Monday, February 22, 2016

3 Hours On The Ridge

I arrived at Pleasant Ridge Park Saturday morning, unsure of what to expect.  I had heard about the race via Facebook from a friend and expected to see more Asheville folks.  It turns out, I was the only one representing WNC.

The volunteers were super friendly and I got checked in and changed.  At the pre-race meeting, everyone was slightly chilly, but the temps promised to warm up to close to 60.  After "the talk",  the race director said,  "Oh, look,  it is 10 am sharp.  Ready- Set- GO".   And that is how the race started.

20 of us rolled out of the park and up the pavement through Camp Spearhead before finally entering the single track.  We made a short loop and ended up back at the start/finish pretty quickly.  Then we started getting down to business.

The single track here, built by none other than "Shrimper" and his crew, reminded me a lot of Squirrel Gap trail, but a little bit easier and let remote.  Definitely narrow, twisty single track with some rock gardens and switchbacks thrown in for fun.

At the start everyone got a red rubber bracelet.  The bracelet granted a 1 time access to "Sassy's"  a short cut trail, which eliminated about 1 mile of the most techy section of the loop. 

I was caught in traffic and not going my pace, so I used my pass on the first lap.  It was good to get out on my own and settle in.  I figured if I got caught and passed, then,  well,  they were just faster than me.  Nothing I could do about it but keep moving forward.

Laps 1-3 went by and I was feeling good.  At the end of lap 3,  they told me the time was 11:45am.  Cut off for one final lap was at 12:45pm.  I had barely 1 hour to complete 2 laps.  I asked a fellow single speeder who was going about the same pace what his lap times were.  He told me about 30 minutes.

Ok,  do I ride hard and try to get 3 more laps or settle in and finish with 5 laps total.  My goal coming in was to get 6 laps, so there you have it.  I pushed the pace but stayed within myself in order not to blow up.  I watched the time, trying to decided if I could do another lap at this pace.

I neared the finish line and yelled across the field to Tyler Crotts and asked him to hand up a bottle for me.  He did and that act helped me out.  I crossed the lined and they called out 30 minutes left to the cut off.  The previous lap according to my watch had taken 31 minutes.  I took about 15 seconds deciding what to do.  Never give up, hammer down.  I went redline and pushed up the climb that consisted of most of the first half of the loop.   When ever my body thought it had enough, I gave just a little more.

Ugh,  I was moving forward but I had not given this type of effort on the bike in a long time.   Relax,  pedal, breathe.  Eddie Odea sat on my shoulder and reminded me to hold my position and focus on breathing and pedal stroke.  I pushed up one little grunt climb and hopped back on the bike, easing off the brakes and allowing myself to coast through the corners, powering out of the apex, and spinning through the flatter portions of single track.

I finally saw the field and the tape marking the course leading to the finish line.  I spun through the field and wanted a new bottle.  I didn't want to miss the cutoff by seconds so I skipped the bottle.  My bottle was still half full so I would use that to nurse me back to the finish.  I crossed the line and made the cut off.   I was done.  But,  I made the cut off, so I wasn't really done.  I knew there were people ahead of me, and tried to pick up the pace, but could not.  I settled in to try to recover and finish 1 more lap.

It took me closer to 45 minutes to finish, but I did.  They didn't really keep track of standings after the top 3 but by my calculations, I wound up in 5th place men's, and 4th single speed.  Complete results are the only thing that I would like to see different at the event.

It was great to get out in some new territory and experience the burn in my legs and lungs again.

This event was awesome and here is why:  It was so simple.   No t-shirt, no swag,  1 table for neutral water support at the finish line.  Simple prizes 3 deep, 3 categories.   And it only cost $25.  That's it.

While I love the races that are around and have grown, and throw a huge party,  I appreciate the grass roots feel and low cost provided by 3 Hrs On The Ridge!   I hope to be back!

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