Tag Archives: lake murray

Tour de Midlands, 2013, Lexington, SC

Lake Murray Dam

After all the harsh weather we’ve been dealing with, it was not comforting to see rain on the forecast for another Saturday. There was a lot of chatter in the days leading up to the event, but fortunately when we woke up that morning, there was hardly a rain cloud in the sky. It would be a day of ideal cycling weather.

This was the Tour de Midlands, one of my favorite rides in the area. I have fond memories of being a destroyer last year with a 21.5 average on the century route (ahem, with a lot of help). My expectations were far below that this year, just wanting to finish the 70-mile route respectably as my last tune-up before Mitchell.

There were plenty of familiar faces for the metric route. Jack Daniel and Kevin Lundy are good friends and strong cyclists. I decided I would try and hang with them as long as possible, but if things were getting tough, I wouldn’t hesitate to back off and either ride solo or with a slower group. I’m not in the same shape as last year, and don’t want to burn myself out.

As the three of us rolled out, we collected a large group of riders. As we crossed the Lake Murray Dam, we must have had somewhere around 20-25 riders, all pedaling together in a single paceline. That group thinned somewhat as we traversed through the hills along the eastern edge of Lake Murray. I was almost a casualty during that section, at some times hanging on for dear life.

On this day, I found that when I got to the front, I wanted to do my share and pull the group, forgetting that I’m still riding into shape. As we navigated some tough hills, I found myself at the front more often than expected. One problem is I tend to not slow the pace. That’s more me just being considerate to the rest of the group. I know it’s frustrating to get someone up front that slows everyone down.

I pulled us up a particularly challenging hill. As I saw my heart rate creep up, my legs felt like they were turning to putty. I nearly cracked on one hill. When I backed off to the rear, I felt much better. Then we were stopped at a light, and somehow when we resumed, I found myself near the front yet again. Ugh! Again, I nearly cracked on the pull, and had to back off. After a few other short pulls, I realized that I was doing myself no favors here, and went into wheelsucker mode.

I was on wheelsuck duty in our tight group.

I was on wheelsuck duty in our strong group.

When we wheeled through the town of Chapin, the group was around 7-people, and it stayed that way for the majority of the day. It was a fantastic group! Kevin, Jack, Doug and Mike did most of the work up front. There was one instance where I was up front again, but the pace slowed considerably. The rider behind me politely nudged me to the left, giving me a break, and getting the group back at their accustomed brisk pace.

At mile 58, I was nearly done. After a couple minutes of quick refueling at a rest stop, the guys were ready to go. Knowing that I was in danger of bonking, and was already riding harder than I intended, I let them go. As much as I enjoy the company and the quicker pace, it was in my best interest to ride the rest of the way solo.

The last several miles are through some hilly sections of Lexington. As I navigated the up and down rolling hills of Windmill Road, I knew there was no way I would have been able to stick with the group. By bowing out early, I saved myself the embarrassment of being dropped.

By the time I rolled in solo, it was a gorgeous, sunny, 80-degrees. I was exhausted as I sat down to some BBQ, but still felt a sense of accomplishment after having passed another test. I’m ready to tackle the big one next week.

Strava GPS


Tour de Lake, 2012, Irmo, SC


The plan this weekend was to do a trial run from Marion to Mitchell. An ominous weather forecast scared me away, so I decided to do the Tour de Lake ride again. I remember from last year that it is an exciting, scenic and challenging ride. The ride has three options. The full century circles Lake Murray via Peak, Little Mountain and Prosperity. The 40 and 62 mile options take you about halfway around the lake, and then return you via boat (with food and beer!). The boat was tempting, but I opted for the mileage.

A funny thing happened before the ride. There was a reporter from Columbia’s local paper, The State. Columbia. She was asking the riders questions as they were getting ready. I rolled up to the area to ask a friend to pin my number on my jersey. Apparently the reporter had questions about speed, so a number of the riders pointed her in my direction. She was a nice lady, but I was little caught off guard. She asked me a few questions and I rolled away to finish getting ready. A few minutes later I was back near the starting line and she flagged me over. She started asking more questions about speed, like how long it would take me and what would be my fastest time. I told her that I was shooting for a relaxing 6-hour pace, but probably in best conditions, I could manage 4.5 hours.

Moments later the ride started and I gave it more thought. Four and a half hours? What was I thinking? I mentioned the exchange to a rider friend, who thought it wasn’t completely unreasonable, but we laughed it off, thinking it wouldn’t be printed. Well guess what, she printed that quote and the main picture is me getting my jersey pinned on. Here is the article.

Truthfully, after another heavy week, my goals and expectations were not high. I didn’t intend to ride this one fast, just take everything in stride and see how it felt. Turns out that was somewhat fast.

The ride began in confusion. It had been foggy, misty, and we left under heavy cloud cover. Someone (or everyone) near the front missed the turn out of Saluda Shoals Park. The entire ride found itself at a dead end within the first mile and had to turn around and find the course. This scattered a lot of the riders and there really wasn’t a sprint at the start.

I just went at my own pace until I settled into a pace group. A relatively quick one was established within the first five miles and I stuck with them. That turned out to be the lead pack.

One thing I noticed was that every time this one guy got in the lead, the ride became more of a struggle. I met him later. James Tobias, who also happens to read the website. James is a beast, pure and simple. I realized I was dealing with a serious cyclist when he told me his Mitchell time of last year, 5:30. Wow! He was shooting for a top 10 finish this year. Wow again! I think he has a good shot.

Also in the pack was local bike shop proprietor and a previous top-ten Mitchell finisher, Brian Curran. He said this was an off year for him. I saw evidence to the contrary.

As we maneuvered out of the hills of Peak and Little Mountain, I noticed our mileage per hour gradually increasing. By the time we first stopped, we were at 20.5. That 4:30 comment didn’t seem as unreasonable. Problem was, all of my mileage from earlier in the week was starting to catch up and the hills were starting to hurt, especially when James was on the front.

At around mile 60, we hit a patch of rough hills. There was one short hill that peaked at a 12% grade, which pretty much broke the group. Three of the riders were all of a sudden at the top, two of whom were Brian and James. The other two were back with me.

We pushed to catch up, taking turns pulling. Through a combination of our effort and their slow pedaling, we finally caught them. Almost immediately the road turned up and we had to fight another hill. This one was a little longer with maybe a 5-6% grade. We dropped again, and this time I was ready to give up. But they waited again. Appreciate that guys. We would drop for good around mile 80 as we were traversing busy Highway 378. We never saw them again, which was actually a relief because we were chewed up at that point.

Us three remaining victims rode in together. Ben and Jennings were very strong riders, but had not done a lot of long rides. Once I had recovered from the James/Brian onslaught, I felt pretty spry again and tried to take some longer pulls.

Even though we slowed down at the end, the final time was 4:53. Phew. My off-the-cuff remark to the reporter was not too far fetched. On a better day with a little taper, 4:30 would have possible.

Strava GPS Link


Ride Around Lake / Cookout, 2011, Irmo, SC

Lake Murray Ride Start

This Saturday continued a local cycling tradition of riding around Lake Murray for 65 miles and then having an afternoon picnic. Thanks to Lane and Tony for putting everything together! Of course it was my first time doing this route. I had been to the lake more than a few times, most notably earlier this year for the Tour de Lake, but never in this direction.

Turnout was great. My guess is around 30-40 riders participated, most of which also stayed for the feast afterward. With this many riders, pace was not an issue. You could ride as fast or slow as you wanted and were assured of riding with others. My primary concern was beating the scorching sun. I wanted to pace myself enough that I wouldn’t get tired, but finish up early enough to avoid the 102 degree high in the forecast. We started at 7:30AM, so we had plenty of comfortable riding weather.

Crossing Lake Murray via the dam

Crossing Lake Murray Dam

We started out by crossing Lake Murray Dam and then tracing the lake counter-clockwise. I settled into a big group going at around 20mph, which is a good pace for the mostly rolling hills course. The early going was a grand old time. We went fast, the route was scenic, traffic was scant, and the weather felt great. We reached the first store stop, a little more than a third of the way through, mostly feeling great.

Somehow the pace picked up after the rest stop to around a 22 mph average. I was riding strong, keeping up without a problem, although this was probably not a pace I could have pulled. As we crossed over a scenic bridge, I slowed off the back to get a photo (below). I pushed a bit to catch the group again, but right when I had caught them, the person who had been pulling transitioned to the back and gradually started to drop. I pedaled along, not knowing of the gap ahead. When I noticed, the gap had grown quite a bit. I stood up, sprinted to get back, when another pulling transition occurred and this guy also got dropped. I saw this one coming, but traffic didn’t allow me to pass. Once I had a free moment, I was dropped and no longer had the energy to catch up. No worries. I faded back into a smaller group of 4-5. We worked together most of the rest of the way.

Crossing Lake Murray

Crossing Lake Murray

As the clock ticked later, the temperature got hotter. The last leg of the ride was extremely difficult. The course was rolling hills, but many of the climbs were prolonged and relatively steep. There was little shade, which for me made it even tougher. I had difficult sun experiences earlier in the week, which may have compounded to make this one even tougher. Someone suggested I might have had a slight sun stroke on Tuesday, which takes time to recover from. Even when the temperature crossed the 95 barrier, I was still chugging along, keeping a good pace and cadence, but I was definitely feeling it.

About five miles from the finish, when the heat was over 100 degrees, I was painfully exhausted. I was no longer able to keep up with any of the groups. Not knowing the way, I was worried I might get lost. Fortunately a friend waited and directed me back. With three miles to go, I started staggering. The sun was just killing me and I was feeling disoriented. For a moment I even felt I might pass out. I hated to stop again so close to the end, but my head needed a break. We found a nice spot of shade for me to recover. I took a couple minutes, gathered my strength and made it back to the lake house without incident.

GPS link

After re-hydrating and getting changed, I decided to jump in the lake in my bike shorts. It felt amazing! Within an instant I felt completely recovered from my heat deprivation and exhaustion. The fun part was to come — food!

Lake Murray Picnic

We had hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, desserts, you name it. There was a ton of food, more than enough to replace what we had collectively burned throughout the morning. It was a great time and I look forward to doing it again next year.