The parties are:
1. The Cardiologist
Who will not give me the ok to race a higher grade. He apparently thinks I tend to be competitive and does not trust me to keep generally to my heart rate restrictions in a race situation. He is ok for me to exceed the limits for 10 or 15 seconds at a time but not for any extended period. Not sure where he has gleaned the idea I am competitive from, even if it is true.
2. The Handicapper
This is the person who determines what grade a cyclist should be contesting. He is of the opinion that I should be racing higher than I am.
3. Me (the cyclist)
I agree with the handicapper and also think I should be racing a higher grade. I also agree with his reasons and rationale. I think I am certainly fit enough and strong enough to race a higher level and do not think I will overly blow by heart rate limits in doing so.
4. Me (the patient)
It doesn’t really matter what I think because ultimately, to ignore the expert advice of my treating cardiologist would be stupid and foolish.
I managed to win a race on Saturday. It is the first race I have won in 5 or so months While I have been regularly racing, I have been doing so in such a way to pretty much ensure I finish fourth. I have been soft pedaling at the end of races to ensure I meet the requirements of both the handicapper and the cardiologist.
Because it had been some time since my last win and because the event was at the more challenging Lakeside Motor Racing circuit, I decided to work hard during Saturdays race and to then have a crack at a win.
During the race, I set the pace or did the work on the front for perhaps 50 to 60% of the time. I am happy to do this partly for the workout effect and partly because I tend to think the others appreciate it. However the field split quite early on.
I went on to win reasonably comfortably and was rather thrilled when a number of very experienced cyclists congratulated me on the ride and commented that I deserved to win. I was pretty happy with myself.
Looking back though, I am not quite sure about it all.
I am racing at a level below where I think I should be, so of course I should win.
But I am also doing most of the pace making so surely that is effectively a self imposed handicap?
During the race, I was aware of many others competitors breathing very heavily, struggling for oxygen. Up until the last 200 or so metres I was not even slightly out of breath.
I set the pace but in doing so, destroyed the field or half of it anyway.
So, I am racing at a level below my capabilities, winning the money and ruining the race for most others.
I am not sure this is something I can be in any way happy with or can allow to continue.
Everyone going around in the lower grades of club racing is doing so for fun.
All racers have the right to believe they have a even shot at winning or at least being ‘thereabouts’ towards the end of a race. It is not their fault my cardiologist refuses to ok me racing higher. However, for me, simply following wheels would not be much fun at all.
There are three simple solutions:
1. Ignore the recommendations of the cardiologist and go up a grade anyway
2. Attain a level of fitness such that I can prove to my cardiologist I can race higher and within his required heart rate restrictions
3. Stop criterion racing and concentrate on time trials and road races.
The handicapper is a survivor of open heart surgery himself and is very supportive of my situation. However, he has a responsibility to all cyclists to have properly balanced fields.
The cardiologist is the expert and knows what I should and should not be doing. He is also a cyclist and former racer and has an understanding of the different grades of racing. His recommendations are therefore fully informed.
I enjoy the racing and the people involved in cycling and want to continue. I cannot however to totally oblivious to their enjoyment or right to a fair go.
It is a catch 22.
Although here is another solution. If I stop training, lose fitness and put on weight, I can attain the fitness required to justify to all racing at the level I am currently competing at.
I suggest however this would have other negative implications.
Better go; I have a training session to make up for having missed this morning.