Tag Archives: century ride

Jackson Brevet, 2013, Braselton, GA

Robert to his bride, "Are you ready?"

I remember when I first set foot into Disney World. It wasn’t the elaborate theme parks that immediately caught my eye. It was the distinct attention to detail. Once within the Disney compound, the landscape was carefully manicured, everything seemed clean, and it felt like a place of paradise. Every step beyond that enhanced the experience. Even when doing nothing, it was an escape just by being inside this carefully orchestrated world that by contrast, was so foreign to the one in which we live.

I found myself thinking about Disney often when riding in the Jackson Brevet, at least in terms of putting on a ride. While riding in the middle of nowhere Georgia, you are on a route that was meticulously planned by Robert W to honor his wife Kelly by raising money for aplastic anemia research. The markings are ever-present. The rest stops are fun and vibrant. The pre-ride announcements are actually engaging, and at times, moving. Even with a last minute detour, the mileage was exact — a rarity in the world of charity rides. This was his baby, and it showed while we punished ourselves by riding 102 miles on a hot day.

The ride was released in stages, but Jack and I were fortunate enough to participate in the lead out group. This was just a few riders that followed Robert, Kelly, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, and others. We rode slowly, waving to the Braselton locals who came out to see us off. It was a celebratory way to start the ride. After settling in with the peleton and riding a few miles, Robert showed up at an intersection to high five riders as they pass by. Of all the rides in which I’ve participated, this one had the most involvement from its host. And that’s a good thing.

The passionate ride organizer.

Robert Wilhite, the passionate ride organizer.

The riders were divided into three pace groups: 20+, 16-19, or anything below. We rode at the front of the 16-19 crowd, not wanting to push too hard, but ended up settling in with the 20+ crowd.

We were pleased to join a group being paced by the Sky Blue team. They were strong riders, who were clearly riding below their ability in order to pull the group. We were glad to have them, and the first 40 or so miles whirred by seemingly without effort. There were plenty of hills, but they were not the punishing variety that I am used to. The grades were sometimes 1-3%, which is barely noticeable in the right group. I looked down at my Garmin at one point, and found myself surprised that we had climbed so much.

One of the things I loved about this ride was the rest stop contest. Whoever had the most decorative rest stop would win a prize. The volunteers took it a step further by acting out their theme. There was a rock n’ roll stop where a guy was dressed up like a rock star (was it Elvis? Jimi Hendrix?). The winning rest stop was a version of the Wizard of Oz. They had people everywhere dressed up in Oz themed costumes, even a scarecrow. A dog wandered onto the “set” and they screamed that they finally had their Toto! When you’re pushing yourself to your physical limits, it’s nice to have something fun and distracting, and this really added to the ride experience.

The winning rest stop. There's no place like ... rest stop #4.

The winning rest stop. There’s no place like … rest stop #4.

The roads were terrific. We were far out in the country, with hardly any traffic, and they were almost always smooth as silk. That’s probably a credit to Georgia DOT as much as it is the guy who chose the route. We need to put some of them to work in the Carolinas!

Around mile 60, things started to get difficult. The sun was out in full force, and the temperature was slowly rising. It didn’t help that the hills started to have more bite, or maybe it just felt that way. We were climbing a lot, and with each hill, it was becoming tougher to keep up with my pacemakers.

Heat has never been kind to me, and we rarely had any shade on this route. I was already cracking by mile 70. We hit a steep hill shortly afterward. The initial pitch wasn’t long, maybe a quarter mile or so, but it reached a 13-14% grade that hurt. That was it for me and the group. I simply couldn’t handle such a pace in these conditions.

I felt myself in cramp territory, which is a rarity for me. I muscled it out to the next rest stop. Their theme was the famous Varsity restaurant. They didn’t have the grease, but they DID have pickles. Those hit the spot, and got me fresh again. Jack and I waited for the next group.

I was feeling rejuvenated, ready to go again, and stuck with this group another 10 or so miles. Then the hills struck again. A guy in front of me fell back with debilitating cramps. I slowed to make sure he was alright, which was just long enough to let the group go. Sigh, I wasn’t catching them again. As the temperature rose even further, it wouldn’t matter.

This was the last group I latched onto, and dropped from.

This was the last group I latched onto, and dropped from.

As we approached the last dozen miles, I was in no mans land. Occasionally I was able to draft off a larger fellow who called himself Diesel, but he couldn’t stay with me on the hills. I limped to the finish line, pleased to complete my third century in an injury-ridden year, but still exhausted and spent.

Again, I cannot thank the organizers enough. Jack and I agreed that this was logistically the best ride we had ever been on. In some ways, we felt spoiled out there. We just had to ride our bikes and they did everything else. The volunteers were terrific, and made a tough day a lot easier. We’ll be back.

Strava Link (inaccurate elevation, should be around 5k)


Return to the Century

It’s hard to believe that this Saturday will be my first century of the year. Last year I had already ridden 5 centuries by this point, and numerous other difficult climbing rides. My last century was two seasons ago, the Six Gap Century. Last year this would have been just another ride, but this year it means a lot more to me.

While I haven’t ridden close to this volume in awhile, I’m not worried. The last few weeks have been solid. Mileage has increased gradually, but more importantly, the fitness is starting to catch up. The best sign was last Thursday’s group ride. Somehow I found myself in the large front group, with maybe 20 people (not counting the 3-4 superbeasts that dusted everybody). I had to fight to keep up, but I managed to finish with the group at a 20.4 average. Even though I didn’t take a single pull and felt wrecked afterward, my pride was high. The fact that I could hang on speaks volumes.

This Saturday is the Tour de Cure. In all honesty, based on the fitness gains recently, I have been capable of riding a century for a few weeks now. I wanted to wait for this one because it’s a cause that I’ve been fundraising for. From what I can tell, it should be festive and fun, and extremely well organized. Sounds like a good first century to me.

Barring misfortune, I should have no problem riding 100 miles. The question is how fast I should go. I know some of the attendees will be pushing the pedal to the metal. It’ll be tempting to try to ride along with them, but that probably won’t be a smart game for me to play. I’ll find my pace and hopefully a few companions at a similar pace.

After that, my riding season really kicks off. I have another century ride the following weekend, then a taper, then Mount Mitchell. These next two centuries will determine whether I can conquer Mitchell. I’m optimistic, but don’t want to underestimate the toughest ride in the Southeast.

Santee in the Saddle, day one

Today would be the first of many miles. It would also be the only day where we knew the weather would be pleasant, which it was — 60s all day. The weekend forecast was foreboding. We planned on four days of riding, but there was a good chance that at least one of those days would be rained out.

It was slightly frosty when we left Santee State Park and warming up quickly. It seemed that with every minute, the sun would shine a little brighter and it would get a little warmer. It wasn’t long on the road before we were ditching layers and basking in the sun.

The route was rural, as they all are down here in the Lowcountry. We took country roads and country highways through vast fields (mostly depleted cotton), abandoned houses, a few farms, chewed up roads and lots of dogs.

Beagle with a lot of character

Early in the route we had a pleasurable dog encounter, a rarity for a cyclist. We were minding our business riding down the road when a Beagle starts running with us. She was not aggressive, just wanted to play. She was tiny and a little hobbled in her hind leg, but was able to run quite a bit. She stuck with us for about two miles. Sometimes she would get so excited that she would jump into the road in front of us, and promptly crossed back to the other side. She was constantly crisscrossing the road with only a moment’s notice, keeping us on our toes as we rode along. We enjoyed her company until finally she went home.

We planned on 56 miles, almost to Orangeburg and back. Vince and I kept getting ahead of the others and would turn back to meet back up with them. In the process we ended up with extra miles. By the time we got to lunch, everyone had 26 miles while we had 36. We decided that with uncertain weather on the horizon and us keeping a good pace, today would be a great day to make our own century.

When we arrived back at Santee State Park, we had 66 miles. We would need only 17 miles out and back to finish up. We followed the same route and kept a good, consistent pace despite some moderate headwinds. We ended our century in the mid-afternoon.

Strava Link

Back at Santee State Park

Terry’s Tap Room Ride

As luck would have it, New Years Eve fell on a Saturday and had ideal riding weather. I drove up to Spartanburg early in the morning to participate in their annual Terry’s Tap Room Ride. The local bar is no longer there, but the riding tradition continues. It includes two loops, one 60 miles and the other 40, starting at different times of the day. People have the option to do either of the two, or both to get a full century ride. I chose the latter. A pizza lunch courtesy of the Spartanburg Freewheelers was served in between rides.

Turnout was amazing. I am guessing there were just shy 100 riders in the morning. We all left together from Converse Plaza in a two-column cavalcade, occupying the right lane of a two-lane highway. We would ride together for the first 15 miles or so, then would separate into A and B rides. The pace was a little faster in the early going because we had all groups together. I got distracted in the early going, riding leisurely while talking to some people, and found my group dropped from the main pack. Not knowing that the split-point was coming ahead, I tried to catch up. An SUV was carefully passing riders, bobbing in and out of the right lane to pass cyclists. I stayed behind and drafted at a comfortable speed behind the car. When it passed, I sprinted back to the pack, catching them right before we reached the first stop. Oh well, at least I got some good exercise.

The A group was tempting, but not knowing the roads and not having ridden a lot over the winter, I played it safe and stuck with the B group. Most of the others in the group had also been off the bike, so we took it easy. The pace was advertised as 17-18. It was slightly faster in actuality, maybe in the 19 range. The course had a few rolling hills, but nothing terribly difficult. It looped out to Buffalo, SC, back through Pacolet, and then circled back to Spartanburg. It was comfortable, pleasant riding. I got to visit with with some people I hadn’t seen since the Beach Ride and other friends from the Upstate.

At some point we made a wrong turn. Our course was marked with arrows and a T. There was apparently a marking from another ride without a T that we followed anyway. That resulted in a few more miles added to the early route. We still managed to arrive to the break with time to spare. Of course the A Group had been there awhile. We scarfed down some pizza, refilled our bottles and then promptly got back on the road.

The riders converged for the second loop and we had some A riders, many of whom who have been participating in the Upstate Winter Bike League. Despite their presence, this was a slower pace than the early route. It was also no-drop, so we had to wait for a some laggards on a couple occasions. My lack of recent miles took a toll and I started to get tired, especially at the end where we hit some tougher climbs, including 10-12% grade grunt hill.

The ride had been just about 105 miles with 4,500 feet of climbing. Not bad for the last day of the year! My legs felt great, which I think is due to my strength training in the offseason. My arms and neck were a little sore, but they will get stronger as I spend more time on the bike.

Strava Link