Snapple Camp 2011 - Lost River
Chasing Off The Back
I headed into Snapple Camp this year with minimal bike fitness. My focus this winter has been running, so I let the biking slide. I’ve done this before and the bike fitness usually comes back rather quickly after a few hard weeks of getting the rust off. This was going to be one of those weeks. But I was really excited to get back to the Lost River barn in Mathias, WV and to train with a bunch of my teammates for four days.
I made the trip out to the barn Thursday morning hoping to get in a solid ride before most of my teammates arrived that evening. The weather was ideal so Phil, Matias, Zach, Jim and I decided to get in 57 miles of easy spinning to warm up the legs for the weekend. The problem out here is that there is no easy spinning because terrain consists of long climbs, rollers or false flats. Sure there is some descending, but this group enjoys inflicting the hurt on each other so that consisted of smashing it when I normally would be enjoying some free speed. From the barn, we went down the front side of mountain to Dove Hollow, Trout Run into Wardensville, back to Baker where we had the longer option up the front side of the mountain which has 6 miles of less steep climbing or taking the shorter option and going around to the backside of the mountain where a shorter, but steeper finishing climb awaited us. And to add to the fun, the steepest part of this summit finish was on dirt. We of course chose the dirt. I’m not sure if the heat had me a little dehydrated or the quick pace through all those rollers took its toll, but I had nothing left when we hit the dirt section. I basically just put my head down for the next two miles and barely kept the pedals moving. It probably looked like I was doing a track stand on the side of the mountain, but despite my Garmin constantly “auto pausing,” I kept moving. When I did look up, I saw one of my teammates, who will remain nameless, just up the road walking his bike. I figured I would soon catch up to Zach and talk some smack to him for putting his feet down, but I wasn’t able to gain any ground on him. Yes, he was walking faster than I was pedaling. I got worked over on that ride a little more than I had hoped, but it was felt great to be riding again out in the middle of nowhere under the warm sun.
Most of the rest of the crew arrived last night, including Maggi, who arrived at 1am after leaving her home in Texas the previous morning at 4am. But she was a trooper and was up with everyone who made their way down to the Moorefield recreation center for a swim workout to start the day before we tackled our 90 mile bike ride. Walking into the pool area was similar to walking into a sauna as we were greeted with a 95 degree wall of heat. Hoping to cool off in the pool water wasn’t an option because the water temperature couldn’t have been below 92. It was an effort just to do a few laps. Breathing was difficult right from the start and my form was a mess. But I was pushing off on the 1:05s which was a huge boost to my confidence since I was ignoring the minor detail that this was a 20 yard pool. We suffered for about 45 minutes of splashing around before we finally called it quits and headed back home for the long ride ahead.
Jay, the owner of the barn was there to greet us and talk about the day’s route. One of the great things about training out at the Lost River barn is riding with Jay who takes you on a guided tour of some amazing back country roads and climbs over ridges with fantastic views of the valleys below. He knows these roads so well and can always offer a plan B if you are feeling like something a little longer or more challenging or cutting it short if needed. We would definitely need a plan B on this day. We headed out in a light drizzle and heavy fog and a little uncertainty about actually completely 90 hard miles in these conditions. We descended down the backside of the mountain (the paved road, not the dirt) into Moorefield. Jay had told us that the climbing wouldn’t start until about mile 17 of the ride so I just tried to hang on as best I could, but not blow up. I wasn’t able to hang on to the group as the pace seemed to speed up going over any little riser, but I did manage to ride within my limits. When we got to the dirt, we were in a pretty solid downpour. Everybody was soaked and a bit chilled, but the upcoming climb would surely warm us up. Unfortunately, the dirt had turned to mud and West Virginia’s finest had just laid down some large, pointy gravel. I quickly got dropped from the group, but I just settled into my own pace and pressed on. The ride was bumpy and slow due to all the mud and rocks, but there were a few sections where you could find some rock-less paths that would give you a brief break from the jarring. The climb seemed to last forever and I could never get going fast enough or hard enough to elevate my heart rate so the climb didn’t offer any warmth to my freezing core. I finally made the summit, but my reward was a dicey, muddy, slick, wet, freezing descent. When I got to the bottom and regrouped with everyone, we unanimously decided to save our long ride for another day and just get back to the barn as quickly as possible. We were in survivor mode as a few were starting to suffer from hypothermia. The next 25 miles back to the barn were miserable. Some of the most uncomfortable riding I’ve ever done as I was just soaked to the bone. I actually looked forward to the final 6 mile climb up the back side because it would at least warm me up. It seemed to take everyone a few hours to stop feeling cold. Mindy cooked up a great lasagna dinner that night that we all inhaled. I eventually got some feeling back in my extremities and crawled into bed for a good, hard sleep.
The third day started off with chocolate chip waffles and bacon. It could have ended right there and I would have been happy. But we had some riding to do so the couch and the Masters would have to wait a few more hours before I joined it. The weather started out a little better than the previous day. There was plenty of cloud cover, but at least it wasn’t raining. The group was discussing doing our 90 miler today since yesterday’s ride didn’t pan out the way we had hoped. I was going to play it by ear and make my decision around the 50 mile mark when the route split into the 90 mile or 67 mile option. We headed down the back side of the mountain again into Moorefield and headed off towards Taylor and Kessel where we hit our first big climb of the day. I was quickly spit out the back which was becoming the norm with this group of uber fit athletes. Despite my labored breathing I was able to swallow my pride and get into a good tempo going up and over the long climb. The group was nice enough to wait for me on the other side, but I found myself struggling to keep up even though my legs actually felt a lot better than the previous day. That’s pretty typical for me in these training camps where I feel horrible on day 2 and then better and better as the week wears on. My legs never have that kick to them like they do when they are fresh, but they start to acclimate to the workload and accept the lactic acid buildup as the norm. We looped around towards Scherr and Medley where we had another long ridge to get over. I got dropped again, but I felt like I was keeping some of the group a little closer. We had a bunch of fast rollers and descents back to Moorefield and I really seemed to catch a second wind. My legs felt great even though they were fatigued so I pushed the effort quite a bit through this stretch. We regrouped again just outside of Moorefield where I made an atypically wise decision not to continue on for the full 90, but concede that I didn’t have a lot of bike miles in my legs so ending the ride with a little left in the tank was a good idea. Matias, Bart, Jim, Lucas and Ted headed out for the extra miles and the rest of the group pace-lined it back to the base of the backside of the mountain where we knew the next 6 miles would take us upwards of 35 minutes to complete. I pushed the pace going up the first half of the climb striking fear into Phil and Chip, but they sat in for a minute and watched me roll right back to them as they kept up the pace. Zack attacked me on the steepest pitch, but he couldn’t shake me off his wheel. He seemed to be at his limit which is why I still question his timely flat tire. I made it back to the barn just as the skies started to open up again. Another solid day of riding in the books.
What is that shiny, bright orange ball in the sky that is making it warm outside? Sun? Not sure what that is since we hadn’t seen it in days. We had a perfect day for riding. The ride started off down the backside again in some cool temps, but things quickly warmed up when made our way to Rock Oak by way of Old 55. That was a long climb, but the grade was never too steep so you could really get into a rhythm. Matias, Chip and Phil rode up ahead, but I kept them in my sights for most of the long climb which kept me motivated to keep pushing. By the time we got to the top, I actually had a good sweat going. We had a nice stretch of rolling descents through some beautiful terrain that was a lot of fun. I knew we’d have to earn that back on some climb, but I was enjoying it too much to care. When we got to Needmore and then parker hollow and dove hollow we had a long stretch of slightly uphill road through some chicken farms and abandoned houses. Our group broke up again so we each just got in our own little pain caves and kept pushing until we got to the Lost River State Park. This would be my first time up the front side of the mountain since last year and it didn’t disappoint. Not nearly as steep as the backside, but it’s still quite a bit of climbing during the first 3 miles. This climb offered up some great vistas of the valley where I had to stop for a minute and just enjoy. It would’ve been a shame to only stare at the road this entire ride and not take in all the surrounding beauty. Rolling into the barn for the final time felt great. I had logged more miles in the last four days than I had all year. I was tired and exhausted, but I also felt a lot stronger than when I started the camp. Thanks to Bart and Mindy for doing all the leg work and cooking to make this long weekend a lot of fun. Always good to hang with this crew. Thanks for reading. Sean
Category: Sean Ward