Some days you ride just to go fast. Some days you ride just to enjoy the beauty of the day.
The best days are when both just happen.
For the last several weeks I was planning for a weekend event. My team and I got right to it when our guest began to arrive on Friday. We worked late into Friday evening and then started all over again on Saturday morning. Then I enjoyed going to a nephews wedding, but that led to another late evening.
Sunday didn’t find me out on the roads. With Sunday services at my church and an afternoon visit with the in-laws, I was unable to get in the saddle until late that evening when I worked a little to calibrate my Wahoo Kickr trainer to work with Zwift.
Monday evening I once again had an evening obligation. Once again I was mounting up on the trainer for a late evening spin. Thanks to a new chain from Sunshine Cycle Shop my Kickr experience was the best yet. Still, I was getting very tired of my basement and was longing for the road.
So, on Tuesday I took the afternoon off from work. While I typically will ride my bicycle from my home to my target destination, this day I loaded up my bicycle and headed to the intersection of Highway 178 and Highway 11. My goal was to ride up to the top of Sassafras Mountain and then on up to the Continental Divide just past the South Carolina/North Carolina border. From there it would be a relatively easy descent back to the truck.
Wow! It was awesome! The day was beautiful with temperatures in the upper 70s. While the wind picked up later in the ride, the breeze was welcome as I began the climb and for the most part the mountains and trees surrounded me sheltered me from strong gusts.
I will admit that I turned onto the road to begin my climb of Sassafras with some trepidation. This climb is a killer! 4.4 miles up an average of 8%. Notice I said average… As you climb up the 1,764 feet to the top, you hit stretches with grades up to 20%! My goal was not to get a PR… my goal was just to keep from getting off the bicycle.
Thankfully, my Felt F1 was up to the challenge. That 32 tooth sprocket in the back really came in handy on the first first wall I hit. I felt like I was just creeping along (probably because I was). However, I was able to keep the pedals spinning around and finally made it to the overlook without having once come to a standstill.
Then it was time to have the joy of descending what I just suffered to ascend. It was so much fun to let the bike run. I only wish the ride down could have lasted as long as the ride up. Where I creeped up earlier, I hit the speed of 59 mph at one point.
Then with Sassafras out of the way, I headed up to my next objective: the Continental Divide. Had I more time I would have continued on to Rosman. However, the divide would be a good target and would allow me to get back to the truck in time.
It was at that stage that wattage, speed, and anything to record went out the window. I was just enjoying the sounds and scenes around me. Traffic was nearly non-existent and other than a single cyclist who I saw descending as I climbed, I basically had the road to myself.
I then took a break at the birdshot scared sign marking the point where water made the choice to flow to the Atlantic or the Mississippi. I was happy to think that like the water, I was going to have gravity give me a hand on my way back to the origin of my adventure. I let the brake loose and carved my way to the finish.
Frankly, I didn’t feel that great about the ride. Sassafras seemed like a complete failure. I knew I wasn’t putting out much wattage and that meant there was no way I could have been going quickly. My mind went to Strava and I recalled that the last time I descended 178 I was with another rider and that should have given me better times.
When I got home and uploaded the data, I titled the ride, “The ride on which I prove I am getting old!” I then looked at the dashboard to find 25 trophies. Granted, the vast majority of those were duplicate segments (a topic for another day), but there were a good number of PRs there… including my climb up Sassafras.
Yes, I was slow compared to the dozens of riders ahead of me on the leaderboard, but I beat my previous PR (back in 2011) by three minutes. The same thing showed up on my descent off of 178. The little PR trophies sprinkled down the segment list. I guess I’m not feeling the effects of age quite as much as I thought.
At the time, I was trying to pick myself up by thinking, “Well, some times you just ride because of the beauty of the day.” My competitive nature replied, “Yeah, but some times you just ride to go fast!” It struck me then that the two are not mutually exclusive and there are those rare times when you can live out both of those objectives at the same time. The best days are when you start out targeting one of them and end up accomplishing both.