Monday, March 17

Outrunning Wildebeests

Most of my schemes begin with a question.  Some begin with a negative statement like "I could never do the Leadville 100."  But the vast majority of them are phrased more like "Wonder if I could do the Gorge Loop from home in less than three hours?"

I've never really tried to do it in a respectable time.  In the past I've mostly been concerned with getting up Sky Bridge Hill.  I've gotten to the point where I just ride the big hills.  It's not a matter of if I can ride them anymore, but how I ride them.

From my front door, out to the loop, around, and back to my kitchen door is 53.9 miles.  I'd have to do better than a 17.96 mph average to pull it off in less than three hours. I felt good.  I thought I had a chance to at least come close to pulling it off.

There was no Moze.  My hilarious texts went unanswered.  I'd not planned to ride the night before and since I didn't have an established start time I languished at home, basking in the warmth of my kin.  And blasting Imagine Dragons to eleven.

Finally, after a lengthy breakfast process and continual speed bumps I got out the door gussied up in my kit with a minimalist's load of rations aboard the sporty-sport bike; the faithful Dogrunner.  I pointed my wheels east and slammed down on the pedals.  Ugh.  It hurt.  

I pushed hard out to Nada, turned up toward the tunnel and soon enough I was into the Gorge proper.  An hour out from home I turned onto KY 715.  I felt good then.  My knees sang quietly as I kept a steady cadence, but not enough to hold me back.

I finally felt warmed up, and as I rolled through the Middle Gorge heading for the Concrete Bridge I maintained an 18 mph average.  There was little traffic despite most of the trailheads seeming to be packed with spring breakers, and on one level it felt as if I had the Gorge to myself. 

I had no reservations about tackling Sky Bridge Hill.  I knew it would fall easily. The only concern I had was the condition of pavement desecrated by the 2014 Winterpocalypse.  Mandy rode up Sky Bridge not so long ago and reported snow and ice lingering the shadows.  She didn’t have a clean ascent of Sky Bridge Hill only because the road threw unreasonable friction—or rather the lack thereof—at her.  Saturday there was no more snow or ice and I pedaled my way up Sky Bridge Hill, reaching the apex of my ride, 26 miles from home, one hour and thirty-five minutes after departing the RRRBP.  And to that point I had not put a foot down since leaving home.

Somewhere along the way I decided if I couldn’t break the three hour mark maybe I could do the entire loop without stopping.  One problem I’ve had in all my competitive endurance events has been that I spend too much time off the bike: Alpine Odyssey, Mohican, Leadville…Leadville.  I missed the twelve hour cutoff by twenty-four minutes, and I spent at least that much time off the bike that day. 

I figured a “no foot-down” 52 mile ride would be good training for the Mohican.  It was a mental and physical exercise I needed to try.  And then there’s another problem: I’ve been having trouble getting fired up about the Mohican.  Partly because of the lingering winter weather, partly because life has been diverting too much time from my racing fantasies of late, and partly because I think I was a bit burned out even before I crossed the finish line at Leadville this past year…I just wasn’t terribly excited about going back to Loudonville.

Pondering these things as I rode, shooting for a sub-three hour ride, and thinking that pulling off a no foot-down ride would be a good training feather…all led to revelation.  I had a moment when I knew what my goal for the Mohican must be: beat my Alpine Odyssey time.

I finished the 100k Alpine Odyssey in six hours and forty-five minutes.  Since I chose the 100k version of the Mohican this year it just seemed to be a sensible comparison.  And the inner competitor in me wanted to best even my fastest (and only) 100k mountain bike race by forty-five minutes.  My primary goal will be to finish the Mohican 100k in six hours or less.  And shy of that my secondary goal will be to beat 6:45. 

It’s still going to take a lot of work.  I’m still itching to start getting out on the trails.  I still feel like I’ve got a long way to go.  But these past four weekends I have been making progress.  Now I’ve got to step it up.  I’ve got to really start putting in quality miles.

I slowed down after Sky Bridge Hill, but I was on track to finish close to three hours.  I was halfway there in miles and only a few minutes behind schedule with no significant obstacles between me and success.  If I could just nudge my average mph back up to around 17-18 mph I might just pull it off.  And being on top of Sky Bridge without having stopped put me insanely close to being able to meet my secondary goal for the day.

I slowed on the rollers out to Pine Ridge.  It wasn’t much of a reduction, but I noticed my legs felt heavier.  I’d eaten the last of my food after cresting the hill, and my fuel gauge was only going to fall with each mile pedaled.  At Pine Ridge another factor hit me full in the face: relentless headwind.  I started to feel my effort as I pushed on into wind.  I slowed as I neared the top of Slade Hill.  I hoped that I could drop back down of the Plateau and get out of the wind. 

The descent into Slade is enjoyable.  I started watching my time close.  I had just over an hour to get home from Pine Ridge to break three hours.  If the wind subsided down in the valley I would have a good chance.  But to keep fighting against the wind after two solid hours on the bike was going to be tough.

By the time I raced through Slade I had only fifty-three minutes to cover fourteen miles and I was losing steam.  Ultimately it was a losing battle.  When my cyclo-computer rolled over 3:00 I had just hit 49 miles.  I was almost five miles shy of my goal.  I returned home twelve minutes after the mark.  So close. 

On the other hand I managed my no foot-down Gorge loop ride and was stoked about that.  And 3:12 is close enough that I know my goal is attainable.  Next time for sure!

Time is running out for the Mohican.  I’ve got to shed pounds like rocket stages.  I’ve got to ride miles like I’m being chased.  I’ve got to keep scheming and making hard to attain goals for myself.  I’ve got to outrun the wildebeests.

2 comments:

  1. Well done! 3:12 without putting a foot down, including some decent climbs is quite the achievement. You are definitely on track and developing well in this early season. Keep up the good work!

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    1. Thanks! It felt good. I know I've got a ways to go, but I'm not feeling so deep in the winter now.

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