Tag Archives: peak

Tour de Midlands, 2012, Lexington, SC

At last year’s Spring Valley Presbyterian Church ride, my intent was to ride with the lead pack. That plan quickly evaporated when a small pack stormed out of the gates and vanished out of sight. I’ve always been a slow warmer and wasn’t ready to chase. It turns out I couldn’t have caught them anyway. I found out later that was the JB Express.

Jeff Brandenburg is a local Iron Man triathlete and one of the strongest riders around. He once finished Assault on Mount Mitchell in the top ten. He prefers to ride in his aerobars in the lead. He rides so fast that others do not complain. They are fine riding in his draft.

For this year’s Tour de Midlands, my last big ride before Mitchell, I knew that the JB Express would be riding out front. My plan was to try and stick with them as long as possible. I also didn’t want to burn myself up too much. With 9 days until Mitchell, I wanted to keep something in reserve.

In the first few miles of the ride, we somehow missed a turn. We ended up at a dead end and had to circle back to the other riders. We then missed another turn and frankly had no idea where we were going. We were sitting in the middle of an intersection, looking at cue sheets, trying to figure it out where in the world we were. Finally one of the SAG vehicles pointed us in the right direction. Even then we weren’t sure. Another rider who seemed to know what he was talking about pointed us in another direction. We took his advice and got there all the same, but that splintered the pack and slowed us down somewhat.

As we crossed over the dam and headed towards Peak, I started to ease in. My heart rate was in zone three and I was comfortably cruising along at a fast pace. Jeff is training for Ironman Coeur d’Alene. His goal was to keep his wattage steady in the low 200s for the entire ride. That meant that although he was riding fast, the effort should be consistent. That was the case most of the time. I noticed that we took hills comfortably, maybe even a little slow. The only time it was a struggle was after cornering, where sometimes I would have to sprint quickly to catch back on.

My one worry was fueling. I had plenty of food, but only two bottles of water. Hydration was going to become an issue at some point. Jeff wouldn’t stop, but as luck would have it, we encountered a train crossing at the Little Mountain rest stop, which allowed us to refill our bottles.

I watched the miles tick by, amazed that I was able to keep up. We passed the 60 mile marker, then 70 miles, 80, and then made the turn back towards Lexington to take this thing home.

At mile 90, Jeff surprisingly moved off the front and Gordon took over. I didn’t know Gordon too well, but assumed he would be keeping the same pace. Umm, no. I hardly noticed the extra effort until we hit a section of hills. All of a sudden my heart rate started rising and wasn’t getting an opportunity to recover. It turns out Gordon is a Cat-2 racer and he was tearing us up. With every hill it hurt more and more.

At mile 96, we hit the toughest hill in the stretch. Mark, who was riding in front of me, gave up midway through the climb. He dropped and motioned me to go by him, and I tried, but the gap had developed and I didn’t have the energy to close. After cresting the hill, the gap had extended. I pushed to try to catch it, burning the last of my remaining energy. The pack was slowed at an intersection and I caught them briefly, but had already spent my last match and didn’t stay on long.

Phew. I was exhausted and not too disappointed to ride in alone at my own pace. My speed average dropped a little bit and I ended with a 21.5 average, which is close to my personal best for a century.

Strava GPS Link


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


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