Splashing through a creek, I looked over my shoulder to see how far back Virtual-Arlyn was. My Garmin said he was just 52 feet behind me and coming fast. I was racing a virtual version of myself, using a feature of my Garmin GPS that lets me race a previously recorded workout.
Around the next bend, I startled a small herd of mule deer whole bounded off into a stand of oak trees and brush. The sky was deep blue, the sun bright and the air cool. I picked up the pace and increased my lead over Virtual-Arlyn slightly. My plan was to hold my slight advantage to the base of the first climb up Soapstone Grade and then drop the hammer and my virtual opponent.
The twisting jeep trail kept my attention as I maneuvered for the best line. Around another corner waited a small flock of turkeys. I gobbled at them to get off the trail and then flew past to the big hollow oak tree where the climbing begins.
I was racing my previous fastest time for the Grand Loop of Cuyamaca, set last November with Mark. We had hammered the course without many stops and agreed it was our best lap ever. That was the day we hatched the idea to do the 20-mile Grand Loop multiple times. Today’s plan was to ride it twice – my first multiple loop attempt. Unfortunately, Mark couldn’t join which was why I was racing a virtual version of myself instead.
My legs finally warmed up on the Soapstone climb and as predicted, I expanded my lead to about a quarter mile. Racing myself was a great idea – it got all my competitive juices flowing and I kept the hammer down all day long. My instructions from Coach Colin were to “rip it up” and I was happy to oblige.
By the time I finished the first lap of the Grand Loop, I was 10 minutes and 2 miles ahead of Virtual-Arlyn. I started the second lap slow and reset Virtual-Arlyn, who grabbed an early lead. I executed the same plan from the first lap with similar results. I really suffered coming up Middle Peak Fire Road the second time, but it was worth it, I had maintained my lead. As I started the descent, I calculated that it might be possible to beat my first lap time so I hammered the downhills too. The dust flew and the rocks scattered as I bombed the downhills faster than ever.
I sprinted the last bit on pavement and came in with my fastest lap ever – 2:09. After a couple of cool-down laps through the parking lot, I leaned my bike against my car and sat down in the sunshine, appreciating the warmth and the ability to push myself really hard.