It may seem as though this has turned into a wedding blog as of late, but rest assured, with Costa Rica officially less than a month away, there’s been plenty of race prep and training going on as well.
There’s been gear to buy/borrow/secure sponsorship for, logistics to finalize, and medical issues to sort out (for instance, should we get our hands on some anti-malarials before heading south?). But those are all stories for another day.
Today? Well, today was a long training ride, and let me tell you, it was a doozy.
Brent put together our route – a fast flat stretch around the river loop, followed by 2 hours of twisty, turny, technical single track, and then a spin out to the suburbs and back for good measure. It’s one of those rides that doesn’t include a lot of elevation change, so it’s really only as hard as you make it.
We left at 10:30 AM with temperatures soaring and the air thick with humidity. By the time we reached the turn to get to the river, we both had sunblock running down our cheeks.
We spent the first hour pushing race pace into the wind, and my lungs weren’t having any of it. By the time we turned up the hill to enter the trail network at Belmont Plateau, I couldn’t wait for a reprieve.
But this was Belmont. And there was no reprieve to be had.
I’ve mentioned the plateau before – it’s part of Philadelphia’s famed Fairmount Park network, and it consists of a dozen miles of overgrown, obstacle-laden, tightly wound single track (picture trails the width of one bicycle, littered with logs and rocks and wandering plants). It’s the same area where I broke my tailbone a year ago, when my handlebar snagged on a branch and my bike spun out from under me, tossing me into a rock.
I don’t like these trails.
Still, I managed to make it at least 20 minutes before I was ready to call it a day. It was after a particularly root-strewn rolling stretch, where I was off my bike more than I was on and my shoes were doing everything they could to stay off my pedals. This is a problem I’ve been struggling with for two years – for some reason my cleats just don’t clip in properly. Seriously, even when biking on flat freshly paved roads, they pop out. (I know, I know, I should have dealt with this long ago – it will be remedied before Costa Rica.) So you can imagine what it was like on these twists and turns.
I came up to a log to find Brent waiting for me.
“This sucks,” I said.
“It’s supposed to be fun,” he responded lightly.
“Well, it isn’t,” I continued. “My shoes suck and my pedals suck and these trails suck and I feel like crap.”
Then the tears started to flow freely.
Yeah, it was a good start to the morning.
In a sense, it was a lot like many of our early experiences racing together.
We start off shaky. Brent asks how I’m doing. I cry. We move on.
And it was no different this time.
“How about we ride to the end of this stretch of trail and then move on to something else?” Brent finally said.
“Well…” I paused, “We’ll reassess at that point.”
100 meters later, we were there.
“Let’s keep going,” I said.
And then, like clockwork, it got better.
It wasn’t great. The trails were still twisty and turny and technical. My body was engaged every second of those two hours – it was mentally and physically exhausting. But I pushed the tailbone-breaking demons aside and started to really ride. And it was actually sort of fun.
We finished up in Belmont and then completed the river loop, heading back toward Wissahickon, where we’d begun that morning. Neither of us felt like more trails at that point, and hill repeats weren’t so appealing either.
Instead, we decided to push the pace for another hour out toward Brent’s school, alternating between groomed trails and neighborhood roads.
We got home around 3:30, having been sufficiently battered by the trails and baked by the sun.
And now, I am officially entering taper-mode (with a 30-hour race thrown in next weekend for good measure). It sounds like a long time to taper, I know, but my body hasn’t felt great since the Cradle two weeks ago, and after almost six months of intense training and what will end up being four 10-30 hour races in six weeks, I’m at that delicate tipping point between ready-to-go and burnt-out.
30 days and counting!