Category Archives: Rides

Planning the Tour La France

It is Thursday again, so I have to put up a Throw Back Thursday blog post. I don’t want to end it there because it is almost that time for the Tour De France. This year I have my designs on my own ride… Tour La France.

First the TBT post…

cf-lgI’m Back was published in early July 2007. It tells the story of my first ever century ride. Like many of my rides, it was solo. That week was also a time for me to post a review on my first ever Garmin in Riding with the Edge. It was the Garmin Edge 305.

That’s where I’ve been. Now for where I’m going…

Each month Strava presents challenges for users to aim for. There are typically challenges for climbing, distance, and sometimes time. Then there are those “Adventures” they throw in now and again… like the one below.

The next time you set out for a long ride, check out the country road you’ve been meaning to try but haven’t made time for, have a friend show you a whole new area, or just ride until you get yourself lost.

Whatever you do, go on an adventure and try something new. Record your ride – which must be at least three hours long – and snap a few photos along the way. If you love to write, send us the story of your adventure . We’ll feature our favorite adventure tales on the Strava Blog and send the lucky author a pack full of Strava gear.

With July underway, I figured I’d better get busy on my challenges! It would be nice to knock a couple of them out at the same time. I’d need to ride 80 miles to get the Gran Fondo 130 badge. The Adventure Challenge needs to be over three hours. Those two I could combine, but the Alpe d’hues Climbing Challenge doesn’t start until later in the month.

Adventure-cycling-2-v1Actually, the biggest challenge would be finding “the country road you’ve been meaning to try but haven’t made time for.” Knocking off an 80 mile route wouldn’t be that hard. I could ride up to East Flat Rock and back and be done with it. The problem is I’ve done that plenty of times.

So I turned to another Strava feature. I’d try out their Route Builder. It is a beta feature that I had tried before and did not like. The route tracing tool was clunky and it kept trying to take me ways I didn’t want.

However, that was sometime ago. I figured I would give it another try and aim down toward Anderson. While I have ridden that direction before, I could probably count them on one hand. This is more uncharted territory for me.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 8.33.47 AMAs I looked at the map, I noticed a tiny “town” called La France. I chuckled. That would be a good route to ride during July. I’d call it my Tour La France.

The initial problem was that a direct shot there and back would not equal 80 miles. I started playing with the mapping tool by grabbing waypoints and moving them to other sections of road I found interesting. This time the tool was working.

By playing around and expanding the “loop” from Greenville to La France, I was able to equal 80 miles. While I doubt it will take me the 5.5 hours that the software says I’ll need, I’m certain I’ll get in the 3 hours required for the Adventure Challenge.

Yes, I’ll be taking some photos and video. I’ll obviously write about it as well. I’m not expecting to  win “a pack full of Strava gear.”

Anyone interested in coming along? It would be a self-supported ride and I’d probably average 16 – 18 mph. I can be flexible on the actual day — except for Sunday.

Bicycle Therapy

Monday morning was a busy one. In addition to the typical desk work, I was out looking for new office space for Worthwhile. Lunch was spent with our Worthwhile accountant and then it was back to the desk to continue the morning flow. I had lots of numbers and decisions floating around in my head.

Around 3:30 PM I got a call from Sunshine Cycle Shop. Neal was letting me know that the Felt AR was ready. I dropped it off earlier to have my TT bars mounted on it. Since I got the Felt F1, I had not touched the AR. I thought maybe if I switched it up, I might be drawn to ride it a bit more.

I decided to take a break and headed home in the bimmer to get the Honda Pilot. I’d need it to haul the bike. Bikes have found their ways into the back seat of the BMW when I have the top down, but not today.

I pulled into the driveway to find the Pilot in front of me. The brake lights were on. “Hmmmm,” I thought to myself, “The Beautiful Redhead must have just gotten back from somewhere… or maybe she is getting ready to go somewhere” I waited to get an idea of her intentions.

The reverse lights came on and I got my answer. I leaned out the window to get her attention. We often do switches between the cars as we only have a single narrow drive. As the Pilot began to reverse, that is what I thought she was wanting to do. I stuck my head out the window to get her attention to let her know I didn’t want to switch, I wanted to trade.


Well, about that time, the truck accelerated and before I could get my hand down to the shifter, the truck plowed into the front grill of the little red car. My first response was disbelief. “What is she doing!?!” I exclaimed. “What was she thinking!?!”

Turns out it wasn’t the Beautiful Redhead, but Thing One. She hopped out of the truck saying, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” Later I learned that she wasn’t using the back up camera and that the bimmer was not showing in the rearview mirror. She also was looking right and left to see if there were cars coming down the road. Of course, she obviously wasn’t checking her side mirrors nor did she pay attention the proximity alert.

I won’t belabor that experience. The point is, I did manage to take the (miraculously) undamaged Pilot to pick up the bike and then head to finish my day at work. Sometime after 5 PM, I headed home and had dinner with the family. I finished up and headed to change. I needed some bicycle therapy.

It was one of those rides where I was pushing out of the gate. Leaving home and heading down East North Street to Pete Hollis, I was averaging 20 mph by the time I reached Old Buncombe Road. As I neared Furman, I started to ease up a little bit. I was going to try a segment there and didn’t want to be too winded.

I let myself loose on the attempt. The frustrations and questions of the day channeled from my mind into the legs. I let the pent up energy fuel my effort. It was good to let it go until I hit the point of exhaustion.

That done, I headed out to Little Texas. I was going to do a preliminary run on a different segment to get an idea of what I would need to do to make a run at the KOM. It was there on Little Texas I saw the sun breaking around some clouds on the horizon. I stopped the bicycle and just watched it unfold.

By this time and in this moment, thoughts of what had happened during the day disappeared. There was actually joy in my heart. I am truly blessed with a wonderful family, health, and the ability to enjoy what God has created.


The effort on the new segment didn’t go that well. My legs were definitely used up on that earlier attempt. I rode easily back toward home still noticing the changing sky.

Wow, what a difference a ride makes! Even this morning I have the scene of that sun creating silver and gold linings behind a dark cloud. I know that this is much like life. I have my dark clouds with which to deal, but I know that the Son is always shining for me.

By the way, I got that KOM on the first effort.

Beat by the heat

I’ve not once in my life been drunk, but this morning I woke up with a hangover. My morning motivated wife’s alarm went off and sounded like it’s volume was turned up to 11. It felt like strands of muscles starting at my shoulders and stretching over to my forehead were in a state of cramping. The light coming on was the final straw. I put the pillow over my head.

So, for this teetotaler, how did I end up feeling this way? It had to be last evenings ride. It was a painful experience and I’m still feeling it this morning.

I went out after work to check out a Strava segment that had been pointed out to me. It was one along a route I infrequently ride, and I not once have attempted it at speed. I figured I would try it a couple of times before to get a feel for how to approach it when capturing my video for the YouTube Strava Segment series.

On the way out it was nearly 95 degrees even though the sun was getting lower on the horizon. By the time I reached the location of the segment thirty minutes into the ride, I had emptied one of my water bottles. A slight wind helped as long as I kept moving, but stopping at a traffic light would leave me feeling like I was melting from the inside out.

Looking back, I can see I went pretty hard on my effort — though I didn’t think it was any harder than many others (max wattage 1400 with 899 watts average for 29 seconds). Still, my heart rate went from 150 to 183 bpm in less than 30 seconds. As I turned off the segment to recover, I was feeling okay.

I decided to give it another try with a different tactic. Turns out the tactic did not help me bring the time down any and as I neared the end of the segment, I was feeling pretty weird. My head felt very hot inside my helmet and my legs — especially the top of my calves running up the back of my knees — were… I wouldn’t say cramping… it almost felt like they were paralyzed. They were stiff like rigor mortis was setting in cialis 5 prix.

There wasn’t a moment of blacking out, but I did feel disoriented. It was a burden to lift my head. I wasn’t nauseous, but I was just uncomfortable all over.

I headed for the shade. Thankfully, because I was on the edge of the Furman campus I was able to duck onto the Swamp Rabbit Trail where there would be shade for a good number of miles. For a good majority of the time along the slight downward grade I didn’t pedal at all. There just wasn’t much strength to do it.

It really wasn’t until about 20 minutes after my last effort that I began to stop questioning whether I should just stop and ask someone to come get me. The last time I could remember feeling like this was back during my Memphis to Raleigh ride. However, that was seven days of centuries… this was just two measly 30 seconds efforts!

Turns out the heat index here last evening was 108 degrees. I can only assume it was the heat. This morning my legs feel fine. However, my shoulders and neck up into the base of my head are still stiff and sore.

Word is that next week is supposed to bring a break in the heat. We should be back in the 80s for a bit. I think I’ll save any segment hunting until then!

Them there be fightin’ words

The video Zwift Friday Training Race May 8, 2015 on my YouTube channel seems to have been picked up somewhere because just over the weekend it was viewed over 1000 times. I still haven’t tracked down what has driven the interest, but I have noticed that it has also generated a couple of comments. I was surprised at how one of the comments got under my skin.

The first somewhat negative comment didn’t bother me so much. It made me chuckle. Even as I edited the video, I wondered how long it would be before someone made a jab at me.

Factory051 commented: “Britisher? Greece doesn’t have a flag? What on earth is wrong with you?”

Yes, I did say “Britisher” when I should have said “Brit.” However, in my defense I would ask you to do a voice over of a video without a script and see how many times you misspeak! When you are in the midst of a list of “ers” and suddenly have a pattern interrupt, it is hard to break the cycle. Anyway, I just claimed the ignorant American excuse on that one.

Now, as for Greece not having a flag. Of course, the country of Greece has a national flag. What it did not have at the time of the race was a flag for Zwift. As I was doing the voice over, it did cross my mind that someone might be confused. You will actually hear a pause after I said it as my mind was trying to decide whether to try to explain. Bottomline is that Zwifters understand that not every countries flag has always been represented on the software.

It wasn’t that comment that got to me. It was one by Thomas Nigl. He was calling me out and “questioning my manhood.” He commented: “The watts displayed are a joke! Way too high!”

I bristled and came back with an uncharacteristic (for me) challenge, “Come visit me in Greenville and let your legs decide if the wattage is wrong.” Of course, I added a ” ;-)” that I didn’t really mean. For some reason this comment ticked me off.


I think one reason is that in someways those of us on Zwift — and more so those of us who share these kinds of videos — are placing ourselves in a vulnerable situation. At any moment on Zwift, I can click over to another rider and see RPM, wattage, and heart rate. I can get an instant understanding of the rider’s ability by following his or her watts per kilogram.

Riding on the road allows you to hold your cards closer to your chest. You can telegraph weakness when you are strong and hide tired legs when you feel like you are about to get dropped. Your cycling computer is there for only you to see.

In Zwift, we lay ourselves bare. The numbers are there for everyone to see. Perhaps that is why when those numbers are questioned, it causes us to react more defensively. It is one thing for someone to take a swing at you when you have your gloves up. It is another thing for someone to give a punch when you have your arms open.

Of course, another reason is because of the prevalence of “flyers” who have in ignorance set their trainers up incorrectly or are intentionally gaming the system by false weight entries or manipulation of the trainer. The reaction against these riders by many Zwift is enough to cause anyone to bristle at someone intimating that you might be one of them.

It also annoyed me because I know what my abilities are. I have YEARS of data showing that these numbers are not abnormal for me. They are consistent with what I do on the road and here on Zwift. They can be attested to by my riding buddies and my one-time coach.

Finally, it annoyed me because even though this guy thought the wattage was too high. It still wasn’t high enough! I’ve never come close to winning one of these Zwift races. Just because you can put out average to above average wattage for a given period of time does not mean that you can do it long enough.

Weighing in on a skinny day at 170 and a normal day around 174, I HAVE to put out the wattages seen in the video in order to stay up with guys 20 and even 30 pounds lighter than I am. The good news is I can actually do it for about 20 minutes. The bad news is that I can’t pull it off for an entire race.

Here I was suffering to try for a good finish. I even manage to make the podium. Someone comes along and questions my result.

Okay. I know. The ultimate answer to my problem is pride. Does it really matter what Thomas thinks?

On the other hand, this shows another unique aspect of the Zwift community. We really are exposing ourselves when we honestly roll up to the line. We can have more insight into the abilities of the riders around us. There is something about that vulnerability that forms a bond.

And so, in Zwift, as in other aspects of life, honesty becomes a foundational component of good relationships. I’m proud to be a part of the community and the relationships I have formed there. It is important to me that my participation be honest.

So, the gloves are up to those who might question, but my arms are open to the great friends I’ve enjoyed riding with — both racing and recreationally — on Zwift.

Strava app or Garmin

People, it is hot as blazes here in Greenville, SC. We are in the midst of a week of temperatures in the upper-nineties. Those of you who live in this area know that means humidity is also on the rise. It can sometimes be suffocating and makes you question the sanity of riding your bicycle.

After work yesterday I decided that it had to be done. It was one of those times when my emotions said, “Oh, just take the day off. You’re not feeling very strong right now. You need the rest.” My reason argued back, “The reason you feel this way is because you haven’t been on the bicycle since Saturday. You need to get your body moving again!”

I listened to reason and pulled together my gear for the ride. As I did so, I thought through my objectives for the ride. The goal would be to get out there and get my legs loose. If I felt good, I would head over to a segment I had seen John James attempt. It could be a good one for some video to make a new Strava Segment installment.

Riding Garminless.

Riding Garminless.

The bike was ready. I loaded the GoPro and then turned on my Garmin. Drat! The Garmin was showing the low battery warning. It must have been that the cord was not correctly attached.

Well, that would mean no Strava Segment video. I needed the data captured by the Garmin to create the overlay on the video. This time I would not attempt to use the older Garmin 705 that I have. Last time I tried that it didn’t stay connected to my power meter. This ride would have to be a Strava iPhone app ride.

I’m not a fan of using the app for recording my rides. Why? First, I get no power, heart rate, or cadence readings. Since I use the Strava training program, I need that data in order for the ride to count when measuring my fitness/freshness. The ride counts as a rest day no matter how hard I ride.

Second, I just don’t trust it. iPhone GPS signals can be notoriously flaky. This is accentuated even more when it is in your back jersey pocket while you’re riding through varying terrain covered with shade trees. In the high-stakes world of Segment Hunting, this can be problematic.

I don’t have a lot of proof on this. It is more a bias on my part. There have been some attempts I’ve seen on Strava recorded on apps that have stretched my willingness to believe. However, more often than not the times are pretty close to reality — and times recorded by devices such as the Garmin. Still, in the back of my mind, there is always a question mark.

A primary objective of the day was finding roads with shade!

A primary objective of the day was finding roads with shade!

So it was that this question mark popped up at the end of the sentence of my ride. I left the house seeking routes that provided as much shade as possible. That actually led me toward my original objective: Pilot Road Golf Course climb.

As I neared the start, I decided to give it a go… Garmin, video or not. You come down a slight descent as you hit the line. I was in my 53×11 and cranking hard at that point. Of course, I was flying blind and had no idea of speed, wattage, etc. However, I felt fast.

I was able to keep my momentum up a gentle incline through a wooded area and into a pretty noticeable left hand turn. Then I hit the more drastic part of the grade. I had not shifted out of the 53X11 and slowly I began to feel myself begin to bog down. However, I was able to keep the wheels turning and by the finish, I felt pretty good about the effort.

Taking a break over beautiful Greenville.

Taking a break over beautiful Greenville.

Later in the ride while stopped along the side of Altamont Road taking a picture of downtown Greenville, I looked at the Strava segment list of my ride. There the app listed all the segments I had passed through during my ride to this point (one of the nice things about the app). I did a double take!

The app told me I had covered the .3 mile distance in 46 seconds. This would be nearly 10 seconds faster than the time I saw John James score a couple days earlier. Hmmmm, typically, John and I are pretty close on these shorter distances (while he cleans my clock on the longer ones).

Sure enough, it wasn’t long after I got home and finalized the ride that John added a comment to my ride on Strava.

Wow, I would like to believe your KOM is correct, but that seems off. 26.9 avg up that at 578. I did 22.8 at 575.

The truth is I agreed with him. Though while I might question the data of the effort, I wasn’t ready to give up on the time of the effort. The iPhone GPS might provide flaky speed data, but the time covered from point A to point B is more absolute. Granted, if the phone incorrectly marks point A and point B, that could be a problem.

So, I replied…

That is estimated power. I didn’t have my Garmin. I’m curious to see what it would be with my Garmin. I’m not really claiming that KOM until I can give it a go with the more data.

I could tell John was analyzing my effort because he came back with another retort to my attempt.

Somehow you sprinted over 38 mph up hill.

I agree that was suspect. However, there is an explanation and also something else to consider. The higher speed reading was a small spike in speed. It also was not at a time when I was going up hill. It was during the period where I was descending. I will grant you that 38 mph is most likely incorrect, but a 33 to 35 mph speed at that point was very possible.

Then Matt Jaeggli chimed in.

I tried it for the first time this morning. Came into the corner where it starts at 33 and I consider myself a pretty decent descender/cornerer.

Man, now they were ganging up on me! The problem is, I completely understood their skepticism. I was skeptical! However, the major point for me was how close was the effort to being accurate?

That sounds more reasonable, Matt. The point is this, the phone often gives wonky readings, but for the most part is NORMALLY within a second or two of a Garmin recorded effort. Time between point A and point B is what it is regardless of speed readings between. I just know I uncorked on that segment and until I can go out and give the same effort with my Garmin, I’m leaving this one as a place holder. 😉

Do I really think I covered that segment in 46 seconds? No. However, do I think I got a good time… even a KOM winning time? I sure do. The ultimate question for me is how close was I to that time? Could it be that I will go out with the Garmin and find out that I actually did surprise myself and land a 46 second time?

There is only one way to find out.

Witness Everesting History

It is not everyday you get to see something that has never happened before. I don’t mean something small. I’m talking about something epic… something long, monumental, and is accomplished by only a few. Tomorrow we have a chance.

Frank Garcia, of Tucson, Arizona will be attempting to Everest on Zwift’s Watopia Island. “What is that?” you might ask. Well, we’ve got three things to cover here… Watopia, Everesting, and Frank.


For the full experience, go here to the official Everesting site. However, let me summarize for you here. To “Everest” on a bicycle is to climb the equivalent of the height of Mt. Everest by riding repeats on a incline meeting the rules set forth by the official arbiters of the adventure. In this case, Hells 500.

What are the rules? Again, visit the official site for all the nitty-gritty. Here are the ones most germane to understanding the attempt.

  • Rides must only focus on one hill or mountain per ride
  • Rides cannot be loops
  • Rides must be full ascents each time
  • The 8,848m is taken as your total elevation gain
  • It does not matter how long the ride takes, but it must be ridden in one attempt
  • Rides…  must be able to be correctly verified in order to qualify

So, here is an example. The closest large climb from my home is Paris Mountain. From the base of the climb to the top of Tower Road is roughly 900 feet. This means to Everest on that location I would need to…

  1. Start at the base of the climb and ride up to the top of Tower Road
  2. Turn around and ride back to the bottom
  3. Repeat that scenario 32 times (bringing total climbing to 29,029 feet)
  4. If I could average 20 minutes per climb, that would take nearly 11 hours
  5. You can obviously stop to eat and take care of natural needs — so you are talking a long day in the saddle

The first person to record an Everlasting attempt was George Mallory of Australia. Ironically, this George is the grandson of famous British Mountaineer, George Mallory. He climbed Mt Donna Buang 10 times in one day to accomplish the feat. From this the challenge was born.

George Mallory - photograph from

George Mallory – photograph from

A number of people have followed the rules and finished their own Everesting attempts. You can find a list of them all on the Everesting Hall of Fame. Still, there will be only one first attempt.


So, where does Watopia fit into this? Well, it began as a question on a Facebook page.

“So who will be the first to “Everest” on Watopia?”

When I first saw the comment, I laughed to myself. “Yeah, right!” I personally know only two people who have Everested in the “real world.” I rode along with someone on a valiant, yet failed attempt at the challenge. Everesting is a bonafide epic endeavor on real roads, to do it on a trainer seems insane.

“Actually,” you might say. “It is impossible to Everest on a trainer.” Not so fast, Watopia makes this possible. Zwift‘s Watopia is a virtual world where you can ride your trainer and get a real world experience.

Climbing the Watopia Wall.

Climbing the Watopia Wall.

This is possible by using “smart trainers.” These trainers take topographical data fed to them by the Zwift software and adjust resistance on the trainer to match the resistance experienced on a comparable road in the real world. So, if you are riding on a virtual road with a 7% grade, the trainer will adjust the resistance on your drivetrain to match the effort you would need to climb a real world 7% grade.

Low and behold, the thread took a serious turn and before you knew it, Hells 500 was brought into the loop and a new category was created called “vEveresting.” You can right now find the rules for this new category at Here again, I will summarize for you.

The environment:

  • Must be completed on an approved virtual application – currently only Zwift is recognized
  • Must be attempted on an approved, pre-calibrated smart-trainer with 100% resistance replication
  • Must be verified by numerous data sources – heart rate, cadence, power meter, etc.
  • Must provide visual proof – photos, .FIT files

The attempt:

  • Rides can be of any length, and on any hill or mountain within the Zwift framework
  • Refer to the above rules for the traditional attempt

Frank Garcia

Enter Frank. He was the first on the Facebook thread to hint at seriously attempting to use Watopia to Everest.


Photo by Carolyn Sullivan

“Well…. for planning purposes (as I have been coming off a rest period)… Are we saying one ride?… Are we saying premium setup with trainer difficulty set to max? (or not at all any trainer)… Now if only I could keep this idea from my coach….”

On June 6, 2015, Frank drank the Kool-Aid and became the first to commit to an attempt.

Okay I slept on it… (and other than my mind thinking I am totally nuts)… I am 52% certain I will attempt this (probably more but I still want to leave myself an out :-))… Read up on the rules…(obviously everesting doesn’t really count, but I will follow all the other ones)…@Kevin Connors and Shane Miller, sending a note to contact at everesting as requested (don’t know how to contact Andy directly)…If this is going to happen I would like it to truly help Nepal so will try and get my company and its employees to commit contributions (anybody else who wants to help with the donations is invited).”

By June 10th, the die was cast. Zwift history would be attempted on Saturday, June 13, 2015.

I will be attempting this on Saturday starting at 4 AM PDT (UTC -7 hours). I am planning on the attempt taking 22 – 23.5 hours. My company has agreed to help with fund raising by matching donations related to this vEveresting for Nepal. Hope you will all help me in making my company pay LOTS! More information to follow in a separate post. Carolyn Sullivan is coordinating for the company (Cycligent).

So, it appears that Frank will be attacking the Strava segment, Watopia Wall, starting on Saturday morning. The climb is .2 miles in distance at a 7% grade. That gives him 94 feet of ascent. That means he must do over 308 repeats of that segment!

It is here that the epic nature of a virtual Everesting attempt jumps out at you. Folks, this is on a trainer. The sensory portion of a real attempt is missing. There will be no altering of lines or changing nature around Frank. Mentally, he has his job cut out for him. Sure, the Zwift software will be a big help, but after a bit…

We’re cheering you on, Frank. It is also important to note that Frank isn’t just doing this for glory. He is attempting to help the people of Nepal. Whether the makes the “summit” or not, it is worth showing him support for the attempt by giving toward his effort.

Give to encourage Frank. Give to help the people of Nepal. Show up Saturday morning on Watopia and keep Frank company during his attempt.

Then… maybe you’ll start your own Everesting plans…

Read about Frank’s attempt.

Jonathan and Matthew’s Wild’s Ride

I’m enjoying a “staycation” this week. Monday I went out and tried for some KOMs and then today (Wednesday) I planned to do a long ride (over 72 miles) in order to meet my June Strava Fondo challenge. Tuesday was just going to be an easy ride with a friend from work, Matthew Weathers.

All that changed Monday evening.

Matthew Weathers and I about to roll out.

Matthew Weathers and I about to roll out.

Matthew contacted me and asked if we could do a longer ride on Tuesday. His wife was going to be going up to a camp above Rosman, NC to visit a friend. Matthew wanted to ride up to the camp and then come back with her.

Now, I have ridden up to the camp a number of times. What I haven’t done is ride up and back. It would be an over 100 mile round trip with around 7000 feet in total climbing. I was looking to do a long ride this week, but…

I agreed. We would start off from my home at 7 AM and take back roads to keep us out of traffic. We should have no trouble making it in under five hours. Again, my concern wan’t getting there. It was getting back.

Matthew leading us out.

Matthew leading us out.

We rolled off with some great weather. It had rained overnight and the sky was still overcast. The temperatures were cool with a slight breeze. It was going to be a great day!

Uneventful ride... except for closed bridges!

Uneventful ride… except for closed bridges!

Frankly, the ride up was uneventful. The time seemed to go by quickly as we talked business and told stories. We weren’t pushing the pace at all. Still, we were marking the miles in good time.

A deer along the road.

A deer along the road.

The real work started about five miles from the camp when we turned onto Old Toxaway Road. This final section held a good amount of climbing with some steep pitches to boot. I had made it to this point without feeling much fatigue in my legs, but now I was starting to notice it.

We hit the bottom together and then started up at our individual pace. I was loving my 32, but Matthew was churning away with his 25. Of course, I was running a standard crank and he had a compact.

I looked back to find Matthew as out of sight. I kept checking a few times, but finally decided just to push on at a steady rhythm. I’d just wait for him at the gate.


So, four hours and nine minutes after leaving home, I reached the gate to the camp. We covered 57 miles and climbed over 4500 feet. I think our average speed was around 13.5 mph.

For me the good news was I felt just fine and started to think that the ride back might not be as bad as I thought it might. I just needed to wash off someone of the grime and eat a little bit and I would be a new man. Getting my June Strava Fondo badge would be no problem this month!

We made it!

We made it!

We pulled up at the lodge and caught our breath. I washed off my bicycle and myself. I sorted through my pockets and consolidated some items. Then I cleaned myself up a bit and wondered what to do about some food.

At first I thought about going into the mess hall. However, I feel a little strange going in there all dressed up in my monkey suit. I decided I would just ride down to Brevard and grab a quick bite before heading back.

I took a different route down. Frozen Creek Road is a better route to take if you are headed for Brevard. It takes you out on Highway 64 and then you just have to deal with the traffic into town.


As I started down Frozen Creek, I started to have second thoughts. Maybe it was because I was stiff from having stopped, but the thought of a long afternoon in the saddle with the sun beating down on me was not sounding fun. Maybe I would skip Brevard and just head home.

I started to empty my pockets including a large cinnamon swirl bagel with peanut butter. As I ate away on it, I felt my strength coming back. Maybe if I finished his off and grabbed something at a store in Rosman, I could let that serve as lunch. I could be home in plenty of time for dinner.

So, I turned off of 64 into Rosman and stopped at an IGA to grab a Yoohoo and a Starbucks double shot with cream. Bagel down and liquids consumed, I was content and happy. I turned my attention to getting to the downhill of Highway 178.

Before I could get there, I had to climb up to the Eastern Continental Divide. It wouldn’t be that long, but knowing I could really let it loose on the other side made me impatient to get there. It seemed to take forever.

Time to head down the other side.

Time to head down the other side.

Then it was time. I turned on the GoPro and released the brakes. Looking back I realize that I had only one car come around me the entire trip down to Highway 11. I had the run of the road and it was good.

It was fun to hit speeds of 40 mph, but even more fun that I was covering distance quickly. Making it to Highway 11 would be a big boost. I’ve covered that distance to home many times.

Reaching Highway 11 I could tell the biggest challenge of the day was still ahead. It wouldn’t be the miles. It wouldn’t be climbing. It would be the sun. The clouds of the morning were gone. Highway 288 isn’t known for it’s shade and the temperatures were now up to the high 80s.


I pulled over to the shade of the station. Sitting there checking my phone (first time I had coverage in hours) I was dripping sweat. It was time to get moving again. It was much cooler when I was moving.

My water bottles I had filled at the camp were getting near empty as I passed through Pumpkintown. The way I was losing water, I knew I’d have to keep drinking liquids. Along with my water bottles, I had been nursing an extra strength mixture of Skratch labs mix since starting for home.

Thank you Miracle Hill for the water!

Thank you Miracle Hill for the water!

Thankfully, I knew that Miracle Hill Children’s Home was nearby. With just a little water left in one bottle, I turned into the road that would lead me to a picnic shelter on the ministry’s property. I rode past some kids playing in a pool and it looked very inviting! I filled up my bottles at the shelter and now I was good to go!

I kept stopping to take in the views and listen to the cicadas.

I kept stopping to take in the views and listen to the cicadas.

Ahhhh, I turned onto Pace Bridge Road and I felt another boost. I was getting ever closer to home. I knew there was still some climbing to be done. I took a look at my accumulated ascent. Hmmmm, I could potentially get up to 9000 feet for the ride.

Next thing I knew I was on Roe Ford Road just outside of Furman. Looking ahead I could see I had a choice to make. I could turn right on the Swamp Rabbit Trail and take the one percent grade home, or I could climb up Paris Mountain and add close to 1000 feet to my climbing total.

At the top of Paris Mountain. Good day climbing!

At the top of Paris Mountain. Good day climbing!

I rode past the SRT and headed for Altamont Road. I didn’t really care how long it would take me to reach the top. This had nothing to do with time. It was about taking me a bit closer to the June Strava climbing challenge. After the long day, the 19 minutes it took me to climb to the KOM seemed like nothing.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 10.44.44 AMFinally, I pulled into home after eight hours pedaling the bike. The whole trip, including stops at the camp, Rosman, Highway 11, and for photos along the way took nine and half hours. We averaged fifteen miles per hour and I ended up climbing 8,668 feet.

I was able to knock out the Gran Fondo for June. I wish I could have used that ride for July! I got the 50% complete level on the Climbing Challenge, but looking at it more closely, I realize that I am knocking on the door of 75%. I’ll have no problem finishing it over the next 21 days.

Matthew and I are already starting to talk about making another trip up to the camp. I’m thinking I’ll have my family meet me up at the camp and then we all take the truck back home! It would be interesting to see how quickly I could cover the distance. A sub four hour ride is definitely doable.

How soon we forget the suffering. How quickly we get caught up in a new challenge. Isn’t it great?

Check out some video of the ride and commentary from this blog.

If at first you don’t succeed: More power!

There are those certain Strava segments that I just can’t get over. Try as I might, I just can’t get that extra oomph to get me over the top. The little hill near Cleveland Park is one of those.


Try as I might, I cannot get below 31 seconds. As you can see, it isn’t as though I have not tried. I’ve gone after it with different bikes. I have attempted it in big gearing and small. I got to the point where I just stopped trying.

Sunday afternoon I was out for an easy ride down town. It was actually a mistake that I ended up down in Cleveland Park. I made a wrong turn on the other side of Greenville. To get back home, I had to take the route through the park.

On a lark, I went for it as the lead in for an all-out attack on the climb was possible. I felt good. I started thinking about it as I headed for home. Maybe… just maybe… it was good enough.

Nope. As you can see above, June 7, 2015 shows 31s at 911 watts. I once again hit the 31s wall.

So, I went out again on Monday to try once more. The obsession was setting in again. I hoped by changing up my approach with my gearing I could at least tie with Ben Renkema for the KOM.

I took along my GoPro in hopes of creating an updated Strava Segment video in my series. Unfortunately, my Garmin 1000 was out of battery. I had to pull out an order 705 for the ride.

I got the Garmin going and then headed out. I enjoyed the morning and rode around the Cleveland Street area to warm up before the attempt. Then it was time to give it a go.

I started the GoPro and big ringed it down toward the traffic light that marks the turn onto Ridgeland Drive. If the light was green, then the attempt was a go. If it was red, then I would have to abort as you need the speed to get momentum for the first kick up.

The light was green and I attacked still in my 53×11. As soon as I felt resistance growing, I hit my SRAM shifter to pop two gears lower in the back. This kept me from feeling bogged down and allowed me to keep going over the top.

I had also been running the Strava iPhone app and expected to get some sort of announcement on my time. However, it never came. I can only assume that the heavy canopy of trees caused an issue.

I stopped to look. No way. Once again I landed a 31s attempt. Arrrrrggggghhhh! Well, at least I got my video.

You will notice there is no video with this post. The reason is that while the GoPro worked perfectly, the Garmin 705 did not maintain a connection with my power meter. I had no power data from the climb. Without it, I couldn’t create my video.

Maybe someone else will read this and like Ron Babington did on another segment in Cleveland Park, they will figure a way to break the spell. It could be that there is just someone else out there that has the right power-to-weight ratio to overcome the gravity that seems to be holding me down.


Hmmmmm, maybe if I lost a few pounds…


I’m just going to let some pictures tell the story of yesterday’s ride. These photographs were taken during a leisurely paced ride down Main Street in Greenville, South Carolina. If you follow along on Instagram the hashtag #rideTHATgreenville, you can see these and other images of our town. While you are at it, why not use the hashtag yourself to share your favorite scenes.

Heading downtown along Wade Hampton Blvd.

Heading downtown along Wade Hampton Blvd.

Sunday afternoon in the North Main Street neighborhood.

Sunday afternoon in the North Main Street neighborhood.

Quiet spin down the residential area of Greenville's North Main Street.

Quiet spin down the residential area of Greenville’s North Main Street.

Kickball in the park.

Kickball in the park.

Stone Avenue and Main Street... more new construction in the city limits.

Stone Avenue and Main Street… more new construction in the city limits.

One of several couples out riding on Main Street.

One of several couples out riding on Main Street.

Tree canopy above Main Street.

Tree canopy above Main Street.

Peace Center for the Performing Arts

Peace Center for the Performing Arts

Overlooking the river walk from the Main Street bridge.

Overlooking the river walk from the Main Street bridge.

Enjoying lunch overlooking the Liberty Bridge and Falls Park.

Enjoying lunch overlooking the Liberty Bridge and Falls Park.

Pedal Chic - one of several cycling shops in the area.

Pedal Chic — one of several cycling shops in the area.

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End of the Main Street tour with Fluor Field, home of the Greenville Drive.

The one thing I will add is that I made a mistake and turned down a wrong way trying to create a loop back home. I ended up on a large highway that I actually had never ridden before (on a bike or in a car). What was supposed to be a simple 10 mile ride turned out to be close to 20 miles.

It is one of the fun things about cycling. So often wrong turns become adventures.