Tag Archives: Bladenboro

20,000 feet below

Hello everyone, I’m vacating. After spending last week climbing over 22,000 feet (including Saturday’s 6000+ feet), I find myself in the swamps of North Carolina. Here I have ridden on Monday and Tuesday  covering over 60 miles but only climbing 400+ feet. This is a whole different world!

It has actually been a nice break from the climbing. Here it is basically flat except for these depressions here and there where the terrain descends into wetlands and then rises up toward more flat fields. This means you keep the engine wound up and keep it purring.

A couple of times I’ve been out and caught a nice tail wind. When you catch it right, you can fly along at 27 – 28 mph at wattage that normally would have you moving at 22 mph or so. That, friends, is fun!

As for Strava, this has been a desert. The closest Strava segment I could find was near the town of Whiteville. It would mean a 16 mile ride in 90+ degrees through swamps and cornfields to reach the 5 mile segment.

On Monday, I decided to take matters into my own hands to create a couple segments on stretches that I have ridden here over the years. They will probably stay my KOMs for years to come. I don’t see a large cycling community growing up here any time soon!

Tuesday, I decided to head toward Whiteville and give Richmond Tedder some competition. I happened upon his segment while looking for anything close by. I noticed the frustration in one of his comments on the segment, “Where are all the cyclists around here?” I would just ride over and give him some company!

It was around 9 AM when I rolled out. I was pleasantly surprised by the weather. It wasn’t too hot and when I rode along some of the shaded sections of Highway 131, I felt quite cool. Of course, when I rolled out into the exposed sections running between sundry crops, I felt the full brunt of the sun.

Still, it felt good to get in a rhythm and watch the impressively smooth asphalt pass beneath my front wheel. I covered the 16 miles to the segment in just over 40 minutes. Then I turned my attention to give Richmond a run for his money!

The segment started on a road called Silver Spoon Road. This would be a good section because even though the road was a little rough, I would have a nice tail wind. Then I would turn right onto a stretch of Highway 131. I knew I could fly along that smooth road with a slight crosswind with a little at my rear.

However, then I would then turn off onto a section where the asphalt was a more gravelly type. It had those ribs that often run across roads like these. I also would have a head wind on this section. Then there was a right turn onto a slightly smoother surface. The next right turn would put me back on Silver Spoon Road.

Sure enough, I started off on Silver Spoon with speeds up to 27 mph. I continued this after turning onto 131. Then I hit the wall on the turn onto Peacock Road! The combination of the road surface and the head wind dropped my speeds down to 23 mph and then 21 mph.

I put my head down to minimize the wind drag and before I knew it I was passing the turn onto Bill Hooks Road! I caught the entrance to the road in my peripheral vision and got stopped to turn around and get headed in the right direction. I knew that would cost me about 10 seconds.

Realizing that I was nearing the halfway point and that I would be picking up a tail wind when I made the final turn caused me to push a little harder. That allowed me to keep my speed for the section around an average of 23 mph until I had to climb a little rise. Before the turn, I was down to 19 mph.

Then I took off on Silver Spoon toward the finish. Going up an incline up from a low area where I had crossed over a creek I was still flying along at 26 mph. It was all due to the wind on my back. I watched the speed creep up toward an average of 24 mph for the entire segment. I knew that would be good!

Of course, I would have to wait until I got home to find out the details. Up until this point, I had averaged over 21 mph for an hour and a half. The sun was now climbing its way up to noon. I slipped into a more comfortable gear and slowly pedaled my way back to my parents’ home.

It was a good feeling. No need to go fast. Nothing to prove. No training plan to complete. Just riding through the summer breeze and looking at a section of the country that hasn’t changed much at all in the 40 plus years of my life.

It is so very different from Greenville in a multitude of ways. Sure, the terrain is different, but it’s more than that… and it is good for me. This is the one place where I seem to just be able to disconnect. So, if there isn’t another blog for a couple of days, you’ll have to understand!

My bicycle: the time machine

Okay, I haven’t posted in awhile. It isn’t because I’ve taken a break from riding. It has simply been because I was enjoying a break from writing.

I spent a week ago with my parents near the small town of Bladenboro, NC. Actually, the homestead is almost exactly between the aforementioned town and Dublin, NC. Highway 410 runs between the two with long stretches of straight asphalt. Off of this road are many more rural roads winding through swamps, fields, and forests.

That is where I spent a good amount of time on the bike. I’ll tell you, it was pretty great! Other than the brief amounts of time I had to spend on Hwy.410, the traffic was nearly non-existent. Never had very windy days and the roads are just as flat as can be. Perfect conditions for some steady-state training.

It was funny to see the reaction I got out of folks. Riding through town I was enough of an oddity to cause people to stop and follow me with their gaze. Most times on the road as a car would come toward me I would get the obligatory hand wave from the steering wheel. Only rarely did I get a horn — and that was always a friendly (though misguided) “I’m coming up behind you” beep.

The most fun I had were those days where my training called for me ride for a couple of hours at around 200 watts for the duration. All I had to do was point the bike in the right direction, start spinning my legs at a consistent cadence, and let ‘er roll! This also meant that I could do some exploring.

So, even though I had spent 18 years of my life roaming around this area, I had never been to the town of Evergreen, NC. I had seen the signs for it on other rides. This time I made the turn off of Hwy. 410 onto Hwy. 242 and set the town as my goal.

Off I rode through flat corn fields. Then I wound my way downward to a black water creek that ran through swamp land on either side of the road. Back up to the flats and some more corn and soybean fields later, I arrived at the small hamlet of Evergreen.

The town was made up of a four-way stop sign with a convenience store on one corner. Tall water oaks over sandy soil stood in front of the few homes. One road was called “Evergreen School Road” and I assumed the buildings I saw between some trees was said school. It appeared that the school was the primary reason for the town’s existence — that and the traditional structure of the Evergreen Baptist Church.

As I passed through the town I made my way through yet another swamp. The black water lay still beneath the moss laden trees. It was as though I was riding back into time. Then I passed through a canopy of trees to find a new scene.

In front of me were large earth moving machines and a towering bridge that looked as though it would soon be a highway overpass. I had stumbled upon Highway 74. Traffic was heavy and the speeds of the cars passing were a stark contrast to the sleepy existence from which I had just emerged.

I turned to look behind me. All I could see was a tree line with a tunnel made of leaves and pine needles. Looking back toward the construction, I saw a man standing atop the huge mound of dirt created to form an on/off ramp. I could tell he was studying me. What was going through his mind? I’m sure he was wondering what I was doing there.

It was all pretty symbolic to me. The contrast of the seeming simplistic rural existence of my childhood and the bustling, high-speed world of my current life. Still, I had a few more days to enjoy the roads that followed paths first formed in the late 1600s – with not too much changing since then.

I turned around and rode back into the trees.

Going batty and a couple more things

I last rode my bike Friday.  Saturday I took my sons to a little amusement park, and now on Monday morning I’m still feeling it.  I guess I can’t just jump in and do things like I used to.

The ride was somewhat of a disappointment.  You may recall that Friday’s ride was supposed to be my attempt at my best 60 min peak power reading.  On Monday I had finished my warm-up ride with a reading of 276 watts.  Tuesday was a long ride that I believe took more out of me than I planned.  Wednesday was a short spin while Thursday was a little longer, but very much a recovery ride.

I thought things were going very well as I started out on that Friday.  The earlier attempt taught me a few things and I was trying to use that knowledge.  At 20 minutes I was averaging 294 watts.  By 30 minutes in I was at a 297 watts average.  Then it started going downhill.

It was about this time the heat (it was 92 degrees with high humidity) started to get to me.  That was a big difference between Friday and Monday.  Monday’s ride was wonderful.  This one was not.

I was now riding in survival mode.  The goal was to maintain as much of that average as possilbe.  I knew I wasn’t going to build on it.

With 10 minutes to go I was hanging around 271 watts.  At that point I couldn’t remember what my earlier average was.  Was it 265 or 275?  Turns out I ended up right smack between those two numbers.  It was a bit disappointing to only end up with my second best 60 minute reading.  Still, that was two attempts in one week with only a 5 watt drop off.

Saturday I was thinking about all my friends riding in the Caesars Head Challenge.  I really would have liked to have ridden in the first ever (though I am sure not the last) event.  My plans for the day were to take my boys to a little amusement park in the morning and then return home to Greenville after spending a last few hours with my family.

We started off with some minature golf.  I was playing with my brother-in-law and my two nephews.  My boys and their cousin, who is their age, were playing in their own group.  Needless to say, I got beat.  I got behind by a stroke early and then started taking chances in order to try to get back.  Wrong move.

Next, I helped my boys give the batting cages a swing.  I was proud of the way Thing Two got in there and took it to those 40 mph pitches.  Up to this point he had only received pitches from his coach in coaches pitch.  He is going to be ready to move up next year.

My older nephews talked me into getting into their cage where they were swinging at 80 mph balls.  I got one of the first four.  Then I started to figure out the timing and started getting a piece of about everyone that came at me.  A couple were even very solid hits.

Then it was on to go-karts.  That was very fun!  All in all it was a very fun morning and well worth the time I spent with my guys.  However, all weekend I’ve been suffering.

The batting cage did me in.  In college I had taken up tennis.  One day I was rushing and went out to practice my serve.  I didn’t warm up and then got a little frustrated about my placement.  So, I kept serving one ball after another.  My shoulder started to bother me a bit, but I kept at it.  Bottom line is I ended up messing up my right shoulder.  Now I have to be very careful throwing a ball or doing anything that requires me to rotate my arm above my head.

It didn’t cross my mind that I needed to be careful swinging a bat!  However, yesterday I ended up on medication and spread out on the couch.  Both of my shoulders were causing me pain.  They are slightly better this morning, but I’m walking around like a stiff board in order not to move them very much.

I do want to give a shout for our man Craig Lewis.  He had a very good showing in the Dauphiné Libéré coming home 24th overall.  That was ahead of some of the stage winners.

Cyclingnews.com has changed up their site again.  It will take me a little to get used to it, but my initial response is that it is an improvement.  They still have some formating issues to clean up.

Last week, Kirk Flinte mentioned on his blog that the DVD’s of the documentary on George Hincapie would be available within five to ten days.  I get the feeling that we may find them ready for purchase this week.  Should be an interesting watch.

Can you believe that the Tour de France is less than a month away?  Wow.  There will certainly be some interesting story lines for this one.  I’m looking forward to it.

Addicted

I wonder if I’m addicted?  Maybe that is too strong of a term, but I’m not sure how else to describe it.  I’d like to say I’m committed, but it is probably more than that.

I’m on vacation in the swamps of southeastern North Carolina.  There isn’t much around here in the way of amusement.  That is how I like it.  This is my get away from it all week.  E-mail is a minimum.  Phone calls go to voice mail.  It is time to recharge before going back into the fray.

This week has been a little different.  It has been harder to leave behind the pressures of my various roles.  It isn’t that I have a lot hanging over my head, it is just that I haven’t been able to just close my mind off to what is waiting for me back home like I have been able to do in the past.  It has left me a little frustrated.

That is where the idea of being addicted comes in.  It seems that the only time I am able to slip those things from my mind is when I am on the bike.  I’ve jumped on the Giant multiple times this week just to head off to who knows where.  Today it led me to the nearby town of Lumberton.

My ride to Lumberton, NC

My ride to Lumberton, NC

About an hour and a half into the ride I was sweating and easily turning the pedals at a low cadence of 62 rpm.  The pressure of my legs against the pedals and the surge of the bike beneath me was like a hypnotic effect.  I found a grin on my face.

Once in Lumberton I turned around and headed home.  This time I shifted my gears to bring my cadence up to over 80.  Once I came upon a large turtle halfway across the road.  I did a u-turn just in time to see him nearly get plastered by a car.  I moved to him quickly and gently kicked him sliding across the road onto the grassy shoulder.  Continuing on my way, I felt that grin again.

Off of the main road into some rural roads that went for miles with no houses on either side.  It was as though I was riding between walls of lush trees on either side.  There is certainly no drought here!

The black water of the NC swamps

The black water of the NC swamps

Then I came upon a short bridge that crossed a slow moving creek running through one of the swampy areas.  If you look above at the map image, you will see large swaths of green cutting through the satellite images of cultivated fields.  That green area is the swamp.

There are several large swamps with fingers of smaller swamps running from it.  One of these fingers runs directly behind the property where I grew up.  That swamp is called “Crawley Swamp.”  The water in these swamps is very black.  At least, it appears to be black.  If you look at it closely you see that the water is clear, but if you jump in you find that there is a black silt near the bottom.  It is this black dirt that gives the water the dark appearance.

Anyway, the silence (except for the sound of frogs and cicadas) made me feel alone and as though I was surrounded all at the same time.  My WKO+ shows a dead spot at that point as I just enjoyed the moment.  Then it was back to pedaling.

I think I could have gone on and on beyond the 2.5 hours I rode.  However, I am here with my family as well and it was time to get back to them.  I parked the bike feeling a ton better than I did before I started.  It won’t be long, I’m sure, before I’ll feel that restlessness again that will only be settled when I feel that motion of the frame of my bike moving me through the humid air.

Never underestimate

I woke up a little late this morning.  Instead of heading off to nearby Lake Wacamaw at 9AM, I left around 9:30.  Based on my Garmin 705 Edge, I would need to cover 24 miles.  I figured that would take me about an hour and a half of easy riding.

The morning was nice.  The temperature was around 75F and the sky was showing tall cumulus clouds.  The wind was at a minimum.  The only negative was that once again the humidity was coming down from 95% after a foggy early morning.

I took my video camera in hopes of doing a documentary of the Garmin 705’s routing capabilities.  It might be nice to get some scenery of the lake once I arrived.  The only problem is that the VholdR does a decent job getting video of trails and things, but when you try to capture the screen of the 705 it can’t a very distinct image.  I’d have to wait and see how things turned out at the end.

The Garmin sent me down Highway 131 toward Bladenboro – then through Bladenboro towards Whiteville.  This isn’t the way I would have chosen to go, but the plan was to obey the Garmin.  Besides, I knew this would get me there.

From Bladenboro to Lake Wacamaw and back

From Bladenboro to Lake Wacamaw and back

The device worked great giving me alerts right before each turn.  I was feeling pretty good about it until it started to lead me on a by-pass around Whiteville.  Hmmmmm, what was it planning to do?  The only thing ahead was a four lane road.  I don’t think bicycles would be allowed on that divided highway.

Sure enough, as I approached the overpass the Garmin alerted me to get on the entrance ramp.  I watched the big trucks passing over my head.  Ummmm, I don’t think so.  It is time for the Garmin to recalculate!

It only took a few seconds for the computer to find another route.  I just needed to go down the road a couple more miles and then turn left.  This took me to downtown Whiteville (exactly where I would have gone had I not gotten sent on the bypass) and then onto Sam Potts – an old road that runs parallel to the divided highway.

Suddenly I wasn’t feeling so happy.  I was now over 30 miles into the ride and Lake Wacamaw was still miles ahead.  This could end up taking me two hours to reach the water.  The sun was coming out and the temperature was rising.  I was on the last few swallows of my water.

Finally, about 1 hour 50 minutes into the ride I reached the lake.  Of course, I realized that I was going to have to turn around a go back soon.  I guess I was going to have a late lunch!

View of Lake Wacamaw from boat launch

View of Lake Wacamaw from boat launch

It was cool riding along the edge of the lake.  The lake is basically a body of water in the middle of a swamp.  On a large portion of the lake is a ring of land with houses that have piers going out into the water.  On the opposite side of the houses from the lake is the road that runs along about half the lake.

The thing that got my attention wasn’t the lake, it was the canal on the other side of the road.  The canal runs along the side of the road and on the opposite side is the swamp.  I saw several logs in the water with turtle families on it.  You could find five or six of the turtles – baby ones and large ones together.

One of the smaller aligators I saw (click to enlarge)

One of the smaller aligators I saw (click to enlarge)

Best of all were the aligators.  Yep, Lake Wacamaw has aligators.  They have been there for years.  I’m not sure they are native though.  I believe the were introduced to the environment many years ago.  Maybe someone’s pets got loose.  Anyway, I saw several with the largest being five to six feet long.

I contemplated riding around the lake, but realized that the road wasn’t that well connected (as I remember) and this lake is a good sized one.  If I tried to work my way around and then back home, this could turn into a century!  It was nice to head back.

Before leaving I rode over to a camp on the lake where a couple of college students from my church were working for the summer.  The Anchorage has been there for as long as I can remember.  I never went there as a camper, but I do remember going roller skating there and playing tournaments.

Checking the Garmin, I found that I had the routing setting on “Car/Motorcycle.”  That would explain why it tried to put me on that major highway.  I switched it to route for a bicycle and recalculated the way home.  Guess what?  It routed to take me back the way I would have come in the first place.

I had planned on the ride to be about 50 miles long.  I was already about 48 miles into the ride.  A stop at a gas station was required.  Walking out I munched on a Milky Way dark chocolate bar.  In my pocket was a package of Fig Newtons and some Peanut Butter cookies (the ones that look like peanuts).  On my bike were 32 ounces of Gatoraide.

The ride started out a little more interesting.  This road was a small rural road and gave me a chance to see some variety instead of huge fields and forests on both sides of the road.  The only negative I noticed was the large amount of trash on the roadside.  After finishing my FN, I was tempted to throw the wrapper on the ground.  Everyone else seemed to do so!  I couldn’t do it and stuck it back in my jersey.

Before long I needed to stop for a nature break.  I finished that up at my first turn.  The next turn would be onto Highway 211.  That would be a major waypoint as it would give me the sense that I was nearing home – even if it would be the longest stretch of road on my way home!

211 is a looooooong straight road.  If you look at a map it doesn’t seem that way, but when you are riding it and you look in front of you and then behind you, it seems like it goes on forever either way.  A nice thing about it is the fact that it has a nice shoulder that almost seems like it was designed to be a bike lane.

My next stop was in Clarkton.  My 32 oz. of Gatoraide was gone.  I pulled up to the station and couldn’t see anywhere to rest my bike.  Also, there was a number of people loitering around the doorway.  I rolled my bike in to get a Pepsi and some more energy drink.

As I rolled the bike out, one of the women standing there said, “What?  Were you afraid someone was going to steal your bike?  I would have watched it for you.”  The response in my mind was, “Yes!”  I told her, “Oh, I always take it with me.”  “I don’t blame you,” she replied.  “How far did you ride? 10 miles?”  I chuckled.  “I rode from Bladenboro to Lake Wacamaw and now I’m on my way home.”  The group visibly started (I doubt they did much exercising) and the woman said as I started off, “You be careful, honey!”

After a couple more turns off of 211 back towards my parents house, I was done.  72 miles and four and a half hours after I started.  Granted, some of that time was spent looking at aligators and turtles, but it was a bit longer of a day than I had planned.

Still, even though I had underestimated what the ride would take out of me, I felt again that sense of accomplishment that comes from exploring out to a place where you have never been on your bike.  It is a lot different than racing or participating in group rides.  It is just you and the goal.  It is up to you to support yourself and find your way home.

Try it sometime.  Get your Garmin and type in a location 40 miles or so out.  Follow the route it gives you unless you know that it is absolutely stupid (it does happen!) and then hit the road with some food and money in your pocket.  Oh, a camera would be a good idea as well.  When you get home, you won’t regret it.

Setting a benchmark

I’m watching a recording of the conclusion of the 2nd stage of the Dauphiné Libéré as I begin this post.  There are about 11 km to go and Quickstep is chasing down the four guys in front.  It is amazing to think of the speeds they have averaged during the stage.  That is especially true when I consider my own ride this morning.

Graph before ride

Graph before ride

It is my first day for riding here in the flat terrain of southeastern North Carolina.  I figured this one would be a good opportunity for setting a baseline for an attempt at a record 60 minute Mean Maximal Power reading.  Because there are hardly any elevations here, I figured it is a good place to put the pedal down and keep some consistent wattage going.

BTW, I just finished watching the recording of stage two.  Man, I was pulling for David Millar!  What an effort.  He almost got it.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of my goals for the year is to move all the bars on my WKO+ Power Profile into the Cat. 3 zone.  I’ve managed to get all of them over the top except for my 60 minute reading.  Don’t know if I’ll get it this week, but I figured I would give it a try.

The morning started out very foggy with temperatures around 70 degrees.  The humidity was 99%, but with no rain.  I waited around for a bit until the fog burned off and then around 9 AM got on the bike to start out.

After the ride

After the ride

I left my heart rate monitor at home because I didn’t want to pay any attention to that.  My goal was to ride for 10 minutes easy and then try to push it as much as possible for 60 minutes.  I would then finish up the ride by just enjoying the road until I completed my second hour.

So, what did I get?  I don’t know.  I haven’t uploaded my information from the Garmin to the computer yet.  Let’s see what happened.

Well, I didn’t make it over the Cat. 3 line, but I moved the bar above half way in the Cat. 4 zone.  My peak 60 minute reading was 276 watts.  That beats my previous high by over 20 watts.

My plan is to take it easy tomorrow and just go for a fun spin over to Lake Wacamaw.  Wednesday I’ll head out to a road I discovered today and do some intervals.  I’ll have the heart rate monitor that day.  I’ll push it up to a certain HR and then back off to recover before pushing again. Thursday I’ll take it easy and then Friday I’ll try to beat today’s benchmark.

Click the image to enlarge

Click the image to enlarge

Above is the 43 mile route I covered in those 2 hours.  Here is today’s work out.  Tomorrow’s blog will also be a little later in the day as I hope to write about my trip over to Lake Wacamaw.  Hopefully I’ll be able to take a camera and get some pictures.

The thorns have the last laugh

I’m back in Greenville.  It is good to be home.  I’m sitting here by the fire as I type this.  My fingers and toes are finally starting to warm up after a late afternoon ride.

I had hoped to ride with John James out in TR way, but he was busy taking down Christmas decorations.  Actually, I think he knew the window of warm air and sunny skies was about to close and he didn’t want to get stuck in a cloud bank.  One thing for sure is that it turned out to be quite foggy!

The ride started just fine.  At my place it was still pretty warm — in the mid-forties.  As I climbed up Paris Mountain, I could look out toward Greer and there was sunshine and blue skies.  Right above me and toward downtown Greenville it was cloudy and starting to look worse.

On the top of Altamont Road I did get caught in a cloud bank.  You couldn’t see much past the edge of the road.  The temperature had dropped dramatically as well.  I was making my own fog with my breath.  It was good to get down, but I noticed that as I moved on toward TR it was still pretty cold.

I set Leopard Forrest coffee shop as my target.  If I could just make it there, I would get me a coffee and a muffin.  Boy did it taste good!  However, the problem with stopping midway to get warm is that you have to go right back out again and repeat the process of getting cold.

Thankfully, as I got into Greenville it started to feel warm again.  I guess that is the way it is when you come into a city — the temperatures are always a few degrees warmer than out in the country.  That is expecially true when you are heading out toward the higher elevations.

So, what has all this got to do with thorns?  Nothing.  It is just that I finally got some video of my mountain bike trail back in the swamp.  I decided to go ahead and post it today.

If you recall, I had to clear out a whole lot of thorns.  Well, when I unloaded the bikes I found that I had five flat tires!  When we went to change them with new tubes, we found the flats were caused by the thorns that had landed in the trail.

I did take a look at another section I hope to clear this summer.  There aren’t any thorns so progress should be better.  It also should allow me to add enough trail to extend the entire loop to a half mile.

From out of the thorns

… cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee … from Genesis 3:17 & 18

I thought of this passage from the Bible as I was working on the mountain bike trail yesterday afternoon.  The road ride went by the wayside when my boys asked me if they could give the trail a try.  We grabbed our bikes and some tools.  Before long we were chopping our way through the briars and vines.

It is amazing to see the damage those briars do to the trees.  I would cut off one of the briar vines at the root and then start pulling at it.  You could see where the vine went up into the trees to turn into a jumbled mass of dead limbs and briars.

More often than not when I pulled I ended up pulling the tree down!  I’m not sure if this is the case, but it appeared that the vines sucked the life out of the trees and they were dead.  Thankfully, after pulling on the vines and cutting the briars away, I didn’t have to cut down many saplings to make the path.

After several hours of labor, we guys started riding (Thing Three spent most of his time pushing his bike over the mounds of dirt).  It was fun and quite technical in some places.  However, I did end up the day somewhat disappointed.

All of that work, but when we did a timed run of the route out and back the time was underwhelming!  My 8 year-old, who really took to the trail, finished in 2 minutes.  I finished riding the trail in 1:38.  Turns out it isn’t nearly as long as it seemed when I was clearing it!

Today I was back on the road bike heading out to the nearby town of Whiteville.  The goal for the day was to put in two hours focusing on my form — cadence, power, and distance weren’t a concern.  I figured I could make it to Whiteville in an hour and then turn around for the second.

I did it too.  However, I had a slight tailwind all the way there.  I also rode around a bit in the town.  When I turned around to come back, I had the wind in my face.  I ended up with about 2.5 hours in the saddle.

Well, I hope this riding serves me well come race season.  It was pretty lonely out there.  I even had someone throw an full and open soda can at my front wheel.  I’m sure it will be worth it…

One thing I have learned is that I can ride pretty strong for about two hours.  Once I pass the two hour threshold, I start feeling it.  It doesn’t seem to matter whether I ride hard or easy, two hours is the magic distance.  I guess that is why you have to train with longer distances.  You can move that magic distance out a bit.

More mountain bike trail work tomorrow!  We’re going to add a switchback to make the trail more of a loop.  That way the kids won’t get upset with each other blocking the way.

I’m back

Had a great time at my parents’ house last week. It is always good to get together with all my siblings and their families. I’m reminded how blessed I am to have this heritage.

Basically, what we do is hole up down in the swamp. At times there are over 20 of us staying at the house. Last summer some of the family started building a bunkhouse. My dad finished it up and this was the first summer it was in use. Made for much better conditions in the main house! The cousins loved it.

I did take my bike and rode nearly every day. Two of my nephews rode with me a couple of times. However, the big daddy was Friday, June 29th. That is a special day because it marked the completion of my first century ride.

I started out planning to do a loop around a nearby lake — Lake Wacamaw. However, as I neared the town of Bladenboro, I saw a sign that read, “Supply 52.” All I would have to do is jump on this road (NC Hwy 211) and ride it to Supply, turn around and come back. I could then say I completed my first century ride.

The blue line shows the 100 mile route that runs out 50 miles and then back to the start. Click here to expand the map. Once you have expanded the map, click on it to be able to view more detail.

I had plenty of water, some gel, and a power bar. It was around 9:40 in the morning and weather was good. I pointed my Allez toward Supply.

The going was pretty good. I was averaging 20 mph without and trouble. As I looked ahead of me it appeared that I was climbing ever so slightly. This made me happy because I figured I would need some downhill coming back.

Now, understand, when I say climbing, we’re talking very shallow grades. This is a very swampy area, so the rises and falls aren’t really that noticeable – at least when you are fresh. You can be surprised how hard it is when you are tired!

The first 40 miles were really easy. This was well within my range. The next ten were not. Between the 30 and 50 mile marks, I entered the “Green Swamp” — meaning I was on a long flat road with absolutely nothing around. It was right about this time I ran out of fluids. I had to decide to keep going through the swamp to Supply (which I figured was at least 10 miles beyond the 50 mile mark) or turn around and ride 15 miles or so to a gas station I had seen.

I decided to turn back. I had no idea what was in Supply. I figured it was safer to stick with the known.

By this time, it was starting to get rather warm. As I rode along, I started getting thirsty. This was not good. I even stopped sweating as much. If I didn’t get water soon, I was going to bonk.

Thankfully, I made it back to the station and loaded up on fluids. I also got a bag of ice and filled my jersey pockets with the stuff along with my two extra bottles. Boy that felt good!

Anyway, to make a long ride short, I came back to the area where I thought I had been climbing slightly. Now, it was obvious that I had been going downhill! Instead of being able to pedal with ease to the finish, I was going to have to climb. Oh boy.

There isn’t much to say after that. I had plenty of water, but by this time the sun was high and I could feel my arms begin to burn. My legs were telling me they had never taken me this far before. After five and a half hours on the road (5:11 in the saddle), I was near the finish. Honestly, with two miles to go, I felt like stopping and calling for my wife to come pick me up.

I didn’t, of course, and I can now say that I have completed my first century! Someday I’ll do an official one, but at least now I know I can do it.