Is this what doping feels like?

I ran into some poison ivy last week. Or poison oak. Either way, it was a nightmare on my arms and legs. Horrible stuff. I tweeted a hilarious joke about it: “Ran into poison ivy while looking for my golf ball in the woods. So that makes me a scratch golfer.”
That tweet got one ‘like’, which is about what all my other tweets get. I’m not much of a writer.

My doctor gave me Prednisone. For the poison oak. Not for my writing.
(Wiki says: a synthetic glucocorticoid drug that is mostly used to suppress the immune system. It is used to treat certain inflammatorydiseases (such as moderate allergic reactions).
I’d been given a prescription for Pred years ago, but a friend said it was “nasty shit” that kept her awake for 4 days straight, so I never filled it. This time, I had to. I was in agony.
I’ve been on it now for 3 of its 7 days. Sleeping fine. Diet is normal. Peeing and pooping without issues. I haven’t grown any body hair in any unusual locations. But today I went out and rode 60 miles as if it were 10.
I’m happy to admit that I am completely naive about the effects of doping. I’ve read books and heard stories, but I had no practical knowledge. I’ve actually never drank coffee. I’ve never had a Red Bull. A caffeinated gel is the only thing I’ve ever used on race day. I once put a de-fizzed Coke in my water bottle because one of the Astellas guys suggested it.

Today’s ride was remarkable. And quite unnerving that these little tiny pills can give that much power and make such a difference. I could just GO all day without worrying about tapping out. My legs were never sore. I never felt stressed. I’m not super fast, and I still climb like crap because I’m 217 pounds and not in great shape. I didn’t set any Strave KOMs, but I had a bunch of PRs and could push really hard on the flat sections for miles.
It would be nice for me to draw a comparison using power data, but I don’t use a meter.

I got a quick sense of invincibility. I could dig deep for 20 minutes and go again immediately after. No recovery needed.  Boundless energy.
I immediately understood why guys who dope feel so superior. It’s a FAKE superiority, of course, and I knew it was fake as it was happening.  But I can see how it could go to one’s head; I felt like a world beater. Especially when I compare it to how I’ve felt on every other 60-mile ride I’ve done in the past 10 years.
I have no worries of ever testing positive. I didn’t take out a racing license this year. I don’t race in non-sanctioned events. This stuff will be through my system long before ski race season, and I’ll never compete with anything but Nuun tablets in my bottles. This was just an unexpected test that produced some eye-popping results.

But finally, my own untested and unscientific theory about why old male bike racers dope got taken for its first test drive today:  I think that one of the hardest things for a competitive athlete to do is to lose a step – to not be able to go as fast as they once could despite training harder, eating better, or buying more bike shit. (What they should be doing is reading my second book, Reading the Race. That’ll help them race better. Just being honest.) And I’ve always suspected that Masters racers (specifically men, because that’s all I can speak to) who choose to dope do so because of diminishing performance caused by aging. And it’s worse in cycling than in other sports because watching a pack of riders – in which you used to be competitive – ride away from you is the most defeating feeling in the world. When you get tired in most other sports (tennis, basketball, soccer, baseball), you sit down, take a rest, go back out, play some more, sit out an inning, go back out.  Maybe you don’t chase after the ball so hard. You learn to pace yourself. But you still play your best.
Unfortunately, in cycling, there is nowhere to hide. You get dropped and beaten and humiliated – in real time – for all to see. It’s harsh, but it’s how the sport works.
And SOME guys simply can not handle that.
So they dope.



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