Sunday, April 13, 2014

Week #67: Rothrock 101

My first week of Pennsylvania riding is complete. It's felt a lot like Death March training on steroids, as we spend a lot of time looking at maps, and trying to figure out our route, and finally trying to navigate in real life what we've planned on a computer screen. Oh, but there's rocks, so many rocks, so there's a technical element on top of just putting in the miles and finding our way around.

The goal we are working towards is to complete the Rothrock Trailmix IMBA epic course. At first it sounds silly that our goal to is to simply finish a ride that is only slightly longer than a Cat 1 men's cross country race, but when you consider that those 36 miles contain the same amount of climbing as the beefed-up 62 miles of the 2013 Gravel Grovel with a few tons more rocks, you start to understand the challenge. When you actually start riding it in not great shape, you fully understand.

We've ridden five times in eight days since I've been here. The idea was that Monday, Wednesday, and Friday would be my weight training days, since those are the days that Frank has to teach in the afternoons. I only made it to the gym on Monday, while Wednesday and Friday became rest days in a feeble attempt to recover between rides. I guess I was asking a bit too much of my body to put in 13 hours of riding, the largest eight-day total I've had in at least two years, on really tough terrain, and still manage to keep up weight training, as well. I'm a complete hangry, exhausted ball of goo right now, but hopefully I'll adjust soon and be able to handle both a regular riding and lifting schedule, as I feel like the former could really benefit from the latter if I'm able to do both and still recover well.

Rocking the white jersey and sunburn, as it hit nearly 80 degrees today. 

Red= Sunday, Blue=Tuesday, Green=Saturday

Anyway, we broke up the Trailmix course into three sections. The red we road both last Sunday and today, with not a lot of improvement today, due to my compounded fatigue. Last Sunday I had no idea what I was doing, but at least I was fresh. Tuesday we hit the Tussey Ridge trail, which I had hiked but not ridden before and found pretty intimidating. The climb up was actually easier than I expected, although there are are still a few rock gardens that are way beyond my current skill level. However, it's pretty worth it once you're on top of the ridge, as there is a beautiful ribbon of of flat-ish open singletrack that allows you to see for miles due to a forest fire a few years ago. Unfortunately, our better-than-expected experience on Tussey was tempered by terrible rock strewn slog back on the John Wert trail, which is basically a 2.5 mile long rock garden. It's mostly flat, but you're churning over big chunky rocks almost every pedal stroke of the trail. It's not the kind of thing you want to deal with when you've already got some hard riding in your legs and just want to get home.

Top of Tussey

Saturday was our biggest ride yet, at a whopping 18 miles. This is the part where we tackled the "filler" of the course, having covered the two major singletrack loops earlier in the week. This loop consisted of 3-5 mile gravel road climbs followed by a mile or two of technical descent at the time. I tried to think of it as "enduro day", but the climbing definitely outweighed the descending. Doing that much climbing on a full-suspension mountain bike, even a locked-out one, is pretty rough, but I tried to tell myself that I need to aerobic training mixed in with the gnar-riding if I actually want to be in bike-rider shape again.

Returning to the scene of our very first #scenicvistaselfie. We did not have to climb Greenlee Rd. on 'cross bikes this time, but the back side of Greenlee, as well all the climbing that followed, made up for it.

Finally, we broke up our pursuit of the Rothrock Trailmix for a day on Thursday, as we got our first taste of Cooper's Gap, another "epic" trail system a little bit further southeast of the Trailmix group of trails but still with Rothrock State Forest. We attempted to do the Cooper's Gap Highlights ride, but as you can see from our "actual ride map" below, our navigation wasn't too great. It was a fun change of pace, though, as those trails are a little more tame than most of of what's in the Trailmix section, but they still have enough rocks to make it interesting.

So far I haven't found anything that even remotely qualifies as easy singletrack here, but as an interesting side note, when I went into Appalachian Outdoors to buy a new hydration pack on Friday, my cashier was fellow Bloomington transplant, Jean-Luc Serriere. He showed me a map where of there are supposedly 6,000 acres of a swoopy Midwestern-style trails within riding distance of downtown, but I guess they are just kind of a spiderweb and not well-marked. So we're a little intimidated about given those a try for fear of getting lost, but maybe we can get to them later in the summer when we tire of the gnar.

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