Two years later, and I’m coming back. Blue Ridge Breakaway out of Lake Junalaska is still among my favorite organized mountain rides. It was my Ride of the Year in 2011, and could end up repeating this year.
Why do I enjoy this ride so much? First off, it is a tremendous challenge, but not one that’s going to wreck your body like Assault on Mount Mitchell or last weekend’s Boone Gran Fondo. It is not one to take lightly, as it is 105 miles with nearly 10,000 feet of climbing, but aside from some challenging rolling hills around the beginning, there are not many back-breaking steep hills. I can handle 6-8% grades, even if the climbs are long.
The ride has two extremely long climbs. The first starts at near the middle of the ride, and climbs from Lake Logan all the way up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. After hitting the high point of the Parkway at Richland Balsam, there’s a lengthy, gorgeous descent, before the second long climb up to Waterrock Knob. From there it is downhill again, through Maggie Valley, and back to Lake Junalaska.
Of all ‘cookie’ rides in which I’ve participated, this one has the most mileage on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Riding on the parkway is a treat, pure and simple, and I’m looking forward to getting back up there.
Personally, this is going to be a tough ride. The theme for this year seems to be adversity, or “always something.” This time it is the nagging cold that I brought back with me from Vegas. Believe it or not, nearly a month and a half later, and the cold is still with me. I thought I was over it last weekend, but as I started climbing up Russ Cornett Road, I started hacking. Eventually I warmed up and the cough subsided, but it returned after the ride was finished. The next day I saw the doctor, who diagnosed me with a lower respiratory infection. This week I’ve gone through antibiotics and had a lot of rest, but the cold still lingers. The cough is less frequent, but the chest feels heavy and breathing is not clear. At times I’ve felt lethargic, run down, and overall quite miserable.
One one hand, I have to get over this cold. On the other hand, I have to be training for my October Parkway ride. This week I am going to continue resting and maybe do some light spinning if my chest starts to feel better. The plan is to ride this weekend if everything clears up, but I will be sensible if there is little improvement. Even though this is my favorite ride, it isn’t worth making things worse and setting my fitness back more.
Fortunately, Breakaway is a good event to ride easy. There will be several rollers at the beginning, but the big climbs do not start until well into the ride. Hopefully I’ll be able to start near 100%, and get to warm my lungs up before they are called upon in the late morning.
As I write this, the forecast looks spectacular. The low is 58 and the high 73, with a 30% chance of rain. In the mountains, that rain tends to come late in the afternoon. If this forecast doesn’t change, it should be ideal riding weather. Hopefully I’ll make it.