This was a tough week for any sort of outdoor activity. We had rain and cool temperatures just about everyday. I squeezed in an evening group ride on Tuesday, 26 miles, and then I waited for the weather to clear up until today.
Today was relatively warm for the week, although still far cooler than one would expect for the first day of April. It was in the high 50s, low 60s for the duration of the ride, but windy as can be. According to the weather report it was about 10-15 mph winds with gusts around 25 mph. I made the mistake of dressing like it was summer, so it felt even windier and colder to me. Going down the big hills into headwinds was absolutely freezing. When the sun passed behind a cloud, it felt like the temperature dropped 10 degrees.
Despite the difficult conditions, I wanted to make up for lost time. I wanted a long, tough ride with a few hills thrown in. I chose a version of the “four points” route in the fort, which touches all corners and hits the most difficult hills including the infamous pair of “walls.” Believe it or not, this is the first time I have tried the wall routes in a few months. Most of my fort riding is in groups, and people simply do not like going up those big hills.
Even though it felt like I faced a headwind 75% of the ride, I did fine. I fueled well and felt strong even during the toughest climbs. The first wall, pictured above from a distance (which really does not do it justice) is about a 10% grade at it’s steepest and goes on for roughly half a mile. Fortunately the winds were not much of a factor during this climb and I handled it fine. I spun up in the lowest gear, took a moment to recover and then tried the second wall.
This picture also does not do the wall justice because the climb curves around the bend, beyond the trees. Not to mention, I took both pictures from the top of the preceding hill.
Most people describe the first wall as the more difficult, but this is the one that gets me. It is about 12% and it stays above 10% for quite awhile. It also gives the illusion of being conquered after about half a mile, but keeps going another half a mile at between a 3-6% grade. This would not be a problem on fresh legs, but it can be tiring after having just spun up a much tougher hill. The first time I tried this climb was about six months ago after discovering it by accident. I failed on that attempt and ended up walking through the steepest portions, saddling up for the milder climb. I’ve come a long way since then, as this time I spun up without a problem.
I ended the trip at just shy of 48 miles. Not a bad ride for a Friday. The warm shower afterward never felt better.
This weekend I head up to Charleston. They are having their annual bridge run, which is a big deal with thousands of participants. They have the not-so-originally named “After the Bridge Run Ride” on Sunday, where I will be riding my first century ride in about a month. This will be a flat and windy ride, although not nearly as rough as today. My goal is to ride above 20 mph, but I am not going to be slave to a pack. I will ride at my own pace and hopefully group with others along the way. The issue I’ve found with fast pack riding is often they do not stop. I’m not quite there yet to fuel while on the bike. Plus I enjoy organized rest stops, so I will be stopping frequently.
Have a good weekend. Tailwinds!