie and I are moving away from Morgantown! I am starting a new job at Duke next week in the Biology Department, but don’t worry…we won’t be cheering on their basketball team! Anyway, the entire trip down to NC I was having severe back pain. It was so bad that I couldn’t even get it together to drive the car. It was a strange kind of pain, not the usual strained or sore muscle. It was persistence and burning and I couldn’t touch it. Around the same time, my skin around my waist on the left side of my body became really sensitive. Even my shirt brushing against it made my shin itch. Late in the week a rash started to form in the same area and I immediately thought that the Big Bear race had not only given me massive back pain, but also poison ivy. Blisters eventually started and then the inflicted area kept getting bigger and bigger. I just ignored it and assumed it was something I was just going to have to do my best to ignore and just suffer through. Besides, the Hilly Billy Roubaix was my season goal and it was just around the corner. The next weekend Robbie and I pre-rode the first half of the Hilly Billy because I wanted to make sure I knew what I was in for and I wanted to test out my equipment. I decided to ride my Cannondale Caffeine 29er with Kenda Small Block 8 700x35C cyclocross tires. It was so much fun!!! The course was super wet from the recent rains. We had to call JR on the Little Indian Creek extension because we couldn’t even find the road! I got so excited about the race that I called my good friend Tricia Lewis to convince her to race it on her 29er and she agreed. This race was going to be the ultimate ending to my WV racing career.
Monday rolled around and it was 5 days until the Hilly Billy Roubaix. My poison ivy was still spreading and getting worse, so I decided it was time to do something I dreaded…seek medical attention. Robbie and I headed over to MedExpress to see if they could do something to halt my plant-based affliction. I was given a shot of steroids in the rump and a prescription for prednisone. They predicted I would start feeling better in two days and would definitely be ready to race. Later in the afternoon Robbie sent a picture of my nasty blisters to everyone’s favorite cycling physician, Scott Benson. He immediately wrote back and informed us that I had shingles, not poison ivy. I immediately started researching the signs and symptoms of shingles and soon realized Dr. Benson was spot on. Shingle is basically the chicken pox’s revenge. Most of us have had chicken pox as a child. The virus remains dormant in you nervous system. As adults, if we become immunocompromised due to extreme stress (selling a house + starting a new job + finding a place to live + endurance mountain bike racing) the virus can awaken, cause severe nerve pain, and travel along your nerves until it comes out the nerve endings on your skin in the form of super sensitive open sores that ruin your life for a couple of weeks. I was devastated and completely pathetic. I literally couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even wear a T-shirt because the pain was so bad. It took all my energy to make the jello shots I promised as race refreshments. The day of the Hilly Billy Roubaix, I sat in the house with Netflix waited for text messages about my teammates and friends who were racing. Life is so unfair! The first text I got was to tell me that Besty Shogren had come in as the first women in just over 5 hours. Next I found out that Nicole Dorinzi was the second women to cross the finish just 14 minutes later. Robbie, James Braswell and Christina Burkle road together and finished around 6 hrs. Robbie called me a little later and I talked to him and my friend Tricia. They both had a great time racing the hellish course. I decided then, that I would just have to come back next year!
This last week I finally started to feel good enough to get back on the bike. I did a few shorter rides to get my strength up and then I ask JR and a good friend of team Dynamic, Justine Pagenheart, to ride the second half of the Hilly Billy course with me. If I couldn’t race it because of a horrific disease, I could at least ride the entire thing, damn it. We had a blast!
JR was on his new Cannodale SuperX and definitely had a case of new bike legs. I tried my best to keep up with him by taking advantage of his hospitable draft and we finished the ride in just over 3 hours. It was 90 degrees out and I was really missing the aid stations. My CamelBak bottles were empty starting the long climb just past the coal mine on Fort Marin. Luckily aid station 3 was still in effect at the Petsko’s house and Gina had frozen towels, lemonade and popsicles for us!!! Now, I think every ride should include popsicles… or ice cream.
As cyclists we ask a lot of our bodies and, and very often, even more of ourselves. Testing one’s limits both mentally and physically can be extremely rewarding, but I urge everyone to remember to be kind to yourself and your bodies. If you don’t, nature has a really funny way of putting you in your place, and personally, I don’t really want to visit that place every again.
See you next year!
Post by Laura K.