Tuesday, June 6, 2017

MGCC Ladies Take on the Adirondacks

I had this post almost all ready to last week but was waiting on pics from our guide.  Sadly I have only gotten a couple of shots from the 5 days we were there.  So once those come, you can expect a "Wordless Wednesday" post, ha ha.

I've been to two training camps, both led by coaches that were coaching me.  They are an excellent way to hone your skills as well as socialize with like minded people.  Both times I've gone with G so I've known someone.  When I signed up for the Morning Glory Ladies Camp, my friend was going so I knew I'd know at least one person.  When my friend had to cancel a couple of weeks out, I thought about cancelling as well.  But then I thought, "No, this year is all about putting myself out there."  So that was that.  I was going to spend 5 days riding my bike with people I'd never met before.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous but as the emails went around the week before the camp, it became apparent that a few people were in the same boat as me.  YAY!

My friend cancelling also meant that I now needed a way to get out to Lake Placid.  I thought about driving but didn't really like the idea of driving all that way by myself.  So I reached out to Sharon (the trip coordinator) to see if I could get a lift with someone.  She put me in touch with Elaine who was also taking one other girl, Liz, out to the camp.  She had more than enough room for me and my bike so last Wednesday morning, G dropped me off at Elaine's place.  I knocked on her front door as G unloaded my bike and was greeted by a wee Australian woman who introduced herself as Liz and brought me inside.  I met Elaine and then we all went out into the back to load up the car.

On the Road / Day One

We started chatting and didn't really stop for the entire ride.  Nothing like a 6 hour drive to get to know people!  I felt 100% comfortable by the time we got to Lake Placid.  When we got to High Peaks Cyclery we met up with a few of the other ladies and then Karen and Brian came out to greet us.  Elaine was staying in the High Peaks house and Liz and I were going to be sharing a room in the Base Camp house.  The last time I shared a room with someone other than my husband was at summer camp when I was 13 years old.  G is used to all my quirks (I like to sleep in the cold and I like to have a fan on when I sleep) so being in a room with a total stranger is a little stressful.  What if they don't like to sleep with the window open?  I run hot at night and I don't sleep well if I overheat so I was praying that Liz wouldn't mind sleeping with the window open.

We were the last group to arrive so we ended up in the most claustrophobic room.  It had 3 bunk beds jammed in it and no dresser or closet.  Since we had it to ourselves we used the top bunks as make shift dressers.  It was a bit messy but it worked.  We got ourselves sorted and then got changed to get out on our bikes.  We were going to do a short shake out ride so Brian could give us some pointers and evaluate the groups skill level.  We practiced group riding, cornering and descending as well as riding through sand as there was a lot of it on the roads we were on.  It was an excellent way to open up the camp.

Getting ready to roll out on Day One!
Dinners were happening in High Peaks house as that was where the big kitchen was.  Karen and Margie were our cooks and they had dinner on the table when we got back.  We were all so hungry that we didn't bother showering and just sat down for dinner.  Conversation was easy and we all got to know each other.   It was dark by the time we made our way back to our house.  I had a shower and collapsed into bed.   Liz asked if it was ok if she put the fan on and I said absolutely and I asked if she wouldn't mind opening the window and she said absolutely.   I said WHEW - I was a little worried you didn't want to get cold.  She said she can only sleep in the cold.   I said me too!  Good score in the roommate department!

Day Two:  Northern Mountain Loop Ride

We had a later start to the day due to the very brisk temps in the morning so Erica offered to lead a yoga class to start the day.  I didn't go to the class as I was on the slow to wake up boat, ha ha.  None the less, a lot of the girls took advantage of it.

This ride was going to be a mixed bag of climbing and flats over 85km or so.  We were going to be doing the climb up Whiteface to the toll road.  I hadn't been up that climb in over 10 years.   We weren't going to descend it but there was going to be another big descent later in the ride.  I was looking forward to exploring some new roads.

This is the elevation for the ride.  Yup, there was over 1000m of climbing!

This ride definitely showed me that my descending skills have improved immensely.  I had said that one of the things I wanted to work on was descending.  I had even gone so far as to say that I was a nervous descender.  It's funny how old habits and perceptions can stay ingrained in your brain until someone tells you other wise.  When we got to the bottom of our big descent, Liz rode up beside me and said I was a much better descender than I give myself credit for.  I was definitely feeling a lot more confident, so much so that I got into a tuck even around the wide sweeping corners.  That is something I never would have done a few years ago.  I finished the second day ride feeling pretty good.  Liz and I thought it would be a good idea to dip our legs in the lake the help with recovery so we wandered over to Mirror Lake and waded in.  It was frigid but once your legs got used to it, it wasn't that bad.

We were on our own for dinner and I had offered to look into restaurants for us.  After presenting the group a bunch of options, we decided to walk over to the local brew pub.

Good food, good company and good beer!  What more could you ask for!  Definitely a fun night.

Day Three:  Saranac Lake / Western Lakes Region

This was supposed to be our Saturday long ride but the weather wasn't looking awesome for Saturday so we opted to switch this ride to Friday.  We were blessed with sunshine and warmer temps which was absolutely fantastic.  I had never ridden around Saranac Lake so this was a treat.  There were some incredible roads on this ride, including a newly paved stretch of rolling hills that wound through the trees like a smooth black ribbon.  It was spectacular.

We got back to Saranac Lake just shy of 100km so we had Brian take us around on a tour of the town to make up some of the distance.  Even then, a few of us had to ride around in circles to hit the 100km mark, ha ha.

Best bike gang ever!
Day Four:  Ausable River & THE descent into Keene

We woke to overcast skies and cooler temps and there was also rain in the forecast for the afternoon so we opted to start this ride early.  I was so glad to have a SAG wagon because dressing for these rides was a bit of a challenge so it was nice to know you could bring everything and then drop it in the van if you didn't want to wear it anymore.    Today was the day I was a bit nervous about.  The last time I went down Keene in 2013, it was a bit rainy and I was totally petrified.  I rode the brakes for most of the descent and started crying about half way down.  So I didn't have very fond memories of it.  The plan was to go down it, ride around and then climb back UP it into Lake Placid.  I'm not sure what I was more worried about - the descent or the climb back up with just over 250km in my legs already.

We took it easy on the climb out of Lake Placid and practiced our echelon skills.  I had forgotten how darn hilly that first bit of the course is.  When we got to the top of the descent, Brian coached us through it and reminded us of the things we learned on day one.  Then we were off.   I had butterflies in my stomach.  As my speed started to pick up, I actually started to relax.  I felt in control of my bike.  I put it into my hardest gear in the big chain ring.  I wanted my legs to be able to keep up.  The first part of the descent is rolling and it actually flattens out a bit and then you get to the real meat of the descent when the grade changes and the road starts to turn.  The pavement at the top isn't awesome but they've repaved the bigger part of the descent which is great.  Once we got to that part, Brian pulled back and let us go.  Myself, Elizabeth and Jennifer started pedalling like mad.  I got into a tuck.  I felt ZERO fear.  None.  Nada.  I started grinning and I actually got a little emotional.  This was HUGE.  All I could think about was telling Gary.  I continued bombing down the hill, barely touching my brakes.  WHO AM I??? I marvelled at the difference 4 years makes.   We rolled into Keene just before the turn into Jay and waited for the group.  Apparently we were supposed to turn off earlier as Brian had to come and find us.  We had a bit of a pit stop and then we headed out on the tour of Jay and Upper Jay.

Brian took us to this beautiful river with a covered bridge and then we went along some backroads that featured a lot of short steep climbs.  My legs were really starting to feel the miles.  We came to a stop sign and Brian gave us the option to do another "wicked climb".  I was out.  I wanted to be able to make it up Keene so I opted to go with the other group while he took Liz, Marilyn and Erica to this crazy climb.  I didn't realize just how much climbing we had done until we started to descend.   This was descent was pretty much straight down with a somewhat tight left turn at the bottom.  I let it rip and whipped around the turn.  I was actually quite chilly by the time I got to the bottom, so much so that when we met up with the SAG wagon I put my leg warmers back on.  I knew that I wanted my legs to be warm when I was climbing.  I think part of my issue was that my legs were cold so they felt a bit fatigued.   We made it back to the meeting point in Keene and stopped to refuel, change etc.  Heather and I started to feel a little chilly so we opted to go ahead and start the climb.  One of the guys in SAG wagon said he'd come check on us to see how we were doing so I knew I had an out if I didn't think my legs were going to get me to the top.   Heather and I started out.  I immediately flipped into the small chain ring and just spun my legs.  The climb starts out at about 4% and then jumps to 8-9% for the next little while.  It's a grind.   I was chugging along when I heard my Garmin buzz.  Not the normal buzz of me hitting another 5km, nope, it was the buzz of my Garmin powering down.  ARRGGGG.  I had forgotten to turn it on as we left the rest stop.  I have no idea how long it was off for, probably about 5 minutes, which meant that I didn't get the start of the climb recorded.  GRR.  I quickly hit start and settled back into my pace.   I got through the steep part of the climb and picked up some speed through the rollers.  I had gotten quite warm and had to take my gloves off.  My legs were actually feeling pretty good.  The climb itself is a bit hairy in places due to the road.  Some of it has a beautiful shoulder and then that shoulder pretty much disappears.  It's not a heavily traveled road but none the less, there are cars on it.  The pavement in some spots is also pretty dodgy so you have to be mindful.  It's not a smooth ride through the rollers, that's for sure.

I got through the rollers and zipped up the remainder of the climb, my legs not feeling too bad.  I knew the remainder of the ride was mostly downhill so I was going to burn every single last match I had and let it rip.  To say I had a blast through this last section would be an understatement.  I hammered every downhill and pushed the pace as much as I could.  It was exhilarating.  By the time I got back to High Peaks, I was pretty much spent.  I looked at my Garmin and saw almost 93km.  No way I couldn't find another 7km to ride so instead of turning into High Peaks, I turned left and rode up Main Street to Mirror Lake Road.  I knew that was flat so I rode around the lake until I got to the top of Main Street then turned around and made my way back.  I knew the lake was roughly 5km around so I'd have to find a bit more road.  I turned down a side street and rode to the Lake Placid marina and did a loop in the parking lot.   I came back out along Mirror Lake and then turned right onto Parkside drive, did another loop there and then crossed the street to continue on Parkside, past High Peaks and over to Morningside Drive which looped around to Main Street.  As I got here, I heard my Garmin finally beep.  WHEW.  I was tired.  I cruised back to High Peaks to see that pretty much everyone was back.  It had also started raining so Liz and I opted to skip our post ride dip in the Lake.  We were all starving so a handful of us didn't even bother showering, got changed and went straight to the pub.  I'm not sure I even tasted my burger I was so hungry.

Saturday Night / Sunday Morning / Day Five

Saturday night was our last big group dinner so Brian, Karen and one of their sons, Matt, joined us.   We also had a little awards ceremony which was hilarious.   This was my award.

We chatted about what we liked (all the climbing), what didn't like (too much stopping) and talked about other potential places we could look at for next year.   There was talk of Mont Tremblant or the Gatineaus.  And of course, Lake Placid again.  The set up there is great in terms of location and providing a great group training space.  In terms of comfort, it was lacking a bit (bunk beds and very firm mattresses, not the best when you're an "older athlete").  The wifi was also sub par.  If you had any work to do, you had to be close to the source of the signal, which was the store itself.  I eventually gave up trying to log on to my laptop because it just wouldn't pick up the signal.  First world problems for sure, ha ha.  It ended up being nice to be somewhat unplugged.

Our last day was going to feature some yoga followed by an easy spin.  We had two groups, one that was going to be heading home a bit later and the other that was leaving earlier.  I was in the latter group.  I wanted to get out and at least spin my legs a bit before I had to sit in the car for 6 hours.  As soon as I started pedalling my legs felt heavy.  Good thing it was an easy ride.  We toured around some back roads of Lake Placid and got a history lesson from Brian.   I really enjoyed his snippets of info as we rode along.  He's been in Lake Placid for a long time and he knows pretty much everyone.  Someone would drive by us and wave and he's say "Oh that's so and so and they do this...."  It was hilarious.  That's country life though I suppose!

It was a fantastic 5 days of cycling and the company was exceptional.  We had such a great group of women and that can make or break a camp.  We all seemed to get along really well and everyone was so nice.   Sharon was hoping that this trip would become a yearly event again.  It happened a few years ago for a couple of years in a row but then interest / organization petered out and it fell by the wayside.  So here's hoping that we get another group of ladies interested for next year.  The best part was, that you didn't have to be a member of Morning Glory to go.  So female readers / riders in the GTA, if you're looking for a fun camp, I'd definitely recommend considering this one!  I know I'll be back next year.

Have you ever gone to a training camp?  What would your ideal training camp look like?

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