Riding in the mountains of Tiger, Georgia with my wife yesterday…
A bit of history first: I fell in love with cycling in the mountains the very first time I tried it – within a mile I knew I was doing something vastly more enjoyable than flatland cycling, which I already loved. Once I actually figured out how to climb a mountain road, well it was all over but the shouting at that point.
For the longest time I just accepted this love for riding in the mountains without bothering to “put a face on it” or attempting to figure it out in other words. It’s not that I didn’t care about the exact reason or the ‘why’ of it, the way I saw it, some things are better left undefined. The mystery became part of the fun of it. After all, what kind of nut likes the climbing a mountain on a bike? I’m one of those nuts, go figure.
So back to today and I’m on a nice leisurely ride with my wife, hitting switchbacks just a little too fast for comfort but not so fast as to be all that dangerous, whipping my bike back and forth negotiating the downhill turns. I thought about my last two solo rides bombing down the bigger mountain passes, then climbing our mountain road the first three days of our trip down here. I thought about how little protection there is, a tiny saddle with a couple of millimeters of padding to keep my butt where it belongs, my pedals that act as a pseudo seatbelt. And then the 23 millimeter tires between my bike and the road…
I thought about my goal for tomorrow – it’s a huge goal but not for length, I’ve ridden 83 times farther at one time than I will tomorrow. 83 times! But when I roll passed the finish tomorrow, I’ll be just as happy as if I’d ridden 125 miles. One mountain climb. 1.5 miles total, 1.2 miles of climbing, at an average grade of 18%.
The full picture took a minute to develop… Riding in the mountains is – let’s see… The ride is as long as I want to make it. There are no lines (there never are at the start of the extra mile) and no waits. There’s no overpriced food at every corner, no cheap commercial kiddie crap to be bought… There’s just me and the road. The only thing between me and utter exhilaration is my desire to turn that crank one more time. The only thing between sheer satisfaction and sitting on the couch with my thumb up my butt is to strap on a pair of shoes, snap on a helmet and pumping up a couple of tires…
Cycling in the mountains is like riding my own, personal roller coaster.
I set out this morning knowing that this was my last shot to climb the mountain pass to the house we’ve vacationed at for the last two years.
Last year I could only make it a quarter of a mile up the pass that, excluding to flat sections, averages 18% for somewhere between 1.1 and 1.2 miles. To put it mildly, it’s a bear to climb but I love a good challenge.
This year I managed about 1.1 miles of the 1.5 mile climb on one occasion and eight tenths the other two. Today was my last day in Georgia and my last shot. I skipped my morning sixteen miles so I’d have the best chance at making it to the top.
Mrs. Bgddy drove behind to offer support and snap a few photos to document the event:
I started out brilliantly, keeping my pace steady to keep my breathing steady and I was still in good shape at the one mile mark. It went downhill from there. I gave it everything I had and then a little bit more and I still came up a few hundred meters short. Fear got me. I was 150 meters into the last segment and I was starting to hyperventilate. The trick is, there’s no break in that last 400-500 meters. From where I was in that last photo, there’s nothing but up, 20-25%. My legs were already starting to shake and feel a bit gooey, my breathing was spiked and I was hurting bad… So I called it good. I had nothing left:
Pulling into the driveway I would be a liar to write that I was completely satisfied with my result, but I was and still am satisfied with my effort. I’ve never worked so hard to attain a fitness goal. I’ve never pushed myself that far… But it was still just a little short. Oh well, it’s all good. I sure had a blast trying this year and I still did about five times better than last year.
Running To Her Dreams bestowed upon me The Best Moment Award. This one comes with a simple set of rules but is heavy on the social implications…
“Awarding the people who live in the moment,
the noble who write and capture the best in life,
the bold who reminded us what really mattered –
Savoring the experience of quality time”
The only requirement that I could find (these awards vary) is to post a victory/acceptance speech of some sort (though I’ll nominate a few others later on in the post). Unfortunately, ex-drunks don’t do victory speeches for we are the lucky lot who understand that ultimately, victory is only achieved when one is fertilizing grass – on the wrong side… It can seem sad, if you choose to look at it like that – after all, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to say “I’ve made it”? Well, yes and no, but I don’t think I’m going to get into the philosophical meanderings today… I’m on vacation and I’m going to be busy having a whole entire day of best moments in about fifteen minutes starting with a bike ride, then the entire day on the lake and then a nice dinner out and an evening of cards.
I will, however, pen a quick acceptance speech. I accept the Best Moment award on behalf of ex-drunks everywhere who enjoy their new lives one day at a time. I am not special. I just don’t want to live in hell any more – and when a person can honestly recall what hell looks like, finding a Best Moment on an otherwise dull day is usually quite easy.
My special nominees:
The Springfield Cyclist, Tracy Wilkins
Aaron at Steep Climbs
Simone at meltdowntoironman
and Kevin at Cycling in NY
I may do an expanded list in the near future – there are quite a few more who inspire me, but I’ve gotta get rolling folks.
Today’s ride was all about speed. Top speed down hill, max speed climbing…
I took it pretty easy yesterday, in terms of pushing myself, and when I set out today I had every intention of doing the same but somewhere in the first mile something clicked and I decided to tear it up for the first twelve miles – absolutely as fast as I could manage. With all of the climbing, wet roads and switchbacks my normal 20 mph average is impossible (or idiotic, take your pick) but I did manage 17.5 over that twelve miles… Considering the fact that I’ve been between 12 & 14 with Mrs. Bgddy and 15 alone, a jump of 2-1/2 mph had me quite happy.
For the final four miles of the day I hit the main road that starts almost at the top of a nice hill. A short two minute climb to the top before I turn around and shoot down at just under 45 mph (44.5 today) before another short climb, a descent (38 mph), another climb and then the last decent down to the marina (33 mph). At the bottom, I turn around and head back to round out a nice 16 miles.
Generally speaking I’d have liked to have gone on a long ride or two but to be honest, we’ve spent so much time on the lake, swimming, tubing and generally horsing around that I’ve had no desire to wear myself out. After all, I love riding but I’m not missing flying through the air on a tube behind a boat for the nap required after a fifty miler in the mountains:
To round the week out I’m going on an easy ride tomorrow and then for Saturday I’ve just got 1.5 miles on the agenda – straight up our mountain.
I so needed this.
I don’t know how to take the “listen to your body” people. Sometimes that point actually does make a little bit of sense… Until you really break it down into what that saying means.
As an example of what I’m getting at here, let’s say I’m riding a 4-minute mile (15 mph average) on my road bike, ten miles a day a few days a week and that gets me winded and sore. Should I listen to my body and take a few days off?
Uh, no. Maybe, just maybe, I should listen to my body and get that bike to the shop for a proper fitting because you’re not supposed to be that uncomfortable on your bike. I’d be willing to bet my lunch that in the vast majority of cases, the interpretation of what the body is saying is the problem, not what the body is “telling me”. Now there are limits of course, but the question is this: Am I really at the limit in the first place?
For instance, I took a day off on Thursday for the drive down to Georgia. Then I took Friday off because we got in at noon and took the boat out on the lake for a bit of swimming and tubing. I rode on Saturday and attempted one of the hardest climbs I’ve ever done – it was a short ride, just 16 miles, but I got in a heck of a workout in those 16 miles. Then I took Sunday off for rain. I rode again on Monday and Tuesday, attempting my nemesis road both times at the end. For the rest of the day yesterday we were out in the sun, swimming, tubing and generally having about as much fun as two families can have on vacation. This morning I’m just a little bit sore. So, should I “listen to my body” and take a day off, chilling indoors and sleeping?
If you answered yes, I weep for you. This is the time to pull a Jensie! “Shut up legs, and by the way, we’re going even farther today and you’re going to like it. Then we’re going back out on the lake after we take a bit of a bath in a vat of sunscreen and we’re going to tube and swim and have about as much fun as two families can have on vacation again“.
The point is, and I really don’t know how to put this delicately… While I must listen to my body, I must always remember that I’m the boss and while taking it easy now and again is allowed, I mustn’t fall prey to confusing “listening to my body” with my melon trying to convince me that “this is good enough”. If I’m not completely wiped out after a workout at least two or even three times a week, it most certainly is not “good enough” – and my body won’t be telling me to take it easy, that would be that lazy sliver of crap left in my brain that I still haven’t managed to squash yet.
17 miles. Max speed 42.7 mph. 1,200 feet of climbing. Satisfaction.
Gotta run, the lake is calling my name.
Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I took to my favorite mountain pass again today – only this time I increased my ride by four miles and increased my speed by about 2-1/2 mph over yesterday’s attempt. I took it easy on the last few miles to rest up for the big climb: 700 feet over 3/4 mile or just under 18% average with two flats that make up the rest of the 1.1 mile trip up the mountain.
This time I remembered why I had so much trouble at the beginning of the climb. That first quarter of a mile is a pain in the butt after a good hard ride. I froze for a split second before I started winding the legs up. This time I didn’t stop for a breather either, I just took it really slow on the flatter sections to catch my breath… And I proceeded to blow up in the exact same spot. I just couldn’t get passed it with the worst yet to come. It’s just too much cowbell.
So I’ll try it again tomorrow. Oh, and I realized a little bit late again, that I’m operating at 2,500 feet above sea level instead of 700 feet. I don’t know if this would make a difference really, but it sure feels like it does – the muscles are more than willing, I just can’t get my breathing to match up. Ah well, it sure beats a swift kick in the teeth. I love cycling in the mountains.
On vacation, we’re staying in a house that has dish service rather than cable. Unfortunately the only channel that happens to be carrying the Tour is a subscription channel on the dish and we don’t get it. Having not seen any coverage since we left, I was missing it terribly. I tried Googling ‘TdF live streaming’ and much to my surprise, there’s an app for that. It cost me ten bucks but I’ve been able to watch both stages since I bought it and I’m getting my fix in… Awesome!
Watching the 100th running of the Tour de France on my phone: Priceless!
We’re vacationing in the same house that we did last year, on the highest mountain above Lake Burton, in Tiger, GA. I tried riding up the road to the house we’re staying in two or three times last year but ended up walking after only a quarter mile. The grade borders on ridiculous. A few 1/4 to 1/2 mile stretches above 20%. It’s a monster and last year, even in my granny gear (30-25) I got to a point where I couldn’t turn the pedals so I had to walk it.
When we drove up it on arriving Friday morning I couldn’t help but wonder what the hell I was thinking even trying to climb that damn thing in the first place.
Then Mrs. Bgddy and I went for our daily ride yesterday and the fact that I couldn’t make it up the mile and a half started eating at me. By the end of our ride there was nothing going to keep me from trying again.
I informed the Misses that I’d be giving it a go and asked her to drive behind me in case I needed a ride (didn’t wany to walk the damn thing again), packed her bike on the bike rack, and hit it. I cruised by the first rise that blew me up last year with a wry grin stretched across my face. “Keep the cadence steady, not too fast”, I thought… I just kept moving. At about a half mile there’s a nice flat spot that allowed me to catch my breath (and I stopped a couple of other times on flatter spots for a breather).. I made it a little more than a mile of the mile and a half before I’d finally had enough. My legs were jello, my breathing, well let’s just say I can’t ever remember breathing that hard. 7 mph on a mountain had me breathing harder that 28 in a pack of animals. I think that’s the nature of the beast though, and what makes climbing so much fun… There isn’t a whole lot of room for error when it comes to a really steep climb – and later on, after the feeling has returned to your legs, you can’t help but feel awesome. Thankfully Mrs. Bgddy was thinking on her feet and snapped a few pictures:
Vacations for me suck. They’re a blast but I almost always have a mess waiting for me when I get back that takes a month to sort out. This year is even worse than normal. I actually thought about sending my wife and kids down alone so I could tend to work. I threw that in the garbage where it belongs and headed down to Georgia anyway…
Every once in a while you need a piece of paradise.