After 3 weeks off the bike and 1 race away from securing the belt buckle, I made the decision to kit up and "ride" the finale. I was unsure of how well my body was recovering and needed a spin to let me know if I was making any headway or not. Probably not a smart move physically, but I needed the mental satisfaction in order to keep me going for another 3 weeks of rest. And if I felt like crap, I could always bail at the 1/2 way point and drive Zeke's truck back to the start.
After horrendous winter conditions the past few weeks, the trail would not allow for many PR's. That combined me starting in the back of the field would ensure a slow, enjoyable ride. Never knowing how my legs truly feel until the race starts, I stood patiently waiting while at least 150 riders began their TT.
Normally I am freezing at the start, but today I chose to layer ... alot. Being warm at the start was a bonus. As I began my ride, I soft-pedaled to the creek crossing. Many passed me, but I did not care. I was happy just to be on the bike, enjoying my time with nature. I was wearing my heart rate monitor, to keep me honest. As I settled into my granny to begin the double track climb, I glanced down at my monitor. Heart rate of 150 with an RPE of 4 and no "burn" in my legs. That was a fantastic sign. 3 weeks ago while attempting a tempo work out at the Dry Creek system, my HR was 130 with an RPE of 10 and legs of lead!
The trail was slicker-n-snot in alot of places. My bike and I were soon covered in a couple pounds of mud. I chose to work on skills today. After "granny-ing" the climbs, I would put it in rock-n-roll mode on the descents. With lots of energy being conserved, I do believe I rode the descents faster and better ... although a couple trees did get awfully close!
Starting in the back allowed me to make several new observations:
- The 26" wheel is not dead!
- The men smell so much better. Over the course of the race, I rode behind 4 guys that had on cologne. Not overpowering, but very pleasant.
- The size of the hydration packs! OMG, it made my neck and shoulder blades hurt, just looking at them.
- The aid stations are packed full of racers. They did not appear to be making any NASCAR style pits.
- The racers are really the same as the frontrunners. Although not as fast, they are equally determined to enjoy the ride and accomplish goals.
Arriving at the Snake Creek Gap parking lot, I mosey'd over to my cooler and had a brief picnic. After refueling and shedding a layer, I began the climb up Mill Creek Mountain. After remembering last month's painful, demoralizing experience of this section, I reveled in the fact that today was so much better.
Just before the washed out, rutted descent prior to The Wall, I was able to catch up to Grace Ragland and ride with her for a couple miles. I know Grace pretty well, but I have never ridden with her. WELL, LET ME TELL YOU! THIS CHICK HAS SKILLS! She slayed that downhill! I was most impressed by her descending skills, as well as her ability to negotiate the rock gardens. WOW! This, from a woman, who had her 55th birthday today ... and has multiple sclerosis. Truly amazing!
Having conserved so much energy over the first half of the course I was able to clean so much more of the last 8 miles of single track. I almost made it up the wall; just too many walkers to negotiate around led me to spin out at the halfway point on the short rocky ledge. Ooooh ... so close!
I rolled through the finish line in 4:07. This was 34 minutes slower than last month, but
100 times more enjoyable! Last month my average HR was 155 with an RPE of 10. Today was an average HR of 144 with an RPE of 5. I will take this and enjoy the next 3 weeks off the bike and any structured training. I truly needed this mental boost as I was doubting my abilities to recover and be able to strive for a successful 2015 season.
I must apologize to all my cycling friends, but I am groovin' on next week's forecast.