Chris Joice (5)
hopefully fast enough for top-step Tennessee Gravel triple-crown challenge 🤞🏼🤞🏼🙏 .... and it IS!!! by 4minutes!?!
this was the third ITT i needed to complete the triple-crown, and i left the shortest course to last. i'd done the math (many many times), and i just needed to knock 5minutes off of my best time and i could take the lead on the challenge. no problem, right?!
my strategy was to work on my achilles heel... stopping. i'm always good for a quick sit-down, a coke, some real food, another bathroom break, bike-fiddling, etc. BUT in shorter (relatively speaking) events, that's lost time! so last year i was stopped for 20min, and i could definitely improve on that.
the other thing i tried was to fuel up more... a good friend suggested 80-100g of carbs every hour. whawhat?!! that's a buncha gels, or anything! but the idea was to not fade so bad in the last couple hours. so all aboard the sugar-train!
as usual, i got a late start and missed the most beautiful and lovely morning temps. it was after 10a by the time i was loaded up and ready to roll, but it was still a gorgeous morning in some of my favorite stomping grounds. gravel was rolling good and i was trucking along... but trying not to "truck" too hard. the loose wildcat>basin gap climb was where i started to wonder about my power... that was taking more effort than expected!
flash-back to the last couple weeks... i did the dirty130 two weeks previous, and that was the last ride i did over 40mi. that may seem like no biggie, but i'm used to keeping up some solid miles to keep the legs in their happy zone. i figured i could take the break and maybe my legs would be totally recovered and on fire?! oh, but then i also got pretty sick for a few days at the beginning of this week... like eating very little, sleeping a ton, just depleted. [note: not ideal race-week buildup]!!
but back to the business at hand.. drop some nasty gravel, keep rubber-side down, then eat eat eat. which i did and felt better on the next steady climb before zipping into Green Cove (where i ate more food). i stopped at the check station as i'd already gone through two bottles (1:45) and i took a minute (darnit) to adjust my brakes.... i'd just replaced the cable the day before and tightened the throw so much i could barely squeeze the levers! <-- another rookie mistake: no adjustments immediately before a race.
oh well, i'm ready for the beast of a climb up North River... just under 10mi and around 2500' to the high point of the route. i love this climb, but boy it's a brute. it usually takes me around an hour, and that's a good benchmark to see how i'm doing vs how i'm feeling... which today was fairly good, but i'm not finding any pep-in-my-step! but diesel mode it working pretty well, so settle into the medium/steady effort.
the skyway was a beautiful as ever... crisp skies and cooler temps. i knocked out the last bit to the top and time to SEND IT! this is one of those places where bikes can descend as fast as most cars or faster! nearly 50mph on 50c tires? sure thing! and even though i got stuck behind a truck for a short bit, i still had fun railing the road for a little recovery.
the next stop was indian boundary lake... manditory selfie, check. and quick stop to refuel water and eat some more. this time the donut i'd brought (instead of the usual biscuit = more carbs more fuel?). this part of the route is a little path around the lake, and there were plenty of surprised walkers, campers, and "beach"-goers to slow me down to a "take in the scenery" speed.
all that's left is the farr gap climb, then cold springs descent, and finally the notorious miller ridge (mostly uphill downhill). i'm fueling as much as possible, but my legs just don't have much go in them... and then the first cramp! gah, i'm not even into the "meat" of the farr gap climb... oh jeez! so i back off the effort and shift my position a bit to try and keep them at bay... it works, but i know this is gonna be a trudge to the finish!
i finally make it to the top of farr gap... seemingly crawling the steep bits, but managing not to cramp or walk. i drink all the waters and eat more... please help me, fuel! as i drop the rowdy cold springs side of farr gap, i see a rider coming up the trail... oh wait, that's my buddy scott smith! i didn't have it in me to blow by him, so i skidded to a stop (barely, eventually... stupid crappy brakes), and took a couple minutes to catch up with him. that was a solid boost to my mentals, and a good stop indeed!
miller ridge is really a harsh way to end the route, but it's a remote double-track which is worth seeing... though i wasn't so happy to see it today! there was a bunch of debris and i'm not sure how i didn't take a stick in the spokes or wreck on the small downhill bits?! the debris made the climb even harder, and especially since i'm doing my best to not put in an cramp-inducing efforts. eventually (1:10 instead of my best time of 53min) i'm free of that beast and time to "zip" to the finish!
i look briefly at the time and realize this is gonna be close... like within minutes of my best overall time... eeek!! there's not much i can do at this point but pedal as fast as possible and quit watching the clock. so i descended fast and put in a few tiny efforts on the hills. the very last hill i tried to actually "power" up it, and "oh, HECK NO" said my legs as the cramps froze them for a few rotations!! i fought through but dropped back to minimum effort to get to the top.
bomb down under the skyway, and then onto river rd... the bain of SS: 1-3% downhill to the start/finish! i spin-up until i feel the twinges, then coast; repeat. it seemed like forever, but eventually i see the bridge, then the skyway... i made it! quickly i fumble to take a picture of the time, and then i slump over in my salt-crusted kit, a shell of myself.... but happy and content. this is living, to me.