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week's. Just seven days ago, I was unpacking from my happy Granogue enduro, where I was sailing on sunshine with a bike that had no chain. In fact, the past few races have been giddy, nearly pain free affairs. Like inflated stock shares, that little bubble was bound to burst, of course. And burst it did at my old nemesis , a six hour (for the endurance field) mountain bike race in a state park west of Philadelphia.
To be fair, I was riding pretty well and felt good for much of the day. Nike Air Max Mens Black And White I kept most of the front pack within my sight and finished just a bit behind the lead men on the first lap. I was drinking my bottles, taking my gels, and following the same nutrition plan from the past few weeks. The course was about Womens Air Max Plus
And I did, for a while, until I didn't. Somewhere, and really it's sort of a blur, around lap four and into five, I hit the wall. I felt like crying. I felt like napping. I felt like stopping. I felt like sitting by the side of the trail and waiting for someone on a white horse to ride me the hell out of the woods so I could stop this nonsense and never return. I did none of those things. Instead, I just kept shoveling in calories that my stomach was rejecting, but my body needed. I dialed down the pace and willed myself to digest them. I was grateful for the uphills and swore my way down every jarring, rocky descent that made my shoulders, back, and arms scream and stomach churn. I had fallen off pace for six laps. I was disappointed, but also determined to finish this thing strong. So I made it a game. Just get to the split (the place where the course divides beginner and the rest of the racers) you only have a couple of miles at that point. When I got to the split I thought, just get to the switchbacks. When I got there, it became Just get to the campground; you're really close then. I nearly got off my bike to do a jig when I came around the tents. I could hear the cheering, music and general melee of the finish. It's the most beautiful sound on a good day. It's like an army of heaven's angels playing harps for you when you're suffering like a sled dog. I turned the final bend and crossed the line at 6:19. Oh, thank God.
In the end, only three riders had made it out for six laps Vegan Rob and Mike C, first and second place respectively (awesome work guys) among them so I didn't kick myself too hard. I'd taken first place in the women's field and come in 11th overall. And Team CF had a killer day with Kristin taking first and Nikki third in the women's elite XC race; Harlan taking 4th on his singlespeed in the men's XC race; and Dr. Jim pulling into the podium in third place masters endurance field. All said and done, it was a good day. It just hurt really badly.
I love French Creek. It's a beautiful road ride to the park. The trails are mint for mountain biking. There's a lake, an outdoor amphitheater and yurts for rent. What's not to love? I'll tell you what. The fact that I feel like six shades of death every time I race there. I have the memory of a goldfish a very optimistic goldfish. So each year I think, "This time will be different." And it never is. Saturday was no exception.
We started fast up the climb, thinning the pack to a small group as we reached the top and made a sharp left for the first big descent of the day. As we barreled over the rock drops and water bars, I was started having flashbacks of sufferings from years past This is why I don't like racing here, I thought. I'm not a terrible descender. But I'm not a great one either. I've gotten much better at learning to ride loose and flow and just point my bike and let it do the work. But the rain had me scared. So there I am white knuckling the bars, wearing my shoulders around my ears and barking at myself to get off the freakin' brakes and relax! This behavior, I have deduced, takes a lot of energy, especially repeated 20 or so times over the course of six hours.
"Ten seconds." And we were off.
10 miles long. I'd made it my goal to do five laps. Three laps in, I realized that I was on pace to do six. Normally that would be a happy realization. But I was starting to feel that creeping fatigue that tells me I'm not staying on top of my food needs. As I came into the pit area for lap four, I was still feeling pretty good, but could tell I was dangerously close to my reserve tank. I grabbed more gels and a bottle and rolled out hoping to rally.
The rain tapered off to a drizzle as we began staging. I made my way to the front and looked around for familiar faces. There was Mike to the left; Vegan Rob, Pickle, an old friend Keith, who I haven't seen in a while but always crushes this course, and Richie Rich, a super friendly, very strong rider I'd met in State College late last year. I was happy to be in good company with plenty of wheels to follow, at least for a while. The race director said, Nike Women Air Max Shoes
It's funny typing out this post right on the tails of last Air Max 2016 Blue Orange
It all started off well enough. I was one of the first to arrive at registration, so I snagged a good spot to set up my pit by the start finish. The temperatures were warm and the heavy rain that had been forecast seemed to have skirted the area. Dave had already set up camp and shuttled away my non essentials, so I had nothing to worry about but signing in and warming up. Dr. Jim was there, looking happy and ready to roll, as was Mike C who, coming off some sour luck at Granogue last weekend, was hoping to put together a good day. I kitted up, sprayed on some sunscreen, drank a Red Bull and rolled out with Mike to hit the first hill for a warm up. Legs feel pretty good, I thought as we spun around the bend onto the steepest pitch. Just race your race you'll be fine. We rolled back down; then hit the climb one more time just to open up the legs and get all systems a go. As we made our way back to the start finish, the first few drops began to fall. Then it poured. We ducked under the timer's table. "This sucks," said the girl sitting behind the race clock. Indeed. As the name implies, French Creek is rocky, nearly nothing but. You're either climbing up them, sailing down them or picking your way through them. There are also roots, logs and many bridges, which take on the traction of freshly Zambonied ice when wet.
This year I really did think it might be different. I've been dialing in my race nutrition and have two heaping fistfuls of long hard training days and races under my belt. This would also be my first year racing the course on big 29 inch wheels, which were sure to take some of the edges off the endless long, rocky descents that pulverize my shoulders and will to go on. I wasn't even all that miserable, which ironically may be a sign that day will not go swimmingly.
Enter the Pain Cave
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