Tag Archives: fort jackson

The New Ride

Yes, as some would say, I have crossed over to the ‘Dark Side.’ I broke down and bought a mountain bike.

The New Bike!

The New Bike!

When hearing about the new purchase, my mother-in-law told my wife, “but he already rides his bike up mountains!”

My reasoning for this purchase was really for the off-season. With a potential heavy training schedule around the corner, I wanted to give myself some variety. Tri-City Cyclers have an Urban Assault ride that cruises the downtown trails and parks of Columbia, tours the university, city buildings, and generally heads all over the place. That’s a fun ride, and not really possible on a road bike.

Ironically, I bought a mountain bike to ride in the downtown streets, and plan to use my road bike in the mountains.

While my intentions are not to become a mountain biker, this could lead to some outdoor adventures down the road. When traveling to the Carolinas, I could explore the trails in Pisgah and Dupont forest. There are also nearby trails like FATs in Augusta, Harbison in Columbia, and the Palmetto Trail throughout the state. Someday I may even decide to take a stab at a more extreme mountain bike adventure. The Off Road Assault on Mount Mitchell could be fun. The same goes for the Leadville 100, Shenandoah 100, and who knows what else?

The bike is a Trek Stache 7. I bought a close-out model from Brian, who just conquered the Haute Route Alps, at Outspokin’ Bicycles in Columbia. This is a hardtail 29er. At first I was tempted to go for a full suspension just in case I lean towards more serious adventures down the road, but opted for a mid-range bike. This will be plenty as my second bike, as I learn how to ride the trails.

Why ride on the road when you can ride a path?

Why ride on the road when you can ride a path?

My first ride was around Fort Jackson, where I have sweated buckets on my road bike. The mountain bike gave me a new perspective of the fort. I was able to explore areas that I have curiously ridden past numerous times, such as Twin Lakes Park, beyond Ewell Road, and various side roads and trails. That’s what I like most about the bike. I’m no longer confined to the constraints of the local roads. If I want to go somewhere, I can just go there.

One thing I noticed right away was the fitness difference, and riding on the fort was a good way to make a comparison since I’m so familiar with riding here with a road bike. From a cardio perspective, they are apples and oranges. With the road bike, once warmed up, my heart rate seldom gets below a tempo heart rate zone. With the mountain bike, the heart rate was almost always below tempo. It would elevate on more challenging terrain and, of course, uphill, which was a lot tougher. In this respect, it was like riding easy intervals. It is more like short sprinting, whereas the road bike is more of an endurance ride.

Golden Arrow was freshly paved with a bike lane. Nice!

Golden Arrow was freshly paved with a bike lane. Nice!

The first ride was a blast, and I hope for many more soon. The downside was that the injury became a problem, which I’ll discuss in more detail later.

Fort Jackson Awareness Ride, 2012, Columbia, SC

The Fort Jackson Awareness Ride was something special for us that ride in Columbia. The fort graciously allows cyclists to ride on their beautiful, traffic-free roads, which is simply amazing for the local cycling community. Having dropped buckets of sweat on their pavement, I cannot thank them enough.

This was the first organized ride on the fort, and it was a long time coming. Proceeds go to the Family and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (FMWR) organization, a quality-of-life program that provides soldiers family support and services. They do great work, and we were pleased to give a little back. Turnout was over 200, a surprisingly high number for a first-time event. I think most of the grassroots support was because cyclists value the fort so much.

This was technically a Gran Fondo, or ‘Gran Fundo,’ since it was both a race and a ride. There was a good mix of hardcore racers and casual, Sunday riders. I was somewhere in between. The course was a 12-mile loop, starting from the heart of the fort at Hilton Field. Riders could choose to do either three or six laps, extending clockwise in a large loop through the quiet, smooth back-roads. I chose the longer ride. Having ridden these roads numerous times in the past, I should have known better.

The fort is arguably some of the toughest riding in Columbia. The hills are rolling, but they bite. This route was particularly nasty. Our group rides typically go counter-clockwise, and for good reason. It starts with an easy descent down Golden Arrow, a chewed up and choppy bed of pavement. From there we turn onto the smooth pavement of Dixie Road. At first the road rolls up and down comfortably, and then the beating begins. The latter half of Dixie Road is called ‘Dixie Grind.’ It is a prolonged, gradual ascent. The grade is moderate enough that it doesn’t seem like a true climb, yet it has a way of chewing up even the strongest legs. There is little rest after turning onto Wildcat, where the real behemoth rears its ugly head. We call it ‘The Wall,’ and I was far from excited to climb it six times. After that the course calms down with rolling hills or descents most of the way back to the field.

I’m not a racer by any stretch, but since I’ve been having a good year, I decided to try and hang with the big boys, most of which were Cat racers. The lead pack set a ferocious pace. I hung with them until about midway through Dixie road. There was no way I would keep up during the tough climbs. I faded back and connected with the next group. This one had familiar faces, which I was pretty sure I could hang with, despite the intense pace. My time was around 32 minutes for the first lap, around a 22.5 mph average, which was probably in the top 15. I was happy with that.

The second lap went just as well. My heart rate was running high and I was somewhat concerned with burning out, but the legs were staying with me. Rather than push too much, I backed off again and hooked up with another pack. We made it up Dixie and The Wall without issue. The second lap was probably just a little slower than the first. My average at that point was around 21.

Back on Dixie road during my third lap, and realized I was in trouble. My body was hurting more than it should have. I could no longer hang with the current pack, so I dropped again. I was gradually losing steam, yet still keeping a respectable pace. By the end of lap three, my pace was 20 mph and and dropping.

I downed three orange slices before starting lap four. For some reason those always help when I’m struggling. All was fine until I was back on Dixie, when all of a sudden I had little. Ouch! My quads burned with every pedal stroke. I started breathing hard, yet my heart rate was low. This meant I was bonking. I grunted my way through that lap and took a 10-minute break.

It was tempting to just give up right there. My car was 100 feet away. I even said out loud that I was going to bail. Fortunately Vince, a good friend, caught up with me and I decided to pace off of him. He was generous because he was a lot stronger than I was at that point. My power was in the toilet and I would die on the climbs. He’s a good guy and waited for me. Lap five was a major struggle. About midway through lap six, my mojo finally came partway back. I accelerated, caught up with some other riders, and rode hard until the end.

Relief! I was very happy to be finished. Final time was 4:08.

Thanks to all the volunteers, organizers, and especially the Fort that made such a fine event possible. This was a blast.

Official lap times:

Lap 1: 32:23
Lap 2: 37:41
Lap 3: 38:25
Lap 4: 43:04
Lap 5: 55:57 (includes the 10 min break)
Lap 6: 41:29

Strava link


Mitchell Training Group, Ride #1

After a month off, it was time to get back on the bike. We have a Mitchell Training Group that will be riding occasionally over the winter. What better time to dust off the cobwebs and get my climbing legs back?

It was a cool morning, although not nearly as cold as the forecast led me to believe. I started the ride with too many layers. Fortunately, at the last minute I had the opportunity to drop a layer, which resulted in a far more comfortable ride. The temperature rose soon enough and peaked at around 65 degrees, perfect riding weather.

The turnout exceeded my hopes and expectations. We had about 20 riders, and I knew that a number of people weren’t able to participate. This bodes well for future training. In fact, we were thinking of hosting a ride every other week. We may now move that to every week, weather permitting.

Today’s route was good old Fort Jackson, the ‘Four Corners’ route, which I have blogged about before. A couple weeks ago this would have been a cakewalk for me. Today, to my surprise, it gave me some trouble. I was fine in the early going. I could tell things weren’t right when I pushed up the first big hill on Washington Road early, as I used to do. This time I ran out of gas around halfway up. From there it got even harder. I was fine in flats, but all of a sudden once I hit a hill, even a small one, my quads would start burning and I would have to lay off. We were in two groups by that point, and I started fading from my pack early on.

One thing that I’ve learned is that it is best to keep going even when not 100%. I soldiered through and completed the course, even going over ‘The Wall.’

The reason for my under-performance is clear. The time off the bike didn’t help, but I have been working out in other ways, so that was probably not the primary issue. I had a tough strength workout on Thursday evening, so was probably still recovering from that. The big kicker was probably my low carb diet. Even though I added some extra carbs yesterday, I wasn’t anywhere close to the amount that I fueled with before. Plus, there is a distinctive feeling when you are not fueled properly — the burning, aching feeling when lactic acid is built up. I could have bonked, and was worried on a couple occasions that might happen, but fortunately I made it without issue. I can handle being slower than usual as long as I can still turn the pedals.

Lesson learned. Since we’ll be doing these occasional rides going forward, I’ll start piling on some carbs later in the week and have lighter strength workouts in the days before a ride. What’s important is that I am building a strong fitness base that will make the tough rides easier.

Garmin Link