Tuesday, August 25, 2015

See You on the Other Side

I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

I first heard Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” at the gym on Thursday. Forgive me if it has been blasting all over pop radio for months, and I’m totally behind. Since I really only hear pop music that isn’t Taylor Swift or Haim on rare occasions at the gym when they’re playing it instead of the Screamy Emo White Guy Rap Rock Station (I assume that’s the official name) and at PACX races, I really wouldn’t know. I guess I’ll find out soon, though.

With the first PACX a mere five days away, I can’t think of a more fitting snippet of song lyrics to describe how I’m feeling. I’m already starting to get nervous, since like any ‘cross season, it’s just too hard to tell how it’s going to go until it starts. I’ve been very consistent in the gym this summer, so I’m strong, and my volume of quality riding (as opposed to just volume) in July and August has been the highest that I remember. Still, my performance at Guts Gravel Glory a couple of weeks ago didn’t really boost my confidence, but that was a much different beast than real ‘cross. So my plan for Sunday is just to go out hard and see what happens. Then we’ll know my actual number of matches and whether the resulting explosion is the good or bad kind.

I titled this post “See You on the Other Side” not only because it marks the transition to ‘cross season, but also because, in a proper farewell to summer gravel riding, on Sunday Frank and I explored the portion of the W101 course that lies on the other of 322. I had briefly crossed over to climb Stillhouse during my “Wilderness 48” ‘cross bike ride-a-long a few weeks ago, but this time we drove to the race start in Coburn and experienced 53 miles of almost completely unfamiliar territory.

Since the bulk of the W101’s singletrack is concentrated around the Cooper’s Gap area in Rothrock, we rode our ‘cross bikes and cut out one bit of the course that was marked as a snowmobile trail. Everything else was marked as a road, so it should be fine, right? Apparently they use the term “road” loosely around here, and I am proud to say that we survived the rock-strewn Panther Run Rd. that people apparently don’t even like to ride on their mountain bikes. After 5,000+ feet of climbing, two long chunks of rocky Jeep roads, traversing the frighteningly narrow beams of where a bridge should be, and a slippery 50-ish meter wide creek crossing that was fast-moving and above my knees in most places, we triumphantly (and tiredly) returned to Coburn a couple minutes shy six hours after we left. The coming Sunday’s bumpy ride through a cornfield should feel like nothing now.

Frank is less afraid of heights than me.

The good news is that I’ve now ridden almost every piece of the W101 course now, save a few little bits here and there. Okay, two of those bits are rocky fall-line trails, but those are really the least of my worries as the key for those is just to ride smart and stay intact for the rest of the race. I still can’t imagine doing the whole thing on a mountain bike, but hopefully in another 11 months I will. For now, though, it’s time to “cross over” and find out if all of the riding this summer did me any good.

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