Tag Archives: columbia

Ride2Recovery Columbia Cyclefest, 2011

I have spent so much time in the upstate and in the mountains this year, that I sometimes forget what we have in my own back yard. Those who say Columbia, SC doesn’t have hills need to ride the Lake Wateree route first. To my surprise, this was among the more challenging rides in which I have participated this year.

As an active member of Carolina Cyclers, I had a small hand in planning for this event. When I say small, I mean very small. John Quinn was the one who did most of the work and he did a wonderful job. He is also a doctor, and happened to be on call this weekend. I was officially his back-up. If he were called away, I wouldn’t be able to ride and would spend my time behind the scenes making sure everything went accordingly. I showed up bright and early at 6AM to help get everything prepared. To my relief, John was there and had not been called. This meant I had the green light to ride.

One great thing about cycling is that you support some useful charities. This one, however, is my charity of choice. Many know of the Wounded Warriors Project that helps injured service members after serving their country. The Ride2Recovery project is part of that program. It uses the sport of cycling to help these soldiers recover. The idea is that, as an intense cardio fitness activity, it can help with physical, mental and emotional rehabilitation. The program uses the proceeds to get equipment (bikes) and put together functions to get them out to ride. I have met a number of these ‘Warriors’ on various rides and they are all tremendous people. I was glad to help. Special thanks to Ron Doiron and Jim Bush in bringing this program to our attention.

American Legion Auxiliary Unit Volunteers

We also had the support of the American Legion Riders, who directed us around the course through their motorcycle support. The American Legion Auxiliary Unit under the capable leadership of Louise Winesett provided the volunteer assistance and they were tremendous. They helped with registration, aid at rest stops, and best of all, they prepared a fantastic lunch after the ride. Because of their assistance, this was probably the most supported Columbia ride.

American Legion Auxiliary Unit Donating Bicycles to Ride2Recovery

Unlike most other local rides, there was a more ceremonious feeling in the air. There were photo opportunitities for the programs and a number of pre-ride announcements. The American Legion Auxiliary Unit donated three Trek bicycles to the Wounded Warrior program. Senator Joel Lourie also stopped by and gave a short speech supporting the program and thanking the Warriors for their service. After a short prayer, we were off on the ride.

Senator Joel Lourie

The weather was clear, but surprisingly cool in the morning. Overnight temperatures were in the lower 50s, which I believe is the lowest we have had in months. There was a strong, chilling wind that made the temperature feel even cooler when riding. In the early going I could feel the temperature in my lungs due to the strong breeze. The temperature rose and in the late morning and earning afternoon, it became perfectly comfortable cycling weather.

Even though I stayed in the front in the early going of the ride, I could tell that I was not at my best. The miles over the past couple weeks were taking their toll. The lead pack became established around Kelly Mill Road, with a buckled in Triathlete pulling the very front. Somehow when bursting through Kelly Mill Road, we missed a turn. The route was marked, but we were just going too fast and the guy in front didn’t know the area. We kept going, even though locals were murmuring that we should have turned there. There were moments of confusion as we barreled along. We were about 1.5 miles away before we finally got the pack to stop and reverse course. And like that, the 72-mile course became 75.

After getting back on course, the pace picked up a bit. I was fine for most of it, even pulling my share. We skipped the first rest stop. Around mile 20, I felt a dull soreness in my upper left quad. At first it didn’t bother too much, but as I continued to spin at a high pace, it took its toll. My pedal stroke became uneven and I knew that would not work at this pace. I backed off the pack and rode alone for awhile, massaging the quad and hopefully working out whatever kink existed. I caught up with two other riders (Steve and Rhiannon from Sumter) and we cruised along together for the next few miles. We reached the second rest stop, which is where we caught the lead pack. I refueled and massaged my quad, hoping it would loosen up.

After the rest stop, the pack became an efficient paceline, which was perfect for me and my ailing muscles. We worked together to get to Lake Road, the cutoff for the longer and shorter routes. From there the pack split and we had about eight remaining for the longer route. The pace slowed slightly on Lake Road, to my delight. I needed a break.

Richard from California crossing Wateree Bridge

Richard from California, who wore a Ride2Recovery jersey but was not a wounded warrior himself led us through Lake Road. We joked that if he were a wounded warrior, it was false advertising because he was definitely healthy in the hills. He pulled the pack through the majority of Lake Road’s scenic twists and turns. This was a very pleasant ride. The hills were rolling, with some steep inclines, but nothing too challenging. It was more a peaceful route along the banks of the lake that provided nice views the entire time.

Riding around Lake Road

After Lake Road, the real climbs began. Of all my Columbia-area rides, this may be the toughest section I have experienced. The first climb out of Wateree was around 1.5 miles. It was not too steep, maybe 6-8% at the beginning before levelling off to 2-4%. The length is what was surprising, as most Columbia hills are short and sweet. I have seen this climb listed as a category 5 (lowest of the Tour de France climb categories), which is the only rated climb in the Columbia area that I am aware.

More climbs followed. They were all of the rolling variety with steep inclines. Some of these hills reminded me of the foothills around the Tigerville/Greenville area. These are the kind that can eat you alive after awhile. That is exactly what happened with me. Part of this was because of the speed in which we were traveling. We accelerated going downhill rather than recovering. My quads, still reeling from all the miles of late, were screaming on every hill for the last 25 miles.

When we finally reached the end, I was spent. It was probably because of the speed, but physically I felt like I would after a big mountain century. Also like those mountain rides, I was famished and exhausted. The best cure was a big lunch and a quiet nap.

Thanks to everyone for a great ride!
Garmin GPS Link


Skirting Irene to Jenkinsville

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It has become a habit for me to check the weather radar just before a long ride. I do this regardless of the forecast. You never know when a surprise shower can pop up and ruin a ride. This morning we planned to ride to Jenkinsville at 7am. I knew the hurricane was going to be in the vicinity, to our east, but I had no idea how close. The above graphic doesn’t do it justice because it was snapped after the ride, hours later. When we began riding, hurricane bands were literally right next door.

The only fallout from Hurricane Irene for us was a little bit of wind. It was a lot worse early, probably around 20 mph with higher gusts. It calmed down a bit later to probably around 10 mph. There were a couple times I would be riding casually and be blown about two feet sideways. And of course, the winds were straight in our face for most of the day.

I feel guilty saying this, but despite the wind, it was a beautiful day to ride. In fact, the storm might have even helped take the edge off otherwise hot temperatures.

This was a lengthy route, approximately a metric century with a few climbing sections. This was my first time to Jenkinsville and I heard it was a good training ride for it’s climbs. They were good, but did not quite live up to expectations. The biggest stretch was on Highway 215 where there was approximately 12 miles of rollers, with the elevation gradually getting higher. After leaving from Jenkinsville on Highway 213, there were a couple short and steeper climbs. The toughest was in the 6% range, nothing too difficult.

On this occasion we had two tandems with our group, which helped a lot with the winds. The tandems did most of the pulling and made for a nice draft going downhill. I was able to achieve speeds in the low 40s drafting off them, which is impressive for country roads. Overall speed was right around 18, very good for a windy day with or without tandems.

With today’s ride, I have put 260 miles on my legs in 8 days, including Blue Ridge Breakaway and a highly spirited (and painful) group ride on Thursday. It is time for a break. I plan to take a little spin on Thursday before another upstate century on Saturday. More on that later.

Google Maps and GPS link


In the Heat of the Night


If I learned one lesson yesterday, it is not too get too carried away with confidence. After some strong rides last week and a couple rest days over the weekend, I thought this was the time to go for higher performance. On the Tuesday ride at Tri-City, I have wanted to hit a 20 mph average. It is the perfect ride for it because there is usually a good crowd with lots of drafting, not a ton of climbing, and some fast downhill stretches. The best I have done is around 19.5 mph. That was on my first ride there, which is very good, but I know I can do better.

The problem was the heat. It was 103 when I parked my car and, according to my Garmin, in the high 90s when the ride started. What makes the Tuesday ride even more challenging in these temperatures is that the first half is pointed directly at the setting sun. There is hardly any shade, so it is just you and the heat. For the first hour, it is impossible to escape the sun. It is like a painful, unwavering high-beam headlight pointed straight at you. Even during the second half of the ride when rolling away from the sun, the heat is still a major factor because not a tree is in sight. While the Tuesday ride is very fast and enjoyable, it is also the most challenging of my weekday rides.

Another problem with this ride is that we have to deal with a few stoplights that can split up the riders. That hurt me this time. I was riding towards the front of the group, but still far enough back to get caught behind a light early on. The red light put some distance between us, but I was eager to ride at their level and decided to try and catch them. Bad move. When the light turned green, I sped past the group I was in and made my way towards the other pack. Remember, these are the fast riders, and I was riding alone. After about two miles of riding at around 25-27 mph with some spikes above 30, I had almost caught them. Right then another paceline of about 7-8 riders passed me. Great. I would just latch onto them and keep my energy level low. At this point I was already a little tired, so when they passed, I couldn’t quite connect. It took a little bit of effort to catch up.

Finally I reached this other paceline and through them, connected with the lead group. My average at that point was around 22 mph, a great start. Only I was starting to exhaust myself from the chase and found myself struggling to keep up. We stayed together for the first ten miles, but the sun was taking a toll. I noticed that my heart rate was far higher than it should be.

After doing pretty well up a hill, I found myself at the head of the pack, pulling. This is where it hit me. Shortly after the ten mile point, with an average of around 21 mph, I had nothing left. My speed dropped to around at 15+ mph and my heart rate increased. The group passed me and I didn’t have the energy to catch up. Other groups passed me as I slugged along at slow speeds, watching my heart rate intently, hoping to reclaim some energy. The Gatorade in my bottles should have helped, but hot liquid just wasn’t satisfying.

When I reached Edmund Highway, a friend of mine from the lead pack was waiting. He must have gotten worried when he didn’t see me up front. I told him I was heat-bonking. He hooked me up with a salt pill and rode with me awhile during the next stretch, pulling me along or pacing behind me, as needed.

After a couple of miles I felt a little better. I was still not 100%, maybe not even 50%, but I was able to go at a reasonable pace. At this point I ran into another friend who was also struggling. We decided to stop at a store at around the 20 mile mark to hydrate. That ice-cold Gatorade felt amazing. I consumed almost 32 ounces in those final 6 miles and felt fine once I hit the parking lot. At ride’s end, my average had dropped to 17 mph.

Lessons learned: Take it easy on hot days and don’t set goals that my body cannot handle.


Surprisingly Strong

In the aftermath of Hot Doggett, probably the 3rd or 4th toughest ride I’ve done all year, I expected to be a little sluggish. After Mount Mitchell, it had easily taken me two-three weeks to completely recover. Eating everything within sight didn’t help matters. This time, however, I bounced back pretty quickly and feel even stronger.

On my group ride on Tuesday, I seriously struggled. Part of this had to do with the temperature, around 115 degree heat index. That was by far the hottest I had attempted to ride. In the early going the air was so thick that it was difficult to breath. I found myself gasping over hills. There were not too many climbs, but when we attempted some rollers, I could feel my sore quads and they affected my performance. Needless to say, I took it pretty easy on this ride.

Rainy weather interrupted the Wednesday ride, which would have also been moderate. That turned out to be a good thing. The extra day of recovery was useful.

On Thursday, I expected to be sluggish again. That turned out to be wrong. In fact, I had a lot more bounce than I could have imagined. Despite having milder temperatures, this ride did not have much of a turnout. We ended up splitting into A and B groups, but the A group only had three riders. Usually we have at least five, maybe more. On of these three is a strong rider and a great leader. I always push myself in his groups and outperform my expectations. This day was no exception. I was able to keep up most of the time. The only time I was dropped was in a severe headwind, probably around 15-20mph. He will inevitably get in front of me, but this time I was surprised by my ability to react and close the gap. After reviewing the Strava stats from the Thursday ride, I found that this had been one of my better performances. On top of that, I was not hurting the next day.

This was to be a recovery weekend, so I joined an easy ride on Saturday. This was a fort ride, which meant there would be some tough hills. The other riders were all strong, but many of them had not been riding too much recently, so I spent most of the ride at a recovery pace. Again, I found that my body reacted when it needed. Rather than sprinting out ahead all the time and showing up the group, I tried to set challenges for myself. When someone got ahead, I sprinted to try and catch them, and mostly succeeded. I also did a hill repeat on a steep hill of around 12%, and felt fine afterward.

Since I am still relatively new to riding, I’m not sure whether I am in the middle of another peak period, or whether I am just pushing closer towards my potential. I have a feeling it is the latter, as I have put on quite a bit of base fitness over the summer and everything is easier. I am not as winded after a sprint or climb. I am not nearly as sore the day afterward, if at all. With my next major event over a month away, I will try to build on this without pushing too hard.

Strava Links:

Tuesday Ride
Thursday Ride
Saturday Ride