Initially I was going to swap some stuff around on my CritFit PSP 18 Week training plan so the recovery week scheduled for Week 17 would fall on Week 18 leading up to my mountain bike season opener… but life and the weatherman have a way of throwing a curve ball, and I took my Week 17 recovery week as scheduled… Forecast called for temperatures in the 60-80s for nearly the whole week. And that means one thing when combined with a new mountain bike raring to go: trail time!
Four trips to Colorado later, almost 70 miles biked, and some dark cyclist tan lines later, I still can’t wipe the smile off my face! It has been an amazing week on my bike!
Last Monday Gretchen and I hit up Blue Sky Trail in Fort Collins, taking an easy spin on the perfect trails for about 11 miles. This was my first real ride on my new Specialized S-Works Fate, and WOW. Just wow. The bike is AMAZING. AMAZING (in case you didn’t get it). I haven’t felt this connected to the trails in so long. Fast enough I can easily kill myself, to say the least. Fast, and snappy. Can’t even describe it… I told Gretchen that there would only be one part that I wanted to hammer – the “Blue Sky Climb” segment that takes you from the south valley to the top to the Rim Rock junction. This climb has been a nemesis of mine since the first time I had to push my Giant Rainier up it in January 2013. I took off and realized I wasn’t in the granny gear. Nowhere near it. The bike and I flew up the hill, with only a few second bobble on some loose dirt. When I got home and could upload my file to Strava I realized I knocked a minute off my best time (and minutes and minutes off my original time when I pushed the bike) and broke into 8th place out of 92 women. Holy crap…!!! To break the Top 10, let along Top 20/50, on a Colorado segment to me is crazy with all the talent down there… Georgia, I’m coming for you!! haha!
Tuesday was suppose to be some sort of “epic” 25 mile loop around Horsetooth Reservoir, but I suck at finding Shoreline Trail coming off Maxwell. So that ate up time, and an hour later Jim and I realized we had only gone 5.5 miles. So we decided to explore more of the Reservoir Ridge area trails, and descended down Michaud. Which was the moment I realized I still need my full suspension Epic! As rocky and cruel as that descent was, I realized it would be perfect training ground for the conditions of the Nationals course in PA, given I was riding the proper bike. The Fate did handle the terrain like a champ considering its rider was not use to a hard tail and 80mm of travel. Still another great day on the trails in 75 degree weather under sunny skies, regardless of the drastic change in the plans (no photos from that day… sad).
Yesterday on Friday I hit up Blue Sky Trail again for what I would call one of my first “training” mountain bike rides of the year. Which means hammer time. Time to put the Fate, my training, and myself to the test. South on Blue Sky I went (after running into racing buddy Teryn at the trailhead… ahhhhhh so giddy to see all my racing buddies again!!!) to Indian Summer which I did two laps of, and back north on Blue Sky to the Tower Trail junction and then back to the car. Just a bit over 19 miles (recovery week schmrecovery week). I felt strong and connected to the bike. I had changed out my front tire to a Specialized Ground Control as I find the Fast Traks wash out too easy in corners, and this changed my confidence completely.
When I started up the switch backs on Indian Summer I noticed immediately the changes in myself. That was always a granny gear grind for me, but now I was steadily pushing the bike along in a much harder gear. Though I did see heart rates in the 180s, it just felt better. Suddenly the 17 weeks spent punishing myself on the trainer in the basement, the freezing road rides, and even the sketchy road racing experiences was all worth it. I had the proof of the results. That’s all I wanted… proof. Proof doesn’t necessarily mean podium wins and races results as I can’t control who I race against yet. To me, this was the proof I needed… just myself and my bike, chugging up the Indian Summer switchbacks effortlessly. I found the combination… a little bit of training and the perfect lightweight racing bike. The motivation came back to me. I finally could see what a little bit of training could do (as I wasn’t on an extreme training plan… my goal was 4 hours a week).
I nearly cried in joy when I uploaded the ride to Strava. There were the numbers, the proof. Even with stops to yield to other trail users, to adjust my new shoes, or to get some chews I blew away all my previous PRs. I knocked 3, 4, 5, 6 or more minutes off my times. And to think this wasn’t quite race pace! I found myself consistently in the Top 40 (with some Top 20 appearances) on the segments. Heck, I almost wanted to get on the trainer and do more intervals because I was so jazzed over what CritFit and my coach had allowed me to accomplish in 17 short weeks!
Finally today I wrapped up my Recovery Week to End All Recovery Weeks with a 21 mile jaunt in Soapstone Prairie with a few friends from MTBR. I can’t believe I haven’t made it out to Soapstone Prairie yet! This is an open space with about 50 miles of trails that lays on the Colorado/Wyoming border (one trail actually loops into Wyoming). It’s free, not crowded, and a blast! The single track exceeded my expectations, and I loved how it’s a place where a person can go pound out long miles on smooth, fast trails. We looped up Pronghorn to Mahogany, and then across Canyon Trail to Cheyenne Rim, which we descended down back to the cars. Skies remained cloudy (we are under a Winter Storm Warning… yes, 77 degrees to 5″ of snow at the flip of a switch), but temperatures stayed in the 60s which made for good riding weather. Soapstone is very much exposed prairie, so I can imagine it’s not so much fun in the heat and sun.
How am I feeling? Cooked. Lots of miles on a mountain bike this week and I am having to readjust to getting bounced and jostled around more than my body is use to. But I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a week off my trainer and away from intervals! We in the Rocky Mountains have been blessed with amazing weather this week, and I think it all helped us shake off some of the cabin fever we were suffering from!
This coming week is Week 18. The final week of the pre-season training plan. Game over! I have 3 days of intervals on the trainer (45 minutes to an hour for each workout), which I’m moving ahead to start on Monday so I’ll have Thursday as a full recovery day off the bike before heading out to Fruita for Rumble at 18 Road on Friday morning. Then it’s show time! It’s all come down to this… I am nervous about my first USAC Cat 2 race, which is funny considering in non-sanctioned races I have raced intermediate/advanced for a year which is the same thing as Cat 2 practically (if not reaching into Cat 1 a smidge with some of the people I have/will race against)… I’m trying to keep things in perspective and remind myself its the first race, and last year I didn’t hit peak form until May and June, and to expect a similar trend this year (except with a bigger peak for Nationals in July. I gotta make Bear Creek my bitch). I’m competitive as all get out, but I think training has taught me to turn more inwards in my goals and away from medals and race results. I just want to smash my Rumble at 18 Road race time to pieces. PIECES. Last year was a horror show, and that isn’t happening this year!
This week also allowed me to put a lot of new products to the test that I’ll have to work on raving about… my S-Works Fate, my new Specialized Motodiva shoes, Osmo hydration mix, Honey Stinger Waffles, new SockGuy socks, Giro Xara helmet… so much new to rave about! Gotta have something to break up all the race reports that will be coming soon enough… stay tuned!