Saturday, May 31, 2008

4 Gap - Sufferfest 2008

MotionBased Ride Data
Ride Photos

Following our Memorial Day ride I was informed about possibly doing a 3 gap ride the next weekend. Sometime during the week the ride information came out in an email from Gary and Peter and the ride was titled "Sufferfest."

This 3 gap ride is a love hate kind of thing for me. It is only the second time I have tried this route that starts from Helen, Georgia and heads directly toward one of the toughest climbs in Georgia, which is Hogpen gap. However, to be a true sufferfest Peter and/or Gary decided to throw in a climb up Neels gap and then return to the normal route and finish with Jacks and Unicoi gaps.

Again we had a great group of riders, but too many to list all the names and a few new faces. Pretty much everyone seemed fairly strong on the climbs, but I know a couple of the guys were having an off day. For me I suppose it was an okay day even though I thought it would be a day of struggling since my knees felt a little tender all week. Perhaps the amount of climbing we have done lately has fatigued a number of us, but anyway compared to last year it was a much better ride. Last year I stopped about a mile short of the Hogpen summit, but this time, though it was discomforting, I managed to slug my way to the top. One other thing that may be necessary for a sufferfest is to have a solid stream of sweat running into your eyes to the point of being blinded and horse flys buzzing your head, as if the climb was not hard enough alone. I was a bit nervous for a while and hated the thought of stopping to clear my eyes from the stinging sweat, but I managed to make it to the peak. Descending Hogpen was fun, but I was a little cautious because the roads were still a little damp from an early morning rain.

Neels Gap climb was pretty fun. I just settled into a pace near Edgar and Gary with the tunes playing on the shuffle. The gradient was not too bad and I increased my pace a little toward the top. My legs felt a little shakey, but after a brief stop at the top we turned and descended the same roadway. Although I was still a nervous descending confidence was returning so I tried not to feather the brakes as much and had a really encouraging downhill ride. We did a store stop near the bottom and prepared for the last two climbs.

Climbing Jacks was not bad, but now I could start feeling the fatigue in my legs so again I settled down my pace for a short period and then was able to pick the pace back up toward the summit. The descent on Jacks was pretty fun and I knew there was one more climb between us and the parking lot. Fortunately we only had a little more than 2 miles from the base of Unicoi to the summit and then about 10 miles of downhill into Helen. I made a descision not to hammer up Unicoi as my knees was starting to hurt a little more, but I was really looking forward to the long descent, which was my first real desire to up the speed a little more since my crash. The road coming down that side of Unicoi back into to Helen is very twisty at the top and somewhat steep in sections so I had to let gravity do it's thing since the gearing on the bike was not going to let me pedal unless I could manage to spin at 140+ rpm's. Toward the bottom it flattens out a little and I noticed Mike and Gary making a push to catch Peter and David. I thought this might me a good area to test my legs out so I also joined in on the chase. Next thing I know it was me and David racing toward Helen. I am not sure if anyone was behind us and didn't have time to look back because David was keeping me busy trying to keep up with him. When we reached Helen the traffic was backed up from tourist like normal, but I know the guys I was with at that time had to be relieved to know the parking lot was just ahead a few hundred feet.

It was only a 54 mile ride, but in my opinion it may have been as hard as the 3 State 3 Mountain century in some ways. The route today had 6,000 elevation gain in 54 miles compared to 3 State's 7,000 in 100 miles and if you removed Burkhalter from the comparison today's sufferfest ride almost made me suffer more than 3 State.

Thanks to Peter and Gary for arranging the ride and thanks to Edgar for driving us to Helen and back. I know that was a long drive back for a pretty tired guy.

Maybe we can do it again next weekend. But hopefully NOT!!!!!
But it will be interesting to see what ride will be arranged for next weekend since Gary, Mike and a few others have the Cherohala Challenge coming soon. If I could throw in my opinion you guys need to give yourself a break before Cherohala and doing something flat and easy. Just kidding!!!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Ride - 08

Pictured above Gary Quellet supporting his branch of service in his marine jersey

MotionBased Ride Data

To think about a Memorial Day ride is to think about the freedoms that we have to enjoy and to whom we owe our first thought of appreciation that allows us to have another day that we can share these times together with those freedoms. So my first thought of appreciation is to all of those who paid a high price serving our country. May God bless those who have served, those who still serve to protect us and to those families who have lost their own in service to our country.

Today was a pleasant break away from rigid training and ride with our "brew crew", which is a portion of NARC that rides from the Cartersville brewery parking lot. I am comfortable riding with even a smaller group of guys that have defined goals, but to go back and ride with the complete "brew crew" is awesome. We seem to know the riding habits of each other pretty well and today was no exception. I couldn't feel more blessed to have met and joined such a good group of riders that share equal enthusiasm for cycling.

It is funny before the ride start to have heard the amount of people saying they were going to take it easy today with a slight pause at the end (the pause indicating that some mischievous acts could potentially occur). Some were saying they were still sore from Saturday's ride, but once again the "brew crew" provided everything from a structured pace line to various break aways. I enjoyed every bit of it and participated in all of it from being at the lead of pulling the pace line to sitting on the back of the group and I even "attempted" to chase Alan (unsuccessfully) up a couple of hills. Diane was as strong as usual even with a shifter cable break that reduced her to two gears she still was up front pushing the pace up a notch or two. I didn't notice anyone falling off this short, but fast paced ride and I have to imagine by all the smiles I saw at the end that it was indeed another great day to share our cycling addiction together.

A few Memorial Day ride pictures

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Rabbit Has Been Caught

It is official as the picture notes. My good friend Edgar has finally caught the rabbit and Sunday May 18th was the big day for us to witness the marriage of Edgar and Cristi, who is the beautiful and joyful new bride.

Edgar was introduced to Cristi by fellow cyclists in the NARC club and I witnessed a guy that proclaimed that he had no time for marriage quickly change his views. It seemed like all the right chemistry was there and especially the common interests that both seem to have. Cycling being one of them.

Margaret gave the toast that included one of Edgar's famous comments, which is "chase the rabbit." I first heard this phrase back in 2004 when Edgar first introduced me to cycling. He was gracious enough to get me started on the easy Silver Comet trail and would ride at a slow pace as I struggled in that first year with poor conditioning. Yet at times as a fast rider would pass us and Edgar would say, "Chase the Rabbit" and he would be gone in a flash chasing down the cyclist. Most everyone in our small NARC group that rides in Cartersville knows this phrase by now. I even have it stamped on my RoadID bracelet and have become as guilty at times. I'm just glad that Margaret didn't use Edgar's other famous statement, "pick up the pace slacker." I'm not sure how she would have encorporated that phrase in a toast. :-)

Congrats!!! to Edgar and Cristi and may the Lord watch over you two with many blessings upon your marriage. From all of your cyclng friends we wish you the best.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Jasper to Fort Mountain

Motionbased Ride Data

Today Gary and I did a repeat ride from about a month ago (first blog post in April) from Jasper, Georgia out toward Dalton to climb Ft. Mountain, loop back through Ellijay and then return to Jasper. Today’s group consisted of Gary Quellet (official group photographer), Mike Quick, Jack Shippee and me. Our start time was planned for 7:30 to help finish the ride a little earlier compared to most of our long rides lately, but we did not realize when we started that the ride would be so cool this late in the season. The sun was out in Jasper, but as soon as we approached Talking Rock we entered into a very heavy fog and the air became much cooler and moist. At the time I was riding at the back of the pack because I had a fluorescent yellow jacket to help the cars see us a little better, my hands and legs felt like it was January instead. I felt as if someone had strapped ice packs on my knees and I know by the discussion that all the other guys were a bit cold as well. There is a long descent going toward Carter’s Lake that allowed our speeds to hold toward the high 20’s and we quickly and successfully passed the area that plagued Gary on the last ride with 3 flats.

We turned onto a great stretch of road leading us toward Ft. Mountain with soft rolling terrain and now the sun is starting to warm us up enough for me to pack my jacket into my back pocket for the day and we continued to pace line in the 20’s between mile 20 and 34. Approximately mile 35 we stopped at a convenient store at the base of Ft. Mountain to refuel and relieve. Now this is what we came for. The 9 mile climb to the top of Ft. Mountain. I heard Gary say, “I wonder if I am ready for this.” Of course he was because I know he has the attitude of determination. I am yet to see Gary not confront the challenge of the day. Jack and Mike put a little faster pace and quickly go out of our sight. Gary and I are both using the ipod shuffles and it was time to go into the personal zone and block out everything else and even the pace of others. About midway up a lone cyclist passes me and with the music on I didn’t realize that it was Rod doing hill repeats on Ft. Mountain. I am glad to do it once and look forward to the descent and the return home. Rod was there to climb it 3 times. On the descent I felt like a little more confidence has return, but maybe it’s just stupidity returning. However, I was the last one down by a large margin because I had a large gap to cover to catch up with the guys. For a few miles they were not in sight, but I kept my pace and eventually found them soft-pedaling for my sake.

The stretch of road from Ft. Mountain to Ellijay is actually tougher for me than climbing Ft. Mountain. It is rolling terrain, but with more substantial ups and downs. I had a tough time going through this area while Jack and Mike seemed to pull away from Gary and I again.

After making our way through Ellijay's streets and our last brief store stop we were on our way back to Jasper. Though it felt as if we were pushing against the wind it was nowhere as bad as the last time. We took our turns in the front pulling the group and the speeds were again sustaining in the low 20’s. I had the last turn in front and put a good pace and picked up a little toward the end just to test the legs. They felt good for having 70 miles on them with a descent climb. Now we just had to make one more 3 mile climb and we would be in Jasper. Jack gave me a heads up that he was going to pick up the pace and he was successful and was quickly out of our sight. Mike was ahead with Gary and I were content to hold to our individual paces. Once I hit the summit of this mild climb I was again tempted to see what my legs could do on a mild descent. I was able to hold between 26 and 32 on this remaining stretch before entering Jasper, but could not bridge the gap to Mike. This was another great day with a very good small group for an enjoyable 80-mile ride and an awesome climb across Ft. Mountain. The ride for me today was a slight improvement from the April ride. I can accept “slight” improvement.

Jesse Gary Jack Mike, Jesse, Gary

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Up the Creek Without a Pedal - Century

Motionbased Ride Data

About mid week last week I was thinking about one of my favorite organized rides, Up the Creek Without a Pedal. On one side I was concerned about being recovered enough from 3 State 3 Mountain and on the other side the thought of missing this fast route with my friends. I went ahead with Cindi’s blessing and signed up.

Day of the event and I pick up Edgar early in the morning and start the drive up to Rome, Georgia. On the way we talked about beating our times from last year. Most of what I proclaimed I also put in a note, “if my legs will let me.” I never know how my ride is going to be until about 10 miles have passed. After my legs warm up I can begin to tell if it going to be a good day. When we arrived in the mall parking lot we see Neal and Glenn and a few others that we hope to group with for a fast paceline. Our group wanted to start with the mass start and that can be chaotic, but soon after we safely rolled out onto the street things began to settle down. We could see the fast group a little bit in front of us and that was where Edgar and a few others were pacing. I found myself toward the front of our group with Diane, Jamie, Margaret,David, Mike and a few others. I set a faster pace hoping to bridge the gap between our group and the faster group and mostly hoping that if I could get on the back of the faster group maybe I could rest a little. After realizing that I was not going get up to Edgar’s group I pulled off and got the usual chiding about my pace, but it’s all in good fun. At that point I was content to mix into the group, but I could tell that this was going to be a day of struggling for me. My legs were still very fatigued from the 3 State 3 Mountain century the week before along with my usual week day training as well. I did my best just to hang on the back of the group with a fast pace that ranged with sustained speeds from the low to mid 20’s. At one point I had to provide Edgar with some entertainment by doing a little break away and see if his usual prey instincts would kick in. Sure enough here he comes with two others chasing. I was thinking it was a foolish move to do this when my legs already hurt so bad, but it is fun and we are both bad about these spontaneous little bouts of wasted energy expenditure.

At the 50-mile sag stop I tried to stretch my legs, but that only seem to aggravate them more. I felt a sharp pain in my right quadriceps and my hips were tighter than a drum. As soon as our group started back their pace quickly returned to something in the high 20’s because I was holding between 22 to 24 and they were quickly pulling away from me. My legs hurt too much to continue trying to catch them and I am doubtful that I could even with fresh legs. I was content to go with my own pace and ride alone, which I did for the next 35 miles. I wanted to beat last years time and average speed so I did my best to hold speed, but without help of a paceline I knew it was going to be a little tougher. I struggled on some of the rolling hills, but with no one around or in sight I was comfortable doing my own pace. At the 85-mile sag stop I saw Bill Adkins and Neal Bowers about to finish up with their rest stop so I quickly got some fluids and started the remaining 15 miles. I believe Bill was my tow truck pulling my tired carcass for most of those 15 miles and it was tough for me to provide any help for him. At the end I was not too disappointed with the results considering I had my toughest ride to date the week before. I had a 17.9 average and a 5:32 moving time last year with the entire ride pacing in a group. This year I ended with an 18.2 average and a 5:26 moving time with tired legs and much of the ride facing the winds alone.

My thoughts on the Up the Creek Without a Pedal ride puts this ride right up there with one of my favorites and even though I was already worn out I couldn’t see missing this opportunity to be with friends on one of the fastest organized cycling events in North Georgia. As usual my riding friends following the ride were all pretty excited about having set new personal bests. Neal Bowers seemed very excited about his, “fastest century” ever. Neal you deserve to feel good. You looked strong to me throughout the ride. Good Job!! David, nice bike and its plenty fast too!!! :-)

Coosa Valley Cycling Association are the organizers of the event and do a great job providing facilities, good sag stops, police at some of the bigger intersections and more food at the end. I look forward to returning again next year, but I am sure I will be just as tired because I hope to again make 3 State 3 Mountain my focus, but even with fatigue this is a good event.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

3 State 3 Mountain Challenge

Motionbased Ride Data Link - (gps was off during the first 5 miles)

For months I have anticipated this challenge of doing the 100 mile ride and most specifically Burkhalter Gap, which I have either heard about through my riding buddies or by reading blogs from other cyclists. May 3rd finally was approaching and this time the obstacle was not only the mileage and the three climbs, but a severe storm front was coming in from the west that had already damaged a lot of property. We hoped that it would blow through early, but as we arrived in the parking lot a little after 7 in the morning the skies were looking very ominous. Lighting was lighting up the dark skies and some said they heard tornado sirens off in the distance. After we signed in and received our ride numbers we headed back to the truck to put on our gear. Hundreds of cyclists were already starting to line up for the mass start as the rain started coming down fairly hard. Gary, Mike and I jumped in the truck with half of our gear on and waited. Phone calls from other riders passing information to us as to a delayed start and then another delay, but the mass of cyclists that were already in the rain started ahead. As we sat there hoping for the rain to ease up a little we saw other people in the parking lot begin to leave. I thought to myself I have spent too many hard hours training for this event. Close to 8:40 AM, we had our gear on including rain jackets and collected at the parking entrance. The core group consisted of Gary Quellet, Mike Quick, Edgar Lebron, Jack Shippee, Keith Kudlac, Martin and me. We pretty much stayed together throughout the 100-mile route with the exception of Edgar splitting off to finish the metric route. Within the first few minutes traversing through the city streets of Chattanooga we were soaked, but thankfully the organizers had the intersections blocked for the cyclists. In that first number of miles as I passed people I could hear those talking about bailing out or how miserable they felt, but the only thing I could honestly think about what was ahead of me. I felt for the many we passed that were changing flats in the rain.

Before I know we are at the base of Suck Mountain. I don’t know who named that mountain, but it must have been a cyclist that named it while trying to climb it in a cool rain. Actually it wasn’t that bad. It is a 5-mile climb with a typical gradient of 4% to 6%. At this point our little group was starting to pass many of the cyclists that had started well before us. During the climb I was most appreciative of those that I trained with leading up to this ride and more specifically Gary Quellet, who mentored and encouraged me through each hard training event that made this first climb feel pretty easy. By this point the rain is more like a drizzle, but the rooster tail of water coming of the bike tires in front of us were still keeping us wet. Descending off Suck Mountain would have been fun, but again I was being extra cautious because of the slick roads.

The second climb was Sand Mountain, which is shorter and steeper than the first. To be honest I must have been in a zone at this time because I don’t remember much about the climb. I do remember that I was determined to go the full 100 miles and most importantly reserve energy for my biggest challenge yet. All I can think about was the words from a Pink Floyd song, “comfortably numb” and that is what I felt like. I was deep into a zone. The weather, soaked feet and clothes nor the cool air hitting wet clothes did not deter me from the goal ahead.

Once we finished Sand Mountain I knew there was only a stretch of mild road ahead and then the turn onto Burkhalter Gap Road. I was looking at my odometer and the map line on the gps as I watched us come closer to the turn. I remember one blog writer stating the turn and then the death march of cyclist heading up a straight two-mile section of road before hitting the wall. His statement was dead on accurate. The picture that everyone had painted as an image was now a reality as we turned. As soon as I turned on the road my legs began to burn like crazy as the sun suddenly comes out and began baking down on my neck. The gradient didn’t look all that steep, but with this climb located 80 miles into the ride I believe most cyclist like myself were becoming pretty fatigued. I dropped to my lowest gear, which was a 28 that I loved having, but out of discomfort my hand kept hitting the shifter as if there was another lower gear available. I knew that I had to keep it under control as much as possible to have something left for the wall ahead. I passed only a couple of riders and those who passed me did not distract me. I kept thinking about what Gary had told me a ton of times. Do your own pace and don’t use up too much too early. I had the gps map zoomed in fairly tight and I had a summit symbol preloaded so I had an idea that I was getting closer. I later told Gary it wasn’t like in times of past where your brain can mess with you like thoughts of stopping and giving up. This time my legs were on fire to the point my brain could not assemble a thought of discouragement. I could hear the cowbells and cheers from those in front. I was starting to see riders walk the remainder to the summit. I just kept thinking, “keep going, keep going.” I was turning the cranks over so slowly that I was barely able to keep the bike up right. I glanced over to one rider walking up and he was staring at me as if I was nuts and that I should get off the bike and walk up with him, but I quickly looked away from the defeated cyclist and kept a focus on the cheers from those on the other side of the road. No way was I going to give up now, but each pedal stroke was an immense struggle up this 20% to 22% road gradient for the last 500 yards. I could see my group standing at the top in the sag area and that was a relief to see them because I knew I was just a few hundred feet from the top. As I entered into the sag area I unclipped from the pedals, my legs were literally trembling and my heart rate was through the roof. It took me several minutes to regain some composure, but deep inside I couldn’t believe it that I climbed Burkhalter Gap on my first attempt.

After spending a few minutes chunking down some fruits and cookies at the sag stop my legs were now calmed down and my group patiently waited for me to regain a little strength. We were now ready to finish the last 15 miles. As soon as you pull out of the sag stop you are immediately faced with another climb that looks pretty bad, but as I climbed this hill felt pretty insignificant compared to what we just encountered. My legs actually started feeling a little better. The next thing I know I am with Keith and Martin doing a mid 20’s pace. As we were halfway down the Lookout Mountain descent I tried my best to keep my speeds from reaching the 40’s on the wet roadway. I was able to grab a couple of quick glances at the city below. As we entered Chattanooga the police had the intersections blocked off and we were sustaining 20 mph speeds though the traffic. As we entered the stadium parking area the ride officials were getting our numbers to register our ride times there were people lining both sides of the road cheering and from the crowd I began to distinguish voices of friends cheering as well. I just couldn’t believe it. Not only did we finish this challenging ride, we did it with additional hurdles like the weather and wet clothing.

On the ride home I kept thinking about the training leading up to this ride. There were two distinct things that played over in my mind as to why I was able to go forward and accomplish this goal. The first has to be proper training, but it was encouragement from my wife to train hard for this event, from riding friends, from family and again specifically from Gary Quellet who really kept me going and was with me on virtually every single training event leading up to this ride. Before the ride started I prayed to the Lord for our safety and after the ride I praised the Lord that we did finish safely with great joy and a sense of accomplishment.