The mountain again took it’s toll early and often. For the second year the ride was at once enthralling and painful. Kevin, David, and I arrived at 5:30 in Sparkle City to get ourselves mentally and emotionally ready for the day ahead.
We unloaded the bikes and started the pre-ride rituals of pumping up tires, pulling on cycling shirts and generally prepping for the ride.
I made a phone call over to Patrick Rivers of the EFBR team and asked how they were doing, coincidentally or not they were parked just 10 cars away. It was their first mass ride and they sounded excited.
I finished up getting the HR on the tires pumped, helmet, glasses, phone in bag, and was ready to head to the restroom. Down the hill the base of the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium entrance and I was certainly prepped and ready. Oh crap forgot my bag so back up the truck I went. Nothing would be quite as miserable as arriving at the top without a change of clothes and the protein shakes. Check bag picked up and returned to the rider truck, surely I am ready to roll.
At this point Kevin has made it down and headed in to the head. I circle here and there and then decide to go see if David is still milling about the truck. When I get to the truck the second o-crap moment happens. 4 Truck doors all ajar and open. Glad that I circled back around I shut all the doors and then lock up the truck with the key FOB.
Now it’s time to drift down to see if Kevin is ready to roll on to the start line. He is standing outside adjusting his Jersey and seems to be really ready to roll. Up beside the old Krispy Kreme we trudge a donut would surely be awesome right about now but oh-well no time for that we have about 10 mins left before the start and the timer is counting down. I forgot how hectic this start was and we begin jockeying for some semblance of position in the crowd.
Well it’s time to roll and we are off and running like a herd of water buffalo heading into the nile crocodiles layer. Starting stopping, people trying to clip and reclip, why is it that slow riders and runners always feel the need to get to the front of the start-line. Kevin and I are picking our way through the area and are steadily trying to find a group to ride with.
We settle in about 5 miles into the ride at the mid-point of a very large peleton. The group rides the brakes going down hills, virtually stops at the bottom of the hills to only accelerate up the back side. I am looking to find somewhere anywhere that has a sane group riding structure to no avail. Where was that group from 2009 with the solid riding form and the lead pack mentality. My thoughts are wondering if this will be the case all the way to the top.
Within no time we have passed water station #1 a couple of the culprits have pulled in to get water the remaining riders are still sliding toward the next stop. We are averaging around 20 mph but the surges are continuing to happen. We crest a hill and start down another small descent, I am on the inside of the pack and all the sudden the brake dragging and stopping begins again. This time my wheels are in pee gravel and I head off for a 30 mph offroad ride, pass 3 or 4 riders and get the obligatory great save when I pop back up on the road from several others. My bladder is about to bust and I know with my 4 water bottles I won’t stop until at least 60 miles. So at the next uphill pull-off opportunity I jump off road again to relieve the pressure. Kevin is in the midst of the pack and I figure that I won’t see him again until the top. But I couldn’t handle the accelerations and decelerations + a full bladder.
Back on the road I am now teamed up with a couple of riders, I really need to get better at remembering names the guy that I am riding with seems really cool and we both cruise on past rest stop #2 heading toward Marion. Much better than last year at this point, I am hoping it holds up. I yell at Kevin to get his lazy rear out of the woods, the guy that I am riding with says I assume you know him and I say yes. We then back off the pace to let Kevin grab back on. At this point we are in a pretty good groove. Couple of miles and Kevin hooks back up and we are off again.
Right on to Marion. Only one minor incident when for whatever reason K and I scrub wheels the guy behind me clips my wheel and the next thing I know I am going sideways across the course. Some poor soul now t-bones me and hits the deck. No damage that I could see to the Orca and it is time to get out of dodge as the guy is also uninjured and cussing mightly.
As we head into Marion I mention to Kevin that we should stop and get water at the campground. 70+ miles in I am on the bottom fumes of my 4 water bottles. Kevin then reminds me that the rest stop is up on the turn onto 80 only a mile are two up. So we proceed on.
Remember that I said the rest stop with the climbing point was just a mile or two. Someone should have reminded the organizers Kevin and I cruise to where the stop was in 2009 and guess what no stop so it is either spin around and pedal back up hill to the camp ground or labor own. We decide to labor on to the rest area mid-way up the climb to the parkway.
Looking at the ride link above you will see the 80 climb was fairly uneventful and honestly quite strong for me this year. I am hitting my marks and climbing at a steady 6.5 or so per hour. We stop for our one and only stop and again I am climbing well and thinking of a 7:30 or so time.
Water is reclaimed the bottles are full and we are off on to the top of 80. My memory from last year belied the fact that 80 was so so steep. The grades are similar to that of Cesars head the only problem is that parkway and Mitchell still lie ahead.
The parkway continues the climb still no stops. Kevin and I are still riding together but he is 10 to 15 ft ahead and I am fading. My legs aren’t hurting quite so badly but my energy is waning. I quickly remember that I failed to load my Nunn caplets into the water bottle. At the first opportunity I pull over to lay the bike down and fill the bottles. Kevin is up ahead and I can still see his pack and I am sludging ahead.
Over the final downhill crest and there is a tremendous storm drowning me. I contemplate removing my glasses, but realize that is the only thing protecting my eyes from the water. I glance down at the garmin and I am doing 30+ mph and others are braking. No way I am going to brake at this point.
Right to the bottom of the hill. As I reach it my legs are in bad shape. I am unable to spin up to a good cadence and just can’t get above that 5 mph range. Kevin is now gone my mind is gone and I am wondering if that euphoria and timing of hitting 7:30 may vaporize into a 8:30 or even a 9:00 event. It takes for what seems like forever to reach the entry to the Mitchell entry. As I turn in another rider says something about only a mile left and he is hurting. Being the realist I am I tell him that I think there are 5 miles remaining. He curses groans and complains.
But at this point it provides me with a little boost. My training legs are coming back around and I am able to spin a decent cadence on a pretty tough slope. Back in the game I climb and pass guys. Only two guys pass me going up the hill. These two are burned out and pull in at the ranger rest area less than 2 miles from the finish. No way I am going there as I would collapse and be totally spent.
Up up up I continue to ride. The hill flattens out and I am running a lightening quick 10 mph and it feels like 30 mph. Right to the finish I complete this ride strong.
Great work and absolute great ride overall. Can’t wait until next year.