Sunday, March 6, 2011

Snake Creek Gap Time Trial #3_March_2011

Snake Creek Gap #3
33.18 miles/Max speed 43/3.55 time/8.5 avg
Race review

*Big props to Austin Parsons for keeping my mountain bike in top notch shape! Not one occasion of chain suck in 34 miles of sticky, all encompassing, North Georgia chocolate. Thanks Austin!

My hopes and dreams of Pinhoti trail in pristine form washed away thanks to 12 hours of pre-race rain. Muddy was the trail but not soggy as one month prior. In February’s race the snow and ice melt had settled into the first few inches of soil creating a spongy type surface…much like wet sand. In yesterday’s race there was only an inch of slop atop a solid base of Northwest GA soil. The conditions, although undesirable, were not quite as miserable as a month ago.

My goal for this race was to knock 30 minutes off my previous time. That may seem like a lofty goal but considering my lack of training for the first race it was obtainable. With four semi-dedicated weeks between races, there was enough time to shed a few pounds off my “winter sofa”, gain more fitness and attend four more indoor trainer classes at Sycomore-Hendo. Also thrown into that mix is some coaching from a coach formerly associated with an organization not to be named that was affiliated with some dude who won a big race over the pond seven times. I have not completed much training under the newly hired “coach” but I am looking forward to it. So far he’s been more of a person to answer to and that alone has kept me more focused than usual.

Thirty minutes. An episode of Family Guy, a meal at Waffle House, an easy crossword puzzle, intimate interaction with a friendly TSA agent…the list goes on. I knew I could do it but only with focus and determination. I couldn’t joke around at the sag stops. I couldn’t chill behind people maintaining an easy pace. I’d have to push it with some reserve so I didn’t explode and lose all the effects of my coffee doping (they don’t test for that yet).

The Snake Creek Gap TT is divided into two 17 mile sections, each similar in terrain but with the second section having a little more climbing and enough rocks to make a person think they were riding an easy trail in West Virginia. The first half was basically a warm up for me. These over 40 quads need a L O N G time to warm up. Thanks to the recent indoor trainer classes, I’ve reconnected with spinning and spun the first 17 miles but noticed I was not that tired and not very winded at the mid-point rest stop. Emcee extraordinaire and friend Bruce Dickman laid his charm into the microphone and publicly ribbed me with threats of telling my woman how lazy I was and how slow I was and how I must beat a time of 4’06”. I thought about the time and wondered its significance then Bruce said “that’s my official best course time”. Beat Bruce’s time? Ha! I must! Instead of relishing in the pleasure of the warm coffee poured for me by the kind volunteer, I set the half drank cup down, grabbed my hefty pack and bolted up the trail. All the while, fading in the distance, was Bruce threating tales of slackness being told to my woman.

I had a goal of 30 minutes off my prior time, but now I had a goal to better Mr. Dickman’ s time. I re-focused and suddenly realized I hadn’t been breathing hard for most of the race. I shifted up to my middle ring and started laying on the power, rolling in a groove I’d been waiting for to show up. I put my head down and did what I love to do most. I entered a silent world of concentration, Zen you could say, where my only thought is to roll forward. It’s this state of mind that keeps me on the bike. It’s a certifiable drug. It’s my own personal Charlie Sheen, and like his, it is not FDA approved.

I found great pleasure in the middle ring. My quads rejoiced as the additional warmth generated fed the feel good engine of my Zen state of mind. The extra effort made me faster. The rocks came and over them I rolled. With years of Pisgah as my playground I found much pleasure navigating the technical sweetness of jagged granite. A fit looking skinny fellow passed me but i came back up on him some time later. He was pushing up a steep rocky section. I decided now was my time. I sucked it up and grunted up the granite laden hill filled with awesome pain and pleasure. The skinny dude cheered me on as I passed by and he even gave me a little push. This is my element. My peace. Where I love life the most. A simple 30 seconds of simultaneous pleasure and pain. At the top, I was spent but kept going because I couldn’t shake echoes of “4’06” in Bruce’s most recognizable voice in the forefront of my consciousness.

The next few miles seemed to go on for hours in my mind’s eye but it was only around 30 minutes. I wanted to clear the entire rock garden with no dabs but exhaustion set in and claimed the win. Finally the radio towers appeared in the fog and pure relief came over me since this indicated the end of the race. It was all downhill from this point. A super-fast descent to the finish. I looked at the time on my odometer and smiled. I’d beat Bruce’s time, and make my goal with a few minutes to spare.

As I write this, I think of the fun I had yesterday, the 10 hours of driving, money spent, pain endured and wonder “when do I get to do this again?”