Can you tell where the climb at Walnut Hollow was? The truth was this was definitely the half marathon of challenging bike rides. The one huge climb was no more difficult than the Paris Mountain ride I'll do some sundays. But still, 33 miles is the farthest I've ever gone on the bike. It's the first time I've topped 3000 ft of climbing in one ride. and my first large organized ride of this type. So I was really happy with the outcome. More details?
Brevard, NC is about an hour and a half north of where we live. I thought it was closer than that. It rained for the last 3 days before saturday. We have some relatives that live near Brevard, that told us about a rock climbing gym they go to. So if it was raining at the start the plan was to abandon and go indoor rock climbing instead.
Here I am with a little pre-ride fuel before starting. It's not raining now. The forecast was for the rain to hold off until about noon. Race starting at 9 am, so all systems pointed go. I got to talking to some old guy about half ironmans and we both ended up missing the start. So here I am trying to catch up to the main group. I got within sight of the main group but never really caught up.
Still, no rain at this point. The roads were wet, but I was still dry. Kelley kept the cue sheet, so I had no idea where I was going, just trying to follow the small signs and see if I could find another biker. The course was lollipop style. It went out for 7 miles through downtown Brevard to an aid station. Then it took a 19 mile loop back around to the same aid station, and backtrack the first 7 miles back to Brevard High School.
The course was unbelievable. The loop was the coolest part, really. The first part was the Walnut Hollow climb, a 1.1 mile incline with parts of it at a 15% grade. That was quite challenging. I did have to hop off of the bike and walk up the really steep grade, but I made it about halfway up and was really grateful that I did all that hill work on the bike last monday. I made it a lot farther up that steep grade than I ever have before.
Then it went into mostly rolling hills and more of a level grade than I was really expecting. Jenny has 2 chainrings and 8 cogs. So small/8 is the Glaven gear (a.k.a. the granny gear) and big/1 is the most powerful gear (53x11 or the Flynn gear). After taking Walnut Hollow climb in Glaven, I spent most of my power around the big chainring. THAT was totally unexpected. On the rollers and flat spots, it was mostly big/3 to big/5, and I kept the speed around 19-21 mph. the course followed a river for a large part, including some cool bridges across the river and back. There was a few waterfalls that we rode past. And it was just out in the country. I saw a sod farm, tons of cattle farms, cleared grazing land, and lots of horses. Plus, on the bike you get to really experience those things more than you do in a car. One of the cattle farms had just put out food, so there was maybe 50 cattle just a few feet from the road. The smell almost knocked me off of the bike it was so strong and awful. It made me think of what Glaven's house must smell like. But that's all a part of the experience. You don't get to smell that kind of thing from the car. Here's a few shots that Kelley took just to show what we were seeing along the route:
It started raining about mile 5. It did not stop raining until sunday. Since Kelley had the cue sheet, she hopped in the van and caught up with me. This was on the rollers about 15 miles in:
I was thoroughly drenched at this point. So in the first picture, the wet clothes are really sticking and my arms look huge and muscular! very cool. And you can see the fog and mountains that I was riding into in the second pic. The course was unreal pretty. The strangest thing was that my saddle came loose about 12 miles in! It got worse as the ride progressed, and in the end was shaking like a belly dancer. So I had no seat stability at all for the last 10 miles or so. How strange is that?
Then I came back around to the aid station and took the same 7 mile ride back to the high school. This section had a huge climb each way, and on the return trip I had to stop once on the climb and catch my breath before finishing. Here I am thoroughly drenched, happy, and glad to be at the finish point:
Certainly a little worse for wear. Cold (it was in the low 50's all morning), wet, and my legs were totally shredded. But my hydration/nutrition plan held up great, I didn't run out of water, and ended up with a great ride story.
I changed clothes and dried off some, then we went to a cute little pasta restaurant in downtown for lunch. Then we drove back home, I took a shower, and we both fell asleep for a couple of hours. Then we picked up the kids, got some dinner and that was Saturday. I burned over 2000 calories on the ride, so we hit a buffett for dinner and I put on a show. I don't think we're invited back. But I did stick with the healthier items on the buffet. Each plate had at least 3 veg. I just had like 6 plates. ha!
Sunday we got to play with the kids for a bit, and I had some work to do. Then Kelley and I went out to Furman for a run in the afternoon. The sun was out for the first time since tuesday, and we don't get to run together very often. We should not have run together this time, either. We tend to keep different paces, and she's strictly treadmill and first thing in the morning. I like outside and variable. My plan was to get 12 miles in, and I was feeling ok to do that. We actually got 1.6 miles in before she wimped out and we went home. oh well. It did end up a lot colder and with a really stiff wind blowing. So conditions were still not ideal. The trail parts were really muddy from all of that rain. Meh, we blew it off and went home to play with the kids some more.
So overall that was a fantastic weekend! We've got a really fun week ahead too. One question, though. Jenny is still covered in mud and road trash. What do you use to clean a bike with? Windex? Formula 409? I have no idea, but I have to clean her down good and tighten the seat up before taking her out again for today (or tomorrow's) training ride.