Even XC racers can’t deny
When a girl descends hinged at the waist
With a round thing in your face
She goes fast…
I’ve been a little lax in posting since we emerged from the snowy Lousy Smarch that was getting me down. Admittedly, I’ve been struggling to get back up, even after the snow has melted and warm sunny days have returned.
The TSE is now less than seven weeks away, and I don’t feel even remotely on track preparation-wise. For various reasons, I haven’t gotten in the kind of long rides on the Tussey and Cooper’s Gap stages that I would like, and I’m noticeably slower on my benchmark XC segments than I was this time last year. Admittedly, in past years I would be alternating between focusing on these segments for my Wednesday night rides therefore improving on them at a more rapid pace. I mentally referred this a couple of days ago as “Strava-ing myself into shape”, since I don’t actually do much actual XC racing.
However, since I graduated from XC bikes at the end of last summer, and especially since I’ve been focusing on improving my skills more than my fitness, Wednesday night has become enduro night at the expense of XC riding. Luckily, I am seeing some breakthroughs in that area. I’ve mostly been focusing on perfecting my new and improved descending position on the Sand Spring trail, which is one of the easier stages of the TSE enduro day. It’s steep and loose, but not hair-raising. Since I started improving my balance and position based on the teachings of Lee Likes Bikes, I’ve dropped my PR from 1:45 to 1:26. The QOM is 1:03, set by Andrea Wilson on an XC bike with presumably way less practice than I've had, so I’ve still got my work cut out for me.
I haven’t quite worked my way up to my last summer’s PRs on scarier descents like Wildcat, Old Laurel, and No Name, but I think I’ll get there soon. Those PRs represent the limit of my ability to push through fear and burning quads, but since I’ve learned that neither of those things are actually something you should push through on a descent, I’ve slowed down while I tweak my technique such that they are eliminated rather than pushed through. It definitely seems more within the realm of possibility than it did a couple of months ago, but I’m just not quite there yet.
Sadly, depending on whether you believe the TSE’s Bikereg page or their website, I might not even get to race the enduro stage as part of the three-day. Their website currently has the enduro listed on day two of the five-day, swapping it with the R.B. Winter stage from what was originally advertised. I don’t think I’ll have my enduro game perfected in time for this year’s race, but I’ll still be disappointed if I don’t get the chance to try. The R.B Winter stage is fun and all, but I don’t know that I can handle three long, hard XC stages in a row in my current condition.
Not that the removal of the enduro stage from the three-day will quell our newly-christened Wednesday EWS tradition (we don’t bow down to the UCI of amateur weeknight training rides) in favor of XC rides. I’m trying to adopt the attitude of “ride what you can in the time you have left, and hope for the best”. I put on some spectacular displays of gutting things out last year, and hopefully I can keep it up at the TSE, if necessary.
One of the reasons that I haven’t done as well on long rides as I’d hoped is that I spent this past weekend in a sore-throat, feeling generally crappy state of uncertainty about whether it’s allergies or the beginning of a two-week hell cold. That meant that we did what should have been a 1.5 hour ride at 2.5 hour pace on Saturday, and I stayed in altogether Sunday. I’m feeling about the same, and I still can’t tell which way this thing is going to go. The one bright spot of the weekend was during our slow ride, we stopped to session things that we normally just blow past.
I wanted practice riding drops correctly since next weekend we’ll be joining my downhill-oriented teammates at Mountain Creek in New Jersey. For all of Rothrock’s technical features, high-speed drops of any significant size are pretty rare. This one still isn’t that big, but it looks bigger riding it than it does in the video. I’m pretty proud of this, because I’ve been afraid to ride it at full speed before. This time, it felt like nothing at slow speed, so I had to go faster and catch air just to get in the push/pull motion that I was trying to practice. The result is a pretty darn good-looking jump just from a combo of speed, a little unweighting on the lip, and then a good push/pull landing. This practice stuff is actually working.