Col d’Wintergreen

Google Maps says I was in Rockfish, Virginia. The Postal Service insists on Nelson, Virginia. I’ve never cared less. It’s at the top of a mountain. And it’s surrounded by other mountains. I went with nine guys from my bike racing team for spring training camp. Did I mention that every road goes up? Geographically, I’m not sure how that works. But it’s true.

Last year, I spent every afternoon, all afternoon, on the bike. The average week included fifteen hours of riding; about twenty with weekends tacked on. When it was time to race, I knew I’d prepared well. Ask a coach and you’ll get an earful about how base mile after base mile is a pretty inefficient way to go about training. And it is. But lots of time on the bike begets confidence. This year, things are going a bit differently. Most of my workouts are less than an hour and a half long: there are lots of intervals, I’m working on my diet, and I’ve been spending a lot of time in the gym. In theory, it’s an efficient, effective way to specifically train the body.

In practice, all the time spent not on the bike compared to a more hours-heavy training plans is spent second guessing yourself. It doesn’t help that this year’s goal is a lot more difficult to achieve than last year.

So I was quietly anxious about how things would go when I got here. I know where my fitness should be in relation to my teammates, but the routine of chatty Saturday morning rides punctuated with a couple minutes of drag racing isn’t very informative. The first race in the region is was March 25th, if this weekend turned into a disaster of suffering and chasing, it would be time to reevaluate my expectations. File under: Things I Do Not Want To Do.

Saturday morning, we spent hours talking about racing this year, team tactics, and “bonding.” Or whatever. Riding started at the crack of one in the afternoon. That did awesome things for the performance anxiety.

Pretending to be the seasoned vet, I got ready to ride and rolled out the front door without much talk. That was kind of a mistake. All I knew was that we were supposed to be doing a “big ride.” I never asked what the route was, how long we’d be out, if I’d need to pack a sleeping bag. As it turns out, “big” means three and a hour hours and seven thousand feet of climbing, which is sort of like having salad with a side of salad. “Demolished” pretty accurately describes how I felt when we finished the final ascent and collapsed back in to the house.

Result: exactly how I hoped I’d ride. But that didn’t stop me from finding reasons to believe that the performance was a fluke, or not representative of this season’s actual competition. Being neurotic is fun.

On Sunday, we drove a third of the way home to pre-ride the Jefferson Cup circuit. Having come down with some kind of mucus-all-up-in-my-lungs sickness, I did one lap and got back in my car. Not really the way you want to wrap up camp, but it was the smart decision and my body thanked me for it.

Next up is Black Hills Circuit Race. If camp was a nervous, anxiety-inducing experience, only can only imagine how race day will go.