Friday, March 20, 2015

Bike Camp

   A few months ago, I joined an all-female cycling club - The Tennessee Women's Cycling Project.  They are a group of women who love riding and racing bikes and want to promote the sport in any positive way possible. My friend Kathy M. is one of the Board Members of TWCP and thought I might be interested in joining them. They have both a race team and a club team, and since the thought of racing anything other than an individual time trial (like we do in triathlon) scares the bejeezes out of me, I joined the club team. This past weekend, TWCP had their training camp in Chattanooga. And even though I'm just a club member, I went along for the fun.


   I met up with race team member Katelyn on Friday afternoon and we carpooled to Chattanooga together. Chattanooga is only two hours away, but we ended up rolling in around 8:00 pm due to the time change to the Eastern time zone. We were a little concerned about dinner since we had a seminar starting about that time, but Kathy happened to be picking up Mexican food, and she brought us both burritos. Thanks, Kathy!
   The seminar that night was on goal-setting: short-term, long-term, realistic goals and crazy goals that get you into doing things like an Ironman. I little out of place because I don't have a huge goal for this season. IMCHOO kind of took a lot out of me. But I was assured by everyone that NOT having a huge goal and riding / running for fun is OK too. Weird to think I have to be assured about something like that, but as a habitual goal-setter, I do.
   After the seminar, we just hung out for a bit and headed for bed. In theory, we were going to get up early and start riding, however, the forecast called for rain in the morning. Sure enough, when we got up - it was raining. Womp. Womp. So we hung out a bit more and waited for the worst to pass. We also took some team pictures. I know it doesn't look like it, but it was COLD out there.

Love these kits! (Photo courtesy of Angela Lee and TWCP)

SQUIRREL! (Photo courtesy of Angela Lee and TWCP)

    There were two routes available for us on Saturday. The first went up Signal Mountain and was about 60 miles. The second course was 30 miles and tooled around the hills near Signal Mountain, but didn't actually climb it. I made the decision earlier in the week that if it was raining, I was going to ride the shorter course. This was actually for two reasons. The first was because I know my skill set in cycling, and speeding down switchbacks on wet, mountain roads isn't part of my toolbox. Also, I also wanted to get a run in. I've had to miss so many runs due to the weather recently and I didn't want to go yet another weekend without a run. So, I bailed on the 60 and went for the 30 miler.
   I don't recall what time we started out on Saturday. It was later than planned, and part of that was due to me. You know that annoying person who shows up at events and don't have their act together? Yep - that was me. First off, I arrived at camp with a flat back tire. Dudley pumped up both of my tires before I left, but by the time I got to camp, the back was flat. So Neil (one of our coaches for the weekend), used the opportunity to hold a tire-changing clinic. While I know how to change a tire, he's MUCH better at it than I am, and I was happy to have him change it for me. THEN, my cleat on my shoes got hooked on something and I had to get those tightened (Thanks, Bill!). Finally, I got on my bike and remembered that I changed my seat for the trainer, and it was all wacky. Neil AND Bill helped me with that. Seriously - I was a mess. Fortunately, I got most of it taken care of before we were ready to leave, but still - I hated being "that rider."
   After we got all of my issues settled, we headed out. It was cold and drizzling, but the weather didn't look like it would be getting any better for a few hours, so we left. We got about a mile out before we ran smack-dab into the Chattanooga St. Patrick's parade. Oops. After a little detour, we were back on our way. The group rode together for the first six miles, and then split up between the long and short courses.

All smiles at the beginning of the ride! 

   There were four of us who rode the short course, plus Bill, a local friend who led the ride.  It was a bit of urban riding, but mostly we were on suburban or rural roads. Even though we didn't climb Signal Mountain, we did get hit some serious hills. According to Wendy's bike computer, we had 2,100 feet of ascending over 30 miles. As a comparison for locals - a round trip on the Trace for the first 13 miles (26 miles total) has about 1,000 feet of ascending. 
   After the ride, we were soaked and grimy, but I still had six miles to run, so I quickly changed and got running. We were staying about a mile and a half from downtown (at the Crash Pad - which was awesome), so I headed that direction and headed towards the greenway. The rain had finally stopped, but it was humid. The run HURT after all of that climbing, but I got it done. The best part of the run was on the way back when I ran into a fellow East Nasty, Daniel, who was visiting Chattanooga for the weekend. East Nasty is everywhere, y'all.
   The team had dinner reservations next door at the Flying Squirrel. It's mainly a bar, so the menu was limited, but what they had was GOOD. Lobster risotto anyone? Seriously tasty. After dinner, we headed back to the Crash Pad and devoured the biggest cherry pie I have ever seen. It was Pi day, after all (3/14) and it only seemed appropriate. 
   The next morning, most of us headed out for a ride to Raccoon Mountain (another group rode the greenway). We were going to follow the race course of one of the popular local races - River Gorge (I think that's the name of it). Fortunately, it was a beautiful day - sunny and in the upper 60's. Katelyn (my ride home) and I both needed to get back to Nashville, so we tried to adapt the route to about 40 miles, rather than 55-60. We originally thought we'd ride about 20 miles and turn around, but we were able to find a route that allowed us to ride with everyone for most of the ride, with the exception of the very top of Raccoon Mountain. This worked out great. Granted, it hurt, but it was fun and I'm glad I got to ride for the team a bit more than I did the day before. Well, I say "I got to ride" with them, but for the most part I was chasing people up hills. These ladies can climb!  

Taking a break before the big climbs.

Didn't make it all the way up - but most of the way!

   Our group split after taking the photo above. I had thought it was another 14 miles to the top. Turns out - it was only three. Had I known that, maybe I would have tried it. Granted, it was another 1,000 feet of elevation over that three miles. That would have been pretty painful...maybe next time.
   The main thing I learned while on this ride - triathlon race courses are WAY easier than cycling race courses. Yes, I know, we have to run after the ride so there is a reason for it, but WOW - I can't believe this was a race course. I am SO thankful the organizers of Ironman Chattanooga took pity on us and designed the route they did. It could have been SO much worse. 
   We had to check out of the Crash Pad before we left for the ride, but they were kind enough to let us shower when we got back. Seriously, the Crash Pad rocks. I was really happy I wasn't going to have to drive home with bike grit on me. 
   Overall, bike camp was really fun. Yes, the climbs hurt and I got dropped on almost every hill, but I couldn't really expect otherwise considering triathletes don't generally train on mountains. I also got to meet and ride with some fantastic and interesting women, which I loved. I'm looking forward to riding with them again soon. A huge thanks to the Board of TWCP for putting together an awesome weekend! FYI - the Tennessee Women's Cycling Project is still accepting club members, so if you're interested, let me know!