Wednesday, July 7, 2010

2010 Horribly Hilly Hundreds: Stage 3

Ahh, that wind is refreshing. Wait a minute, it just damn near knocked me off my bike.

Stage 3 is the recovery stage of this ride. It's 18 miles long or so, and more of a rolling climb than wall climbs. There still plenty of climbing to be had, and this stage hides the gem that is Spring Valley road, a quaint climb in the middle of nowhere that takes you up, up, and up. But there is plenty of opportunity to spin along and get the lactic acid out of your muscles and maybe get some food and drink down as well. It's still hard, but not as terrible as the first 2 stages. All the while you know the worst is yet to come, but you spin along and try to recover.

At this point of the ride, the main field is pretty much set. The 100K riders have split off and the 200K group is spread out into cells. So from here on out you're pretty much riding with the same group of people. I would pass a group, another group would pass me, and you would end up seeing the same people on the next climb or out rolling on the flats. People are starting to crack, and I see more bikes on the sag wagon trailer than there were earlier. But I'm feeling really really good. In fact this year I even managed to spin in my big ring for most of the flats. I think that was another key to my success this year: not only was the heat gone, but I rode my race instead of trying to pace someone else. When I train, I spin along at a cadence of somewhere in the high 80's. On the climbs, I try to stay in the mid 90's. So this year I tried to stay at my normal cadence of high 80's instead of trying to spin and it paid off. See, racing is all about smarts and little about muscling through.

Anyhow, the wind is picking up. Stage 3 has you rolling out in the open more, and that wind is either your friend or foe. Sometimes it's at your back and you revel in it's majesty as you easily cruise. Other times it's blowing straight at you, and you wish a pox against it's very existence. Other times it's a cross wind, and that sucks too because it doesn't completely hinder, or completely help, and as you lean into it while it's gusting it will suddenly let up and you violently swerve either into the road or onto the shoulder. I will give it credit at this point though, it was keeping the air moving and when it was a gently breeze it was heaven.

As I said earlier, the field is split and spread out heavily, and many points on this ride I'm all by my lonesome. It is beautiful country, and on this stage as I roll along I take it all in. I know it sounds cheesy, but at times like this I truly am thankful for things like my health and the ability to be out on an epic ride like this, and I try to remind myself not to take it all for granted. Especially while out on the open road, it can all be taken in a heartbeat.

While thinking of all that, I suddenly roll into a small town, and realize I'm coming into a little park in the middle of it that is the rest stop for this stage. Stage 3 is over. I love this rest stop because it always has a volunteer with a hose and you get a good dousing of cold water. It's heavenly. I then load up on some food, find a shady spot where Elli, Dav, Jen, and Kaitlin are playing around, and try to relax a bit. And while I'm doing that I can't help but realize I'm on the cusp of the absolute worst stage of this ride. Stage 4 is 33 miles long, has absolutely brutal climbs including the infamous Sweeney Road, and while I'm sitting here trying to eat and recover I'm only half way done. The demons start talking again in your mind and the doubts start creaping up in your mind saying that "you're not gonna make it. You've always faded at this next stage and it will happen again."

However this time another voice shouted out from the back: "F' that!! Get your ass back on your bike and continue owning it like you have been!!"

And for the first time in my HHH career, I didn't believe the doubting thoughts.

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