Monday, July 9, 2018

Endurance with an Iron Horse

This past Saturday I did something I've never done before: a bike race. As if that wasn't a big enough "first", it was the furthest I've ever traveled under my own power (read: not riding a horse): 53.7 miles per my GPS watch. Another "first"? I climbed over 5,300 feet in the course of those miles, including to the top of the highest point in WV, Spruce Knob. But wait, there's one more "first" to log into my personal record book: I did well enough to squeak onto the podium!

I'd have brought my jersey down if I thought I was actually going to end up on the podium!

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.

On top of the world

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]!

Starting line chaos

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.

Smiles with friends pre-start

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.

Eager and ready to rip-roar down the road

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!

My first bike race number ever

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.

A short section of paved road by Spruce Knob Lake

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!

Copious sponsor banners and tents setup where the dinner and awards were held. Aside: This facility is my absolute most
favorite spot in all of West Virginia. I credit my time here as a kid for my love of outdoors sports, conservation, and West Virginia.

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!


  1. This is so awesome...congrats! Biking that kind of climbing is just hardcore. Sounds like a fantastic exercise in both physical and mental endurance.

  2. This is so seriously inspiring Liz -- you are a bad ass!!!

  3. wow that's awesome!! you must have been euphoric by the finish! and such a nice surprise from dave to pace you the final climb!! congrats :D

  4. That is awesome!!! I can't fathom biking that far, and especially not over that terrain! Spruce Knob feels like an accomplishment in the CAR LOL. Congrats :) What an amazing accomplishment.

  5. Go You! This is amazing, I can't imagine going that far willingly and without horse or engine power. That must be the best feeling, congratulations!

  6. aww what a guy that is amazing he did that. And what a feat to do all, that great job!!

    The only way I would ride a bike that far is if zombies were chasing me and I might (just might) give up and let them eat me instead. LOLOLOL

  7. Wow!! Congrats on every part of this: winning the mental game, the physical fitness and of course the top 5 placing!

  8. Aw that part where Dave met you? Soooo sweet! And yes, you're totally right. Endurance is all mental, I love that about it! :)

  9. Wahoo! I've been wanting to read your race recap (I was hoping it would be here)! Congrats! Were the paths gravel/tire tracks or more "deer trail through the woods" type?