I intended to take a few days off the bike after spraining my shoulder to make sure it would heal up well. However, not being able to ride starts to drive me crazy pretty quickly and after a single day I was begrudgingly getting on the trainer. Riding the trainer for two days nearly bored me into a coma and I soon ready to push my luck riding outside.
Though pulling a shirt on was still a pain, literally, sitting on a bike seat didn’t seem to be much of a problem. I figured a nice ride out the Schuylkill River Trail would be a great test of my recovery. Smooth and devoid of obstacles, save for the wonderful detour through Norristown, it wouldn’t put my shoulder through to much stress.
I made it out to the trail’s end in Phoenixville in good time and turned around. On my way back I took a quick detour off the trail to visit one of my favorite spots in Valley Forge. The weather was amazing, and so I sat for a few minutes and just took in the scene. I debated taking a nap but decided I should probably keep moving and get a solid ride in after not being able to train all week.
A nice flat ride ended up being just what I needed. I got home feeling refreshed with a clear head and a sense of relief that my shoulder had held up. For the last few weeks I had been planning to head to my parents for a three day climbing camp in the mountains surrounding their home outside of Harrisburg. I was stoked I’d still be able to make it and after dinner got my things packed for my trip to central Pennsylvania.
I hit the road early the next morning and arrived in Harrisburg just in time for the skies to open. Wet roads and steep climbs aren’t usually a good combination and so after visiting with my Dad for a bit I decided to stay off the mountain and get in a solid interval workout on the flatter valley roads. I picked a 40 mile route my dad and I used to ride frequently, and headed out into the rain to do some threshold work on the rolling hills of Route 443 towards Memorial Lake.
Despite the cool temperatures and even cooler rain, I was able to put out good power for the majority of my workout. Towards the end of my loop I regretted not putting on leg warmers or some embrocation as my leg muscles began to tighten up. I pulled into the driveway not a second too soon, dried off my bike and set up my fathers Kreitler rollers.
As I warmed up my freezing legs by spinning out, my mind was turning ever quicker, piecing together an insane ride for the next day. By the time I had finished spinning I had decided on a 90ish mile route with six major climbs and 40+ miles of gravel roads. This combined with the four-hour endurance XC race in Michaux on Sunday would give me the kind of over the top workout I need to be prepared for seven straight days of racing at the end of May.
Following a killer BBQ dinner with my parents and sister, I went to bed dreaming of long day of farm roads and dirt climbs. I awoke to sunny skies, and after a quick breakfast, I hit the road with a full load of water and food. I immediately tackled my first climb of the day, Piketown Road. Not a particularly steep or hard climb, Piketown is one of my favorites as it twists and steps its way two and a half miles up over an ancient appalachian mountain ridge. With a childish smile on my face I descended down the east edge of the mountain and was spit out on Route 443 heading towards Fort Indiantown Gap.
Twelve miles later, 443 makes a hard left toward the mountain and I began my second climb of the day. Halfway through the four-mile climb I took another left hand turn onto a military access road. The road narrowed and in the last mile before the top of the ridge, it turned to stone. I grunted out the final steep pitch, turned right onto the dirt ridge road and easy pedaled a half mile to the overlook. The second mountain, Hawk Watch, provides some seriously stunning views into both the Susquehanna and Stony Valleys.
After a short snack break, I got back in the saddle and began my descent into Stony Valley. As one of the largest tracts of untouched wilderness in central PA I was probably better off on a mountain bike where I was heading. After an extremely rocky descent into valley, I turned left onto the Stoney Valley rail trail and began the 10 mile slog to my next climb. A harsh winter has left the stone rail trail rutted and full of potholes and I felt like was racing in Roubaix as I powered over the rough surface.
Thirty minutes later I made a right turn onto another stone road and began my 1,200 foot ascent up the Stony Valley radio tower climb. Before I made it to the top, every part of my body was burning, lungs, legs and especially my arms. Maintaining traction of 20+ percent stone grades on 25c road tires requires some pretty special upper body acrobatics and by the time I was to the top, I was thankful for the time spent in the gym the last few months.
I took a well-deserved break at the top, enjoying the solitude of real wilderness as well as some delicious energy gels(raises eyebrow). After taking the descent way too fast for a skinny tired bike, I thanked the bicycle gods for keeping my tires inflated and made a left turn back onto the Stony Valley trail for twenty more miles of uphill, pothole riddled, big gear grinding.
The next hour seemed like an eternity, as my shoulder was aching and my water was getting low. Good thing theres no stores or parks between here and home. I punched my way up and over Goldmine Road both ways before turning back onto 443 for the long slog home. After one more climb and no more water I rolled back into my parents driveway exhausted, extremely dehydrated and glad to be done.
I stumbled into the house, ate an undisclosed amount of food (thanks Mom!), had a well deserved beer and then sank into the couch. It’s always great to come home, and I spent the evening catching up with my family, at least for as long as I could keep my eyes open. At some point I made it from the couch to my bed and slept like a brick through the night.
Sunday was day three of my mini climbing camp and I capped it off by winning the Michaux Off-Road Weekend, four-hour endurance XC race. It was a huge confidence booster to win my first race of the season. It was also a perfect workout with nearly 7,000 feet of climbing in 40 miles of rocky, challenging mountain bike racing. I executed my race plan perfectly and rolled across the line nearly eight minutes up on second.
I hung out for a few hours afterwards catching up with friends and chowing down on the delicious food made my race director Zack Adams and Fast Forward Racing Productions. Next week I’m off to Prescott, Arizona for the Whiskey Off-Road. There’s a fat tire criterium on Friday and then the big show on Sunday, the Whiskey 50, a 50 miles race through Prescott National Forest with over 7,000 feet of climbing and $40,000 on the line.