Stage 1: re-cap.
12 mile hill climb, starts in Dupont Forest and ends on top of private property. I started with the group and and held on until we hit the climb up the pavement to Guion Farms. It was going to be a long week and I was in conservation mode. The ride went well, up some steep techy trails, and then onto some gravel road. On the road I passed John and Rob, who I would be competing against for 7th place all week. I topped out 3 minutes behind 5th place for a solid 6th.
Stage 2: re-cap.
The White Squirrel Loop : My HR monitor battery died, and I didn't know what effort I was putting out. This was not good for me. I needed to know, but I did the best that I could and started out easy. I felt good until I got halfway between rest stop 2 and 3. I knew that I had pushed too hard, made it to rest stop 3 and sat down for 30 minutes. John and Rob got 30 minutes on me, as well as Matt who was ahead of me, but only had 3 minutes. Today that turned into 43 ish minutes..... There was not much I could do about it, except maybe check my equipment the night before the race. I was finally able to get up and get to the finish: 5 hrs 34 mins.
Stage 3: re-cap.
Land of the Waterfalls: This was a fun point to point, starting at the Kuykendall Group Campground. Today included Farlow, Cove Creek and Daniel Ridge. I rode my own pace and was alone most of the day. I focused on going my limit and enjoying the day. The weather was awesome, the rest stops were great, the trails are some of the best in the country. It could not get better. I'm not sure of my finish time, but I know that I finish 4 minutes down on John and I was able to gain a little time on Rob. I was 60 ish minutes behind Matt.
The Promised Land Loop: Todd sent us up Black Mtn to Turkey Pen. 1 hr plus hike a bike, some riding, some hiking, some riding etc. That was the day. On the first hike a bike, I was hiking behind John, Rob was behind me. I was feeling good, taking it easy so I didn't blow up too soon. I saw John take a heavy step, showing a little bit of fatigue, decided that it was time, with another 20 minutes of hiking, to pick up the pace. I never saw him again. Halfway between rest stop 1 and 2 I ran out of water. I had some sports drink left but I knew that I needed water. I kept my pace steady and focused on staying smooth. Going down Horse Cove Rd, I, in Matt's words, " blew past him". At this point though, I didn't realize that he was the one in front of me in the category. I didn't care though, I big ringed it to the next rest stop. Filled up on water, ate a pb and j and headed up the trail. Matt never caught me. Matt is really strong on the down hill techy though, so I only put a few minutes on him, closing the gap to 50 minutes. The race for 6th is on.
Transylvania Loop : I was looking forward to this loop. Taking the pavement to Turkey Pen Trailhead, through the river crossings, up to Yellow Gap, up Laurel, down Pilot, 1206, Club Gap, Avery Creek, Clawhammer, Maxwell Cove, Black Mtn to the finish. One of my favorites.
I sat with the leaders on the pavement, wanting to get that free ride to the trails. I tucked in and held on. Almost giving up on the false flat going up the steep climbs, but hung on to coast down the other side. Recovering quickly, I pulled forward, tapping Chris Strout, my Siren/ WRB teammate, to lead him out. Not much of a lead out, but I took my turn at the front, giving the likes of Jeremy Bishop and Andy Johnston a breather.
Another beautiful day in the woods, I set a steady pace and enjoyed it. Matt passed me on the first single track and I didn't know if I would see him again. I wound around, over the mountains, following wide roads and 12 inch wide slivers of single track. Lot's of thoughts briefly crossing my mind, but just as quickly pushing the aside to focus on where I was and what I was doing: riding my bike and breathing fresh air. I'm blessed. There are so many people out there suffering far worse than me. I soaked it all in. The sunshine, the fresh air, the smells of the forest.
I wound around the course, hiking part of Club Gap, on down Avery and up Clawhammer. As I turned onto Maxwell Cove, I spotted Matt. This climb is roughly 20-30 minutes long. Did I have enough to put some time into him? Should I talk smack and try to get into his head? I passed him, told him " good job" and kept spinning. I was hot and overheating. I dumped water over my head. Knowing that there were 3 false summits on this climb, I pushed it, dumping water on my head to cool down on each short decent, then pushed up the next one. I glanced back a couple of times but did not see Matt. Could I put the 60ish minutes into him? Was he going to bonk? I hit the last hike a bike section with passion. Threw the bike on my back and powered up to the top. Once on the top, I let loose ( conservatively) but I definitely pushed my limits on the downhill. Knowing that Matt was fast downhill, I took a few chances and road the line to the ride of the stairs. Hitting the jumps full tilts was a blast and rounding that last bend before the finish was exhilarating.
Rhonda, Jubal, Kim and Kate were there, yelling. Todd came over to congratulate me, handing me the finisher's medal. Matt rolled in a few minutes later....
It was a great ride, and a personal success, mentally and physically. I now have the rest of my life to look forward to.
Editor's note: times might not be precise...
Have a great day!