Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tuscarora Enduro

It's been a little while. I was off last week and was hoping to get out to ride as much as possible during the week. The weather was certainly cooperative!  Seventies and sunny pretty much all week, it was as if the week was made especially for riding.

And I did ride almost every day. But ...

Well, I had a pretty strange week off. From the moment my week started, it was as if I was completely burned out on riding. I rode only because the weather was too nice not to, but for a week off, the fact that my longest ride was only 26 miles (by contrast, my shortest ride back during my October week of was probably 30) is telling.

I think part of it was, as I said, just burnout -- not just from riding, but from everything all together. January to March is my busiest time of the year at work, and I've been riding a ton this year because of the great weather. I think when I finally got some time off, my head just couldn't wrap itself around the idea of more work. So I rode almost every day, but I wouldn't say I really "trained" at all. And that was fine. My mood was pretty blah all week, too. I mean, I was totally flat affect. It was really weird - and kind of a classical symptom of over-training. In fact, Selene Yeager even wrote a very timely post about that sort of thing right around the same time. All in all, it was an odd vacation and not my favorite week off.

I actually went out of my way to find riding opportunities to just have fun on the bike, even driving down to one of my favorite locales to ride the always-fun Iron Hill Park outside of Newark, DE.

The out-of-place giant iron rock in the middle of Iron Hill Park

I rode the mega-dip back and forth about four times
And that worked pretty well -- I did enjoy the rides I did all week. It's just weird that I was unable to get pumped about any of them beforehand. Thursday was such a great day and I did enjoy the perfect weather with a full ride in Philly.

Perfect temps and sunny skies ... could I have asked for better vacation weather?

One other thing I think contributed to the less than perfect week off -- I had the Tuscarora Enduro scheduled for Sunday. Don't get me wrong - I was looking forward to racing, especially after the less than ideal Sugar Hill race last week. But the thing is, when I have time off, I like to have no obligations at all -- like, really time off. So when I have something scheduled that I have to prepare for, it kind of makes vacation feel a little less free and a little more like work. But that was a minor thing - just a lesson learned: form now on, when I have a week off, I won't plan to race at the end of it, just so I can really just enjoy the down time.

As for the race itself, it was actually a lot of fun.

And a lot of mud.

I mean ... a lot of mud.

Showing the only part of my body not covered in mud
Photo courtesy AE Landes Photography
The race was the first MASS Endurance Race of the season - a 4 hour endurance race at a new venue (it replaces the old Michaux Mash.) Tuscarora Forest in Blain, PA is a great venue, and the course layout was actually very interesting and unique. It was laid out as a 6 1/2 mile lap and the goal was to do as many as you could, with the last lap necessarily starting prior to the 4 hour mark. The course itself was what was unique -- it had about a thousand feet of climbing per lap, but all of this was in the first 4 1/2 miles. In fact, right off the start was a long fire road climb that would have been just a steady push had it not been for the mud and water. But that mud and water defined out Sunday at the Tuscarora Enduro. The fire road was more or less peanut butter mud top to bottom, and that was one of the cleanest sections of the course. On the ridge section in the middle, we rode through several two foot deep bogs that made brakes and bottom brackets complain loudly. And after going through that, the course would turn up again with a super slick muddy climb that was unrideable in those conditions. Get over the top and you'd spend the next two miles descending back to the start area with mud and water flying up into your face and eyes.

In other words, it was a perfect start to the endurance season.

Honestly, it was a tough day but I really had fun. And my expectations were even lower than usual because the field included some of the very best singlespeeders in the country - singlespeed NUE monster Gerry Pflug won it (and came in third overall despite the fact that our group started more than 5 minutes behind the geared guys), and the rest of the podium spots were taken by western PA badasses Montana Miller and Don Powers. There were a few more pros sprinkled in the field, so I knew I was in over my head before the word go. But I didn't care -- I just wanted to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack and feel like I was in control all day. And mission accomplished! I also got to ride with Brian Fults, who was doing his first race since his cancer diagnosis. He was just there to ride a few laps and have some fun, but damn if he didn't practically roll over me through the bog section on the first lap! He ultimately stuck out for three laps, which is pretty friggin' amazing on that course on that day (and he was riding rigid and single too!) So the Bulldog Mountainbikers fully represented in Tuscarora!

I really enjoyed the day, even though I was in a funk right up to the start. The conditions sucked, the drive out there was 3 plus hours, and yet I enjoyed the whole day and saw a lot of the same crew from last week's Patapsco race. I borrowed a little space from Sandie and Blake's Mason Dixon Velo tent for my feed zone, and rode half a lap with Mark from JB Mountainbike Team. All in all, a fun and messy day!

So there is the update on my week off and latest race. It was a strange week for me, but I'm getting back in the swing now. Work still sucks, rides are still fun, and spring is still here. Time to go ride!

Even though everyone may not agree with that thought process ...

"You go ride ... I'll just take a nap under this big blanket ..."

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