I apologize in advance for the lack of photos...I didn't take a single one all weekend!
My training has continued to ramp up as I inch ever toward the 12 solo. Allison suggested a pretty killer weekend...ride Daley on Saturday (including a women's ride with the Dust Bunnies), laps at Hurkey on Sunday, and chillin' by the pool on Monday. Sounded great to me (and Dan) so we headed out early Saturday morning to meet up with Allison & Justin.
My plan was to do one 14 mile loop around Daley at 'race pace' and then join in on the beginner women's ride. Right from the start, I tried to warm up slowly, but I found myself pushing the pace nevertheless. We hadn't even gotten to Sage yet, and Allison put in an effort on one of the short hills. Before I knew it, she was gone (only to be seen again as a tiny speck moving quickly up the climb). Justin was out front, and so Dan & I soldiered on. We made our way via a file I had uploaded into my Garmin. A few wrong turns and "Off Courses" later, we had things figured out and continued to plug away. I hit the climb up Cardiac and was feeling pretty good, but I still had to dab (twice) before I made it to the top. There were a lot of riders out on this part of the ranch...cool to see! I know I'm getting stronger/faster because I was nowhere near as winded/tired as the last time we rode Daley. Justin continues to push me in my training, Dan is always there to see to it that I follow through, and Allison has been so helpful in offering me all sorts of tips and advice. Team 12 Solo is what I'm calling them :)
It's been tough because as I continue to improve, so does the usual cast of characters that I've been riding with. It all seems relative until I really think about how I felt the last time I did a particular ride or go back and look at the stats on my Garmin.
After about 3/4 of the ride, right before the big climb up Boulder Loop, I discovered my gps had locked up, and I was not happy about it. For what we paid, the damn thing should work fine considering it's so new. Turns out I only had 30 min of time that got recorded. Oh well...after a reset, it was fine.
Dan and I met up with Justin as he apparently came up for some bonus goater, and we all headed back to the parking lot. Shalyn Gates, a local endurance rider, was hosting a beginner women's ride, so we hooked up her crew. I was out at the front of the pack, and broke off with a group of 3 ladies. We took a spin down to the Ranch House and then back up Boulder Loop so that we could descend Crest. Justin noticed that I was resting (low cadence) going up Boulder, and it didn't take long for him to get on my case. He pushed me up the climb, and my HR maxed out at 190!
After a recovery noshing session in the parking lot, we caravaned up to A & J's house. I fell asleep big time in the car...still recovering from our all nighter at Disneyland grad night.
We loaded up and drove out to Palm Desert for part 2 of our weekend. Big thanks to Susan & Tom for hosting us all weekend! We had a killer dinner of salmon, veggies, quinoa, wine, and beer. So good! I didn't get to sleep until late and was sure that with the small indulgence of alcohol I had that Sunday's ride would be tough...
We woke up pretty early Sunday, ate some light brekkie, and then drove up to Hurkey Creek...goal for today was endurance pace and nutrition troubleshooting.
The four of us suited up and took off on a warm-up lap. My legs felt alright, but mostly, I was dreading the mental challenge of 4-5 consecutive laps, including Keen Camp...my favorite climb (rolling my eyes). I managed to finish in ~56 minutes and felt so sketchy on the descents. I was riding the Yeti, and compared to the ISC race (when I was on the hardtail), the bike was tall, awkward-feeling, and not doing well in the loose corners. Allison reminded me to try to descend at race pace, and the rest of the laps, I nailed the downhills.
As we rolled in at the end of lap 1, Dan, Allison & Justin went back to the truck. I headed out again, with full-ish bottles and a snack in my pocket. I had mixed my HEED pretty light, and it worked out well...no sticky-sweet mouth. Only problem is that my bottle cage was back on the underneath of the downtube...I couldn't reach it very easily, so I ended up not drinking enough water.
Lap 2 was very consistent with the first, and I was only off on time by less than a minute. Allison & Justin were race-pacing it (and hitting sub-44 min laps...whoa!!!). They caught me on Rage just past the rocky technical uphill. No sign on Dan, and I figured he was somewhere back there. I was missing him, since he's been good about riding with me lately, but in the back of my mind I knew it was good for me since I won't have him behind me in the race (he'll be pitting for me).
By Lap 3, I was climbing Keen Camp in a good gear and hitting a rhythm. This time, Justin whizzed by me in the middle of KC, and Allison caught up to me as I fooled with my bottle at the top of the climb. No sign on Dan. Rinse and repeat.
At the end of Lap 3, I stopped to lube my crunchy-sounding chain, eat some snacks, and refill bottles. I found out I can tolerate solid food pretty well, as long as it's half a bar here or a fruit leather there.
So...Lap 4. I knew it was coming sooner or later. It was a pretty dark lap...mentally, I started to wander. Physically, I slowed down. I was alone the entire lap and didn't see a soul (not even any of the other riders or hikers out on the trails). It was a pretty low point and my slowest lap. I seriously considered making it my last, but once I hit Exfoliator, invigorated by the descent, I started to change my mind. The exchange in my head went like this:
"4 laps...it's been a while."
"4 laps...that's nothing. You've been riding for less than 4 hours. HE-L-L-O...12! 12?!"
(Grunt). "M'kay. I can do this."
I rolled back into the parking lot feeling like I still had some fight left in my legs. Allison was done, and Justin was taking off his heart rate monitor. Dan was still not back (turns out he had fork issues and spent some time trying to get it fixed up...we were 1/2 lap apart all day). Determined to go out anyway, I got a snack. Justin kindly decided to ride with me...he pushed me up the climbs just by being there. Amazingly, I turned in my fastest lap of the day, finishing with 5 laps in under 4:45:00. Turns out that my fastest and slowest laps were only off from one another by less than 3 minutes. I guess that's what I'd call consistency.
Back to the casa in Palm Desert...another awesome dinner of turkey burgers and all the fixins plus ice cream for dessert. Slept in and spent the mid-morning by the pool. It doesn't get much better than that!
We're now 3 weeks from 12 solo, and I registered today for expert/pro. I have no idea which local pro will be there to kick my ass (hopefully not), but I'm going to try my best and race my own race. I learned that I'm able to keep things pretty consistent and steady, as long as I pay attention to my nutrition and hydration. The elevation is going to add in another level of difficulty, but we'll all be feeling it. The countdown is on!