Tag Archives: Paris Mountain

Paris Mountain fixation

One of those times has come into life when I woke up on a Saturday morning and didn’t really want to get up and out on the bike. I’m not sure why, but the idea of getting up and taking a slower paced morning was appealing. Perhaps it was because the afternoon and evening was going to be busy. Still, I knew that I needed to get out and keep what fitness I have.

Once again I was heading out on the fixed gear. Perhaps that was also part of my problem. I would have preferred to go out with the Sunshine Cycle Shop Hour of Power ride, but I didn’t want to hold everyone up as I chased them around with one gear. I would be doing this ride alone.

About two hours was all that was allotted to me. I figured in that time I would have to go out and ride and then swing by Sunshine to get new rubber for the SE Bikes Draft. The rear tire was showing the threads beneath the worn rubber. Actually, I was taking a chance riding this way, but I couldn’t make the shop stop at the beginning of the ride because they weren’t open.

I meandered toward downtown to get on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. At least there wouldn’t be a lot of climbing there. What I did find was a pile of runners/walkers. It was an organized event, though I never figured out who was sponsoring it.

Thankfully, things cleared out before I got to the SRT Cafe and Grocery. I was able to settle into a nice cadence on the fixed gear and before long I was starting to enjoy the beautiful morning. My start must have many later than many because as I was riding out, I came upon a couple of larger groups coming back toward downtown.

The closer I got to Furman the more an insane thought began to creep into my mind. “Why don’t you ride the Draft up Paris Mountain?” My legs rebelled at the idea. My lungs asked, “Why do you think of things like this?”

I looked at the clock. 45 minutes had passed since I rolled out from home. Really, if I was wanting to make it to Sunshine Cycle Shop, get the tires and get them changed before going home, then going over the mountain was the fastest option. The temptation to make the climb was getting stronger.

Finally I committed to making the climb. I knew it was going to be tough pulling the 23 pound bike with a 48 teeth chain ring (and shorter crank arms) up the mountain. I had done it before back when I had the original chain ring which was smaller. Even that time, I had to stop and take a break on the climb.

I hit the base trying to keep my momentum as best as possible. When the grade got a bit steeper, I would stand to use my weight to help push the crank arms around. When the grade was less acute, I would sit and try to get my heart rate down a bit. Whether standing or sitting, I tried to use my back stroke as well as my forward stroke to get an even flow of power.

The top of the water tower segment came in about the same time as my geared attempts. The actual water tower segment was one of my fastest. However, I could tell it as I was starting to breathe much harder and I had to seek for recovery as best I could.

A fixed gear drives you. There is no letting up. There is no looking for an easier gear. When you think one leg is about the give out, the other one just pushes it around for another revolution. You can’t really slow down either. Slowing basically means you are going to come to a stop. You just have to gut it out.

I reached the half way point in about 6:15. Still, that wasn’t bad at all. However, I knew I was just borrowing from the road ahead.

Riders out for a Saturday climb were all along the road. I kept passing one and then another. It wasn’t that I was trying to get around them. It is just I had no choice but to keep my momentum. Several of them commented on the fact of the single gear. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do much but huff out a “Good morning.”

Then I reached “The Wall.” My intent was to finish what I had started. I had slowed considerably and reached the turn up to the wall in about 12:20. Who knows how much time I would burn over the next quarter mile. I stood, put my head down and started clawing my way up.

My legs were tired. My lungs were burning. However, it was my arms and shoulders that were screaming the loudest.

I really need to start doing some upper body work. Climbing with the fixed gear required me to really work the handle bars to shift my weight from side to side and get as much power as possible on the crank. My arms were yelling for me to relax my grip!

Finally, about 20 meters from the top — right as the road kicks into its steepest section — it happened. I got stuck between the down stroke of my right crank and the up stroke of my left. It was as though the bike wanted to start pedaling backward. By the way, that is entirely possible on a fixed gear!

At a standstill, I finally put my foot down. My arms were now yelling “Hallelujah!” and my lungs weren’t yelling anything. They were just pulling in oxygen.

I walked up about 10 meters and then remounted. I was able to ride across the KOM line and stop the clock at 14:22. Really, considering everything, I was quite happy with that.

Now I had to scare myself by descending the mountain on a fixed gear with clipless pedals. I would be riding the bull! Thankfully, I had brakes.

Ten minutes later I was at the bottom and heading over Piney Mountain to Sunshine where I was able to put some wire mesh rubber tires that should last me for a good amount of time in the future. Thankfully, I also had time to ice my knees (another disadvantage of climbing with a fixed gear) before heading over to my son’s baseball game.

If nothing else comes from this time on the Draft, I know it will make me appreciate the Giant TCR Advanced all the more!

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.

No matter how you try it, it hurts

Yes, I am alive! Busy, but alive. Taking a breathe I figured I would give a quick update here on Low Cadence.

I have been riding and trying to stay as true to the Time-Crunched Cyclist plan as I can. Thankfully, during one of the busiest weeks of my year, the plan called for a bit of a break. I was only on the bike twice, but I have been pretty busy with the workouts this week.

Basically, I’ve settled into a routine of Steady State/Climbing Repeats and Power Interval workouts. Rarely am I spending more than two hours on the bike, but that doesn’t mean it is easy! I hope I’m seeing progress.

Last night was an hour and a half. I did 5 Power Intervals with 3 minutes on and 3 minutes off. I was encouraged because my averages for each effort did not fall off as much as times past.

One obsession that I’m starting to pick up again is the one for Paris Mountain. Once again most of my rides end up making Altamont Road the apex of my out-and-back. It takes me back again to when I first started riding.

Last week I nailed the best time of the year with a 13 minute 10 second climb to the top. Later in that week, I stopped by Sunshine Cycle Shop and was talking to John James and he told me about a couple of his recent climbs. He gave me a little motivation as well as something to try.

First of all, he pointed out that he had climbed the road a good bit faster than I. Since John was really the person who challenged me the most when I was first starting out, I always have a motivation to match him. It isn’t that I always can, but at least I try!

Then he told me of something he tried. Rather than metering his effort out over the climb — like a time trial, he decided to climb going all out for a minute and then going easy for a minute. Interestingly, his finishing times were within 15 seconds of each other.

Last night, like a moth drawn to the flames, I found myself at the base of the mountain after my power intervals. It probably was going to be painful, but I thought I would try out the on-off approach to the climb. It couldn’t hurt, I figured.

I started off easy. After 1 minute, I upped my effort putting out a 456 watt average. I felt okay for that first 1 minute effort. Then it was off again. My next 1 minute effort happened on the Water Tower section. Ouch. On that one, it dropped to 376 watts. As I neared the halfway point of the climb I had my third effort that came in at a lower average of 319 watts.

I made the first half in 6 minutes. That was 10 seconds or so faster than some recent climbs. However, I remember back in the day covering that distance in 5:30.

However, I also hit the wall at that point. When it came time for the first effort after midway, I was toast. It was about that time two riders came flying past me. One was Cleve Blackwell. He paused just long enough to pat my back and say hello. Then he was off.

I figured a rabbit would be helpful, so I tried to keep them in sight as long as I could. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for them to leave me in the dust. I had to settle in to a consistent output at around 280 watts.

Then I got to the wall. As I did, I saw a rider up ahead of me. It wasn’t the two guys who passed me earlier and I could see he was laboring a bit. That was some motivation for me to put out a bit more to see if I could beat him to the top.

I stood and started picking up my cadence. I was quickly gaining on the rider. Then I noticed another rider coming up to my right. It was Paul Mills, one of my old team mates. He came around me and I got on his wheel. We passed the earlier rabbit and rode together to the finish.

It took me 49 seconds to cover that distance and I averaged over 430 watts for the period. My heart rate spiked up to 187 — which is the highest I’ve reached so far this year. For the entire climb I averaged 297 watts and 178 bpm.

I don’t think the disjointed approach works that well for me! I was about 35 seconds slower than my climb last week. Of course, now I’m just motivated to go see how else I can tweak the technique to improve.

Back in the day making my personal best time

Back in the day making my personal best time. Photo: Eddie Helton

I’ve had a lot of fun on that mountain. Finishing at the top with all the other riders coming up reminded me of some great Thursday night group rides we used to have. Somehow it is more fun to share the pain with others than to make the effort alone. Whether you go steady or on-off, alone or with a group, it still hurts.


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.


I am faster than myself

Whew! I’m still tired after the last several days. Thursday night was the Greenville Spinners’ Individual Time Trial. Friday was a nice easy spin, but then Saturday morning rolled around and it was time for me to roll up Altamont Road for the Paris Mountain Time Trial.

Jonathan climbing the mountain

These Time Trials will give you a workout! Photo: Eddie Helton

I made it to the event with plenty of time. My coach had instructed me to get on the trainer for my warm-up. I tried to get the bike on there, but the adjuster was stuck. My bike was not being held firmly in the trainer and I didn’t want to risk messing up the trainer or the bike. So, I decided to do my warm-up on the road.

As I was out there and I wasn’t feeling so hot. My legs were pretty sluggish and my right calf muscle was feeling pretty tight and sore. It was starting to work on my mind. Then I did at 4 minute push at power over my FTP. Once done I cooled down a bit and then did a high cadence spin for one minute. My muscles were starting to feel a bit better, but my mind was still pretty apprehensive.

I pulled up for the start. It was neat to see John Cash, a pretty cool guy from Tryon. It was the first time since the lost of his son that I was able to speak in person. We were talking about it when he was called up. Then it was time to concentrate on the start.

My friends were giving me some words of encouragement. Kirk Flinte, with whom I have had a friendly rivalry on this mountain, was saying he expected a 11:05 out of me. I didn’t say it, but my thought was that I would be happy with a 11:45. Even that seemed like a challenge.

I pulled up behind the rider who would start 30 seconds before me. I waited quietly trying to get my mind blank with no thoughts of what has been, but thinking only about the next few yards ahead. My mind suddenly cleared and my confidence was pretty balanced. I wasn’t on a high or low. I was just ready to get this thing started.

Once again, I had trouble with the start due to the face that I had not done this before. Right when they said for me to go, I started my clock. About 15 feet later I started the climb and there was a timer who actually started the official clock. I knew now that my clock was going to be off.

Oh well, that was okay. It wasn’t my job to keep up with the time anyway. I put it out of my mind and focused on the task at hand.

I remembered what I was told and kept myself in check for the start up to the water tower section. I was holding things just over 300 watts. Then when I reached that first hard climb I picked up my effort just a little more. The turn following that section evens out a little, so I maintained my pressure but didn’t push.

As I was going into these turns I was trying to cut the shortest distance possible unless the turn was a hard grade. In that case, I tried to stay at the crown of the road. This is the way I kept going until I neared the halfway point. There I looked down at my clock for the first time. The numbers were clicking just past 5 minutes. I knew I would be about 5:45 at halfway. Hmmmm, I would have to keep it cranking if I wanted a good time.

He was getting ready to eat my lunch!

He was getting ready to eat my lunch! Photo: Eddie Helton

Once I passed the halfway point, I got passed by a streak of blue! It was Pat McCallion. Ha! This was interesting. I knew he would kill me, but he might be just the thing I needed to get me going. I was afraid that I was a little too mellow and I needed someone to drive me. He would certainly fulfill that need!

I picked up my pace and tried to stay near him. It was kind of funny. Before the race, I was talking with him and I mentioned that the blue pole about three fourths of the way up was my pain post. Seems like every time I reach it, I start to croak. For a fleeting moment, I wondered if he saw the post and recalled our conversation.

Whatever the case, he seemed to pick it up or I started to fade. I had to stop focusing on him and just ride my own race. Up ahead I could see the rider who started 30 seconds before me. I began to focus on her and tried to close the gap. She was doing a good job though and as I came around the turn that revealed the yellow road sign that marks my focus on “The Wall” I could see Pat disappearing around the turn that starts the straightaway of the hardest grade on the route.

I passed my rabbit just as we both turned up to start our own climb to the finish. I shifted to one harder gear and stood. It was time to leave it all out on the road. I didn’t look ahead. I just looked down at the road in front of me and pushed it up. I was afraid to look ahead because I didn’t want to be demoralized by seeing what was left!

Head down and driving for the finish.

Head down and driving for the finish. Photo: Eddie Helton

The fact that the suffering would soon be over was an incentive to keep going. It seemed to go by faster than I thought. Wow, I was almost finished?! I heard some people calling my name and cheering me on.

I continued to climb and I heard someone say something off to my right. It sounded official and for a moment it made me wonder if I they had changed to finish line. If I had any sense in my head, I wouldn’t have had any questions. However, for a moment I eased and didn’t push hard across the line.

It was only a couple seconds, but it is one of the things I would like to have back. I should have kept sprinting across the line.

I pushed the button on my Garmin and saw 11:27. Hmmmm, since I started the clock early… Looks like I would definitely get a sub 11:30!  I would be happy with that!

We waited for the result to come and I found that on this day, I was the 14th fastest rider up the mountain. My official time was 11:24! That is 11 seconds faster than my previous personal best. It is only 9 seconds slower than my goal for the year of 11:15.

Hey, would I have liked to have been faster? I would have liked to have beat Kirk — though he scorched the climb at 11:00. However, right now, I’m just glad that beat myself. I’m already looking forward to August 21!

Afterward, I learned that I’m a pretty big deal. I was interviewed my Neil Browne with the CarolinaCyclingNews.com site. He was asking about Low Cadence Coffee and I appreciated him taking the time to help me spread the word. You can check the video out here.

Neil Browne interviews me about Low Cadence Coffee

Neil Browne interviews me about Low Cadence Coffee. Photo: Eddie Helton

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!

Get your downhill on! Paris Mountain awaits.

And now a word from our downhill brothers and sisters at the SORBA.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Paris Mountain is once again hosting an exciting downhill MTB race this Saturday, October 17.  The race is sponsored by St. Francis Sports Medicine, SORBA (Southern Off-Road Bike Association) and the Greenville County Recreation District.  Don’t miss this chance to test your downhill skills against the clock or just come out and watch those that are willing to test their skills.

Barley’s Taproom is hosting a huge pre-race party, 6-9pm on Friday, October 16 that is open to all area cyclists.  RJ Rockers Brewing Company of Spartanburg and New Belgium Brewing Company are providing the beer.  Registered competitors and race volunteers drink free (teetotalers, like Pait, are also welcome), while others are welcome to make a one-time $5 donation to SORBA to help improve the trail system at Paris Mountain State Park.  Your $5 donation also gets you a raffle ticket good for numerous prizes that will be attractive to any cyclist.  It’s a great cause and should be a lot of fun.

Whether you are a downhill racing fan or planning to participate in one of the awesome cycling activities in Greenville this weekend (Paris Mtn Downhill, Greenville Spinners Cyclocross Races, Caesar’s Head Slog Fest or other), kick off the weekend by joining the Pre-Race party at Barley’s on Washington St. in downtown Greenville!  The sponsored beer is free, the pizza is tasty and you could win some cool prizes.  See you at Barley’s 6-9pm Friday, Oct 16.

For more information on the Paris Mountain Downhill Race, visit: www.parismountaindownhill.com

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….?