Tag Archives: Caesars Head

It is not always about where you think you are

Caesars Head

Yes, it has been awhile since I’ve posted here at Low Cadence. I’m happy to report that one reason it has been so long is because I have been riding my bicycle. Something had to give if I was going to get everything done and the blog took the hit.

The result is being able to concentrate on getting things done. That makes me feel free to mount up for a couple of hours and ride. It culminated in what Strava labeled an “Extreme” effort this past Saturday.

I took Friday off my day job and spent the morning doing I Do It For Foundation work. Then that afternoon I took off for a solid 30 mile ride around and over Paris Mountain. On that ride, something was awakening. At times I actually felt that I was riding well.

Saturday morning came and I didn’t put anything on my schedule. This day would just come to me. I took sometime in the morning getting caught up on some personal things and then rode my mountain bike with Thing Two over to the coffee shop. After lunch and a bike cleaning, I decided to start out for Caesars Head.

The week before I had ridden part way up the incline. It was one of my “End of the String” rides. This is a ride where I have a certain amount of time to spend on the bike — say 4 hours. That means I can go out for 2 hours. That point is the end of the string.

That ride put me a couple miles away from Highway 11 — just beyond the fire station on the left as you climb. I felt bad about turning around at that point, but the string would not allow me to go farther. That put the desire in my mind to make it to the top next time.

So, I started off around 2:30 PM and headed up over Paris Mountain. This wasn’t the same route I had taken the week before and I wondered what that would do to my comparable time. I would know when I reached the county line at Hunts Bridge Road. I typically make it there in 1 hour following the typical route.

I reached it in 1 hour and 2 minutes. Ahhh, that would put me pretty much on schedule to match the previous attempt. I now began to think about seeing how far I could go beyond my stopping point a week before.

That leads us to the climb. I knew I was going to better the previous attempt, but I also knew that I was going to be hurting trying to make it to the top. Still, I was pleased to see the fire station pass with 2 minutes to spare. This means I had knocked 4 minutes off the time from Hunts Bridge.

That goal done, I turned my attention to the climb before me. It had been nearly a year since I last climbed this road. The memory of the turns was not clear to me. I was riding blindly up with no way points to cheer me along.

I determined that having my stated goal complete, I would just take it easy to the top. Of course, that is all relative. Climbing a 6 mile incline can be painful even going slow!

Then the clock started to enter the picture. The longer it was taking me to climb the mountain the later I would be getting home. I knew it would take me at least 2 hours from the base — and that would be with good legs!

As usual, I wasn’t eating much of anything and had only finished off about half a bottle of water. I knew that was going to come back to haunt me. I started trying to take on a bit more fluids and thought more of the banana in my pocket.

Then it started getting really hard. “Just keep turning the pedals over,” I told myself. Then I beat myself up about how it didn’t seem to be this hard in the past. Then I found myself praying, “Lord, PLEASE, let there be a marker around this next corner that I recognize letting me know I’m near the end.”

Finally, an embarrassingly long 50 minutes later, I was at the top. There was not much time to enjoy the view. I had to eat my banana and race the sun home.

Thankfully, going down it only took me 10 minutes to cover the distance it took me 50 minutes to climb. I reached Highway 11 at 3 hours into the ride. So, I figured this experience should be over with 5 or so hours in the saddle.

Just as I was coming off it hit me. A huge cramp locked up my left quad. For a moment I was in a panic. 2 more hours to go and I was already cramping!? I just concentrated on the muscle telling it to relax and kept it spinning. I was taking on the water in earnest now!

Then I made another mistake. Thinking that it would save me some time, I turned off onto Tally Bridge Road. That led me to Moody Bridge, but rather than turning right on Moody as I should have, I turned left. This made me add several more miles to the trip home.

It was with great relief that I made it to Pace Bridge Road. From there I could start ticking off way points. From this point it was all about finding the flattest and most direct route home. About a mile from home my Garmin screen switched to “night mode”. I knew at that point it was officially sunset though there was still plenty of light to find my way.

Yes, I’m not in the shape that I wish I was. I just have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t about where I was or even where I am right now. If I look back at last year, I can see that really I’m not much off of my fitness level from that period. Last year at this time, my fitness was quantified with a score of 46. Today, I’m at 53. By mid-May, 2012 I had a score of 63. By July I was up to 99.

I still have some left in me. I will improve in the months ahead.

Pulling my own weight

Tuesday I rushed out during lunch to get in a quick ride.  The evenings around here have been full of thunderstorms and baseball games.  I have to squeeze in the miles when I have the time.

This ride took me quickly out of town down Old Buncombe to the base of Paris Mountain.  I made it there in about 30 minutes and then rushed over the mountain trying to keep the ride as close to an hour as possible.  I made it up the Furman side in about 12 minutes and 45 seconds and then arrived at the intersection of Piney Mountain and Pleasantburg just as the computer registered one hour.

Later that evening – after a terrific thunderstorm followed by beautiful blue skies and a baseball game – I took a look at the data from my ride.  I was curious about that 12:45 up the Furman side of Altamont Road.  It seemed as though I was working much harder than the time indicated.

Granted it was pretty hot – in the 90s at that time – and was VERY muggy.  It has been incredibly humid around here for the last week or so.  It is also true that I had ridden for a week in the flat, flat terrain of my birthplace.

My Quarq CinQo indicated that my wattage for the climb was a 326 watts average.  This spring that would have definitely been good for a sub 12:30 time and even close to sub 12:15.  Something else had changed.

Then I climbed on the scales.  I hadn’t weighed myself since before I went on vacation.  Hmmmmm, that could be part of my problem.  I had put on four extra pounds over the last week or so.  Turns out I was pulling a little extra weight through that hot, muggy air on my way up the mountain.

I also was reminded of the huge difference between an amateur rider like me and a professional like George Hincapie.  If you go over to his Web site, you will find some neat videos with George answering questions submitted by fans.  One question regards his Functional Threshold wattage.  He doesn’t come out an say what it is.  However, he does comment that when climbing Caesars Head he will average around 385 watts (which is below his FT).

I figure my FT is around 280 watts.  I can’t imagine climbing Caesars Head maintaining the wattage I was holding for 13 minutes up the  2 miles of Altamont!  Even if I could suffer to the top, I would still be 60 watts below George’s “typical ride” average.  These guys are amazing!

Well, I guess it is time to go get rid of some of this weight.  My favorite way?  Ride my bike!

My calendar is marked

My time away last week was great.  However, as I mentioned in one of my Tweets, I did miss the Caesars Head Challenge.  I don’t plan on doing that again.  I’ve already marked my calendar for next year.

I continue to hear good things about the event – including this report by Kirk Flinte.  If you participated in the event, I’d love to see your comments – or even a report to post here at LowCadence.com.  I would especially like to hear from someone who completed the 102 mile epic ride!

Here is a report from Catherine James.

June 12, 2010.  It’s already set -The Second Annual Caesars Head Challenge.  So for all of you who missed the Inaugural event this past Saturday, you have another opportunity.  And you now have a year to prepare – which believe me, you’ll need.

John and I rode the Metric route, which provided the expected amount of suffering leading to the slog up Caesars Head, but what really made things interesting was the blistering pace set from the gun, and the third hardest climb being a mile into the ride. For those of you who participate in Donaldson Center on Tuesday nights, imagine riding in the A group to the base of Caesars Head, with Camp Old Indian as a warm up. So, if you want a hard, fast, challenging ride with a test of your climbing endurance at the end (and in the middle, and in the beginning), do this route next year. Of course, the route is friendly for all, well supported and provided appropriate rest stops (and bail-out points) – so if you prefer to stop and eat the cookies (Baker) and drink the ice cold coke, it’s even more satisfying.

The full Century, aka Gran Fondo, I hear was the true climber’s test. We’re told that evil genius Boyd managed to put in every infamous climb he could think of in under 102 miles (Watershed, Saluda Grade, Old 25, Mount Olivet, Caesars Head.) The distance, the climbs and the heat were the perfect prescription for a true challenge. So all you gluttons for punishment, this one is for you. Several of the Century “specialists” determined that this ride tops Mt. Mitchell due to the up and down nature of the route.

As for the event venue (gorgeous!), organization and friendly hospitality, the Caesars Head Challenge team did a superb job in their inaugural event, and is already incorporating suggestions into the planning for next year (earlier start time, more directional signs/pavement markings). While there were a few minor (and typical) issues in this first attempt, this ride was as good as or better than many of the other established rides I have participated in. Bravo Nicole, Boyd, Don and Global Bike, and I look forward to next year’s challenge.

Like lice on Caesars Head

This morning Chris, John, and I loaded up our bikes on top of Chris’ truck and headed to Marietta for a short ride up to Caesars Head. From our starting point, it was 18 miles up to the park entrance.

Did I mention that this was my first trip on a bike along the route?

We rode up from somewhere down there…

The ride along 288 was pretty easy. It was basically like any other Saturday morning ride. Marked Beech road was more of the same only the scenery was much better (except for the dead dear that some carrion birds were having for breakfast). Moody Bridge road was even better. I was feeling pretty good. The McDonald’s steak biscuit was sitting just right.

Once we got on Pleasant Grove road, the ridge on which Caesars Head is located loomed ahead of us. I was going to climb that? Well, first we had to get on Hwy. 11 and keep our eyes open for speeding cars. I was thinking how great the road would be for riding if the traffic was light when it was time to turn onto Hwy. 8 to start the climb. Here we go…

The blue line shows the route for Slater-Marietta to Caesars Head route. Click here to expand the map. Once you have expanded the map, click on it to be able to view more detail.

The climb started out not to be so bad. It reminded up of some of the climbing on the Bakery Ride. We just kept going and stopped at Bald Head to allow John to catch his breath. I’m not sure, but I think he may have gone behind some bushes to puke – though it could have been something less severe. Turns out he was really hurting himself because his seat was adjusted wrong.

We found that out because as we started out again – maybe five miles from the top – he just stopped and said he just had to do something with the seat because his back was killing him. We pulled over once again to make the adjustments. About six riders passed us as we worked.

The next thing we came to was the 4 mile marker. At that point the climbing set in in earnest. I put it in the middle ring and just started trying to maintain a 8 to 10 mph average. Before long I caught one of the riders that had passed us. Now it was just me and road. John and Chris were still out of sight behind me.

“Okay, so this has to end at some point,” I thought. Finally, there it was, a sign letting me know I only had to go 1000 more feet. I had pretty much made it. I had avoided the third ring of my triple until just here at the end. Now, I slipped back up before pulling into the park.

John and Chris soon followed. I was proud of John. He had been off the bike some and I was wondering if he would make it. He did just fine. Then it was time to turn around and retrace our route. Ahhh, wasn’t that downhill great!

Stats: Distance = 36 miles, Time = 2:21 hours, Max. = 40 mph, Average = 15.3 mph. Unfortunately, my HRM got thrown off when I inadvertantly pushed a button. As I climbed, the max bpm I noticed was 184. Best I can tell, I averaged around 153 bpm.

Great fun! Can’t wait to do it again. The only really annoying this is that my bottom bracket keeps creaking. It drives me nuts!