Tag Archives: table rock

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

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Table Rock Weekend, 2012

Months ago, Neil Turner mentioned what might have been the best idea I have heard this year. He suggested renting some cabins one weekend, a few weeks before Mitchell, and getting a large group of people to ride their bikes all over the mountains for two or three days straight. He would coordinate the activities and more importantly, the food. Fortunately he had enough interest and began planning. As he put it, this weekend has occupied his thoughts for the last couple months. I hope he wasn’t too stressed about it, but whatever he did, it worked out like a charm. Thanks Neil for putting everything together. It was a tremendous weekend.

Because this was such a big weekend, I will divide it into two posts. This post will be about the cabins, the people and yes, the food. The next post will be about the wonderful rides.

The People:

Neil was our gracious host and coordinated pretty much everything. He even stayed away from many of the rides, which was unfortunate since is one of the most enthusiastic climbers, but he was content being the domestique on this trip.

John from Columbia brought a lot of experience with him, along with a disdain for dogs, descents and ‘cookie’ rides.

Janet from Greenville was relatively new to cycling, but brought a lot of swimming experience and some positive energy.

Much of the group was from Lumberton, NC. I had ridden with Tom * Mary before, randonneur extraordinaires! We also had Jim and Maria Parker, co-founder and proud riders of Cruz recumbent bicycles. Finally we had Matt, another mountain goat, and his wife Debbie, a multi-athlete who is not ashamed to mix femininity with athleticism.

Finally we had Dr. Bill from Spartanburg, a cheerful mountaineer, and his wife Becky, who offered to let me use her personal wifi.

We had a guest appearance on Saturday and Sunday from Tom of Greenville, who joined me for a Saturday spin and the rest of us for the Sunday ride.

The Food:

Included in the price of the cabin was all the food and drink one could consume. Given all the calories we were burning this weekend, that was a tall order, but fortunately the supplies did not come close to running out.

The first evening’s dinner was what Neil described as ‘Hobo Food.’ He built a fire and kept it aflame during a brief rainstorm. After the weather cleared, he served a number of vegetables, potatoes, ground beef, and heads of cabbage. The idea was to use the cabbage as an outer shell, add ingredients and spices inside, and then cover them with aluminum foil. The last task was to make a handle out of the foil and place it into the fire for 30 minutes. I halfway expected a burnt mess after removing mine carefully from the fire. Instead I found an unusually delicious meal.

Neil offered us a number of breakfast choices for Saturday morning. I had a bagel and bananas, wanting to eat quick before I left for Walhalla. Afterward he would cook pancakes to pre-fuel the other riders.

Saturday night was meat and veggie lasagna. It was heavy, sure, but just what the doctor ordered after we spent a day in the saddle.

Sunday morning before we had to check out, Neil spoiled us yet again. This time we had bagels again, fruit, and then he made eggs, potatoes, and sausage links. I ate a lot more than I should have, again replenishing the calories burnt the day before and stuffing myself for the upcoming rides.

We also had beer, soft drinks, and pretty much anything we could have hoped for.

The Entertainment:

Most of our entertainment was in the form of cycling or relaxing, so we had little need for anything else. I joked to Neil that since he was providing everything else, maybe he should do a song and dance routine in the evening. He assured (or promised?) us that would not happen. Most of our evenings were spent enjoying company, having a couple drinks, and turning in early. After all, we were universally exhausted from the main events, all of which took place in the mountains.

More on that soon.

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Push It Real Good

What a crazy weekend. The aftermath of the newspaper debacle was quite interesting. The article that I discussed in my Tour de Lake recap did not get published in the paper. To my surprise, it was chopped up and anchored another, larger article that was all about the weekend’s events. They chopped almost everyone besides me, then took my comments further. My “push it” became a transition theme for other parts of the article.

That article was published on the front page of the metro section.

I know, groan. A misstatement that I hoped would be forgotten wound up front and center.

While it was somewhat embarrassing, it was also funny as can be. This entire week I’ve been playfully razzed about it.

My wife had the funniest comment. When I linked the article on my Facebook, she responded with “PUSH IT REAL GOOD!,” calling back Salt n’ Pepa. A friend of mine also linked it with the comment “Push, Aaron, Push.” People at work had even more fun with it. They said I should change my ringtone to the Salt n’ Pepa song.

My co-worker's clip art: "Aaron & Salt n Pepa says to Push It!"

This morning at work I found this clever message waiting for me. It took me awhile to figure out who it was, and when I did, I congratulated them. It made me laugh and I’ll keep it there.

Speaking of pushing it, that’s what I am doing this weekend. This will be my final push in Mount Mitchell Training. Tomorrow I am headed to Table Rock State Park. I’ll be joined by about a dozen other cyclists who will use the park as a base for rides on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I’ll be skipping out on Saturday’s ride to participate in Issaqueena’s Last Ride out of Walhalla, NC. The route for Friday and Sunday are up in the air, but hopefully long, easy climbing rides.

As I was wrapping up around the office and telling people goodbye for the long weekend, one of my co-workers looked up. “Have a good time in the mountains,” she said and nonchalantly added, “and don’t forget to push it.”

I’ll push it real good.