I ventured over to the Linville Gorge area this past weekend some of the best riding in the area. The Gran Fondo National Championship series was in town in Boone, North Carolina, home to App State! I'm two weeks out from Ironman Mont Tremblant and after six hour solo ride after six hour solo ride, I was really looking forward to having a little company out on the roads for my final hurrah on two wheels before taper time. And I couldn't ask for a better ride and route at 97 miles and 10,700+ feet of climbing, it was a good way to cap off the last two very serious weeks of training. I went into it with kind of dead legs and pretty sure the last 10 miles did me in. If you want a good challenge and gorgeous scenery, I highly recommend it!
The only thing I will gripe about is the weird way they do overall timing, and why I would not race this, only use it as a training ride. The overall time you do for the 100-miles is irrelevant, they only capture timed segments within the 100-miles, ranging from four to eight miles, with the last timed segment ending around 70-miles. Technically, you could finish the ride at 70 and sag home and still place first overall. The goody-two-shoes-always-play-by-the-rules in me hates this.
I mean, don't hate the player, hate the game but you had a lot of riders sand-bagging the non-timed segments. The overall winning team that won $1000 was on the side of the road with a mechanical for 20-minutes. I finished nearly an hour earlier than some of the girls that placed ahead of me in the timed segments. I totally get handing out primes for segments but the overall seems silly. Okay, end rant.
So I ignored the rules of the game in the name of getting in a good training day and hit it hard all day. Only problem was on the first timed segment I thought I could still maybe hit these and ended up with a good 20-minutes in the 300w average range during the first ten miles, which made the rest of the ride considerably harder. Note to self for IMMT: don't be an idiot, like this! ;)
But I met some great people to ride with and draft off of in the second half and then eat pizza with while swapping war stories after the ride, including my new friend Mike from Wisconsin who also came down for the Hot Doggett a few weeks back. There's just simply nothing like North Carolina riding!
There were also some hilarious moments, like a black lab mix running alongside a pack of 7-8 riders for literally close to two miles. He was running next us, not trying to nip but just tongue out, happy as a could be having company for his morning run. Then there were some not-so-hilarious moments, like the 8 total dogs that chased us, not so happy and trying to bite. Four of them were Jack Russell Terriers, which are fast little buggers! I'm a dog lover but I had no qualms about squirting a little guy with water after he kept making advances on my ankles.
The race then closes with a brutal climb back up to Boone. I was in my easiest gear and about to fall over as I grinded my way up one of the hardest climbs I've ever done, passing a guy walking his bike. I almost always assume these long races end with a downhill of some kind back to the start so this was a bit demoralizing but good finish to the day.
Oh yeah, they also had the best chocolate chip cookies ever at the aid stations. With the heat, they tasted fresh out of the oven. If you're okay with the sprint segments, I would highly recommend this race for some great riding in a beautiful area. I think I'm still partial to the Hot Doggett 100 race that was held a few weeks earlier in the Mars Hill, NC area closer to Asheville but this one was also top-notch.
But even with the weird timing, I ended up 3rd in my 18-39 age group for the timed sections, a great training day and managed to score a Rudy helmet at the pretty sweet raffle they held during the award ceremony for all finishers. Breaking even on the entry fee for a cute helmet and setting some close-to-record power numbers two weeks out from an A race after a brutal past few weeks of record training? Sure, I'll take it!
Happy Riding, y'all! Depending on taper, there may be a few more posts in the coming days about some past races, changes I've made and things I've been excited to share but was just too exhausted/busy/focusing on the things I need to focus on to do so! Less than two weeks to Mont Tremblant—oh my gosh!!