I haven’t written in the last couple of weeks, because I missed a weekend of racing to meet my mom in my old stomping ground of Bloomington, IN for mother-daughter activities. This was her choice, not mine, and it was definitely a little weird being back, and even more weird being back for such a short period of time. We met in Indianapolis on Friday afternoon, drove to Kentucky, saw Mammoth Cave on Saturday, drove to Bloomington, saw her favorite preacher doing a guest appearance at a local church Sunday, went to Nashville so I could “demo to win” a Liv Intrigue SX, did the Nashville tourist thing, and flew home on Monday. This was sandwiched between two busy weeks at work, along with a few other building stressors coming to fruition. So with airplanes, hotels, jammed calendars, lack of sleep, and a general feeling of uncertainty in several facets of my life, the last couple of weeks haven’t exactly been awesome for me.
I’d decided a few weeks ago that with the breaks in the PACX schedule and knowing that I’d miss another weekend of racing for the trip, that my ‘cross season was simply not going to play out in the “race early and often” manner that I prefer. I was interested in doing Iron Cross since we’d been riding so much gravel during the last half of the summer, and the way my ‘cross schedule was working out, I thought, “Screw it. What’s one more weekend off from ‘cross?” With the breaks in the race schedule and couple of carefully placed PTO days, I thought I’d be able to maintain my gravel fitness well enough into October to survive.
Of course, my body didn’t necessarily comply with the aggressive endurance schedule that I wanted it to maintain once the ‘cross season started, and I didn’t get in nearly the amount of gravel time in the past few weeks as I’d planned. We got in one last-ditch 42-mile ride the day before I left for Indiana that didn’t actually feel too bad endurance-wise, but was a lot slower than what I was doing in August without actually feeling slower while I was riding. I guess I’d lost more than I thought.
Fast forward ten extremely stressful days later, and I found myself lining up at the back of 200 riders on a downtown street of Williamsport, PA with the temperature hovering around 35 degrees. As we took off for what was supposed to be the 15 m.p.h. “neutral rollout”, I spun out a steady but not hard pace as I warmed up for the long day of climbing ahead. I also noticed that my “steady but comfortable pace” was allowing me to slip further and further to the back and off the back of the group, to the point that I was pretty sure Frank and I were DFL with the next riders up fading out site by the time we’d gotten out of town. It turns out that we actually weren’t DFL, but it was close.
My confidence started to rise as we hit gravel and then a long Jeep road climb where I began to pick off a few riders here and there. By the time the section ended, I had passed five girls and was pumped enough to set the goal of increasing that to ten by the time the day was over. Oh me.
We immediately dumped out on a short gravel descent and then onto a paved climb on a busy road. I briefly paused for a gel and because Frank had stopped when we hit the gravel. I was passed by two girls while stopped, and I set to work reeling them back in only to find out how long and steep the paved climb was. My hatred of pavement was in full force as I watched them pull away only find a long paved decent, an aid station, and six to seven miles slightly uphill pavement grinding that followed. By the time we got off road again, I’d lost at least half the places that I gained on the first off-road climb.
What followed was seven miles of chunky climbing with some technical, rocky descending to break it up a bit. The climbing didn’t *feel* bad, but it was just a long time of never really being able to go fast. It took us four hours to get through 33 miles, which was a lot worse than the 10 m.p.h. average that I was expecting, so we called it a day when made it to the second aid station.
Obviously, I’m not exactly proud of this turn of events, but those are the facts. At this point I just want to put it behind me and start doing what I can to start breaking up the dark mood that’s been building in me for the past few weeks before it gets out of control. I hope that I can still make something of what’s left of my ‘cross season, but at this point, taking care of my brain and body are of the utmost importance.