Today was LONG! As I rode the emotional roller coaster, I was literally riding PA’s finest roller coasteresque gravel roads. (But there was no motor powered crank to get me to the top.)
It felt like a 40 mile uphill climb on gravel road that you cannot gain or keep momentum. Each push of the peddle was its own effort. Yesterday was so fun. Yesterday, I was excited to hear that today’s stage was on the road to give my legs a bit of a break. But it was a different pain today. Today I felt lazy. I left this morning without my heart rate monitor, but I quickly realized I would not need it. My legs were moving too slow to get my heart in a furry.
The first 17 miles were enjoyable. The sun was shining, and the views of the small towns were great. People were on their poaches, well some were still there by the time I rolled through. We followed a river. But, and I learned this today, if you are next to a river, it only means that you are at the bottom of the valley. And we NEVER finish at the bottom of the valley.
All day I pulled out my self-laminated elevation map to see where the dreaded 1000ft climb was. THIS the big climb, I would think. Then I would realized what I had just done was too small. Rinse and Repeat.
I had been peddling along and feeling good and happy and moving when I hit the check point at the 17 mile mark and joined a group of riders. I saw them and wanted some company, so I pushed it harder to catch up with them for about a mile and found my place in the group. A little down hill, a little more up hill, and we hit a trail. This is called ‘Fishermen’s Trail’….self explanatory. It runs along the river bank. There was no trail! It was all broken down mossy boulders that trees had pushed their way through. I don’t know that I have seen such a beautiful and enchanting forest, but there was no way I could efficiently and safely ride it.
Not many people in the whole race could (I come to learn upon finishing).
It was here that I lost my newly found riding mates as they passed through fisherman’s Trail. This was very discouraging. I don’t know why, but I was at an emotional low point. The trail opened up to a gravel rock covered road that you could look straight uphill for at least a mile. I just couldn’t motivate myself to get the drive to pump it out. I stopped at the creek, rinsed off my face and talked to my legs. I took a pile of salt from my bag and knew there was no way out but up. And so I trucked on. The next part was the worst.
I hit the rail trial. The challenge of a hill was stolen gone, the beauty of the forest; gone. I was left with a no speed, straight, grassy, sandy trail. It felt like at least ever before I saw a change of scenery. I couldn’t even push myself to push myself, I lost a lot of momentum there.
It was emotionally and physically all up hill from there. I hit the tunnel. Imagine riding into a black hole in the side of a mountain after not having seen a soul for what felt like hours. I had no idea if it was paved, and I had heard a rumor that there was a boulder somewhere in the middle. If I crash into this boulder, who will ever know? I was pretty sure I was the last one on course. So I turned on my go pro so I could at least have some good footage of my last moments. There was no boulder, but there was a vampire handing out beer on the other side!!! That worked wonders for my attitude as I raised in altitude. I was never more released to see the dreaded 1000ft climb. FINALLY SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO!
The climb was gorgeous! Sandy rocky terrain and about 24 feet wide before it dropped on either side. I literally biked straight up to the top of that mountain. I felt like a champ! I absolutely loved the climb and everything that came with it. At the top I saw my Pops, and Matt from the crew. They threw ice-cold water and hugs at me and I was on my way. The last 13 miles!
I knew I was on the last leg. I was cursing the monotony of the gravel road when the arrow pointed to a trail. “WHAT THE HECK! I THOUGHT THE REST OF THE COURSE WAS GRAVEL ROAD?!?!” That’s when I realized I was crazy. And the thunder cracked and the skies opened up. I had just spent 40 miles in 90 degree weather fighting the gravel road asking for a trail, I get one and the rain comes pouring down. I realized that this was exactly what I was asking for all day, and so I had no right to complain. I thanked those responsible for such luck.
At ¾ of a mile to the finish line a support truck came and tried to pick me up. I knew I was one of the last, but I had just riden all that way and you want to take the glory of the finish line away by driving me in?!? NO WAY! I can take a little rain J
And so I did! And as I pulled in, 5hours and 9 minutes after starting, my Pops and Team mate Nate Cross were there cheering me on.
THANK GOD TOMORROW IS ALL TRAIL!