Today I got one more singletrack ride in for 2008. It's getting to be the time of year when the trails could turn irreparably slushy at any time and stay that way until March or April (let's cross our fingers for March). It turned out to be a really nice day and I was surprised how many people were out in 30-something degrees. However, it was sunny and didn't really feel cold at all. I was actually overly warm except on the longest descents.
I've been thinking for several days that it's probably time to start my "prep phase" for 2009. Basically, if I want the Ouachita Challenge to not totally suck next spring, I need to do some serious winter training. If I don't want the serious winter training to suck, I need to start getting myself used to being on the bike again. For example, I have 90-minute roller rides in Zone 3 planned for every Thursday in January and February. I came to the conclusion that I need to get in a 45-minute roller ride this week and start working up if I don't want January to kill me.
Today was definitely a testament to the amount of work I have to do to get myself back in shape. I knew I rode badly at the Iceman, but I really didn't have any frame of reference as to how badly since I'd never been on that course before. As for today, Brown County tells no lies. I was climbing stuff in my granny ring that I would normally climb in my big ring in a race situation. I'm pretty sure I'm almost down to my beginner-class fitness from 2006. I'm definitely up to (and above) my beginner class weight.
The worst part is that I haven't found the self-fulfillment and emotional balance that I hoped this break from the bike would bring. This isn't to say that it hasn't benefited me; it just hasn't benefited me in the way I had hoped. Basically, the last couple of months have been an important lesson in how avoiding discomfort doesn't lead to happiness. I'm still not exactly sure what does, but I think I'm closer than I was this time last year.
The one bright spot of the day was the realization how it really hasn't been that long since my tires first touched Brown County dirt April 2006. It was my first time taking my clipless pedals off road and about my fourth time off road period. That first ride I was super proud of myself that I did two laps of the beginner loop without having to unclip. Today I felt like might actually be less fit than I was then, but with much better technical skills. However, when I think about how I made from two beginner loops in April 2006 to finishing a highly technical 60-mile race in April 2008, I realize that I'm not doing as bad as I thought. Furthermore, 28 is still pretty young in endurance mountain bike world, so hopefully, I still have plenty more years and plenty more big improvements left in me.