Tag Archives: rosman

Table Rock Weekend, 2012, The Rides

The weekend was foremost about the rides, and we had a lot to choose from. My goal was to ride and climb as much as possible. This would be my last big training weekend before buckling down and getting set for Mitchell. This was also my weekend to complete the Strava Climbing Challenge (which I did – woohoo!).

People arrived at different times on Friday, so the idea was to split up the group rides into short loops at different times of day. I arrived early enough for the first loop, which would head up Caesar’s Head Mountain. On the way back we stopped at Bald Rock, somewhere I had passed curiously multiple times without stopping. It was cool to finally see what the big deal was. This was a vast slab of rock that curves downward. A few of us took off our cleats and walked carefully in bare feet towards the rocky edge. The view was startling scary — almost straight down. It looked like streets below the rock, but it was just more rock. The entire slab had spray-paint graffiti everywhere. Wherever the eye traveled, it would learn about some young couple’s love for each other.

The Lumberton crew arrived in the afternoon. They wanted to ride Caesar’s Head, so we did it again. Why not, eh? I needed the climbing anyway. For the first loop I rode up casually. The second time I pushed a little more, talking about mountain adventures with Matt from Lumberton. We didn’t stop on the way down. When I noticed that Jim of CruzBike had a recumbent, I was at first nervous. Would that thing be able to climb, and more importantly, could it safely descend? He assured me not to worry, and I was surprised by how well he did. He was just behind me on the climb and the descent. I couldn’t help but notice how he powered over the rolling hills below the mountain, the same ones that stopped the rest of us in our tracks.

On day two I was off to Walhalla for Issaqueena’s Last Ride. The rest of them did a monster ride from Table Rock that went into Rosman, up 215 to the Blue Ridge Parkway, back down 276 to Brevard, and then back to Table Rock. It sounded glorious. I wish I had enough time and legs to do both. You can read John’s summary of that ride at his blog.

The group was not yet back after I returned from Issaqueena. As a coincidence, I saw Tom riding while I was entering the park. He was just swinging by to say hello. Since I wanted a little more riding, we did a little loop around the rolling hills up towards Caesar’s Head. He had to ride home to Greenville, so we parted ways about mid-way and I followed Highway 11 back to the park.

On all three loops to that point, I had taken the hard way back into Table Rock. From the lodge entrance are some tough climbs, some of which reach grades toward the high teens. They all hurt after riding up a mountain. Having not learned my lesson, I chose to take the hard way after my loop with Tom. It was excruciating and I swore not to do it again. The back entrance was far easier, with just a couple moderate climbs.

Sunday was another big loop. This one took us up Highway 178 into Rosman, along the gorgeous East Fork Road and then the backside of Caesar’s Head. Everyone was spent for this ride. We practically grunted and groaned our way up the 178 climbs. I was so committed to riding recovery pace that I didn’t even wear my heart rate monitor. I just took it easy the entire way, spinning at a comfortable and not too painful cadence.

At the Rosman store stop someone mentioned we were going to ride up something called ‘Big Hill.’ They asked if I had been there. I’ve been on lots of big hills, I joked. Which one were they talking about? As Neil put it, I would remember it had I been there. As always, Neil was right as rain.

We traveled down the scenic East Fork Road, which followed a river stream to our right. We encountered a number of fishermen along the way. There was one instance where John yelled “Road Kill!” real loud to alert us of a carcass in the road. Right as he said that, we passed a father and son, who immediately turned. I saw the poor kid’s face turn to fear, as he thought John was calling him road kill. It was sad and funny at the same time. Poor kid.

East Fork was a peaceful, flat ride. I could have sworn I had been on that road before. I still think I had, but clearly not to the very end. I had not been on big hill.

It started with a bang, probably around 16-18%. On my tired legs, that felt like 30%. I stood up and tried to power through it, using my upper body strength to pull on the handlebars and relieve pressure on my legs. It leveled off a little bit to a more manageable 6-8% grade. Phew. I could handle this. Right about the time I started to get comfortable, Neil looked at me and said “this is where it makes you think you’ve done something.” Uh oh. He was right. After we turned the corner, it pitched up again to the high teens and stayed there. I slowly tried to make my way up. In the last 50 feet there looked to be a docile dog on the left side of the road. As I got closer, he showed his fangs and started to chase, forcing me to pick up the pace. Oww. I gunned it and was at the top before I knew it. The dog didn’t chase.

When I got to the top, I saw why they call it ‘Big Hill.’ At the top is the entrance to the Big Hill subdivision.

As we climbed Caesar’s Head, the easy way (ha!), I just tried to keep a decent pace and get through it. John was behind me for part of that climb and he thought I was trying to drop him. Nope. I was just trying to hang on myself.

What a weekend. In total I rode 248 miles and climbed 22,000 feet in the three days. Thanks again Neil for putting it all together. We had a fantastic time.

Strava links:
Friday Caesar’s Head loops
Saturday evening Table Rock ride
Sunday Table Rock to Rosman Loop


Assault on the Carolinas, 2012, Brevard, NC

Caesar's Head conquered!

Hello again, Assault on the Carolinas. Last year I estimated (possibly incorrectly) 1,000 riders. This year they stopped registration at 1,000 and the event was sold out.

Having done this last year, I knew what to expect. Again, the city of Brevard welcomed us warmly, cheered us on, directed us through traffic, supported us at rest stops, provided good food and music, and generally gave us a good time. Of all bike rides I’ve been on, this one makes me feel the most pampered. The weather was very similar to last year as well, only without the threat of rain. It would be clear skies all day with a cool start and a warm finish.

What was different was me, the rider. I have improved quite a bit in the last year. Not to mention, a lot of the roads that were new to me last year are now somewhat familiar. While the initial wow factor might not have been there, I will always appreciate the beauty of the area.

The ride started without a hitch. I positioned myself as close to the front as possible, which turned out to be about middle of the pack. In the early going I found myself boxed in quite a bit. There were riders of all paces, some of which who were blocking the road. I had to break my golden rule and go outside the yellow line a few times. I hated doing it, but I knew that traffic was well controlled.

The first major challenge was Walnut Hollow Road. A lot had been talked about last year and I remember thinking it was not so bad. For some reason on this day, it was much tougher. Perhaps it was because I had not tapered in the week prior, but my legs felt like bricks on the climb. Oddly enough, my time last year was better, so maybe all the mileage over the last week took a toll.

From there we skirted Rosman and hitched onto Highway 178 South across the Eastern Continental Divide, through Rocky Bottom, SC. Knowing the roads here made a big difference. I knew that the mini-climbs were difficult and I was able to anticipate them. Knowing the descents made a big difference as well, as I felt a lot more comfortable and was able to let fly. We passed Bob’s Place with his Road Kill Grill (the oldest continuously operating beer joint in SC, according to Wikipedia), and then continued descending into South Carolina.

From here we navigated the rolling hills around Pumpkintown and assembled a pace group of sorts. I felt great in this stretch. The rolling hills would splinter the group and I found myself pulling quite a bit. As we approached Caesar’s Head Mountain, I decided to ease off and make sure I was recovered before the big climb.

As we turned onto Caesar’s Head, there was some sort of accident that may have involved a car and a bike. Not wanting to rubberneck or obstruct the scene, I didn’t meander to find out what happened. Hopefully everyone involved is okay.

(edit: This was posted on a friend’s Facebook page: A motorist was passing two cars on a double yellow line He clipped an ATOC rider doing about 60 trying to get back in his lane due to oncoming traffic the guy started to leave the scene but was chased down by some Carmichael riders. He received an assortment of tickets for his actions. The rider worked for Carmichael and does not have any broken bones. He lost about three square feet of skin due to road rash. His bike is in pieces but he is great.)

There is the old adage (aka cliche) in cycling that it never gets easier, you just get faster. That was certainly true today. Caesar’s Head was a beast and played its share of tricks. I had just been here a couple months ago, but today it really took a toll. I felt strong in the early going and was able to pass much of my riding group. I continued up the mountain at a decent pace, and then over time I began to tire and just grunt through it.

With a couple miles left in the climb, I encountered the flat section. I love the flat section. It gives me a chance to recover and allows me to pick up some speed. As much as I love the flat, I hate the part that comes immediately afterward. This is where the mountain is the steepest. Grades here are above the 10% range, which really hurts when you’ve been riding up a mountain for miles.

In time I made it to the top. Despite all the pain, this was a personal best for me. I know that I can do better with more rest and better fueling, and I’m sure to get the chance.

I have already been on the summit of Caesar’s Head Mountain a few times, but believe it or not, have never been to the overlook. This time I decided to change that and gave myself a moment to enjoy the view of Table Rock Mountain and the gorgeous countryside below.

From there came the last stretch. I shot out by myself, enjoyed the moderate descent off the backside of the mountain and rode into a pretty tough headwind for a few miles of Highway 276. As I was beginning to tire, a pair of cyclists passed me and I jumped on their wheel. This was just what I needed to jump start my energy. We rode together for a few miles, descended back towards Brevard and passed See Off Mountain.

I crossed the finish line with a time of just over 4 hours. I beat my time from last year by an hour (I had stopped a lot) and a full mile per hour.

Thank you Brevard for showing us such a great time!

Strava GPS Link


Back to the Parkway

I began increasing volume a couple weeks ago, going from right around 100 miles per week to above 200 miles. This past week turned out to be my heaviest workload yet, with 270+ miles between Saturday and Thursday. These were not easy miles either. My ‘recovery’ ride on Wednesday ended up with me fighting a 15 mph headwind up steep hills and running out of gas.

The plan for Saturday was to head back to the parkway and then Richland Balsam Mountain from the Holly Springs, Pickens area just north of Greenville, including the lengthy climb up Highway 215, which I had never attempted before. This would usually be the perfect excursion for me, if not for my wasted legs. Trying to climb with all that volume would be a first for me. I relaxed on Friday and spent a little extra time massaging my sore muscles via a foam roller.

The climbing began almost immediately. We started on Highway 178, crossing Highway 11, and headed towards Rosman via Rocky Bottom. I had been there once before when climbing Sassafras Mountain. Thankfully that behemoth was not on the menu today. 178 is not a difficult climb, but my legs said otherwise on this day. My legs felt like they were lined with bricks, barely moving. With every pitch, I became slower and slower, struggling to turn the pedals, grimacing with pain all the while. Was this the way the entire day would be?

Fortunately the 178 climbs are not terribly long. There are a few breaks with descents and that helped give my muscles some recovery time. My legs would scream every time the road pitched up.

I’m usually headstrong and rarely a quitter, but during those first 1,000 feet of climbing, I seriously considered turning back. I wasn’t sure I had the constitution to get myself up the epic climb ahead. I put off that decision until I could take no more. Fortunately that moment never occurred.

We passed through Rosman and my legs were finally getting warm. I was able to sprint and sustain 23-24 mph on a slight downhill, which is slower than usual, but good for that day.

The next climb would be Highway 215, one that I had heard about a number of times, but for some reason had never attempted. It starts out with rolling terrain and a few easy mini-climbs. The gorgeous views helped me forget my muscular woes. In the early going we were riding between rock formations while overlooking the French Broad River a few hundred feet below. We lost the river as we climbed higher, but then we had distant mountains and scenic vistas from above, eye candy of all sorts.

The big climb began just after a trout hatchery. It was right around seven miles and we obtained about 2,500 feet in elevation. It was not as difficult as I had been led to believe. It reminded me of a slightly more difficult Caesar’s Head Mountain. Most of the grades were in the 6-8% variety, with occasional easier and steeper sections. Even though I had not climbed this particular road, a lot of the far off landmarks looked familiar. It became a game to try and recognize them, and I don’t mind that I was wrong probably 99% of the time.

I felt great when I reached the Blue Ridge Parkway. From here it would just be a short trip, maybe 800 feet total of climbing, until we reached Richland Balsam Mountain, a familiar site that I’m always pleased to visit. The problem was the nasty weather up top. We saw a number of ugly looking fast-moving storm clouds, threatening to get in our way. We weren’t too worried about thunder or lightning, but rather cold. With a forecast in the upper 70s, we were not appropriately dressed for mountain rain. The wind was already plenty cold. Rain would be excruciating.

We plodded along until we saw a huge storm that looked to be consuming the Balsam peak. Gary wisely suggested calling the rest of the climb off. I and the others agreed. We’ve all been there before and will visit again.

After passing back through Rosman, we still had some climbs remaining. I had forgotten from the way up that 178 had some nice descents. Those are not as nice going back up. To my surprise, these mini-climbs were on the steep side, sometimes above 10%. My muscles protested, but did enough work to get me over and back home. Despite my difficulties in getting warmed up, climbing back to the mountains was definitely worth it. Next time I’ll taper a little more.


Strava GPS Link