Monday, June 29, 2015

Reluctantly About That Base

"To go north, you must journey south, to reach the west you must go east. To go forward you must go back, and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow." - Quaithe to Daenerys Targaryen in "A Clash of Kings"

I’ve spent most of my summer so far focusing on getting faster on the singletrack of Rothrock State Forest, mainly the XC Loop, Tussey Ridge, and John Wert. To be fair, singletrack riding is the most fun and suits my strengths the best, and the fact that I was suddenly able to produce big improvements with minimal effort through April and May was a huge ego boost for me and inspired me to get back on track training-wise. However, as June rolled in, I started to plateau on these sections and notice how a lot of my inability to clear sections that I still couldn’t clear had a lot more to do with a lack of power than a lack of skill, or at least the ability to perform skills while redlined. I was riding a lot harder without actually going much faster and leaving myself too cooked to expand the total distance of my weekend rides.

Reluctantly I made the decision that after returning from Illinois I would focus on shoring up my weaknesses instead of trying to squeeze a few seconds here and there out of my strengths. My weakness? Climbing gravel on a mountain bike, which unfortunately, is an integral part of mountain bike racing in State College. I always say that the Wilderness 101 is cruel because 70% of it would be faster on a ‘cross bike, but there’s just enough rocky singletrack to make that a bad decision. My hope is that by focusing on gravel climbing for a while I can gain some minutes more easily and increase my endurance since, even at a hard tempo, it’s still easier on the body than riding the singletrack in this area.

Pretty pink new shoes.

My first attempt was not that spectacular. It was pouring rain all day Saturday, so I called it a loss and used it as an opportunity to thoroughly clean the house for the first time in about two months. That made Sunday the big day to go out and conquer my climbing fears a week and a half after making the decision to do so. It was still raining, albeit much more lightly, and I wore the pretty new pink shoes that Frank had got me for our two-year anniversary earlier in the week. I knew that setting out in brand new shoes for a planned four-hour ride might not be such a good idea, but I really wanted to wear them. Between the wet chamois and the odd feeling of pedaling in new shoes (I woke up sore today), the ride got cut to 2.5 hours and wasn’t particularly fast, but I did finally conquer my fear and climb the too wide to be singletrack and too chunky to be gravel enigma that is the Gettis “Road” climb in the middle of the TrailMix long course. It was slow, but at least it was a start. Now I’ve got to go back on Saturday and do the full 30 mile route that I’d planned and hopefully do some of the climbs a little faster.

Nearing the top.

This is my Gettis face.

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