Tag Archives: beach ride

Spartanburg Freewheelers Beach Ride, 2011, Spartanburg to Charleston

Having arrived in Spartanburg just the night before, I was bleary-eyed in the early morning when preparing for the longest ride of my life. It was 4:30 AM when I arrived at the Ingles at South Pine and Country Club Road in Spartanburg. My loving wife dropped me off and would meet me on the other side of the ride, the sunny beach of Isle of Palms, Charleston, almost 240 miles away.

The weather was cool and clear under the cover of darkness. With a few hours until sunrise, I knew it would get even colder still. I bundled up, turned on my lights, and joined my fellow riders as we embarked on a day-long adventure.

The event was hosted by the Spartanburg Freewheelers, who I have found have a knack for this sort of thing. Madeline in particular spent weeks, months even, poring over details to make sure the route was possible, safe, and of course fun. She also reserved a beach house where we could relax at the end of the ride. Her endeavors really worked as everything went as well as possible. There were no flat tires, no delays, no mechanical issues, no significant physical issues, and most importantly no drop-outs. We all rode together, stayed together, and finished together. We had the best weather imaginable for such a ride — sunny skies all day with a high around 75 degrees. The ride was next to perfect.

We were sixteen riders followed by two SAG vehicles with food and equipment. We would retool and refuel roughly every 25 miles, give or take, and designated rest stops. Craig and Liz did an amazing job supporting us. They were where we needed them every time.

We rode under the stars and through the rolling hills out of Spartanburg to Chester, SC. Aside from some easy practice runs, this was my first real night ride. Frankly, this was the part that worried me more than anything. Aside from a couple wobbly moments, everything went fine. We were annoyingly visible and traffic was scarce. Nothing to worry about. At one point a police officer coming toward us pulled over to the side road. Even though I couldn’t see his face, I know he was trying to process what he had seen and whether to take action. After realizing we were not space aliens or Tron, he moved along.

In Chester we had our first designated rest stop — McDonalds. As a generally healthy individual, I tend to avoid Mickey Dees. Thanks Morgan Spurlock. This time I wasn’t concerned in the least. I almost swallowed my Egg McMuffin and Hash Browns whole and they were absolutely delicious.

Crossing the Catawba River

The next area would prove to be the most difficult. With approximately 70 miles on our legs already, we crossed the Catawba River near the Fishing Creek Reservoir and rode down the backside of Lake Wateree. The Wateree hills are famous in Columbia, but unexpected and surprising to our upstate friends. There were a few occasions where we had to slow the pace in order to let people catch up. We had fun with it and a number of people started mocking the “Easy!” yells. When we reached the end of the hills, the chants were unintelligible grunts usually followed by laughter.

Climbing the backside of Lake Wateree

When we arrived in Camden, the major climbing was thankfully finished. We had accumulated about 4,500 feet to that point, and there would be less than 1,000 feet to climb the rest of the way. Our lunch stop was Camden Revolutionary War Park, where we could relax on picnic tables with good food before getting back on the road.

Our two SAG vehicles

Camden Revolutionary Park

From here on, the route took us south to Charleston avoiding major traffic sections. The weather report had warned of heavy winds, and they were out there, but heading West and were seldom in our face. At worst we had to deal with a tough crosswind, which although a nuisance, did not hold us up. In some areas we had a bit of a tailwind and were able to push the pace. After skirting Sumter and passing through Manning, we kicked it into high gear. We must have averaged close to 23-24 mph on Highway 52 as we approached the Francis Marion National Forest. We had our biggest horses up front, mostly Wade, Brian, Clint and Steve who kept pulling us through. At one point Karl and I had a turn at pulling and found ourselves huffing and puffing to keep the pace. My ego had no problem being a passenger here.

It was late afternoon when we hit the forest. We were making great time, but daylight was running out and we would soon be riding through the night again. We kept up a good pace as we headed due south, but here we were merely slugging it out. The forest seemed to go on forever, probably around 40 miles, as day turned to night. This was the most monotonous part of the ride. We kept soldiering on, watching the miles tick away.

Francis Marion National Forest

Eventually the greenery gave way to darkness. We kept on and eventually crossed over a bridge into the Mount Pleasant area. It was a great feeling when we crossed over the Wando River. We could not see the water, but we could smell it. The salty air told us that the beach was close.

The last hurrah was a mini-climb over the bridge of the Isle of Palms connector. This part was a little hairy with traffic. We stayed in the shoulder and pushed our way up. I had been told that this was a relatively steep climb, but it really was not bad. It might have seemed easier in the darkness. After descending the bridge and regrouping, we rolled through the streets of Isle of Palms to the beach house where we were welcomed by a chorus of applause.

We arrived at the house at 8:30pm. Total bike time was about 12 hours. Not bad.
236 miles. Done. Longest ride ever. By a hundred miles.

When the riding ended, the partying began. As Lloyd from ‘Dumb and Dumber’ might say, the beach house was a place where ‘beer flowed like wine.’ We celebrated our accomplishment in style.

My Strava link (7 miles missing because I forgot to turn it back on after Camden)
Newspaper article about our ride.

Spartanburg-Charleston Beach Ride Preview

In just a couple days I will be leaving Spartanburg at 4:30AM and riding to Isle of Palms, SC near Charleston. The grand total mileage should be 236, give or take, which we will complete in one day. If everything goes well, we will arrive at the beach in the mid-evening under cover of darkness.

This ride is being organized by the Spartanburg Freewheelers and there will be 16 riders in all. The good thing is these are all great riders. I will be pulling my share, but I expect that some of their stronger riders will be doing the pacemaking. The course should have some small hills along the way. The bigger ones looks to be on the other side of Lake Wateree. It should be relatively flat towards the coast, as we cross through Francis Marion National forest. Probably the toughest climb will be near the very end, as we climb the bridge into Isle of Palms. For the entire ride, we’re looking at around 4,000 feet of climbing, which is not much. My guess is we will maintain a pace of around 20 mph for about 12 hours of bike time. There will be several breaks so the total time could be around 16-18 hours.

I know, wow. Crazy. Insane. What am I thinking? To date, the longest ride I have completed was a 200k, maybe half of the mileage for this ride. Looking at my 2011 calendar, there have been only three times where I had this much mileage in an entire week.

All that said, there is no doubt that I’ll be fine. The MS150 Double Century was a great test. I was encouraged that on the 2nd day I could maintain a 20 mph pace in a headwind, a lot of which was solo riding. With the amount of support and the number of breaks, this should be easier than the double century.

So what does one pack for a 200+ ride? Lots and lots of Gatorade and Clif Bars to start. I’ll also bring about 3 extra jerseys and maybe another pair of bike shorts. Most importantly, I’ll have plenty of chamois butter that I will apply liberally at every private moment.

I will also need a lot of carb calories saved up before the ride. My carboloading will be a little different this time around. Since there is no exact science for a ride like this and everyone is different, I’m going to err on the side of caution. That means I have already started eating carbs and will continue for the next few days. I’ll start with lower glycemic foods, as I have done for other rides, and move to the heavy pasta and rice as the ride gets closer. The main consequences of eating too much are that I’ll get heavier for the ride. That doesn’t worry me in the slightest. I am starting at a good weight and since there are no major climbs, a few extra pounds will not slow me down. If anything they might speed me up since we’ll be dropping elevation.

On the ride I will also eat a lot. They have a planned breakfast stop at 7am at McDonalds. Egg McMuffin and Hash Browns, please. We’ll be having a picnic lunch at Camden Revolutionary Park where I’ll have a foot-long Subway. In the afternoon we’ll have random tailgate breaks where I’ll subside on a diet of Clif bars, Gatorade, a few salty snacks and whatever else I can lay my hands on. Again, I am going to err on the side of eating too much and lose the weight later. When we arrive in Isle of Palms, we’ll meet a greeting party who will have dinner waiting for us. Bless their souls.

When we arrive in Charleston I am going to be exhausted. Coincidentally enough, my wife’s high school reunion will be in Charleston on Saturday night. I’ll be the guy sitting down, trying to stay awake.

MS Ride: Breakaway to the Beach Preview

Now that Bridge to Bridge is behind me, so goes the climbing. From here on out the big mountain rides are mostly finished. The riding challenges will certainly continue, but from now on they will be flat and lengthy.

That brings me to the MS Ride: Breakaway to the Beach. On Saturday I will ride 100 miles from Camden to Florence, SC. After a lot of grub, a little beer, and hopefully a good night’s sleep, I will then travel another 100 miles from Florence to Sunset Beach, NC, not too far from Myrtle Beach, SC. From there I will pack up my bike and take a bus back to Columbia, and drag my tired behind into work Monday morning.

It sounds exhausting even thinking about, but it really should be rather easy. I’m thinking of it as more of an adventure than a challenge. Don’t get me wrong – I am going to burn a ton of calories. But this is not going to be a ride where I push myself.

The focus on Saturday is going to be about the group ride, something I haven’t talked about enough on this blog. We have a paceline group of approximately 8 riders, all of whom have similar ability and are riding the century. Our goal is an 18 mph pace for the entire ride, which should not be a problem. There will be a handful of hills coming out of Camden and the rest of the way will be flat. We will probably end up closer to a 19 mph pace, maybe even higher, without pushing ourselves too much.

We have arranged to rotate riders around so that everyone is doing equal amount of work, and can subsequently conserve energy. The person on the front doing the ‘pulling’ will remain there a minute or two before rotating to the back. Everyone knows their roles and will communicate about cars, road hazards, or anything else that needs to be known.

The focus here is on the group working as a unit. We ride as a team, which means we will stay together no matter what. If someone has mechanical problems, we will all stop. If someone cannot keep up the pace, we will all slow down. And so on. The idea is to get there quickly in a safe and efficient manner.

In a way, this will be a training ride for my upcoming ride with the Spartanburg Freewheelers from Spartanburg to Charleston in one day. That will be an unfathomable 250 miles. Yes, in one day. Crazy, I know. A big focus on that ride will be working together as a group. Since I have been pushing myself with training for the past few months, it is something I have not focused on enough.

The double century miles will also help. This will be my third double of the year. The first was organized by some friends out of Santee in February. It was a 200k Saturday and a century on Sunday. Needless to say, it was tough given the early time of year and my inexperience as a cyclist. I have come a long way since. The other one was the Lake Hartwell Challenge of the Centuries. I had the proper training for that ride, but had some mishaps. I got lost on the first day and then had mechanical and heat issues on the second day. I finished without issue, but was more exhausted than I should have been.

The best thing is that my diet is over. Woohoo! Without the climbing, I don’t have to lighten the load to get myself up the mountains. I’m at a fine weight and a couple extra pounds wouldn’t kill me. So I am going to eat what I want within reason. And I won’t skimp with the carbs on ride weekend. Already this week I have eaten a lot of ice cream and cheese and crackers. Not at the same time. That would be disgusting.