After a pretty long hiatus of being off the bike or just riding enough to not become a beached whale, I've finally hopped back on and getting the fitness back. That's a tough process to follow when you've basically given it up for such a long period of time. My wife has been instrumental pushing back into my old self. She's an amazing woman who rides herself and is currently training for her first Ironman Distance Tri next month (We'll talk more about that in some posts to come). Anyhow, I've jumped back on to training several days a week. Mostly I've been on the road and thrown some gravel riding in on occasion. The fat is definitely shedding off and the quads are getting bigger again (I'm even shaving these beautiful beasts again!)...
This last Saturday, I toed the line on my first real race back in the saddle. I traveled over to Brevard, NC and raced in the Pisgah Monster Cross Race. It was 70 miles of asphalt and gravel in Pisgah National Forest with nearly 8,000 ft of climbing. Driving up on Friday, the nerves really hit me! I've been training hard lately on the road bike. I've been increasing my mileage for some endurance training and I thought I was ready but a lot of uncertainty still existed.
After deciding to call in an early night after an awesome dinner in Brevard, I got nearly ten hours of sleep. The next morning I got up and went to the start line of the race and mingled a bit before everything kicked off. It was great to see some old friends and acquaintances I haven't seen in the several years I've been away from the biking scene. However, I looked around and didn't see any single speed cross bikes...My head began to realize that I brought a knife to a gun fight.
Photo Courtesy of Scott Redd
Shortly thereafter, we hit Hwy 215 for what would be about a 10 mile climb on asphalt up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. At this point, I knew I had to reserve but not too much. Being on a single speed, you can only turn those cranks so slow before you start burning some matches. You got to stay on top of them and power through it. This allowed me to start catching some more guys who were playing it safe on the climb with their geared bikes. As I would pass people, they would ask what gear I was turning. I learned to say with as little effort possible, "42x19"...It was all I could do to even say that much! I was giving all I had to just conserve and hammer up this mountain!
At the top of the Blue Ridge Parkway, I ducked into the aid station for a quick bottle refill and grabbed onto the wheels of a group of geared riders. They thankfully pulled me through the 20 mile section of the BRP till we hit the big descent down FS5000 (Bent Creek Gap). I ducked into the 2nd aid station for another quick bottle refill while a few others from the previous group rested for a moment. I hoped I could get another of a jump on the descent to give me a little gap from the mountain bikers. The guys on the mountain bikes were just able to descend so much faster and with more confidence due to the larger tires. At the bottom of the descent, I was only passed by 2 people. At this point, it was really time to evaluate my energy levels and not burn out too fast. There were several climbs on the gravel forest roads that really tested my endurance with a single speed setup. I just put my head down and powered through it...slowly.
The last 10 miles of the race went by pretty lonely. I didn't see many people and I wasn't passed by many either. On the last descent to the finish line, I hear someone bombing down this gnarly forest service road. I knew they had to be on a mountain bike with how fast they were going. I saw a guy pass and looked down at his drivetrain...Single speed. There was no way I could hang with his pace. I just settled into the fact of finishing.
Finishing 4th out the single speeds and 81st out of 120 in the Men's Open field wasn't a bad thing. Yeah, I can look back and think about what I could have done differently here or there. Instead, I'm pretty damn happy with my finish. I gave my all out there and I'm even happier to know I'm back into bike racing! I've got a lot more work to do to bump up my endurance and speed but that will come with time. Pisgah Productions did a great job getting this event together and I'll definitely be back again to race more of their events! It was also good to finally race with the guys from Tennessee Valley Bikes. They're a great bunch that knows how to have a good time! I'm glad they let me be on their team this year!
Lastly, I'm really thankful for my wife through all this. She hasn't ever discouraged me from riding. If anything, she pushes me to ride more and more! She is my rock and my number one fan! I wouldn't have been able to compete, much less finish this race without her. I'm looking forward to having her by my side in the races to come!