After a friend tackled this race last year, I put it on my calendar for 2018. I knew the roads we'd travel on this gravel grinder and felt comfortable with the idea that I could bike them. I knew I wouldn't be the fastest, but that was okay! The AERC motto of To Finish is to Win embodies all of my endurance attempts in any sport.
And so I signed up. I trained some...but not as much as a should have or could have. In fact, I tore one of my quad muscles 3 weeks out from the race and rode a minimal amount leading up to it in an effort to have the muscle healed enough to race. And miracle of miracles, it was healed enough to not bother me [much]!
A huge contingent of friends from Canaan were competing in each of the three distances (72, 53, and 32 miles; the 72 mile course climbed over 8,600 feet!). It was SO FUN to see all of them at the start, through parts of the course where there was two-way traffic, and have them cheering/cheer for them at the finish.
I impressed myself powering through every mile of the race. Without a horse's well-being to account for, I could unleash my competitive nature more than I've done since I was a swimmer. Of those women nearby, I was only confident that two were in my category; I fought to chase one and stay in front of the second. I didn't know how many were ultimately in my category, but I did know that the podium would recognize and award the top 5, so I pushed my legs to handle all they could with hopes that I'd make it in.
I nearly cried when I reached the summit of Spruce Knob and knew I only had one final climb ahead of me after a solid 9.5 mile downhill where I was able to rest and recoup. But boy was I dreading that final climb! My legs and body were really hurting. But I knew I was going to meet my goal of finishing within 6 hours even if I walked my bike up that final hill!
Lucky for me, my husband was waiting at the base of that final climb! As if seeing him wasn't enough of a pick-me-up, he then proceeded to run alongside me for the final two miles to the finish - all the way up that 1 mile climb. It was a total surprise in the best way possible and helped me power forward a little more than I thought I would be able to.
All of my friends who had already finished were clustered by the finish line and cheered and whooped and hollered as I came into sight. It was so awesome!
|Looking toward Cunningham and Yokum Knobs as I descended from the summit; crooked horizon because I was zipping |
downhill with one hand on the brake and one hand taking the photo lol
I am surprised how much I enjoyed this race and absolutely plan to participate next year (Dave, too)! While I wish I'd trained a little more and eaten a little better the morning before the race, there isn't much else I'd change about the experience. The mental side of endurance is definitely the hardest part for me and my headspace was remarkably positive even through the hardest parts of the course. I surprised even myself in that regard!
It's been a long time since I've felt this fit (my body literally bounced back from the abuse I put it through in < 24 hours) and it feels GOOD. I'm excited to get back on my bike to maintain and improve my strength. I don't know if I'll do many more races, but I definitely foresee many more training miles in my future!