Racing to train versus training to race – from Cranky to climbing (part 1/2)
Although it has been awhile since I’ve blogged, life has been good – and a fair amount of my spare time in May and June on the bike, so really good. After the first race of the season – Calvin’s Challenge with Ryo – it has been a whirlwind on the weekends, and a lot of fun.
How do you train a year plus out for the biggest race of your life? Well, at this point, my focus has been on just being on the bike and stretching some endurance legs. Workouts are just focused on getting stronger, feeling fitter, and staying injury-free as I explore this world of endurance racing. What does it mean – racing to train versus training to race? Perhaps a story best told through 3 race reports…
Race recaps in brief:
This was the first mountain bike endurance race I’ve done (while RAAM is raced on the roads, sometimes we ride a different kind of bike with wide, knobby tires on trails in the woods to keep it fresh, and because it is FUN), and so I paired up with fellow rookie AM. We were in good shape though, because all our teammates – Stacie, Ryo, Kate & Greta, were veterans, each racing as pairs in this race and kindly helped us – the uninitiated – with our camping set-up (the night before the race), and tips on the course, what to do when you’re resting and your partner is racing, etc. To do this race, AM and I swapped laps, riding the loop around a lake over logs, rocks and around trees, then up a steep climb and over creeks, down a rocky descent, and again around the lake to the finish. Gorgeous course, well-run, and despite my fear we did not have lightning. Mountain bike racing is hard, both physically and technically, and I gained a whole new respect for my friends who do this all the time. Mountain bikers are a tough – and really fun – group of people. I was super proud of my teammates – Ryanne won with her cousin Angelina, Kate and Greta also made the women’s duo podium, and Stacie rocked the course with our friend JR Petsko, also making the podium in the mixed duo category. Then that night back to Pittsburgh and off to ATS.
Tour of Tucker – May 25, 2013
I was not supposed to do Tour of Tucker this year. In fact I had a great excuse – I was scheduled to be in the hospital working that weekend. Tour of Tucker is one of the toughest road races on JR Petsko’s Appalachian Bike Racing Association calendar. In fact this year he changed the course, making it longer for my category with more climbing. “Stupid hard,” as he calls it, but more scenic.
So I was not supposed to race it. Until my colleague asked to swap our schedules. Then all of a sudden it was like there was a voice in the back of my mind telling me to do it. A nagging voice. A voice that told me that the first year I didn’t make it up that final climb without walking, the second year I conquered the climb, and what about now – what about this year? Would I be strong enough? Wasn’t it time to get back to some local road races with my friends? And wasn’t this Diabolical Double in June going to have some killer climbs? If not now, when? So I took the plunge and signed up. Also I was informed that part of the course overlapped with the RAAM route – so I suppose this was meant to be.
Admittedly I was a little nervous as I rolled down the 5-mile hill (which is the final climb) to get to the starting line at the bottom (but less than I expected). And the race surpassed expectations. JR always does an amazing job making the race scene happen in this region, with challenging courses and well-run races. And this year Tucker was hard but just fun. The women’s leaders split off the front in a break at the beginning, and I knew I didn’t quite have the jump in my legs to go with them. In my mind, my goal was to make it to the finish and up this climb that is so steep, you just can’t burn all your matches or you’ll walk it. I ended up riding/racing with this cool woman, Dana, racing with Peanut Butter and Co. Sometimes within a race, you find someone and cat-and-mouse, and also work together for awhile, taking turns being in the wind or behind the person in front of you resting to take your next turn. It was a lot of fun.
When the final climb came, I settled in. I knew it’d be about an hour up the 5+ miles to the finish, and also knew that once I got to the church (my stopping point the first year), I’d be home free – still climbing but home-free. Friend Pat Clair drove by in his car cheering for me, which was like an infusion of energy drink, and I just kept going. When you climb that long, your mind wanders. Sometimes it tells you to quit. It would be easier. But this didn’t happen. This time I literally thought of who I wear this jersey for, friend in PHA, and at times even pictured people on the sidelines, and I felt like this carried me up the hill. It was amazing.
I sprinted across the finish line with whatever spring I had left in my legs, and honestly had tears of joy in my eyes. Conquering a hill, especially Tucker, ended up meaning a whole lot more to me than I had thought it would. I was thankful my colleague asked me to swap schedules and took my “convenient excuse” away, and thankful I got a chance to start – and finish – Tour of Tucker, and most of all grateful for the opportunity to do this wearing the colors of Team PHenomenal Hope.
To be continued in part 2/2… Mohican 100 and what these races mean