Tag Archives: columbia

Hammerin’ the Hills for Habitat, 2012, Blythewood, SC

Comfortably Moderate. Those were my marching orders for the Habitat for Humanity’s ride out of Blythewood. This made sense, as I was officially in my off-season, and towards the end of an injury recovery. I passed the first test this week with five days on the trainer. With strength training to begin the following Monday, the last thing I wanted was to set myself back. That is one of the reasons I passed on the Hincapie event, and opted for an easier, local ride.

Quite a few changes were made for this year’s ride. I had participated in the same event the last two years, although it had a different name and starting location. It started from Spring Valley Presbyterian Church, with a police escort out of Columbia, and the route went to Lake Wateree and back. This year the starting point was moved to New Kirk Presbyterian Church for good reason – traffic. While it was not an issue leaving Columbia in previous years, it could be annoying coming back, trying to share the lane with people doing their grocery shopping. This year that was no longer an issue.

The route was a good bit different as a result. Starting from Blythewood, we had easier access to country roads. Those would take us over to the same Wateree route, sharing maybe 20 miles from the previous route, including Lake Road. All-in-all, it was about 10 miles shorter than the longer route from last year. That was fine with me.

Unlike the last couple years, this time we had unseasonably warm weather. The ride started in the 60s-70s. Despite these temperatures, it still felt cool because of a stiff wind and cloudy skies. At the starting line, I heard someone say “this is the coldest 60 degrees I can remember.” Arm warmers were in order, although we would not need them for long.

The front pack was tempting. Jeff Brandenburg was there. He was also intending to do a comfortably moderate pace, although his ‘moderate’ is a lot faster than mine (ended up being 22.4 mph). I could have possibly hung with him, but it would not have been wise.

The ride started with JB and his hammerheads way out in front. Some friends and I pedaled comfortably out of the gates. Kevin Lundy and I ended up next to each other. As we watched the lead pack get further and further away, Kevin said, “I say we head up group number trois.” That worked for me.

At first our group grew to about 15 riders, then we hit the first big hill. That thinned us out to about four or five. We separated again at a rest stop, which left our group at three – Kevin, Mike Egbert, and myself.

Lake Road (from the archives)

We paced together around Lake Road, which was not as scenic given the overcast weather. We climbed out together, again not pushing the pace, just riding easy.

The wind really made a difference on the way back. For awhile it was at our backs. Now that felt great. I ended up in front for a long stretch of flat road, and I just let it fly. When we reached the next stopping point, they complimented me on taking such a long pull, but it really was not much effort. The wind did the pulling.

If only the wind had stayed at our backs, we could have comfortably rode on back. That was not to be the case, as a few headwinds were waiting for us. There was one stretch where it seemed like we were climbing a long hill. Kevin noted that the climb was going on forever. I looked at my Garmin and noticed that we were only at a 2-3% grade, which is nothing. The wind in our face made it seem like a grueling climb.

The last few miles were mostly uphill, and I went ahead and kept the front. It was a good way for me to get in some work, while not punishing myself. I kept it comfortably moderate, and felt strong at the end. Overall this was a much easier day than the alternative, and yet another test passed along my way to recovery.

Strava Link

Mike Stuck Rd, Peak, SC

I still had a little left in my legs after Saturday’s ride. I also had a lot of free time. Usually I prepare for a number of hours for these events, but we went so fast and started early that almost a full day remained. After eating lunch with friends, I put on my safari hat and decided to do a little exploring.

The Dutch Fork area has a number of standing rides and I have been here several times. This area rivals the fort as being the cycling mecca of Columbia. Mike Stuck Road had been mentioned many times by my rider friends, but nobody wanted to ride it. “Too steep,” they said, “20% in parts.” I have ridden by it many times and looked at it curiously, one time even driving it along my way back from another ride. To me, it was quickly becoming a road of legend — the El Dorado of Columbia.

A friend of mine was riding back to his house and would be going right by there. That was a good opportunity for some company. I would ride halfway with him, check out Mike Stuck, and then ride back.

I turned onto Mike Stuck and instantly started descending. This is a gravelly, near deserted country road with only a few houses and a lake. Nice place to cycle, I thought. The descent continued for a couple miles, but didn’t seem overly steep. I wondered if maybe this thing was over-hyped. My expectations were sufficiently reduced. There is a slight climb on the other side of Stuck, but nothing crazy. Before turning around, I descended down into Peak and took the hairpin curve, then climbed back out of it. Always love that part.

After another short descent, I could tell that the climb was just in front of me. It pitches upward and then banks to the right and is mostly obscured by trees, so you really cannot tell from the bottom how steep it is. I shifted down to the little ring just in case.

I started the slow climb. The road got steeper, steeper, and then even steeper. My Garmin was showing 15-16% at some parts. I grunted my way through the toughest park and the climb continued, although at a significantly lower grade. It continued until nearly the end of the road.

That was quite a hill. Maybe the toughest grunt hill in Columbia (there aren’t many!). It certainly lived up to the hype and might be worth as a training tool in the future.

Strava GPS Link


Red Nose Run and Slow Spinning

Red Nose Run

The last time I ran in a running race was at least 1.5 years ago, perhaps longer. That was when I was hurt and not enjoying it, which explains my time away. Lately I have been getting back in the swing of things, mostly on the treadmill, and wanted to see how I would do on the road.

Needless to say, I was a little nervous. I also had no idea what to wear. It was cold and sunny at the start, in the low 40s, so I figured I should layer and cover my arms and legs. That was a problem because somehow I have no cold weather running clothes. I tried out my cycling knee warmers. That wasn’t happening without bike shorts. Even the leg warmers wouldn’t hold. Instead I decided to brave the elements with basketball shorts, a long-sleeve base layer shirt and a regular t-shirt on top. It turned out not to matter. Once I hit the pavement, my body warmed itself and I never worried about the cold.

The event was the 6th Annual Red Nose Run, put on by Strictly Running. There were two race options, a 10k and a 5k. At first I considered trying the 10k, having just completed an 8k the week prior. I wisely decided to start small with the 5k.

I wasn’t thinking of speed, although in the back of my mind I hoped to break 30 minutes. My plan was just to get going, find a comfortable pace and stay there. That pace turned out to be 6 mph. I held it steady most of the way, keeping my breath controlled and trying to ignore my weak legs. The first mile had some hills, which I trotted through without incident. The second mile was mostly flat, and fortunately the third mile had some descents.

I grunted my way through without stopping. The finish line was at the Colonial Center, hard to miss. When I saw it in the distance, my legs got a little antsy. My GPS said I was at about 28 minutes and there was a slight downhill the rest of the way. I went a little harder for that last quarter of a mile and barely broke 30 minutes. According to my GPS, I was at 29:48. As a cyclist with weak calves, I’ll take it. The official results have me at 30 minutes and a few seconds, but I am going with own timer, thank you very much.

Speaking of calves, they were pretty sore. The pavement is a lot more punishing than a treadmill. I ate some protein and sucked it up because a couple hours later I would be gearing up for a group ride.

Fortunately our ride was slow. It was a 32-mile social ride with some good friends I hadn’t seen in awhile. I rode from the house to get a few extra miles, but not much faster. In total it turned out to be almost 55 miles at a 15mph average, slow for me. There were a couple highlights, such as sprinting on a fast stretch at a 35mph clip. Most importantly it was a fun, easy ride, just what I needed.

Oddly enough, this morning I woke up with a workout hangover. This is the most sore I have been for a long while, including the challenging mountain trips I made a couple weeks ago. That probably has more to do with the running, since it works different and underused muscle groups. It’s all good for me and I plan to continue the cross-training throughout the year.

Bike ride Strava link

SVPC Habitat for Humanity Ride, 2011, Columbia SC

There was only one ride planned this weekend. I was aware of the Spring Valley Presbyterian Church ride and hated to miss it, but knew that after my Beach journey, I would probably be too tired. Rather than commit to something I couldn’t handle, weeks ago I offered my services as a volunteer. After getting everyone together, Ride Coordinator Tim Bostick decided to place me at a key intersection to direct traffic. This is a turn that comes fast early on in the ride. We missed the turn during the Ride2Recovery a few weeks back and inadvertently added some extra miles.

Great. That’s about as easy a job as one could get. The thing is, I absolutely loved the Ride2Recovery a few weeks ago, and this was the exact same course. Even though it was against my better judgment to ride, I still had that itch. This also happened to be one of my first organized rides last year. I chose the 62-mile route, which was my longest ride at that time. I remember it fondly and had a desire to reconquer the ride.

I lucked out when John Quinn dug up a Carolina Cycler’s sign that would work perfectly at the intersection. That sign combined with a pre-ride warning from Tim would effectively eliminate my position. John mentioned it to me late in the day and Tim sent me a Facebook message much later at night. My spot was covered. I could ride. Thanks John and Tim!

For the R2R, I started the ride out in front. With another cold morning, this time I decided to lay back and get myself warmed up before pushing too hard. A fast lead pack emerged and I thought about going after them. That thought quickly went away. I bit my lip and let them go. Good thing because I would have just been chewed up and dropped a few miles down the road. I found out later that this spirited lead pack would finish the hilly course in under 3.5 hours. No thanks.

Unlike the last ride where we pretty much rode as a pack the entire day, this one was more fragmented. The first pack I rode with was around five riders, but we would split apart on the hills. Some guys would go up faster, others would go down faster. There wasn’t a whole lot of regrouping or drafting. This worked for me because I didn’t quite have my normal ability after yesterday’s ride and remnants of the Beach Ride.

The second pack that I fell in with was Vince, who I know well, and a number of Army riders. It was pretty much the same with them. They would ride together on the downhills and flats and then split up on the hills. Vince and I ended up passing them on the hills and rode together for much of the way.

I was still undecided on which route to take. Part of me wanted to turn my chips in, eat lasagna and watch some football. The other part of me, the crazy part, wanted me to keep going and not stop. When we got to the Lake Road turnoff, the crazy part won out. We turned left and enjoyed the scenic extension.

Lake Road Revisited

Lake Road was even prettier this time thanks to the Fall colors. The temperature finally warmed up to the mid-50s, which made for a comfortable ride. There are a few little hills, some of which are short and steep, but overall it is a smooth, relaxing ride. The last time we went through it quickly. This time Vince and I took a more relaxed pace. We enjoyed the scenery and talked our way through it.

I knew what was to come after we left the Wateree shores – climbing and lots of it. Knowing the course turned out to make a big difference. I was ready for the longer climb this time and gradually spun up it. The rolling hills were still brutal, but I was able to anticipate the steepest sections and pass them without issue.

Rolling Hills Out of Wateree

At the last rest stop, Vince and I caught the remains of the other pack. Everyone was there except for Richard, who had taken the shorter path. There was still some separation on the hills, just like before. As we got closer to Columbia, we decided to ride together in order to be safer in traffic. A Sunday afternoon near Sandhills can be hairy, so that worked out well. The last gasp was Lake Carolina and The Summit. Despite a few more tough hills, the group stayed together. One of the guys with us had been riding for only a month — most impressive!

Lake Carolina

I had a great time. It was a different type of ride because of the relaxed pace. When I got to the finish line, I enjoyed the delicious lasagna and baked bread without feeling like I had been beaten to a pulp. That’s a nice change.

Thanks to Tim, John, Doug and all the volunteers!

Garmin GPS Link

Carolina C.O.P.S. A Ride to Remember, 2011, Columbia SC

It had been over a week since I had last been on a bike. After the epic beach ride, I figured it was time to take a break. Today’s Carolina C.O.P.S. ride was my return. Unfortunately I was greeted by a cold front. Have I mentioned that I dislike riding in the cold? I have probably whined about it a few times.

Even though the start time was delayed until 9am, it was still chilly when we started out, somewhere in the low 40s. I thought once I got riding, I would warm up quickly. That might have been the case, but we faced a headwind in the early going and it nearly froze my face. The plan was to ride at recovery pace, but I felt good when I got out there, so I went probably faster than I would have liked. I stormed out with Fred, a visitor from Spartanburg. We rode at a reasonably fast pace until the cold finally had its way with me. There are certain temperatures that I simply don’t handle well and it was affecting my breathing. I was getting a headache from the brain freeze. At first I slowed down to let him get ahead. Then I stopped at around mile 10 to thaw out a little and wait for some other friends.

Fortunately the temperatures warmed up relatively quickly. We stopped at the next rest stop, around mile 25, and it was already warm enough to get rid of some gear. I felt great coming out of the rest stop, rode with John behind the tandem for awhile. The course was a little too hilly for us to fly like at Rose Hill. I rode by myself for a little while until Fred from Spartanburg caught back up.

The great thing about this ride was the police support. Just about every intersection was blocked with police stopping traffic. We were supposed to have a police escort through the Columbia city limits only, but they kept on going and rode with us for the entire course. The cruiser would stay ahead of us at a comfortable distance, slowing and speeding up for hills just like we did. I can only imagine how bored he was. If you read this officer, thanks a million. When we encountered intersections that were not blocked off, he would put his nose into traffic with his lights off and let us follow close behind him. This was unquestionably the safest ride in which I have ever participated.

This guy was there the entire time

The route took us North and West of Columbia. There were hills. Lots of them. The course rolled almost the entire time. The route went along Highway 215, almost to Jenkinsville, which I already knew rolled steadily upward. Many of the other roads were familiar from rides out of Blythewood. We were pretty much up and down all day. The inclines were not terribly steep, but after awhile they can be punishing.

Fred and I rode the rest of the way together. We considered stopping about 10 miles out, but we were in a rhythm and so close to the end that we continued. We ended up being the first to finish, which is not a major feat for a small ride, but is still a nice feeling. The volunteers made a bigger deal out of it than it was, which was also nice.

Fred from Spartanburg

Good ride. Thanks to Jen for putting everything together and to the local police force for keeping us safe, on and off the bike.

Google GPS Link