Tag Archives: Altamont Road

Don Quixote on a bicycle

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m at peace with taking what comes my way when it comes to the bicycle. It hasn’t been easy to reach this point. Now that I have, I’m feeling like a kid again.

Maybe I won’t get a chance to race again this year. Maybe I’ll get several chances. Thing is, I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. I hope I do, but I don’t have to.

Of course, that has led to the arguing in my mind, “Why do this training if you aren’t going to race?” I guess that is a reasonable question. My answer is that if I get a chance to race, I want to be ready for it. Plus, even if I’m not racing in an official event, I still can “race” against my personal goals.

Looking out from Paris Mountain

Looking forward to getting back out there someday.

Take for instance the climb up Paris Mountain. I went up it at speed on Friday and then again on Saturday. Friday’s time was 13:02. It came after several power intervals and that seems to cause me to run out of gas toward the top. Saturday, I headed out for the mountain with a steady state interval on the way. The legs gave me the impression that I was going to have a tough time on this climbing repeat interval.

Always switching things up, I decided to climb this time in my big ring. My thought was that if I could keep the momentum going I could produce more power and have more gear for when I hit those flatter sections. I fully expected to have my legs explode two-thirds up the climb.

Hmmmm, I was feeling pretty good as I finished the water tower section. At the halfway point I was moving much better than times past. I rolled past the midway point at 5:45. The big ring was still turning.

At two-thirds of the climb I hit that section where I normally die. Almost instinctively I went for the shifter to find some relief. I knew that would be the death knell.

Instead, I stood and reminded myself that there was a short reprieve if I could just keep turning. Sure enough I hit a section that helped me gather myself for the last few turns to the base of the wall. The timer reached 11:45 as I stood to give the final push up the hardest section of the climb.

As I crossed the line I had a mixture of emotions. I had shifted to an easier gear about halfway up. Still, I had pushed through. I was disappointed that it took me a whole minute to climb the wall, but I was pleased that on a day I thought would be bad I held a consistent time of 12:45.

It gave me some thoughts on how I’ll approach the climb next time. Sometime soon I’m going to attempt the climb on my Giant — which is a bit lighter than the Felt — sans water bottles and saddle bag. Unfortunately, I’m still fluctuating at 5 – 10 pounds heavier than I was the last time I had an attempt like that.

Downtown Greenville

Beautiful Easter day in Greenville

After morning services and a wonderful lunch with my family, I headed out for an easy spin around town. I did have a matter of business to take care of before making my way to Starbucks for a coffee. It meant heading over to Nature Trail near Herdkoltz Park.

I had forgotten that I had a Strava account. However, on Saturday I received a Tweet from a newer cyclist. It was a screen shot of his phone showing that he was only seconds away from passing my time on the Nature Trail climb. I took a look at the list and noticed the current King of the Mountain was someone I had ridden with often and figured I could beat that time.

With fresher legs than I normally would (Nature Trail always seems to come at the end of hard rides), went up the climb to open my legs. Not bad… I was matching the times on Strava. Now it was time to go at it hard. I hit the base of the .4 mile incline of 6.8% at a sprint.

That didn’t last! When the road kicked up near the end, I was seated and fighting to get the pedals around. The killer time was slipping away.

What a beautiful day to ride into downtown! By the time I got there, the effort up Nature Trail was flushed from my legs. I sat in the shade and enjoyed my pumpkin bread and coffee.

At home, I loaded up the data and found that I did take the KOM with a time of 1:59. For those two minutes I averaged 477 watts. Of course, my first thought was, “I can do better than that!”

So the fun continues. I’m sure that there are those who think I am Don Quixote chasing windmills on the back roads of Greenville County. That is okay. That is where I am at peace. Thing is, I don’t care what people think. I’m happy where I am.

Release

I can tell when I’m under pressure. My face breaks out like I’m back in high school. If you want an idea of how my life has been going lately, just take a look at my complexion.

Yesterday I had an opportunity to find some relief for an hour or so. I had forgotten the therapeutic properties of the bicycle. Here is to rolling your troubles away.

My training has taken a nose dive. I haven’t been wanting to admit it — hence the lack of posts over the last several days. Until last night, the last time I rode my bike was the time trial on Thursday.

I’m in one of those situations in my life where everything is starting to pile up behind the dam and I don’t have enough fingers to plug the holes that are beginning to form. Some setbacks have put pressure on my wallet. I’m looking at a number of new projects at work that are going to require a lot of time and effort to accomplish. I have a couple of speaking engagements coming up that I’m having to prepare for. Oh yeah, there is the family as well.

Oh, and what about that heat? It is really affecting me this year. Maybe it is just that the heat compounds all the other things. All I know is it just seems to sap the strength right out of me — and that is before I even get on the bike.

Well, getting off work, I was unable to make it in time out to Donaldson Center for the Tuesday Night World Championships.  I rolled my bicycle out on my driveway and just started pedaling. I was supposed to go do repeats on Piney Mountain. I turned my wheel and went the opposite direction.

No warm-up. I just started pedaling the way I used to when I first started riding. It felt good.

Sure, I was riding at too low of a cadence. I wasn’t paying attention to the computer. I was going too hard too soon.

It is just that there was something welling up inside of me that coursed down to my legs and said for me to “Go!” Maybe it was just that I was wanting to ride away from the pressures behind me. I was like a  kid who starts running from those who tease him. He doesn’t know where he is running. He just runs.

Through the parks and onto the Swamp Rabbit trail. Yes, forgive me, but I was going a little faster than I normally do on the trail — on this Tuesday night, there were large sections with no other people around.

Nearing Furman, I began to see Paris Mountain rising beyond the trees. Like in the early days, it was calling me. I knew what I was going to do.

I turned off of the trail and made my way to the base of Altamont Road. There was going to be some pain involved in this, but I was seeking it. It would focus my mind to narrow down to just thinking about making that next few yards in front of me. Everything else would disappear. The pain of my legs would distract from all the thoughts swirling around in my head.

Halfway up the road I glanced at the computer. I was feeling good and had made a respectable time (for me) to this point. 5 minutes and 30 seconds to cover the first mile. If only I could duplicate that for the last mile.

It wasn’t to be and that was alright. I wasn’t trying to land a personal best. I was just seeking a release.

Sure enough, about three thirds up the effort I started to wane. “Don’t stop,” I ordered myself. “Keep pushing.” I still wasn’t looking at the computer. This was all about what I was feeling.

I finished by standing and fighting up The Wall to the line. Looking back at the data, I see my heart rate heading toward 200 bpm. Right when I thought I was going to drop, I passed the line.

It took me about 7 minutes to finish that last half for a time of 12:38, but that was okay. As I took on oxygen and started the sweeping descent off of the mountain, I was relaxed. The pedaling and pain was over. Now I got to enjoy letting the bike run around the curves. There was joy following the pain.

Release.

Let me repeat… and repeat

Looking at the stats from the last several months of training and comparing it to my riding before that time, there is one aspect that is similar – the distances. Really, the time is only slightly more. However, the biggest difference is in what I do within that time and distance.

I rarely look at the distance anymore. My computer shows power and time. Distance and speed is irrelevant to me right now. I just know I am supposed to do this much power for that much time. In group rides I’ve been asked, “How far have we gone?” or “What was our average speed?” I fumble with the Garmin to bring up the requisite screen to answer their questions.

Uploading the data afterward, I can’t help but notice how far I’ve gone. For instance, I rode 21 miles last night. I did so in 1.5 hours. It struck me that was about the exact distance and time for when I do my favorite short ride – an over-and-back of Paris Mountain from my home. I even rode on Paris Mountain for the bulk of that time – only I never made it over.

That leads me to the big change in my riding. Before I would have spent that 21 miles going as hard as I could up one side, down the other, and back again.  This year I am engaged in repeats – or intervals.

We’ll use last night as an example. Jim sent me to the base of Paris Mountain. The 15 minutes or so it took me to get there at an easy spin was my warm-up. Once I got there I started up Altamont Road holding 280 watts for 5 minutes. Then it was time to get down to business.

What followed was five 3 minute climbs up the first portion of the road starting near the CVS. After pushing it up for 3 minutes between 300 and 350 watts at VO2 levels, I would turn around and spin easily back to the bottom and through the CVS parking lot so that I could push it up once again.

Then I pedaled down State Park Road for around 10 minutes before returning to the base to do three more repeats on Altamont Road. This time I was to do 2 minute intervals 300 – 350 watts with 4 minute rests between. So, I managed to ride for 15 miles or so and never even reached The Wall at Audubon Road.

Why? There aren’t any hills like that in the race Saturday. True. However, I’m not doing this hill work in preparation for that race. I’m planning ahead for a future A race I have set on my calendar. Still, these hill repeats also help me in any situation.

Hill Repeats help strengthen your legs. Yes, you can do work in the gym with weights, but that does not directly translate to cycling power. Weights can help give you a foundation of strength, but then you have to fire those legs in a cycling motion.

Repeats allow you to push hard for a period of time and then recover so you don’t blow up. You quickly notice that your cardiovascular muscles are not being stressed as much while your legs get more tired with each new effort. Like lifting weights, you take your muscles to the limit and then allow them to build back in recovery. This is what leads to new strength.

Also, the best way to prepare for climbing is to climb. I’ll admit I would prefer to just find a mountain somewhere and climb to the top of it. I’m sure Jim will be including some stuff like that as we prepare for French Broad River!

What is bad about this? It is boring. Basically, you go over the same ground over and over with your eye on the wattage. The only way I make it through is to rejoice as I count down the remaining repeats I have left and trying to compete with myself to hold a steady wattage through all the repeats.

Last night was another issue. It was COLD! I left the house and it was in the upper 30s. The wind was picking up and then the sun started to set. By the time I was done the temp was in the lower 30s with a “feels like” temperature in the 20s.

At first I would warm up while I was climbing and then my fingers would freeze as I descended to start the next repeat. By the last one, it didn’t matter. My fingers were numb as I made my way to the finish. Then it was home in the near darkness.

At home it was slightly warmer because I was off the mountain and I was shielded from the wind. This caused my hands to begin to warm and the blood to start pumping through the numb finger tips. I’m not kidding… the pain was excruciating! It reminded me of the time as a kid when I was out sliding on a pond and then ran into the house to warm my hands in hot water. OUCH!

Back to the idea of repeats – or intervals. It isn’t just hill repeats that have been different this year. Almost all of my rides involve efforts followed by rests. I can tell a difference in my normal riding because of this.

If you just go out and ride for a certain time, you end up slowing down. Your body normalizes. The intervals shock the body repeatedly allowing you to exert more effort and pushing you “above normal.”

Ultimately, that is my goal… to ride “above normal.”

Hey! Where did my toes go?

I’m glad to now be able to type this. I can feel the tips of my fingers again. Maybe soon I’ll be able to feel my toes!

All dressed up for the 25 degree weather

All dressed up for the 25 degree weather

One thing about having a coach – you find that times when you wouldn’t normally ride you’ll pull yourself out on the bike and complete your workout. Today I was supposed to do an over-and-back-and-up of Paris Mountain. After coming back to the CVS side I was to give a 15 minute effort up that side before turning around and coming home.

When it is cold outside, I’ve found that it is a good idea not to think about it. Just head home from work, get dressed, and don’t think about what you are about to do. It worked this time.

I came home and put on my bibs, two sets of leg warmers, two sets of arm warmers, a base layer, a jersey, and a thick vest. My feet had wool socks with shoe covers. My hands had two sets of gloves – the outer set being 30 degree gloves. Finally, on my head I had a balaclava and my helmet. In my vest pocket I had a thin windbreaker and a skull cap just in case.

When I first started out in the 37 degree weather, I started to think that perhaps I had overdressed. I was quite comfortable. Once I got going into my warm up I was feeling pretty warm. However, I noticed that even during my effort up the State Park side of the mountain I wasn’t even sweating.

The sun was starting to dip on the other side of the ridge and my temperature field was now reading 30 degrees. Still, it didn’t feel so bad. Where I was at this point there wasn’t much wind and the effort was keeping me warm.

Then I reached the top. The cold was starting to find its way into my gloves. My face was starting to feel tight. It was 25 degrees at the top. In under forty minutes I went through a 12 degree temperature drop.

Now it was time to go down! Besides the wind generated from the descent, I also came upon sections of the road where the wind was a howling crosswind.  I found myself having to lean my bike to keep from getting blown over by the gusts. By the time I reached to bottom all my extremities were getting numb.

At the bottom I adjusted some clothing and then started back up. Ahhhh, it was a relief to avoid the wind of the descent. However, after turning a few corners I found that the crosswind on the way down had also been a tailwind at times… this meant I was now riding into a gusting headwind.

At the top I pulled out the windbreaker. I knew I needed it as I headed down the longer State Park side. With the balaclava pulled over my nose and the extra layer I was feeling a bit better. At least now I was about halfway through. The workout wasn’t my concern at this point – I just wanted to get home!

I managed to finish it up. By the time I was done I had ice forming in my water bottle and the bearings on my front wheel were sounding like they were freezing together in the cold when I reached a certain speed. Still, other than my toes, fingers, and face I was doing pretty well.

Coming into the warm house my toes and fingers began to ache. I knew better than to warm them up too quickly! I changed out of my kit (that had hardly any moisture from sweat) into some warm clothes.

It was then I was glad I did it. I also knew that I would have done the same thing again. I also know that I can handle this cold… at least down to 25 degrees! I’ll probably need that knowledge on my Friday ride.

Passing George Hincapie climbing Paris Mountain

Okay, I admit it. The title of this blog post was more to get you to come read this blog. It is true.  I did. However, you have to know the whole story.

Last year I became aware of a program that was brought to Greenville.  It is called the Cycling CEO Challenge. It is one of multiple types of CEO Challenges including Driving, Skiing, Tennis, Fishing, and many more.

The idea came to Ted Kennedy as he was working with Ironman America as VP of Sales and Marketing.  The first challenges were limited to the Ironman.  Go to the CEO Challenge web site and you’ll see it has expanded well beyond that!

Ted says he loves his job and I can see why! One of the neat things about this program is that you get to spend some time with a professional in each of the various sports. Here in Greenville the participants got to spend some time with George Hincapie.

On Friday, the crew got to ride with Big George up to Saluda. They also participated in other events surrounding Hincapie Sportswear including a charity fashion show — they didn’t model, they just attended! On Saturday morning they had the challenge.

Each CEO Challenge event centers around a challenge between the various CEO participants. For the cycling challenge it is the King of the Mountain Challenge. It’s pretty simple — the first CEO to make it to the top is the winner. Do you think these guys are competitive? Don’t think they would be where they are professionally if they weren’t!

Instead of writing about the event, I’ll just let you watch the video. It captures the day pretty well. The only thing I wish I had on the video was a pretty spectacular save. We were following George along the route he rides often. He made a turn and the word didn’t get back quickly enough.

I was coming in the rear. I watched as several riders tried to slow to make the turn.  Of course, this caused an accordion effect toward those of us in the back. One of the CEO participants locked up to avoid another rider in front of him. It was as if he was in a drifting competition!  His rear wheel was spewing smoke from burnt rubber as he burned through his tire sliding this rear to his left.

I cringed and looked for an escape route.  I was sure we were going to gave a pile up. However, he kept it up! As I was going pass him, I heard his tube explode as the rubber protecting it disintegrated. As those of us who continued straight came back, the pungent smell of burnt rubber was in the air.

Sorry I didn’t catch it with the camera. Of course, had I been riding with one hand on the bars, I don’t think I would have been up long enough to get a good shot. Great save!

Oh, I did pass George as we were climbing the mountain.  However, it was only because he was going back to help pace one of the participants as he worked to reach the top.  I had to go ahead so I could catch the eventual winner crossing the finish line.

Once again, Big George showed himself to be a class act. He is one of the main reasons why you have CEOs returning for a second opportunity to ride here in Greenville. If you are a CEO and a cyclist, perhaps you would like to take up the challenge and give Tim Hockey a run for his money in 2010!

Closing a door to open another

Sometimes it seems that I have been riding my bike forever.  That could be due to it being the end of the season, but it also could be because I have packed a lot into the last two years.  Now as the 2009 season comes to a close, I’m having to start thinking about 2010.  I don’t know if I am ready.

My first year riding a road bike, I pretty much meandered around the Upstate and tried to ride fast around the Cleveland Park circuit.  That year of 2006 doesn’t really count.  I started riding in August.

2007 was the year with my first ever goal.  It was to start the process of working toward my first Assault on Mount Mitchell.  Back then it seemed so huge!  Funny, but the fact that I competed in my first race didn’t mean much at the time.  I figured it was a one time experience.

In 2008 I turned 40 and my focus was that climb to the top of Mitchell.  Training for that climb brought me into a close relationship with the back of Paris Mountain and so the obsession with breaking my personal best there was born.  Racing factored into the year as well, but more for the sake of getting ready for my assault.

The Assault on Mount Mitchell lived up to its billing, but the win during the Downtown Greenville Cycling Classic was the highlight of the year for me.  It was completely unexpected, but it got me hooked.  It put me on a high as I headed into the 2008 Palmetto Peloton Project’s Challenge to Conquer Cancer ride.

While on the ride, I met Joey Sullivan and Matt Tebbetts.  We formed a bond during that ride and then early this year, Joey contacted me to see if I would be willing to fill a space for him in the POA Cycling Team.  Secretly, I had been hoping for a spot on the team.  I tried to act like it was no big deal as the guys would talk about it, but coming on board was another one of those unexpected surprises in life.

So, in 2009 my goals shaped around racing – but included the Assault and Paris Mountain.  My goal in racing was to win my first Category 4 race.  My goal for the Assault was to finish in 6 hours and 30 minutes.  My aim for Paris Mountain was to break 12 minutes.

I’ve only got one of those goals – the sub-twelve up Paris.  I finished in 6 hours and 49 minutes on the Mt. Mitchell ride.  My highest place in a race was 4th – in my first race of the year.

Was it a bad year?  Well, I guess if you base it on outcome, one out of three would not be that great.  However, if you consider the goals a means to an end and not the end itself, I would say it was a successful year.  I had fun and learned a lot – not to mention that I am nearly as fit as I have ever been.

One important thing I learned is that if you are going to set goals, you need to have a plan for each of them.  The better the plan, the greater the opportunity for success.  The plan needs to take you beyond your norms.

So, as I close the door on 2009, I’m thinking about the new year.  I’ve decided to have a coach to help me formulate the plans that will help me reach the goals I hope to set.  I’ll be honest, I’m a little scared of the commitment.  Then again, I was scared when I set my sights on climbing Mt. Mitchell.  I was scared when I pulled up to the line for my first race.

I never have regreted turning that crank to start either of them. I’m guessing 2010 won’t be any different.  Now, what will those goals be….?

The monkey is officially off my back

Monday evening I headed out on one of those rides where I didn’t have any plans. I treated my bike like a horse in the old west. I let the rains loose and let the steed head whatever direction he would.

This led me along the base of Paris Mountain. I had been feeling kind of rough, so I was just spinning along enjoying the cooler weather. As I rode along I remembered some of the rides we had along this route during the summer days.

On these back roads I had my iPhone playing on random. The tracks happened upon the soundtrack to The Man from Snowy River.  It seemed the perfect soundtrack for the ride.  By the time I reached Old Buncombe road I was feeling pretty satisfied with the entire experience.

I turned onto Altamont Road and started up pretty strong.  That first 3 minutes – which took me beyond the water tower – I was averaging 395 watts.  As I made the turn from that first test, I realized that this might be a night to give it a try to go sub-twelve without any pacing or cheering section.

The next three minutes would be confirmation of whether this was something worth trying.  My watts dropped to 312, but I was still holding a speed average over 12 mph.  I reached the halfway point in under 6 minutes averaging over 350 watts.

Yep, this would be the night!

Over the next three minutes I covered a half a mile.  My wattage was holding steady at 312 watts for that section, but my speed dropped to a 10 mph average. I tried to remember what Boyd and Strad had told me during my last successful climb.

The thing that came to my mind was Boyd saying, “The worse thing about this is that now you know you can do it.”  Actually, that ended up being my encouragement.  I knew I could do it.  I just had to draw on that past experience.

I needed that memory as I approached those last minutes of the climb.  I picked up my average for that last attack to 332 watts.  Never did I look down at the computer.  Then I reached the final section of the wall.  Without even looking at the computer I knew that if I gave it my all the 12 minute barrier would be broken.

Unfortunately, as I crossed the line, I pushed the wrong button on my computer.  By the time I realized what I had done and pressed the correct button, my time stood at 11:56.  Looking back at my WKO+, I see it was actually 11:53!

I also see that my heart rate on that final kick to the finish was 203 bpm!  No wonder I felt like I was going to puke as I rolled over the KOM line. My overall power average was 338 watts with a heart rate average of 184 bpm for the climb. My average speed was 11.1 mph.

So, I can say that even according to the official unofficial rules of recording your personal best up Paris Mountain, I have broken the 12 minute barrier.  There is no doubt in my mind that now that I have I will be able to do it on a regular basis.

Funny how that is.  You work and work to reach a goal and once you reach it, you find that you can do it again and again. I think it shows that much of this thing we call cycling is mental.

2 days left to help me raise $5000.
$1305 raised so far to fight cancer.
Give to my fight today!


11:35 or Thank you, Boyd Johnson

Funny.  Just yesterday I was talking about how I was about to go into hibernation.  That post finished with me saying, “Sometimes all it takes to get you back going is a good ride.”  Well, I can definitely say I had a good ride, but I have to give the credit to the guys who made it happen.

First I was just hoping it wouldn’t be raining.  It was cool but a little humid.  There had been times of very light rain through the day, but for now it was holding off.

Then I was hoping people would show up for the ride.  As I pulled up to the parking lot, I didn’t see anyone or the cars of the typical members of this ride.  Maybe tonight’s ride would be solo.

I went inside and found Billy White.  He was putting down a Powerbar and looking around probably wondering the same thing I was… “Hey, where is everybody?”  It was good to know that there would be at least two of us.

Boyd Johnson rolled in about the time I was getting my Powerbar finished.  The three of us went out to check the parking lot one last time.  There we found Strad Helms.  Four is definitely better than one.

We headed out at a pretty nice clip.  I was talking with Boyd about his plans to import frames and build up his own brand of bikes.  We also had some of our usual unusual sightings.  One guy passed us on a moped and he had a huge knot on his head.  Another time we saw a guy out running – sweat dripping off him – with a beer in his hand.

It was a pretty typical ride until we made a turn onto a road and I went to put weight on my right pedal.  I heard a twang and felt my leg spin around with no resistance.  My chain broke.  Of course, none of us had a chain tool.

The good news is that we were very close to Boyd’s house.  We removed my chain and I remounted my bike.   Boyd then commenced to push me the distance to his street.  Before long, I was back together sans a couple of chain links.  John James happened by.  Now there were five of us and we were back on the road.

That road led us quickly to Paris Mountain.  We started up and I could sense John had designs to get to the top a bit faster tonight.  Billy and I tucked in behind the three other riders and tried to hang on.

It wasn’t uncomfortable.  I felt I was on the edge of too much, but not quite.  When we reached halfway, I knew why.  We reached that point in just around five and a half minutes!  Hmmmmm, this could be interesting.

As we moved past that point, John eased off to join a rider we were coming around.  As he did so, he said to Strad, “Fall back and let Jonathan on your wheel.”  Strad was a bit confused about John’s intentions and ended going behind me.  It was just Boyd’s wheel ahead.

I figured he (and Strad) would end up riding off to leave me in the dust.  However, I was staying with them.  The difference was I was laboring a bit and they weren’t.

We reached a point where I thought I was going to have to ease up a bit and at that point I realized these guys weren’t going to leave me.  They had plans to coax me to the top for my personal best.  Boyd turned around and coached me to shift down a gear and encouraged me to keep going.

We were at the dreaded blue post section of the climb.  It is the point where I normally begin to lose my rhythm.  However, the realization that I had a couple of guys expecting me to give my best motivated me to do just that.  I didn’t want to let them down if they were going to be there for me.

I settled down and just tried to get some oxygen in me while concentrating on trying to avoid gaps forming between me and the riders ahead.  No doubt those gaps would have come, but Boyd and Strad were keeping the pace just high enough to push me but not drop me.

“Keep your head up,” I heard Boyd say.  “Don’t look down.  It will defeat you.”  I jerked my head up to look at the road ahead of me.  I know it is psychological, but he was right.  I concentrated on keeping my eyes focused on the road ahead instead of myself or the bike — especially the computer!

“Two minutes to go!”  Boyd and Strad were now turning around to check on my progress and push me when they noticed me begin to ease.  My spirits lifted when Strad called my attention to the fact that we were nearing the yellow turn sign that marks the beginning of The Wall.

“Forty-five seconds…” Boyd called, “you’re going to have to stand the whole finish.”  I obeyed.  “Shift down,” he instructed and I put on more resistance.  “Good,” he said.  “Now, stand.”  He had to remind me one or two more times to get off the seat, but for the most part I was pushing hard for the top.

Strad now moved behind me and I could hear Boyd ahead and Strad behind.  They were willing me to the finish.  There was no way I was going to sit up at this point.

“Fifteen seconds,” Boyd was counting the time.  “You can do anything for fifteen seconds.”  I still had enough pride left that I didn’t want to sound like I was dying – even though I felt like I was.  I tried to contain the grunts and whimpers that I felt trying to come out.

Pride be hanged!  I was riding with a guy who just days before had raced up this mountain as part of the professional peloton during the USA Cycling Professional Championships.  Of course I was going to have a harder time making it to the top!  Then there was Strad still calling encouragement from behind.  He races with the Hincapie Development team and my guess is it won’t be long before you’ll find him on one of the teams now racing in the Tour of Missouri.

I let out a grunt and what probably could be classified as a whimper.  That kind of whimper that comes from a kid getting beat up by bullies.  However, I stepped on it and attacked that last kick up to the finish.  Only once did I drop to my seat, but I was immediately up at the command from Boyd.  Finally, I pushed that infernal bike across the line.

It took awhile for me to see the computer screen in front of me.  I’m sure my blood pressure was through the roof.  As it came into focus I saw 11.  That was awesome!  However, I actually felt a chill as I noticed what followed the “:” – it was a “35”!  I had crushed my best time by 30 seconds!

I didn’t know what to think.  A goal I had been trying to break for two years fell on a night when I had no intentions of trying.  The thought crossed my mind what my time could have been without the two nearly full water bottles.  Then I wondered if I could really claim the time since I got it by being paced up the mountain.

I’ll take it.  I worked hard enough to get that time.  Take off 20 seconds as a penalty for pacing and I’ll still have a sub-twelve minute climb.  Of course, as Boyd told me as we eased up on the other side, “The bad thing about this is now you know you can do it.”

I kept waiting for some sort of feeling of elation to come over me.  It never did.  It was more of a matter of fact feeling of relief.  There was no immediate feeling of, “Okay, now I need to get an 11:30!”  No, for now I am happy with having broken 12.

As I helped my six year-old break into the bathroom that had been inadvertantly locked so he could get the all important reach extender so he could rescue a toy out of a hole, it crossed my mind how much more time and devotion it would take to knock off another 10 seconds.  “Thanks, Dad!”  Hey, it is just a number.  If it comes, it comes.  If it doesn’t?  There are more important things in life.

Watch that pound cake!

Sometimes riding your bike is a labor.  Other times it is as though you are floating in the air.  This past weekend gave me an opportunity to experience both.

Friday I went out for the very first time on my new frame.  That also meant it was the first time back on two wheels in about a week.  While spinning through Cleveland Park, I decided to give my hip a try.  I sprinted up the entrance on Woodland Way.  It put me back in my seat real fast.  The hip wasn’t ready for that kind of effort!

Saturday I rolled out of bed feeling pretty sore.  I decided I would go on the Sunshine Cycle Shop ride.  Thankfully, by the time I reached the shop, I was starting to loosen up a bit.

There was a very good group on hand.  However, the ride took on a different feel than normal.  We had riders leaving and joining us throughout the route.  There wasn’t anything real eventful other than the snake that was in the middle of the road at one point.

The worse thing about the weekend (physically) was bowling with my family Saturday afternoon.  My youngest wanted to bowl for this birthday.  We ended up doing three games.

I couldn’t bowl traditionally.  This first time I tried it, I dropped to the floor in pain.  It took me a whole game to alter my approach and release.  That first game I got beat by a 6 year-old.  Thankfully, I worked things out by the last game so that I reestablished my dominance within the clan!

A little bit of exploring.

A little bit of exploring.

Sunday’s ride was much better.  However, I got started on it right after a wonderful lunch at my in-laws.  Dessert was a scratch pound cake swimming in lemon sauce.  Yep, I ate it with a cup of coffee.

Rather than tearing it up, I decided to just go out and take some roads less traveled.  My plan sent me through some sections of Greenville that I had not been through.  I think everyone should do this in order for them to see all facets of our city.  My heart went out to some of these folks.

Going this route through west Greenville put me out on Agnew Road.  I’ve often heard of this street, but had never driven down it.  I wound through several different streets like this until I came out at West Parker.  This took me into more known territory and finally to one of my favorite roads – Old White Horse Road.

By this time, I had stopped feeling my pound cake.  Climbing up Keller Mill Road was a pleasure.  Then is was time for some more exploring as I took some unknown roads to cut back over to Old White Horse and then tried to work my way toward Paris Mountain that loomed in the near distance.

It was on one of those roads that I found that feeling.  It is that feeling that comes when you completely forget about the bike.  The bike really seems to be a part of you – as much as your legs are when you walk.  You’re not thinking about the effort.  You’re not thinking about the mechanics.  You’re not thinking about steering.  You just are.

The roads ended up leading me to Travelers Rest and the Swamp Rabbit trail.  I hopped (no pun intended) on it and headed toward Paris Mountain.  Going over would be my fastest way home.

Reaching the base I started up at a leisurely pace.  However, I soon realized that this pace was not really that slow.  By the time I reached the mid point of the climb, I was only 15 seconds over 6 minutes.  Plus, I was feeling pretty good.

You guessed it.  I picked up the pace just a bit.  I figured if I was feeling this good at this point, maybe I could make up that 15 seconds and get a good finishing time.  I wouldn’t say I was putting out more than 85%, but I was giving it a decent attempt.

I reached the yellow turn sign that I use as my The Wall marker at 11 minutes and 30 seconds.  I stood and attacked the climb.  That lasted for about 15 seconds and then the body just shut down.  I went from sprinting to sucking wind in those few seconds.  The pound cake was reminding me that he was still around.

I’m not exaggerating.  I reached the top in 13 minutes and 15 seconds!  That, my friends, is called bonking!

Still, it was a great ride.  My attempt up Altamont wasn’t something I planning for.  What I wanted was a good ride out in the country without pain in my hip.  I got that and then some.

After training and racing, it does a body and mind good just to go out exploring.  You never know what incredible road you might find out there.  I’m certain you’ll always find a good time.  Just watch out for the pound cake!

Where did the pros go?

All this talk about the USA Cycling Professional Championships got me looking back at some old posts I have about the course.  I found the following video of the climb up Altamont Road on Paris Mountain.  It was my very first video to post to YouTube.com (and you can tell it). Still, if you are not familiar with the climb, this gives you a blow by blow view.

I did make it on my bike yesterday.  First, it was the mountain bike.  Much of my afternoon was spent trying to mark out a course for a 5K run.  I kept trying different configurations to come up with the proper distance.  It was pretty frustrating and I was dripping with sweat.  So, when I got home I figured I would just jump on the road bike and cool down.

Okay, I admit, I was kind of hoping to run across some pros.  I heard that Ted King was in town and had been riding with George earlier.  One guy mentioned how as he as going up Paris Mountain a rider in a Cervelo kit came flying around him on the way to the top.

I did see a couple of riders as I was making my way through downtown.  However, once I got on Old Buncombe (following the USPros course), I didn’t see another cyclist – on a bike at least – for the rest of the ride.  There was one time just before turning up Altamont Road that a truck slowed beside me and kept pace with me.  “What’s up with that?” I thought and looked over.  It was a local rider with a phone camera.  He snapped the picture and said, “Gotcha’ Pait!”

This time I was saving my legs.  I eased my way to the top with a 16 minute time.  The pros are going to come pretty close to halving that on Saturday.  Word is that George Hincapie just recently had his best time up the hill.  That would be somewhere around 8 minutes and 30 seconds.  Even the pros getting shelled out the back on the climb are going to be putting out times around 10 minutes.

The human body is pretty amazing.  I try to imagine having the power to do what those guys do.  To me it would be almost like sprinting up the road!