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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

All Roads Lead Up

Almost 2 weeks ago I moved my son to Banner Elk, NC to attend Lees McRae College where he will be riding for the cycling team. While there we got to ride 3 days together. The riding was awesome. The temps were great, but one day we actually wore long sleeves and still got cold at the tops of the climbs. There was very little car traffic. The dogs were friendly. The scenery was wonderful.

The problem is that all roads lead up; well not exactly. There was one road then went down, but of course you had to ride back up. We spent at least 75% of our time climbing. For this Florida boy that is a lot of climbing. I had a 39x27 for a low gear. At times this was not enough. For example, in the steeper sections I was out of the saddle doing 4 mph with a cadence of 30 and breathing very heavy. Our climbs ranged between 20 and 30 minutes. It was rough and tough. On the flip side the descents were incredible. I've never experienced descents like this before.

On our first day of riding we rode the popular Hickory Nut Gap rode that goes from Banner Elk to Newland. It starts up immediately after getting out of the town proper. After the climb the road descends to Newland. We went to Newland then turned around to go back up. Our distance for the day was around 18 miles with 1 1/4 hours on the bike. This was my first eye opener.

The 2nd day my son took me on what is a road race circuit. It started out ok heading out of Banner Elk on 184 and turning onto Dobbins Rd., but then up and steep on Horse Bottom Rd. then descending to Pdgeon Roost Rd. and then back to 194 returning to Banner Elk. I thought my heart was going to pound out of my chest. I was glad when that climbing was over; there were 3 very steep sections. After climbing we descended back into town. That was a short 7 miles. We then road 194 out of Banner Elk to descend into Newland. Guess what? It was a wonderful descent but then we had to climb back up into Newland. Then we road Hickory Nut Gap back to Banner Elk. Yes that's right; first we had to climb then descend again. On this last descent we got behind a car which slowed down. Total riding time was just over 2 hours.

On the 3rd day we road for a little over an hour. We were both a bit sore and tired from the previous 2 days. We road out of Banner Elk towards the Banner Elk Winery first going up 194 and then up Gualtney Road. There were 3 places where I had to get out of the saddle on this climb. The pavement ends turning to gravel a short distance after reaching the top; so we turned around. After returning to 194 we did the road race course in reverse and headed back to Banner Elk.

This is an amazing place to ride, but takes some getting use to. I'm really looking forward to returning and exploring more. While I was there they were resurfacing many of the roads; so the roads should be even better when I return. I can only imagine how strong my son is going to get while there. But it is his dream and I really hope he gets very good on the bike, even if it means he will drop me even faster than he does now.

From what I've experienced so far riding around Banner Elk there is no such thing as an easy ride. I'm sure there have got to be some easier routes, but then that is quite relative to Banner Elk. There just is no way out of doing some climbing.

Next time I go up I hope to take some pictures. Sorry, I didn't get any pictures this trip.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Three Days of Suffering

Not exactly three days. I rode last Friday with a few riders from the Firestone group. It was an easy 20. I hadn't been on the bike for almost two weeks and one of those weeks was spent in WA state where one day the high reached 78 degrees. My rides on Saturday and Sunday were not so good. I'm afraid my body had gotten use to the WA weather and now I was back in 95 degree FL weather. It was a sufferfest for me.

Saturday I rode with the Firestone group doing a new route called the Northwest Passage Loop. I would say there were close to 20 riders. The group stuck together pretty good, but I kept getting dropped on every incline. For some reason I just didn't have much energy and felt tired. The route was suppose to be 45 miles, but I got 35 with and average speed of 17.6 mph. I hadn't slept much the night before either; so I think that was also a factor.

On Sunday I rode the Scenic 25 with my son in the afternoon. It was still pretty hot out. Again I had very little energy. Once we turned onto Scenic Highway I dropped bad, but I warned my son that I would probably go pretty slow on Scenic. Before we turned onto Scenic I had an average of 17.5, but once I got home my average had dropped to 15.8. The good news is that I found $12.86 on the side of the road on Scenic just south of Creighton Road. I was riding along and I saw this change on the shoulder which looked to be about $5 to me. I wasn't going anywhere fast so I decided to stop and pick up the change. My son got a good laugh out of it once I got home and emptied my pockets. He had seen the change too but he didn't stop.

Yesterday I rode the rollers for 45 minutes. Lately (when I'm in town) that is what I do on Mondays.

All this going out of town has really hurt my riding time. For the month of July I only got in 263 miles. My fitness is not where I had hoped it would be. I was really hoping to be in top shape for the Pensacola Cycling Classic, but at this rate that is not really going to happen. I don't even know if I will be in town then. If I am in town I will do the race, but not at the level I had hoped.