on neti pots and knowing your limits

Last weekend was the USGP of Cyclocross Smartwool Cup in Fort Collins Colorado.  This would be my third time racing at over 5000 feet of elevation but my first time racing cyclocross at over 5000 feet of elevation. Since my oxygen intake would already be limited by the altitude, in totally awesome form I managed to get really sick on the Wednesday before the race (which was totally conveniently also Niels’ birthday).  I had the whole thing, coughing, runny nose, fever, chills, and this guy living in my head.

I pretty much never get sick but when I do one of two things happens:

1. I fight it off by sheer force of will and stubbornness; or

2. I succumb to being sick and basically turn into a helpless adult baby.

I was determined to fight it off and still race but the problem was that I had to be very careful to not take anything on the banned substances list such as Sudifed or pretty much any other effective cold or flu remedy in the history of forever.

I sent a distress call out to several of my friends seeking home cold remedies (not homeopathic, I was sternly corrected on my misuse of this term).

I was given an awesome list of suggestions from my pals many of which included drinking Brandy.  One suggestion was to use a neti pot which I had never used before.  In my brain a neti pot was roughly what is pictured to the left (yes including the flowers, decorative mirror, and ambiance).  “Great! Aromatherapy steam pot!” I thought. “This should be pleasant and relaxing and place me firmly on the road to healing my body in a natural and non-stressful or gross way!”

I happily bounded off to the store to pick up my Ricola, Vicks Vaporub, Emergen-C, saline inhaler, and neti pot.  When I grabbed the neti pot I turned the box over to read the instructions and learn about the relaxing aromatherapy steam bath spa journey I was about to embark on; but when I looked at the picture on the back, this is what I saw.

You guys, how come no one told me what a neti pot actually is?!? I took one look at the box and was like “nope!” and left with all my other moderately effective treatments to go be sick without having to drown my brain and eyeballs in saline.

Saturday came and I was still feeling really under the weather but I was on the mend! I was going to have a great race!

It rained all morning which was actually a good thing since the course had been really bumpy the day before.  Just before I lined up Niels applied a mustache of Vaporub under my nose and I was off to my awesome 6th (of 7) row callup.

I of course had a horrendous start and came through the pits in 30-something place on the first lap.  Determined to at least look like I was trying to get into the top 15 I just focused on picking off girls one at a time.  At the end of the day I finished 17th, only 3 seconds down from my point (which ended up being not my point at all).  An improvement over Vegas in my books but still not quite there.

Sunday was a beautiful day and a faster course.  I was excited to race until I did my warmup laps and realized that I had burned every match I had on Saturday and had literally no jump in my legs.  Even worse, my hamstring which has been bothering me since I was hit by a car in July, flared up and it hurt to get out of the saddle, a pretty essential skill for cyclocross.

Setbacks aside, I applied my mustache, lined up, had a shit start, and went to work.  At the end of the second day I fell apart in the last lap.  My body, my lungs, and my head just couldn’t keep up with the pace.  I finished 22nd on a day that had I been feeling better I could have been in the top 15.  I did however manage to get my picture and a mention into Cycling News which is always great when you’re having a terrible day.

I did come to realize something this last weekend.  I may have been going about this whole UCI Cyclocross thing wrong or at least a little backwards.  When I planned my calendar this year, I planned to do all of these big races, Cross Vegas, the USGPs, Nationals, without realizing that all of these races are the races that the best women in the US and the world come to.  Since I don’t have a single UCI point yet, I’m starting each of these races with a huge disadvantage.  It’s incredibly difficult to finish in the top 10 or 15 riders in a race where there are over 30 women with UCI points all starting in front of me.

I realized I need to be a little bit more of a cherry picker, because I’m not going to do well in a big race until I put myself in a position to do well. For that reason, I decided to go down to LA this weekend and do a couple of much smaller UCI races where I really think I have a shot of finishing in the points.

So this weekend will be the smallest UCI races I’ve done to date but could likely end up being the biggest races of my year.  Stay tuned.

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About Jess Cutler

35 year old pro road and cyclocross racer. National Champion. Generally nice person.
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