Today was a fun day. George and I took the day off from work in an effort to use up some of my vacation time. We joined up with our friend and team mate Chris and drove to French Creek. What ensued was a day of rocks, climbing, rocks, descending, and more rocks.
We left the parking lot at Hopewell Lake and immediately started climbing. Of course, George and Chris were ahead of me and pulling away. I can never seem to go hard right out of the gate. I always need about 20 minutes to warm up.
I was happy to be able to leave the chain on the middle ring the entire climb though (and for most of the ride in fact). I find that I cannot climb rocky hills unless I stay in the middle ring. While the small ring in the front makes pedaling easier, I simply don't have enough torque. I always end up spinning out the back wheel on an uphill rock. So, I've learned to just stay in the middle ring. When I get small flat sections, I just pedal easy to recover. Then as I approach something steep or rocky, I speed up and use momentum. As a result, my speed tends to vary a lot, but I find that if I do this, I can keep climbing and rarely have to get off and push.
We got to the top by a tower and rode along a road to the next trail. The descent was awesome! We went down past a house and pretty much followed the 2010 race course. The nemesis climb ended our fun. George made it pretty far up before putting a foot down. I really didn't see how far Chris got because I was pushing the bike up almost the whole thing. Oh well.
We found our way to the red and white trail. Our goal was to do Miller's Point. I'd ridden it 2 times before. Both times, I pushed the bike up almost the whole thing. I wanted to see how much better I'd gotten since then (over a year ago).
We climbed the double track trail to the top, then turned left onto the red and white trail for an awesome descent. I remembered from our trail maintenance day that there were some downed trees on the way down. They were still there. Except for those dismounts, we flew down the trail. I was jumping the rocks, skimming across the tops of the boulders, and leaning the bike hard in the curves. The steep switch backs near the bottom were so much fun. We went through a stream crossing and then began a rocky climb. I boggled the line and went back to try it again. Success! Then we got to the wider stream crossing. I had ridden it before, but messed up and had to put a foot down in the water today. Ug!
Chris and George were waiting for me on the other side. Instead of climbing up the other side of the bank to them, I went back and tried it again. I found that it was easier to drop off the roots and approach the water straight on. My failed attempt had involved swinging wide. That method got you to the water at a nice flat entrance, but the climb up the rocky stream bank would have been tougher. With the guys chanting, "Go! More speed! You got it!" I rode across nicely. I went up the other side and promptly messed up about 10 feet up the trail. That was ok though. High fives were plentiful!
Then we got to the climb. It was a long climb, loaded with loose rocks. Chris pulled away and eventually was out of sight. George and I traded spots for awhile. Whenever one of us would put a foot down, the other would pass. At one point, he said, "I don't know what's happening. I'm climbing like crap."
I told him, "We've hit the switching point." He knew what I meant. It's the point in a ride where I become faster than him. He'd been dropping me on the climbs and descents up to this moment. Now was the time that my endurance would surpass him. It always happens this way.
He said, "No! That's not happening yet!" and he gave it some serious effort. It wasn't long before he passed me. I was happy. I honestly do compete with my husband, but I want him to increase his endurance and get stronger. After a minute, I passed him again though. I stayed ahead after that, but he was always in sight. I was super stoked that I was able to ride about 75-80% of the climb up Miller's Point.
We turned out and did the Buzzard's Trail. George remembered it as being an awesome trail, but nature had begun to reclaim it. It is now very difficult to ride. After joining back up with the red and white trail, we descended off of Miller's Point to the street. When I leaned the bike hard to turn on the pavement, I felt the back tire almost come off the rim. I stopped to check and found that I had a puncture in my sidewall. The sealant was fizzing out, so I spun the tire to agitate the Cafe Latex. It sealed up and we added CO2 to the tire.
We rode on, descended some rocky down-hills, and went through the rock garden. A little later, I noticed I was losing air again. We put in another shot of CO2 to get me back to the van. The ride was almost over anyway. Well, on the way up the water bars by the dam, I had lost enough air to give up on the ride. I could have put a tube in the tire, but it would have been messy because of all the sealant. If the ride was young, I would have done that, but it was getting dark and we felt rain drops.
We started riding back on the paved road. Soon I was bouncing on the rim as I pedaled. I didn't want to damage my Crossmax wheels, so I got off and walked the bike. George and Chris road ahead of me to get the van to pick me up.
As I waited in a dirt parking lot for them to come back for me, I got a scare. An old, run-down sedan pulled into the parking lot and circled around slowly. This parking lot was at the end of a dead end park road. I was alone and this driver was checking me out. He was fat, bushy-haired, and looked pretty sinister. As he circled around the lot and got close to me, I put my hydration pack back on and mounted the bike. I wanted to look like I was riding away, not stranded and waiting for help. I rode my flat tire across the parking lot and tried to look like I had just been resting. He left. I was pretty relieved.
I moved my bike over to a picnic area on the side. This way, if he came back, I wouldn't be sitting where I'd been, obviously not riding. Fortunately, the next vehicle I saw was George's. We packed up, drove into town, and got some good eats. Tomorrow will be a ride at the Wiss with Donna. I am hoping to avoid the hill repeats this time! After 20 miles at French Creek, my legs are cooked!