Okay, I've been mountain biking fairly regularly for the past two and a half years or so. In that time I've done two big trips to Pisgah with my friends (uno and dos) and a good bit of riding with a bunch of different people in Chapel Hill and lately at my place. That said, I've honestly never felt like I was in good shape. Maybe I've been better than the national average (okay, I surely have), but the guys I usually ride with kick my butt. All of them. One of them was recently recovering from a broken collar bone that had kept him off the bike and away from running for weeks and yet even he was roasting me on the trail.
What do I mean by roasting? Well, technically, I feel like I'm very close to all those guys. Often on longer rides I've been gassed early enough that they ride obstacles I don't, but I can honestly say it's not because I can't do it, it's because I'm already too winded to do it. I've proven that on most every obstacle at SOME point, it's just that often I lag behind because I get winded and then can't do them without stopping (or I try and crash...heh). Then you lose touch with the pack and it becomes harder to catch up because I don't know the trails in Chapel Hill very well and have to slow down to find my way (you really can go faster on a trail you don't know if you're following someone that does know the trail).
I have always tried to keep data, though, and the moving average on those Chapel Hill rides has usually been around 6.5MPH. I say "moving average" on purpose because those rides typically have some rest breaks (and those guys get longer rest breaks than me because, well, they're waiting on me). So over the past few weeks I've been riding more. When I can't ride outside I've been spinning inside on a stationary bike and/or running. Last week in particular I rode four out of five business days. I took Saturday off and then rode a short ride and did some trail work on Sunday. Then yesterday I just did an upper body workout. Today I decided to get up early, have a great breakfast, and hit the trail here at the house. I rode nine miles with an average speed of just over 7MPH. Notice I didn't say "moving average" because I didn't have to. I took no breaks. So the real and the moving averages are the same.
Now, how does that compare with a Chapel Hill ride? Well, I'd say the pedaling is a little easier. It's at least as hilly here and I have SOME good trail, but the reality is that in nine miles of pedaling I was probably on some pretty easy "trail" (or gravel road) for a third or so of it. You don't have to do that in Chapel Hill, and that's definitely easier. But I kept the pace up very well and took no breaks, even though I do have some significant climbs. This would probably be an average Chapel Hill distance day, though we've done more "epic" twelve and fourteen mile days in the past.
The point here is doing all this with no breaks. The bigger point was when I finished I wasn't dead. I feel pretty good, in fact. I could have done more and probably should have. The reality is I got a little bored with my trails today. And I have a small foot problem and my podiatrist says don't run for a little while, so I'm going to listen to that for at least ONE day (I mean I just had x-rays yesterday, after all). But for now I'm pretty happy that I feel like I've turned a fairly significant corner in my training. And it's only going to get better from here.