And... We're back!
Last post I covered my top-five hardest big-dumb rides of the year based on overall “load”. Now I’ll get into the my top-five hardest medium distance rides of 2023.
This past year my racing goals were all centered around events 45-65 miles in length so I’m calling these “medium” rides. The common thread here is that the intensity of most of these rides were higher than any of those in the “big dumb” top five. If at this point you are thinking “what the hell are you talking about?” head back to the last blog entry for an explanation of how my ranking system works.
1. Old Dirty South Hill
307 load/TSS, 71 miles, 4:05 moving Time 1.25 intensity.
It’s absolutely fitting that if you take the most difficult portion of the the Tobacco 200km course and ride it as a stand alone route it’s going to be challenging. 71 miles, 3500 feet of climbing, and 40% of the surface unpaved, the Old Dirty South Hill route is hard. The group I rode with was well organized and committed to riding fast. As a result the intensity ranking of this is above that of most of the actual races I did this year. When it was all over I had completed the route half an hour faster than in 2022 and averaged almost 2mph faster.
2. Coffee Grinder XL.
282 load/TSS, 69 miles, 5:31 moving time, 0.85 intensity.
The Coffee Grinder XL ride forces itself into the list despite being somewhat of a social ride. 69 miles and nearly constant changes to surface as well as pedaling is going to make for a hard ride. After some shuffling around of the cast of riders I was with things settled into a smaller group by the half way point. We all seemed to have similar fitness and bike skill so things were smooth yet hard. When I cooked up this route I wanted to not only expose as many people as possible to some hidden trails they may have not seen before, but also throw in as much off-road elevation changes as are possible in this tight a radius for a ride. Ample pauses for snacks and time to chat meant taking quite a bit longer than the other rides on this list, but that also meant more time to recover between the spicier bits. By the time get got back to the start at Bryan Park, I was tired. Not the hardest ride of the year, but absolutely the hardest “social” ride of the year.
*Photos by Laura Carson.
3. Virginia Gravel State Championship.
265 load/TSS, 62 miles, 3:56 moving time, 1.12 intensity.
Ah yes, the Virginia Gravel State Championship. The only ride on either list I can’t say I enjoyed. As it turns out I was starting to get sick and only a few miles into the race I knew I was in trouble. A hard course (my fault, I designed it), bad fitness, a flat tire, and a mystery noise all combined to make for a tough day spent mostly alone. Despite all of this, I still rode hard the whole day and as a result had my 3rd hardest medium distance day by load AND intensity. Motivation to do better next year.
*Photos by Laura Carson.
4. Marathon XC State Championship.
263 load/TSS, 49 miles, 4:45 moving time, 0.92 intensity.
What a difference two weeks can make. Exactly 14 days before my tough day at the VA Gravel Champs I raced the XC Marathon (mountain bike) state championship and had a MUCH better day.. While a snafu with course marking likely took me out of the running for the podium in my category, I still managed a really good day on the bike and a 6th place finish among Category 2 men over 35. The course at Pleasant Grove played to what meager strengths I have as a mountain biker and I managed to get my nutrition just right. I stayed focused the whole time and kept the pressure on the pedals. The higher percentage of coasting due to the course drove down the intensity number a bit and when I finally fished my 4th and final lap I had emptied the tank. It’s said it’s best to leave it all on the course and that’s just what I managed to do. Out of all the rides I did this year, this is probably the one I am most proud of. I had targeted this race as well as the Gravel Championship as my main goals for the season and sucessuflly hit “peak” fitness for the occasion. Mission accomplished.
I can’t say I have ever performed all that well when it comes to results, but it’s still my favorite way to knock the winter dust off and start my season.
5. Monster Cross
255 load/TSS, 50 miles, 3:17 moving time, 1.29 intensity.
Despite being 5th on the list, this is probably the hardest race I did in 2023. The highest level of intensity of anything I did all year long. Monster Cross is always a challenge. It begins with one of the most chaotic starts to any race as hundreds of racers jocky for position in the opening miles. Coming in late February, Monster Cross is always a little too early in the year for me to be in top shape (I need a solid spring and early summer of some big rides mixed with Bryan Park races to be my best self) so I can’t say I have ever performed all that well when it comes to results, but it’s still my favorite way to knock the winter dust off and start my season. This is one of those events is regularly on my my to-do list for the year and always a lot of fun.
Stay tuned for our 2024 calendar dropping next week.