Tag Archives: mountains

Haleakala, Hawaii, Cycle to the Sun

This guest post is from Jonathan Musgrave, a reader who lives out in Colorado. This is an inspiring, truly epic ride, one for the bucket lists. I’m green with envy! You can follow Jonathan on Twitter at @orijonal. Thanks, Jonathan, for sharing this with us.

My journey to Haleakala began on a frigid early August climb up Fremont Pass near Copper Colorado. Somewhere along the climb, I met a chatty rider who had traveled to Colorado many times for this ride, the Copper Triangle, from his home state of Hawaii. I ignorantly joked that climbing the Rockies must be a big difference from the flat riding he was used to back home. He laughed politely, and began telling me about Haleakala.

Haleakala means “house of the sun.” It is a massive volcano that rises straight out of the Pacific Ocean to form 75% of the landmass of the Hawaiian island of Maui. The peak is 10,023 ft above sea level, with another 19,680 feet of mountain hidden beneath the ocean (at 29,703 total ft, Haleakala is 675 ft taller than Mt Everest). According to legend, the demigod Maui roped the sun and forced it to shine in this place longer than anywhere else on the island (research has confirmed that the mountain does enjoy an average 8 minutes more sunlight than the rest of the island). What makes this particular volcanic mountain different from others is the road to the summit. It is the longest, steepest paved road and the shortest distance from sea level to 10,000 ft on the planet. When Aaron registered the domain steepclimbs.com, he had to purchase the rights from the demigod Maui (fact checking is currently underway on this tidbit…).

It just so happened that this year marked my wonderful wife’s 30th birthday. In lieu of gifts, she prefers trips for her milestone birthdays, so the big ‘three-oh’ meant a return trip to her favorite destination, Maui. Having just scheduled the vacation weeks before the Copper Triangle, and only a matter of days before I announced the surprise to my wife, I knew during that climb up Fremont Pass that I would ride Haleakala on our trip in November.

The road to Haleakala’s summit starts in the sleepy beach town of Paea. Renowned for its close proximity to the 120 foot waves of Jaws, the town’s most famous resident Willie Nelson, and the “culture cloud” that follows Willie –- Paea is the Boulder, CO of Hawaii. I was fortunate enough to rent an Orbea Orca bike from Go Cycling Maui, a local shop owned by Donnie Arnoult, former Colorado resident and host of the annual Cycle To The Sun race up Haleakala.

Donnie felt like a friend before I ever shook his hand. Over the phone he helped me reserve a bike from his shop and gave me ample and accurate preparation info. In person, he was like an old college buddy talking about bike gear, and giving me fresh apple-bananas he picked for me that morning off the banana tree in his front yard. According to Donnie, it is not advised to attempt climbing Haleakala without eating at least one apple-banana (named because they “contain the deliciousness of both an apple and a banana in one wrapper”).

I made a conscious decision to ride this at a purposefully casual pace. For one, I was attempting a bigger climb than I had ever done before. I also had only one shot at this climb –- if I blew up half-way through the ride, there was not the luxury of attempting it another day. More than anything else though, I was doing the ride unsupported –- I was on my own for hydration, nutrition and tech, so I carried everything I would need. Because I tend to ride hardest when I ride by myself, executing this deliberate pace would take some discipline. Before the ride, I completely removed speed from my Garmin’s display. The only screen I had to look at contained elevation, average pace, distance and grade.

House of the Sun. The name implies constant rays of sunshine. Having completed the ascent up Haleakala, I feel like “House of the rain, clouds, fog, vog, and some sun” would be a more accurate handle (though it just doesn’t roll off the tongue the same way, and I would hate to anger a demigod). Names aside, the climb is a veritable tour of ecosystems featuring beaches, sugar cane filled plains, rainforests, hardwood forests, dry high plains, and lunar-like volcanic wasteland.

“It’ll feel like you have a midget standing on your handlebars blowing delicious oxygen directly into your mouth.” They were the words of wisdom my cousin Mark begat to me as he described the difference between riding at a mile-high vs. riding at sea-level. He was right. The first seven miles were very constant 4-5% grades that felt just like riding in the Rockies, and that midget was firmly affixed to my handlebars. The oxygen was delicious. My heart-rate was low, legs had full power, and I was feeling great. Here, the road was like riding through a green tunnel with 12-foot walls of sugar cane on each side. I had to consciously avoid staring at their mesmerizing rhythm, swaying and bending in the trade winds. Along the way, Velominati had stamped their emblazoned cog in the bike lane with elevation milestones every 500 to 1,000 ft – each one of these was occasion for a mini party in my head. These intermittent reminders to keep breathing, drinking and eating, made me feel like a coach was riding along with me.

Keepers of the cog!

“Right at the rodeo.” I repeated these simple instructions from Donnie a thousand times until I reached the only right turn on the route. The consequences of missing the turn are an agonizing 1,700 ft of additional climbing. After passing through the town of Makawao (mack-a-wow), I easily spotted the sign for the rodeo and made the turn. For the next 7 miles I continued my journey through the various ecosystems of the mountain and arrived at the town of Kula, my only scheduled stop. A fresh Camel-bak of water, 2 bottles of electrolyte drink, a few photos later and I was off.

Immediately after leaving Kula, I took final turn into the Haleakala State Park. A 10% constant grade up a relentless series of switchbacks was waiting to welcome me to the park. My time on the trainer was paying off, my legs felt great, and I powered up the hills at a brisk pace. Soon I broke out of the last wooded forest of the climb, and I realized the profundity of the name “house of the sun.” The rapid switchbacks finally ended, and I enjoyed 5% grades in a long straightish traverse across the NW face of the mountain.

Throughout the whole ride, I watched packs of visitors on bikes coming down the mountain. Think your dad, his dad, and a swarm of 20-30 tourists ranging from the Deep South to south-east Asia on full suspension mountain bikes simultaneously grabbing two fist-fulls each of squeaky mechanical disks. They didn’t seem to understand why I was riding up the mountain. I could see the compassion in their faces as they looked at me, and assumed I was separated from my group and going the wrong way. Velo infractions aside, they were a welcome source entertainment and even passed on the occasional cheer of encouragement.

Just past 6,500 ft, the ride took on an entirely different character. I passed through the toll gate for the park and paid my $5 fee. Immediately I began a new series of broader, steeper switchbacks and started pedaling into a cloud of vog. Donnie had warned me about this stuff; it’s a fog created by the sulfer dioxide issuing out of active volcanos on the big island. Trade winds carry the stuff north-west for the other islands to enjoy. Though normally affecting only the kona (southernly aspect) of the other islands, Donnie’s vog tracking iPhone app indicated that the wind direction today would create a vog problem on the climb – potentially decreasing the breathable oxygen by 35%.

Vog is nasty stuff to cycle through – think being downwind at a bonfire meeting an army of commercial-grade humidifiers ganging up on you. The high altitude was familiar to me, but the added oxygen loss from the vog zapped the power from each stroke I took. By 7,500 feet, I was through the vog, and both breathing and muscle strength was restored. The temperature had fallen from 80 degrees in Paea to around 60 degrees here.

From 8,000 feet to the summit, I was enthralled in the otherworldly views of my surroundings. Looking down on the vog and cloud layer gave me an ethereal feeling I couldn’t shake, and on every side I saw a landscape forged in volcanic ruins. It really felt like being on another planet. There were very few cars up this high, and the road had just been repaved –- like the ice right after the Zamboni at intermission. There’s no question that 8,000 to 10,000 feet was the most challenging portion of the ride. Grades are usually steepest at the tops of mountains, and this was certainly no exception.

The signs for 9,000 feet and 2-miles to go came in such close proximity that it startled me. Thankfully the 9k sign was out of place, and the 2 mile sign was correct. Nonetheless the torture of the last 500 feet and 2 miles was intense. The very summit of the mountain is concealed until the last turn with .6 miles to go, but if you haven’t been up the road before, you’ll probably assume the space-station-looking observatory visible from the 2-mile sign is the top. I had aspirations of cranking out those last few miles, and even making a challenge out of the “last brutal effort” Strava segment at the end of the road, but instead I was I was more focused on just completing the climb than I was setting a land-speed record.

The view from the summit was humbling. To the East, you can see for the first time, a wasteland of brown and orange cone shaped mini volcanoes protruding from the volcano’s crater. To every other side you can see the expanse of the Pacific Ocean beneath a ring of clouds. Further to the South the two highest peaks from the big island are visible – each is over 13,000 feet. My wife who had enjoyed a well-deserved day at a nearby spa met me at the top for a small lunch and to enjoy the beautiful view.

The descent was a once in a lifetime experience – 36 miles of carving switchbacks and beautiful views. More than anything else, I was warmed with a sense of accomplishment and pride as I ate up every vertical foot I had just recently conquered. Back in the shop, I was welcomed with backslapping hugs and cheers from Donnie and about five of his surfer dude friends. It was like coming home! Most of the major rides I have done in Colorado have been part of an event, and the event jersey felt like an award I had earned. This could be no different, and Donnie helped me find a jersey from this year’s Cycle to the Sun ride to take home as a souvenir. I’ve only been cycling for 7 months, but I know that this ride is one that will always have a special place on my mental trophy shelf.

The summit!

Strava GPS Link


Hincapie Gran Fondo Recap

The Hincapie ride could not have come at a worse time of year for me. I was recovering from a long season, recovering from a nagging injury, and trying to re-boot my training for another long season that would end in France. There were also some logistical and pocketbook issues, so I didn’t ride.

Fortunately through my own past experiences in the area, and from friends, readers, and other bloggers, I’m able to get a pretty good feel for how the day went. So this is a first (and probably a last). I am recapping an event where I was not present.

Riders waiting to start.

The general consensus from everyone I know who rode (which was a lot of people), was that it was a painful, grueling, quad-busting, yet exhilarating experience.

A number of pros showed up, including Tejay Van Garderen, Cadel Evans, who were #5 and #7 respectively in the 2012 Tour de France. There were plenty of others, including Christian Vande Velde, and of course, Big George himself. From what I hear, the riders were extremely pleasant, mixed in with the crowd, took pictures before and after, and helped create a festive atmosphere. According to the results, they finished with a large crowd at around the 4:53 mark.

As for the course, it was every bit as brutal as expected. Jonathan at Low Cadence claimed to have been ‘fondoed,’ likening himself to a melting pot of cheese. He hung on with a big crowd, took it easy on the Skyuka Mountain Road climb, and then struggled mightily on Howard Gap. After recovering and improving over Green River, he experienced some cramps at the very end. It was a tough day for him, as it was for a lot of people.

I corresponded with Wade, a friend and blog reader. He sent me many of the pictures in this entry. To my surprise, he found Howard Gap a lot tougher than Skyuka Mountain. Skyuka may not be as steep (although it isn’t far behind), but it is longer. Howard Gap may be a lengthy slog to the top, but it is short. He actually enjoyed the switchbacks of Skyuka, yet loathed Howard because it kept going and going. It certainly has a way of getting inside one’s head.

The start of the Skyuka/White Oak climb.

One thing that probably makes Howard Gap a lot tougher is that it comes right after Skyuka. Jonathan, and probably many others, suffered because they had not yet recovered from the first major climb. I have not ridden them back-to-back (yet), but they are close in proximity to each other, which doesn’t give much of a rest.

Kevin from Ram Cycling found the same. He conquered Skyuka without incident, then could not muster enough energy to keep pedaling all the way up Howard Gap. He stopped, could not re-mount on the climb, and had to walk a little bit. It is humbling, but a lot of people walked up part of Howard Gap. There’s no shame in that.

Top of Howard Gap Road.

Green River Cove is just a beautiful climb this time year. Jonathan noted that he was able to recover by riding easy and enjoying the sights. I had a similar experience a couple weeks ago. Usually Green River is considered to be a difficult climb, but coming after the two behemoths beforehand, I heard no complaints.

And of course, everyone loves descending the Watershed. Not only is a nice, gradual descent, but it also meant that the majority of the climbing was finished. There were only a few bumps left along the way to La Bastide, the starting and celebration point.

Even though I enjoyed my alternative ride, I have some regrets for not spending the day with George and the 1,000+ riders. Wait for me, George. I’ll be there next year.

Strava Link (Alex Bernstein)

Thanks to Mike, the other Mike, Wade, Alex, Steve, Wes, Jonathan, Kevin, and everyone else who shared their experiences with me.

View from the top of Skyuka/White Oak Mountain.

Six Gap Century, 2012, Dahlonega, GA

A couple thousand of riders roll out in a stream as day breaks.


Over the past couple of weeks, I have been nursing a hip injury that threatened my participation in Six Gap Century, the last event of my season. After some good and bad days, I was pretty sure I would be able to ride.

When I woke up in the wee hours of Sunday morning, I could tell it would be a bad day. It was painful. I took some anti-inflammatory, and iced it for as long as I could. There was no time to waste worrying about my hips or anything else. I had to give it a shot with what I had.

After getting everything in order, it was time for the final test in the parking lot. Could I ride without pain? The toughest part was getting my leg over the bike. I had to stick it out, and tilt the bike under the leg. Still painful, but it worked. Once I was on, I could turn the pedals without much issue. That was fine for the parking lot, but I still had no idea how it would respond on the climbs.

The crowd was massive as we gathered near the entrance of Lumpkin County High School. The announcer asked people where they were from as they passed. There were a lot of Floridians, a few Europeans, and the rest from all over the place. One guy said Mars. Real funny, buddy.

The weather was cool as we attacked the rolling hills heading out of Dahlonega. These were a good first test for my hip. I was able to ride, but not nearly as strongly as usual. The fluid pedal stroke just wasn’t there. Sometimes I would inadvertently twitch the hip, and feel a little pain. I would groan, grit my teeth, and continue on.

The descents were the next big test, and they were even tougher. Since it was only my right hip that was bothering me, I could not lean into the turns in that direction. When the road curved to the right, I was like an petrified, upright stick moving ever so slightly to the left to guide my body. When we turned to the left, I was able to lean all the way, and soar through the turn.

I rode mostly with Jody, a friend from back home. He knew I was injured and was kind enough to stick with me. I knew early on that I was not riding as strong. I told him that he didn’t have to wait. He wouldn’t hear it. All I was doing was complaining about my hip, which he related to a sciatic problem he had endured. The company and conversation helped get me through. Appreciate that, Jody.

Jody says hi.

After 20 miles of rolling hills, we hit the first Gap of the day. It was Neel’s Gap, and was the perfect one to start out with. The climb is long, around six miles, but not terribly steep. It ranges from 4-6%, just enough to get my climbing legs going, and not too much to kill me.

However easy the climb was, that one hurt. I felt the hip most of the way up. Everyone passed me, including Jody. I tried not to focus on it, but that was impossible. About two thirds through the climb, it loosened up enough to give me some mobility. A guy passed me, and I stuck on his wheel like glue, riding up behind him the rest of the way up. Jody was waiting for me at the top.

The descent would be the real trick. I had heard that Neel’s had some technical sections. Could I handle them? I wasn’t sure. It was on this descent that I tinkered with my technique and learned to descend under the circumstances. I had to pull my hip in towards the bike, and contort my upper body into the turn. It probably looked awkward, but it worked.

The next climb was Jack’s Gap, which I had climbed before on my way to Brasstown Bald. It has some steep sections, which I was able to stand up and get over. The rest was rolling and not a problem. There was occasional pain, but I could deal with it. It was nice to reach the entrance to Brasstown Bald, look at the steep road up, and head past it.

Unicoi Gap was next. It was a little easier than I remembered, and fortunately not too long. I remembered how exhilarating the descent into Helen could be, so I gave it a go. I bombed down with confidence, passing a lot of people along the way. The leaning system continued to work.

The next Gap was THE challenge. Hogpen Gap. I had previously not thought it too terrible, but that was with fresh legs and a lot of conversation. The climb feels a lot different at mile 60 than it does at mile 6.

Tougher part of Hogpen Gap.

Here goes. We crossed the US Pro Challenge timing meter, and were officially on the clock (not that I paid much attention to it). The first steep section smacked me in the face. Ouch. Brutal. It hurt, and would continue. I stood up, and did surprisingly well given my situation. I was trying to wait for Jody, who fell a little behind, but slow pedaling is not easy on big grades. I stayed ahead of him until the top.

There’s an old joke that the best cure for a headache is getting a stubbed toe. That’s the same logic for what happened with me on Hogpen. Even though I was limping when I got off the bike, the climb hurt so much that I forgot about my hip. As much as I struggled during the climb, it directed my attention enough for me to finally get my legs back. When I got to the top, however tired, I was back to my old self. I had my mojo back.

After a hair-raising descent down the steeper side of Hogpen, the next task was Gap #5, Wolf Pen Gap. A few more rolling hills, a right turn, and we were there. As far as difficulty goes, this climb was on par with Neel’s Gap. It was a little steeper and a little shorter. For most of the climb, we were covered under a large canopy of trees. It reminded me a bit of Schull’s Mill, Chimney Rock, Walnut Creek, or Highway 80 climbs in North Carolina. It was a pleasantly scenic climb, which somewhat helped to distract from the difficulty. I rode with Jody again, who was having a little bit of trouble with this one. The tables were turned, and it was me waiting at the top.

That left Woody Gap. “Woody doesn’t really count,” we were told a couple times by other riders. The only thing it had in common with the other climbs was the word ‘Gap’ at the end of its name. Even though the climb is 1.5 miles, you only gain a few hundred feet. It seemed more like a couple steep hills rather than a long climb. After descending down the other side, I could tell that it would be far more challenging from the other side.

Six Gap Conquered!

With the Six Gaps behind us, we rolled back towards Dahlonega. The hills seemed to go on forever. They were not too steep, but just kept coming and coming. We continually looked at our mileage and at landmarks for any sign that the ride was coming to an end. We were ready for this day to be over. Finally we descended the small hills on Black Mountain Road, and knew that the High School was nearby.

We crossed the finish line at just under eight hours, in 734th place according to the results. It was my slowest mountain century of the year, but I had a pretty good excuse this time. As Jody reminded me a few times throughout the ride, this was about finishing, not about beating a time.

Strava GPS Link


Bridge to Bridge, 2012, Lenoir, NC

Déjà vu!

Last year the forecast for Bridge to Bridge (now apparently called “The Bridge”) was for a cool day with a slight chance of rain. We ended up having dense fog until we reached Grandfather Mountain, where we escaped a massive cloud system into sunny skies. This time the weather was also worse than advertised.

We gathered on Main Street, Lenoir for a day’s worth of riding. I found a few guys from Vork Cycling Team, and decided to try and hang with them through the easier, early sections. They are a little stronger than I am, and have more experience finding good packs. That turned out to be a wise decision.

We left Lenoir a few minutes early, and the pack charged hard. I tried to keep up with them, but I am not an early starter. The pack glided up the first big climb, Poplar Street, which is a mile-long hill right outside of Lenoir. That’s when the pack first saw some separation. Unfortunately I was one of the riders that got separated. I lost sight of the Vork Cyclers, believing they were all ahead of me. So much for that.

At around the 4th mile, I heard a lot of clicking and yelling out. Everyone swerved, and I saw the remains of a crash with maybe four or five bikes down. Water bottles were rolling all over the place. At a glance, it looked like there was nothing serious, but I did not linger. I moved out of the way of the bikes, and got back on. Hopefully everyone was alright.

As it turned out, I was wrong about the Vork team being ahead of me. Brian from Vork showed up out of nowhere. A new pack formed after the crash, and we made steady progress. Brian moved to the front, and started his engines. I stayed on his wheel. We gradually increased our speed until we got sight of the big group. That spurred him on. He kept pushing, getting us ever so closer. Finally he ran out of gas, which left it to me. I continued in that vein, and was getting closer for a bit, but probably could not have bridged the gap. Fortunately another rider took the reins, and we sprinted to catch the pack.

Panting, I thanked Brian and the other guy for the pull. As we slowed down behind this massive group of 50-75 riders, we were able to rest. ‘This feels much better,’ I said to Brian. He nodded. ‘This is the payoff for all that work.’

The other Vork riders were in this pack, so we maneuvered our way around to ride with them. Gregg aka Tater is a tall rider, and stood out like a beacon with a giant blue skull. Chris aka McDiesel, a recent addition to the Haute Route team, was also there. I kept him in sight, so as not to get gapped and lose the group. I also met John, who rides with the Vork guys, but this was his first century ride. What a ride to choose! We kept speeds between 22-23 mph without much effort. We took it easy, and worked within the group while waiting to arrive at the climbs.

Those first 50 miles flew by. I was feeling great when the climb on Highway 181 began, but the mountain has a way of really telling how you’re doing. I realized almost instantly that I did not have it. I struggled immediately. Perhaps I didn’t eat enough during the first 50, or more likely, simply didn’t train enough in the preceding weeks. Hoping it was the former, I chowed down a Clif Bar, and made my merry way up. The Vork guys dropped me. Even John passed me about midway, along with everyone else and their mother. This was humbling, not my finest moment, and the climb went on for an eternity.

12-miles and 2,600 feet later, and I was almost spent. The climb fortunately stopped, but I had little momentum. All of a sudden a guy with an orange jersey blasted by me. I jumped onto his wheel, and he pulled me at least a couple miles. It was enough to get my mojo back. I later learned that his name was Mike. Thank you, Mike!

As Mike and I rolled along, another guy jumped on our wheel. We passed someone else, and they jumped on. I regained my strength, and took the front for a long pull. By the time we turned away from Linville, we had a regular old paceline again. All of a sudden John turned up. I must have passed him at some point without realizing it. He joined the party.

As we rolled down the long stretch on Hwy 105, the clouds became darker. Cloudiness turned to intermittent rain showers. We just dealt with it, kept trucking along. It wasn’t comfortable, but we were fine as long as there was no thunder and lightning. As we passed by the north end of Grandfather Mountain, I looked over and saw it enveloped in a gigantic cloud. Unless things changed, it would be an ugly finish. I was also pretty certain at that point that the Blue Ridge Parkway would be closed.

The paceline remained more or less intact until we turned onto Schull’s Mill Road, and began the climb back up to the Parkway. Some people went ahead of us, some stayed behind. I kept riding with John. Not only was this his first century, but it was his first real mountain ride. Schull’s Mill is a nice and scenic climb, but it is long. I told him just to buckle in, and try to keep from getting too tired. Save a little for Grandfather. We rode and talked. At some points he was getting tired, and I slowed down to let him keep up. At others, he tore ahead of me, and I had to pick up the pace. Most of the time we rode together.

We reached the top of the climb not a moment too soon. The fog was much thicker up here. We were directed onto the rolling hills of 221, and it immediately started raining harder. Now this was uncomfortable! We could already barely see five feet ahead of us. Now we had to deal with rain. There were a few small descents in the early going, which always make me nervous. I rode conservatively, not wanting to do anything stupid.

As expected, the Parkway was closed. No Linn Cove Viaduct again this year. Bummer. We continued on 221, completing the full circle around Grandfather Mountain. I told John that this was probably good, as the climb up Linn Cove Viaduct isn’t a cakewalk. There would be hills, but they were more up and down until we reached Grandfather.

The ride along 221 took forever. It was bittersweet to get to Grandfather. We were nearing the end, but still had to deal with one of the steepest mountains in the Southeast. Here goes nothing.

No clear skies on Grandfather Mountain.

Last year we had climbed out of the sludge into the sun on Grandfather. Not this year. The entire climb was covered in fog, with a little bit of drizzle. To my surprise, it made it a little easier. Not being able to see the next steep pitch was psychologically soothing. We just had to grind out each hill, one at a time, then move onto the other one. Each steep hill hurt like madness. We just had to suck it up and try to keep pedaling.

I kept going, ever so slowly, just making my way closer to the top. John was pushing a bigger gear, so he would sometimes stand up and climb ahead of me. I stopped once along the way for a moment just to catch my breath. I believe John stopped a couple other times, but he did amazingly well for his first time. At the visitor center parking lot, I went on ahead, while he took his time. Everyone has to take this one at their own pace. He was fine.

Even though I couldn’t see them, I was relieved to arrive at the three switchbacks, because this meant the grade would temporarily lighten up to around 10%. What I forgot was what waited for me after that.

Last year I had turned a corner, looked to my left, and immediately stopped in shock at seeing a ramp left to climb. This year I could barely see two feet in front of my face, and forgot where it was. I turned that same corner, and kept climbing, then heard some cheering ahead as someone else finished. The road pitched up, and I realized this was it! The beastly, excruciatingly painful 20% ramp. I alternated standing up, sitting down, moving from side-to-side, doing everything I could to inch my way up that hill.

When I was almost to the finish line, I was able to make out the people. “You’re almost there!” someone yelled. They looked so close, yet they were still so far away. I stood up, and powered with every last bit of strength I had remaining. It wasn’t much and it hurt a ton, but I was done. Grandfather conquered again!

My final time was 6:45, better than last year. I was 145th overall. Even though this wasn’t my best day climbing, especially up 181, I was pleased with the result.

A huge hats off to all the organizers and volunteers. I cannot convey how great it feels to hear words of encouragement when climbing up the mountains. Whether that was at mile 50, 90, or 102, it was all appreciated. Thanks for keeping our hands full of bananas and water along the way, keeping us from having to stop. Thanks for spending your time on a crummy day supporting us and making this a great ride.

Strava GPS Link (elevation understated by Garmin errors)



Last year’s pictures

September 2012: The Last Hurrah

Last climb of Grandfather

While it is easy to get carried away with my distant 2013 plans, but there are still a few things to be done in the 2012 season. This September will be my biggest month of the year, with two of my A events taking place in the middle and end of the month.

First will be a tune-up to hopefully jump-start my fitness. This weekend will be the Tour de Paws outside of Spartanburg. It is a metric century with rolling hills, which is perfect at this point of my training. My plan will be to try and stay with the front pack. I haven’t been riding as strongly recently, so that might not work out. All that matters is that I get quality miles to prepare me for the following week.

After a short taper, I will be revisiting familiar ground. I’ll be back in Lenoir, NC for Bridge to Bridge. I have fond memories of climbing out of the clouds last year, but this time I am hoping for some better weather for the rest of the ride. I’m not thrilled about climbing Grandfather Mountain again, but I know that it can be done.

After that is a free weekend, and there is a slight chance that I’ll travel to Johnson City, TN for their Climbing for a Cause. This would be a good opportunity to check out some of the riding there, but it all depends on how fatigued and/or broke I’ll be that weekend.

The season capper will be a mammoth ride in Georgia. It will be my first attempt at Six Gap Century, which is often mentioned as one of the toughest rides in the southeast. I previewed some of the gaps not too long ago, including Hogpen Gap, which will be the toughest climb of the day.

Phew, I get tired even thinking about it. The good news is that my season officially ends after Six Gap. There will be some other events, but they are going to be casual rides. This will be the last that I ‘push it’ in 2012.