After spending some time in the flats of the lowcountry, it was time for me to return to the mountains. This weekend I joined the Greenville Spinners and AIDS/LifeCycle on their ‘slog’ up “Seizure’s” Head Mountain. This would be my second time climbing Caesar’s Head from this direction, and the last time was when I was still learning about my climbing ability, so this served as a great measuring stick of how far I’ve come in the last year.
After being spoiled by unseasonable warm temperatures all winter, especially the past week where the temperature peaked in the mid 80s (!), we returned to reality. The temperature would have been fine if not for the blistering wind that reached 20 mph with even stronger gusts. As a friend of mine put it, “this doesn’t just feel cold. It feels like a bitter cold.” Fortunately the sun was shining, so while we had to envelop our bodies in cold riding gear, the view outside was splendorous.
We left Traveler’s Rest and enjoyed rolling hills until we reached the mountains. This was more of an out and back route, with the mountain as the only major climb. Rather than take the traditional route up Geer Highway 276, they took us through Asbury Hill. This removed maybe a mile from the usual Caesar’s Head climb, but more than made up for it with the steeper route.
I had descended Asbury Hill via Lakemont road once, but did not realize what a steep road it was coming the other way. As we came closer to Highway 276, the route turned almost straight up. I gulped when I saw it, immediately switching to the smaller ring. There would be no muscling up this one. The climb started at around 10% and quickly hit grades in the upper teens. The highest I saw on my Garmin was 22% and it sure felt like it. This was indeed a ‘slog.’ I buckled in and climbed up, getting past the tough part with some difficulty. The grade then became more moderate and I picked up my pace a little bit, mostly wanting to conquer the hill and focus on the mountain ahead.
Hello again Caesar’s Head. The last time I attempted this mountain, my goal was simply to stay on the bike without stopping on the climb. This time I set my aim higher. I wanted to stay within a certain heart rate zone and climb comfortably and relatively quickly. To my surprise, I felt great. I got in my zone and stayed there. The only time my heart rate fluctuated was in the flat section in the middle and a couple of the steeper sections up top. The wind was not a factor. If anything, it helped a little bit as I felt a tailwind on a couple of occasions.
Rather than spend time with the sights at the top, I bulleted back down. I discovered recently that this descent is a blast — not too fast, not too technical and not too steep. There was a heavy crosswind that blew me around a bit, but nothing dangerous. For much of the descent I had a clear view of Table Rock mountain, which was really a beautiful sight to behold on this clear and gorgeous day.
Hats off to the Greenville Spinners and AIDS/LifeCycle for putting this together. It was supported and marked well. They were very hospitable and they even gave us some delicious vegetable soup after descending the freezing mountain. Trust me, it hit the spot.