Having not been on single track since the first of February when I went to Florida and seeing the forecast for this weekend ... cold and wet, I decided to suffer the drive through Atlanta and race the Old Capitol Classic. This was the second race in the Chainbuster 3/6 hour series.
Not sure which one to do and with The Snake finale the following weekend, I would let my legs tell me during the pre ride. I rode my SS with a 32 x 17. Within the first 4 miles, I knew I did not have a big enough gear. This course was pancake flat and fassst! The course was a 50/50 mix of ribbon like single track through pine forests and straight aways on double track. After finishing my pre ride, I knew I did not have the mental fortitude to race for 6 hours, so I chose the 3 hour race. I was also thankful that I brought my geared hardtail as a back up, as it was now my primary weapon.
I got a wonderful night's sleep, yet when I checked my HRV (heart rate variability) in the morning, it was extremely low ... as in, my app told me that the day would be better spent resting. Uggh! Not good. Last year I added HRV to my toolbox; just another way to analyze my fitness and recovery. It has been very predictable and when I saw my number for the day, my heart sank a little.
But, the day was going to be glorious no matter how my body responded. Sunny and warm! I have not seen those two together in quite a while. Start time was 10:15. When the horn went off, the dude in front of me couldn't get clipped in. That led to a hesitation in my pedal stroke, and then I couldn't get clipped in either. I laughed inwardly, got it together, and then hammered up the parade lap hill. Towards the top of the hill, I thought was heart was going to rip through my rib cage! This, being only my second race of the season, I was not used to this XC start.
I made it into the woods first woman. Going through the first pine straw corner, I heard the racer behind me eat dirt. Glad to have escaped that carnage, I pushed myself hard the first couple miles just to see how my body felt and perhaps get a gap on my competition. Despite a solid warm up, my legs felt a bit heavy.
Any chance I got, I hopped on someone's wheel. This was a roadie course, no doubt. Anytime I could draft, I could conserve much needed energy. When I hit the switchback powerline climb, I saw Angie and Danielle not far behind. As I crested the top of this 0.3 mile climb, I slowed up a bit, realizing that the 15 second gap I had was not going to hold. I focused on riding smoothly and staying off the brakes through this next section of flowing single track.
By the time I hit the second (0.75 mile) powerline climb, they were on my wheel. That was when I knew this was going to be REAL. I offered to let them by, but they were content to stay where they were. When we entered the last 1/2 mile of single track, which was technical with lots of roots and short ups/downs, I tried to establish another gap. While I was faster on the descents, they were able to get back on my wheel on the climbs.
After popping out of that single track, we came through the start/finish area. It was here that they passed me. Danielle stopped momentarily, but Angie didn't. I hopped on her wheel, hoping that I had the legs to stay with her for 2 more laps. Danielle bridged back to us quickly. I settled into third behind Danielle.
I was in a hard spot. This course did not play into my strengths at all. I was definitely not used to pedaling with force continually. I needed there to be more roots and rock gardens to slow these ladies down! I could hang in their draft on the open double track and through the ribbons of single track, but whenever there was a bit of an uphill or we had to pass a slower rider through the single track, I would pop off their wheel and have to dig deep to hop back on. I was running out of matches quickly; heck, it seemed like the ones I had were wet anyways!
Towards the end of the second lap, I got stuck behind a dude in the rooty single track. Once I lost sight of Angie and Danielle, I lost my mental focus, and allowed myself to just settle in behind this guy. I told myself I would catch them in the transition area. My legs were screaming at me as I climbed the short hill through the transition area. It was here that I lost my mental game.
Lap 3 was a mini Death March. I tried to will my legs to work, but on the "hills" I thought they were going to seize up. I managed to catch glimpses of Angie and Danielle through the first 4 miles, but then they were gone. I fought against my inner demons, determined to "not give up," hoping that they would blow each other up and I could scavenge a 2nd place, perhaps even a first.
That last powerline climb, tho'! That is not even a hill by my definition, but that third time up it, OMG! How could something with only a 4% grade almost crush my soul? I was hurting so bad at the top, I had to laugh at myself!
I finished 3rd overall 1 minute 20 seconds down. I wished I could have stayed with Angie and Danielle, because it would have been cool to see their sprint finish, with Danielle besting Angie by a wheel. Even so, Angie went out for a 4th lap. Kudos to her for trying, but she ran out of time.
Although this course was not technically demanding, it was brutal. This was a good early season test for me. I now know what I need to focus on ... muscular endurance. Thank you Danielle and Angie for kicking my arse! This was a great motivational lesson for me.