So ... the Shenandoah Mountain 100 is just over a month away. So I'm completely in "training" mode now, to the exclusion of all other events. And it almost didn't happen at all this year. Last Saturday, I logged on at about 9:00 at night to officially register for the race only to find that it had already sold out (I didn't even know there was a participant limit.) Long story short, the race director decided to open 15 additional spots, and I jumped on it Monday night as soon as I heard. So, with a little extra drama, I am now officially registered.
But I had to make a tough call: no singlespeed. My original plan had been to do it on one gear, but ultimately I had to face the hard facts -- I don't have it in me this year. I've had a lot of issues this year with cramping, sometimes in a debilitating fashion. I think it's a nutrition issue, but I haven't been able to work it out despite a near constant focus. I'm actually a little worried that it might be something more at this point, but regardless, I'm leaving the Misfit at home this year.
Anyway, since this is my big event for the year, I have kind of been training in one way or another almost all summer. But this week, it became a sole focus of my rides. I put together a riding plan that requires one long ride per week. Today was the first official long ride. And while I may not be doing the race on the single, I can still train on it.
So this morning, I got all set up and headed down to Wissahickon for a 50 miler. Normally, I try to do my longer rides out at Blue Marsh, but we had some nasty thunder-busters here last night, so I figured I didn't want to drive an hour plus just to train in slop. So I kept it close to home. One thing about Wissahickon, though, is that it's a tough place to do big miles. There are tons of short, steep climbs, and they will tax your legs pretty heavily on a singlespeed. Fifty miles is a pretty tall order there anytime, but today it was really hot, really humid, and right off the bat I didn't feel all that strong.
But I did it anyway. My plan was to ride all of Valley Green and the Spaghetti Bowl and keep going until I hit 30 miles, even if I had to repeat portions (all of Valley Green on both sides of Lincoln Drive adds up to about 22 miles.) And I pretty much stuck to that. The Spaghetti Bowl (opposite side of Lincoln) was tough today -- a little wet and very hot -- so I was moving pretty slow through that section. Once I had done it all and re-rode the section that ends down The Monster to Bell's Mill, I was around 30 miles and it was time to refill my Camelbak. Unfortunately, that meant I had to ride all the way up Valley Green Road into the neighborhood where I had to park because there were not spots near the inn this morning (and I won't park in the upper lot anymore because of the crime risk.)
I was feeling pretty tired when I got to my car, so I refilled the Camelbak and took a moment to eat a Clif Bar and stretch a little. Then I saddled up again and headed out. Part two of my plan was to ride over to the Belmont Plateau to do that loop before finishing my day. But when I got there, it was instantly apparent to me that it wasn't going to happen -- the lower trails were a mess: muddy, wet and slick. I knew I didn't have 20 more miles of that in me, so I shifted my plan on the fly and decided to ride the cinder path out around the Philly Art Museum instead. This turned out to be a really great idea -- it's less challenging than the plateau, so I could move faster, which meant what was shaping up to be a seven plus hour day was now going to be closer to a six hour day. Fifty miles in 6 hours is a really nice pace for Philly, and as tired as I was feeling all day, I was happy for that shot in the arm ego boost.
In the end, I had a great time, albeit it a challenging one. I got my mileage in and I was still moving forward at the end. The last climb back up out of the park had my legs shaking a bit, and I'm completely gassed now, but I hung in and finished on a really hot day (about 95 degrees when I finished.) And that's just where I needed to be right now.