A more apt title for this post could be "Hitting the Bottom." My pre-race routine was pretty much the same and I felt good. Zeke, Jason, and I headed up to Ohio on Thursday. We stopped at my in-laws in New Market, Tennesee, to drop Carly off and Grandmom Gwen had cooked us a spectacular lunch: meatloaf (homegrown angus), cornbread, green beans, cooked apples, and banana pudding. Jason and Zeke had seconds!
We made it up to the Mohican Lodge around 9 pm. There we met up with Kim and got to bed by 10 pm. I had a good night's sleep. On Friday we pre-rode some of the singletrack. Legs felt good and I opened them up a bit since it had been 3 days since I had ridden. We ran into Rebecca Rusch who was spinning around as well. It was good to see her and talk to her a bit, although my "Anxiety-O-Meter" went up a notch. Afterwards, I showered, stretched, and then registered. Legs were feeling great: light and loose.
Supper was what I brought: pasta, pesto, bread, and broccoli. Sleep did not come easily, what with people coming in at all hours and hearing their doors slamming shut. Then I awoke to the rumbling of thunder during the night. Then Zeke decided to get up at 3:30 am and even though he attempted to be quiet, I still heard him. It was at this point that I knew my body was just not right; I tried to ignore those feelings of dread and got on with my pre-race routine of watching the weather on TV, drinking coffee and eating a poptart. Whaddya know? On the tube, there WAS another tornado warning! So now I am 5 for 5.
Thankfully the rain had stopped by the time we got to Loudonville for the start. I did a little warm-up. Legs felt sluggish, but I blew it off. It seems I am always a little slow at the start, anyways. I lined up at the start next to Michelle and found out that she is going to TransRockies, too. Cool! When the gun went off, the XC start began. The frontrunners just about ran over the lead-out vehicle! After a couple hundred yards, the pavement kicked up steeply! Ohio may not have mountains, but their hills are Brasstown Bald steep! It was right about this point when I went to stand and climb, that I KNEW I was in for a bad day. It was like some evil fairy had taken MY legs off during the night and had replaced them with Pinocchio's wooden ones.
Normally I am with the second group that hits the singletrack. When I finally hit the singletrack, I was probably mid-pack. I got stuck behind a lot of slower people, but I figured this would give me a chance to recover, warm up, and get out of this slump. There was a long hike-a-bike on this newly cut section of trail on private land. It reminded me of La Ruta because of its steepness and lotsa mud. From here we came in behind Mohican Adventures and then hit the sweet singletrack of the Mohican State Forest.
This section was supposed to be the "Whoo-hoo!" part of the race, but after two hours I was in a world of hurt. My heartrate was up, but their was no high-end power = a lot of time spent in granny. After hiking the bike up the horse trail and watching Karen Potter pass me like I was standing still, I knew my body was broken.
I crawled in to Aid Station 2 (Mile 34), swapped Camelbaks, thanked the volunteers, and headed out. My drivetrain was full of mud at this point, but I chose NOT to use the hose. I figured that if my chain broke, I could take the easy way out. The next 10 miles were the absolutely lowest point of my race. When I would try to downshift into granny, my chain would not obey. It would make this clicking/grinding noise in the middle ring. So I would stand and torque the chain, hoping that it would break. Eventually it would drop down, but it never broke. I think I attempted this manuever about 5 times.
I cannot count how many times I wanted to quit. I was cussing myself, my work, Charlie, and even Zeke. This was the first time ... ever ... that tears of frustration welled up in my eyes. Then I got mad, because I was "victimizing" my situation. When I entered the Mohican Wilderness Trail, my attitude changed. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started to analyze the situation and figure out where I went wrong. So for the next 56 miles, my body may have been broken, but my spirit was not.
I actually got a bit of enjoyment out of the Mohican XC course. I tried to figure out where Zeke was passed by Reenie on a rocky technical section last year, but could not. I guess I was just finally feeling "the Mohican love" and flowed through it without even realizing. I was not having to pedal this section, being mostly downhill, so all was good.
I stopped at Aid Station 3, and had my bike hosed off and lube applied. As I started up the grassy climb to enter more singletrack, I saw Kim ... and Jason (without a bike!) Jason broke his derailleur within the first 5 miles of the race! Uggh! And here I was, taking pity on myself.
So, although the second half of the race was still very hard physically, mentally it became doable. The toughest singletrack was on private land, mostly because of the slippery mud. But since I had my granny back, I was able to stay on the bike and pedal those sections, although sometimes I swear I was going 1 mph!
I eventually caught up to Taylor. We rode together for a while and commiserated on the similarities between this day and La Ruta. At one point we came to a "Y" in the road. To the left was Camp Mahoney and to the right was a gravel downhill. Unsure of which way to procede (we did not see orange tape in either direction and there were bike tracks going both ways) we went left in to the camp. So much of this course was on private land. But after about a 1/4 mile, we knew we chose wrong.
This year the rail-trail was enjoyable. Mostly because it was flat and I had a tailwind. I was able to hook on to a group of two for a few miles before one guy popped off. I popped soon afterward. Last year I remember hitting speeds of 18-20 mph, but today I could only muster 11-14mph when riding alone.
At Aid Station 4 (Mile 72), Kim and Jason were there to help clean and lube my bike and give me words of encouragement. Thanks, guys! You could have been at the pool, but you chose to be there ... for me.
Between aid stations 4 and 5 I do not remember much mostly because I was in deep thought about how I got to be in the predicament I was today. And I am pretty sure that what it all boils down to is being overtrained. Not that I have been riding too much, but when combined with the hours and stresses of work, and the joys and responsibilities of motherhood, there has just not been any time for rest. So now that I think I have figured it out, I need to figure out how to fix it.
Back to the race! The last 8 miles I had a little spark of energy, so I enjoyed the singletrack. And since it had taken me so long to get there, the trail was, for the most part, dry. While I was on the Hemlock Trail, moving at considerable speed and plowing through several mud puddles, I came upon a couple tip-toeing around one rather large puddle. I was probably riding at about 12-14 mph and by the time I saw them (I was coming around a turn), it was too late. All I remember was that the man was wearing white. I hit that puddle and said "Sorry!" at the same time. I did not look back, but knew that I had rooster-tailed them with a large spray of muddy water. I think that was the first time I actually smiled and giggled.
I made it halfway up the dam climb, dismounted and pushed my bike the rest of the way. Back on the road, I hit one last section of private land that tied in to the back of Camp Nuhop. After 10 hours and 14 minutes on the bike, I was happy to pass under the banner at the finish line, collect my pint glass, and collapse on the grass.
I hope that I can say that this race was the hardest hundie for me this year. Perhaps I can be like the Phoenix and rise out of the ashes in time for the Wilderness 101.