Most of the fall, however, was spent doing this: coaching. Which was awesome, challenging, exhausting, and a whole lot of fun. It's also meant some structure for my own riding. Sometimes that came from practice with the team; sometimes figuring out the training plans for the team inspired parallel plans for myself. All in all though it led to a fair bit of riding for a while.
Then the end of the season came. That last month I pretty much hung out on the sidelines, dealt with logistics, handed up bottles in feedzones, mostly handled logistics. And it was great, and rewarding. But it left almost no time for riding.
I'd also signed up for the Swank 65k right after nationals. I've done it before, and it always delivers all the pain I can handle and then some. Climbing for days and knarly descents back down. What more could you want? Well, a quick dual suspension for one. I'll get smart one of these years, but I was on the hardtail again this year. As hardtails go, the Pivot Les is right up there, but, it's still a hardtail. Which left me with one strategy really. Pace well. Climb as fast as possible, and just try to stay smooth on the singletrack. Simple enough.
Of course, I hadn't been riding a ton, which left a few questions when it came to the whole climb fast part. I was still hoping to go top 5 though, so I tried to do everything else right. Coaching helped there. Reminding riders to do the little things right all fall had the beneficial effect of getting me back into the routine of doing them right too, something which I'd steadily neglected the last couple of years.
About 5 minutes in the race was pretty much set. Sam Koerber off the front, me solo in 2nd. And it stayed that way for about 2 or 3 hours. It felt awesome to just ride hard, and I'm pretty convinced watching races motivates me to suffer when I finally get out there myself. I watched a lot of racing this fall, so I guess I was ready to dig. And I got to do plenty of that up to Farlow Gap. Two years ago I absolutely imploded on this climb, and this year I wasn't too far away from that. Basically, I was just able to suffer more this time around. It was more or less an out of body experience actually, something I've never quite been through on a bike before. But, somehow, I kept the gear turning over, and I almost topped out solo.
Unfortunately for me, two guys passed me right at the top, and gapped me on Farlow. Okay, 4th was fine. But I got caught by one more guy at the bottom. That meant I had to go for one last dig on the final climb. Gotta take advantage of the hardtail. I had just enough left to get a little over a minute on that climb and hang on for 4th. Which I'll take, gladly. Second would have been nice, but all things considered, top 5 is great. All in all a pretty sweet way to cap off the fall.
At this point, winter is setting in to NC. No, the snow's not deep, but we got a couple of pre-Thanksgiving turns in the back yard. Then we went for a bike ride - it's going to be a good winter.