My big adventure began a little under a year ago. In truth, it began even earlier, but that’s a story for another day. I had been on a running kick and was making some progress, taking part in a few 5k races. Just when I was starting to make major progress with my fitness, the injury bug struck. At first I didn’t know what it was, just that it hurt everytime I ran, and felt better when I stopped. After trying and failing to run through the pain a few times, I gave up and took some time off.
After about two weeks of doing nothing and hating it, I got a wild hair, checked my savings account, and went to my local bike store. What a wild hair that turned out to be! After blinking a few times at the outrageous prices, I asked the salesperson what was needed to get on the road. He said “Oh, just a helmet and the bike and you’re on your way.” Okay, this won’t be too expensive at all, I thought (ha!). I settled on the cheapest bike in the store, a Specialized Allez, and within an instant became a cyclist.
Well, kinda. I was dedicated and pushed myself a bit, but cycling was not easy. I found out quickly that my running legs, which hadn’t been all too active at the time, were not a perfect match for a road bike. My quads screamed at me after a few miles, and forget about going up a hill. I remember how proud I felt when I first rode 25 miles. That distance might be nothing today, but back then it was excruciating. My legs, back, and especially my butt killed me. But I continued. I found out from the cycling club at work about a number of organized rides and signed up. My first experience was in the rolling hills of Tryon. I did the shortest distance with the fewest hills, tried not to make a fool of myself, and grunted my way through it. It wasn’t easy. Another ride in September had me going over 50 miles, another milestone.
One day someone from the cycling club sent out an email: ‘Ready for your first big challenge for 2011?’ I didn’t know this guy (yet), but I had already come so far. I’m a goal oriented person, so I thought why not, I can do it. The challenge was the Assault on Mount Mitchell, a 103 mile trek that begins in Spartanburg, SC, rides (mostly) flat for about 76 miles, and then goes straight up the mountain. The total climbing distance is around 11,000 feet, most of which comes at the end of the ride. Psshaw, how hard could that be? I put my name in the hat, not knowing what I was getting myself into.
Plenty of time has passed and reality set in long ago. This was not any ordinary challenge. This is a cycling marathon and at the time, I could barely ride myself out of a paper bag. With that reality came motivation. Now I am a much stronger rider. I even broke down and bought a much nicer bike, Cervelo R3, which dented my savings account even further. I have since ridden four century rides, two of which were in a weekend where I rode 235 miles total. My legs are considerably stronger and I am not only able to hang with the pack, but sometimes I find myself leading it. With a lot of training and some new habits, I now feel ready to tackle this immense challenge.
The race is May 16th, 2011. In the coming weeks I will be documenting my progress and sharing it for the world (or perhaps nobody) to see.