So last week a group of us set out on a 55 mile fire road ride. It was hot, most bailed by 30ish miles and as usual, I finished the ride on my own.
This week the ride was going for a metric century (sounds better than 62 miles). A group of around nine riders set out to ride 22 miles of single track and 40 miles of double track to mimic similar terrain conditions for Shenandoah 100 (SM100).
So who shows up for this ride? Besides dome of the usual suspects, two newcomers (for my rides) JD, who snaked a $300 titanium frame away from me, and he shows up riding it (some nerve); and get this, he rode from Wake Forest (cukoo, cukoo). And an old pal Bret shows up. Here is a guy I was crushing in the beginner XC series two years ago. Now he has buffed out (P90X) and kicking my but in XC this year. Still, this is an endurance ride, so he is in my territory now!
As usual the guys who were planning to bail after ~30 miles set a pace faster than I wanted, but whatchagonado? So we all kept pace for the first 11 miles of single track with the only notable events were watching one of the trail builders (let's call him Ennis), falling sideways into the water during a stream crossing (doh, rookie move). We also ran into Mack and Brent on the tandem as they prepare for Shenandoah it is always a hoot seing those guys. As usual, Dale was with them, riding his SS with pink streamers off the bars. Not sure if that take a real man, or the opposite, but hey, it was entertaining.
Back to the ride:
When we hit the double track, I suddenly had a tough time keeping up with my geared brethren. It became clear that my planned 32:19 gear choice for Shenandoah was going to leave me spinning on many sections of the trail. It was pointed out that I am going to wish for a taller gear on the flat sections as guys will form pace lines and I won't be able to keep up. I reminded them that flat sections (and downhills) are where I spin away and rest my legs for the climbs. Going taller means suffering (more) on the climbs and eventually cramping. My goal here is survival, so I will stick with 32:19 for this one.
Wow, we lucked out with the weather. Instead of getting hotter closer to noon, it actually cooled and started to rain. When we ducked into the single-track for our 2nd loop, things were slick, but not messy and we were able to make decent time. At one point I slid off a skinny and luckily caught my chain-stay right where my derailleur would have been. I grinded across the board without falling into the ditch and made a nice recovery as I kept on riding.
The last 20 miles of the ride were a grind (now with Kelly, Bret, JD and me). Kelly kept reminding me that nothing we had ridden was as difficult as Shenandoah, and after the 60 mile mark, that is when the real climbing begins. My legs did not feel great so I told him to STFU! My confidence going into this event is not at an all-time high, and he was not helping. To make matter worse, Bret, who once could not hang with me in XC, shows up to this ride just to see what he could do, and he is kicking my butt! He and Kelly are constantly pulling ahead of me and then are slowing to wait up or I have to work extra hard to keep up. Good for Bret, not so good for me. How dare he show up to my ride, never having ridden that distance before, and the only thing that hurts is his butt from being in the saddle for that time-length. Really, who does he think he is! Clearly he did not once think of my fragile self-esteem and how I was affected by getting embarrassed by a newb.
Still, when the ride ended, I felt so much better than the previous week. Even though the ride was longer and tougher, the weather/temp. made it that much easier. My legs felt better and no headache. Next week the goal is 70+. Ouch! My legs hurt just typing that.