We arrived in Brevard Friday for our 4-day weekend. Two cabins, 21 total people, and overflowing dishes of food. It was a cyclist’s paradise.
The weather looked to be gorgeous for Saturday, very similar to the forecast we had at last weekend’s Assault on the Carolinas. There were three ride options for Saturday, a small, medium and large. The large was an enticing 100-miler that would travel up Mount Pisgah. The medium route was an abbreviated version of the Assault on the Carolinas, and the small went to a nearby waterfall. Pisgah was tempting, but I knew that it would be too much for me at this stage. Even the medium might be too much, but I opted for that knowing that I could potentially bail out around the Continental Divide.
We modified the route a little bit, beginning at a baseball field outside of Brevard, and taking a couple more scenic roads along the way. We also added a few miles, and I think overall ours was a slightly tougher version.
The big question was how well my injuries would handle another tough day of climbing. At first, it wasn’t looking so good. The cold weather particularly affected me, and I was riding stiff, feeling like I had a knife in my back.
Walnut Hollow happened, again. Ow. I found that Walnut Hollow is tougher when you can see where you are going. On AOTC, there are a sea of people climbing with you. All you see is polyester, which hides the steep grades ahead. Seeing what is ahead has a way of getting into your heads, which I think makes it a tougher climb.
I wobbled my way up, just like last week, hoping that would cure my pain. Not quite. As we rode on East Fork and Middle Fork, I started sitting up higher on my seat to ease the pain. It didn’t help. As we reached the intersection of Highway 178, I felt like I was done.
The others went on, and I stayed. I needed a break. I leaned against a pole for what seemed like an eternity, although it was probably no more than 10 minutes. For awhile I contemplated packing it in, giving up, maybe even riding back the way I came (including Walnut Hollow, ugh!).
I’m glad I got back on for a couple reasons. First, as I began climbing up Highway 178, I finally started to feel better. I put on a little more mustard in the hopes of catching my riding mates, which I think helped to warm my bones up. Second, it would have been a shame to not get the opportunity to descend Joccassee Gorges again.
Here is the full descent video that Jack, friend of mine, took last week. I wasn’t quite as daring as some of the guys that passed him by.
Eventually I caught up with the rest (in truth, they waited for me). After being bombarded by a motorcycle gang with 75-100 riders, we turned off of Highway 11 onto Saluda Rd, taking the quieter, scenic route to Caesar’s Head.
As I began the climb, I wondered why in the world was I doing this again. Caesar’s Head handily beat me up last week, yet here I was, pedaling away.
I took solace in the fact that I felt better this week compared to last week. I could tell that I was pedaling smoother up some of the easy grades. Once it got steep, I was practically worthless, and just willed my body up the hill. Me and the mountain had a few words on the upper portion, most of which cannot be repeated here. I made it, and found that I had beat last week’s time by several minutes. Progress is good, I guess.
As we headed back toward the baseball field, I was in a bonk-like state. My stomach was growling and I found that I had little energy left. I guzzled some Gatorade, which seemed to help me get the rest of the way home. I also have to thank Jana, who pulled me all the way across Wilson Road back to the car.