Friday, August 21, 2009

Asheville, NC Ride, Part 2: Hot Springs

This was a good ride. I stopped by a bike shop afterwards and the owner mentioned that variations of it are regular training routes for guys looking to put in some long tough miles. I was totally exhausted, drenched from riding the last seven miles in a torrential downpour, and jelly legged at the time he was telling me I'm not 100% that is what he said or if he said "stop getting my shop all wet you f@#$!"

The route:
Map-My-Ride Cue Sheet Map

I started off in downtown Asheville at Over Easy Cafe. This place is legit. The breakfast is healthy and delicious, cheap, they have outdoor seating, and the staff are super friendly. I wasn't sure where I was going to ride that day, so I asked the waitress for a recommendation. She said go down to the river and head north. So I did.

Miles 2 through 23 are along the rive on this road that isn't too traveled and actually has a bike lane for a good portion of it. There are some really small rollers, but it was a great place to warm up, put in some tempo, and take in the scenery. You're right next to the river for most of it (which is nice). The first place to get some water/food is Marshall, NC. Marshall is this neat little town with a good mix of country boys/gals & artists. It is real little, but has this cool coffee bar (Zuma Coffee) where I stopped for a coke, bathroom break, and to fill up on water. At this point I was planning to just ride out 50K and then turn around and ride back, but I met a guy at the coffee place that told me that I could do a big loop to this place called Hot Springs which would take me up some "real steep mountains" as he put it. So I pressed onward north.

Miles 23 through 39 were tougher than the first 23. The road starts to go up a little and there are two brutal climbs before crossing the river at mile 39. One reminded me of an unfinished highway Jay took us on last time at the barn...just straight and consistently steep; a grinder that took it's toll. At this point, I had decided I wasn't going to go back that direction as the downhills were just as long and seemed steeper.

Hot Springs is another neat little town. I got directions for the next segment of the ride from Bluff Mountain Outfitters. Stop in as it is a great outdoors shop. Hot Springs is right on the Appalachian Trail and I happened to see some through hikers hanging out while I got my bearings. I filled up on fuel and had myself a fruit cup at the Gallery at Iron Horse Station.

Miles 39 through 56 were f@#king brutal! Uphill, uphill, uphill. Route 209 is a GREAT road. It climbs steadily, it's through a forest, there are not a lot of cars, and the views are legit. Although I was suffering, it was a beautiful and very relaxing form of suffering (is that possible?). It was hot at this point during the day and I was going through water real quick. I stopped in Spring Creek at this old school that someone had converted into a restaurant and got some water, but there was another place in Trust (where 63 intersects) that I probably would have preferred to stop at. The guy in Hot Springs who gave me my route said to "watch out for a dog on 209"...which messed with my head as I was going uphill since I knew there was no way I'd have the legs to outsprint a dog going up 3% to 7%. Luckily there was no dog (I think he was messing with me).

The rest of the ride is mainly down hill with some risers thrown in as you make your way back to the river. There were a few convenience stores/gas stations along 63 where I got Gatorade and filled up on water. The closer you get back to Asheville, the more "urban" it starts getting. The road widens at one point to 4 lanes, but if you don't miss the turn onto Old Leicester Highway (like I did)'re only on a busy road for just a little bit. The rain started coming down at this point and it got really bad right when I crossed the river. There is a nice little climb back into downtown Asheville from the river at the end of the ride (which was a nice touch on fried legs) and the road had turned into a roaring river of water.

Overall, I think it ended up being right around 90ish miles (give or take 2 or 3) from the resort and a bit over 5 hours of saddle time. Asheville, NC has got to be one of the cycling centers of the east coast. I didn't see a ton of cyclists on the roads while I was out there (due to weird start times and week day rides), but the terrain is legit. Worth a trip.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Asheville, NC Rides - Part 1: The Gates of Mt. Mitchell

So if you ever find yourself in Asheville, NC and want to put some time on a bike, do this ride.

62 miles, 4500 feet of climbing during the first 31 miles.

We were staying at the Grove Park Inn Resort (the wife had a conference there and I tagged along for a bit of relaxing and biking while she was working). I had done some research (very minimal) on the surrounding area, but went into this trip knowing that western North Carolina had some terrain that was going to be "fun" to ride. Anyway, on to the ride:

Monday: The Gates of Mt. Mitchell:
I had stopped by a local bike shop and asked some questions on Sunday afternoon (did a little spin to loosen the legs from the drive) and they mentioned that Mt. Mitchell wasn't too far away up the Blue Ridge Parkway. I figured I'd give it a shot. Half way through this ride I was convinced that there were no downhills in North Carolina. From the resort, it is essentially uphill for 31 miles till the entrance to Mt. Mitchell State Park. The road leading up to the parkway is great; small two lane road with plenty of switchbacks and barely any cars. I had never ridden on the parkway before and I was suprised by how few cars there were and how well maintained it was. There was some construction at different points, but nothing to serious. The way they do construction zones on the parkway is that they have a pickup truck lead the waiting cars through the zone to the other end, and then the pickup truck leads the group waiting at that end back down to the other well. One thing to think about is the tunnels on the parkway. They have no lighting in them and between Asheville and Mt. Mitchell there is one that is long enough that you won't be able to see anything (or be seen) when you're in the middle of it. Bringing a blinky or some sort of light might be a good idea (even during the day) for safety. Here are the important notes:

  • Bring plenty of food. There are no places to buy anything along the route.
  • You can get water at two spots on the ride. Craggy Gardens Picnic area (which is a b!tch of a hill from the parkway at milepost 367.5) and at a visitor center not much farther up the road (milepost 364.6). I took two bottles, filled them up multiple times, but could have used one more.
  • A 27 would have been nice, but a 23 is doable.
  • When planning for time, remember that it's all downhill on the way back. I was back in Asheville much sooner than I thought I'd be.
  • Mt. Mitchell is at Mile Post 355. The mile posts are all on the west side of the road (left as you're going out, right as you're heading back).

Map-My-Ride Cue Sheet

I only did the way out on the cue sheet. From the resort the ride was just around 62-63 miles. From downtown, add another 3 to 6 miles. I've never done continuous climbing like that before. West Virginia gave a taste with some climbs that were 6 miles or longer, but 31 miles uphill was something ridiculous. Nothing was deathly steep, but had I had some time to go up Mitchell (had a date with a Mint Julip or two back at the resort that was calling), I'm sure I would have seen upwards of 10% incline.

After the ride I was reflecting and decided that it would be more fun to live in western North Carolina if I was 5'6" and 110 lbs. Guys over 185lbs in North Carolina should be riding bulls and chewing on tobacco, not riding bicycles...If anyone does the "Assault of Mt. Mitchell" (from South Carolina to the top) they get my respect...102 miles with that at the end would be impressive.

I'll do part 2 later...


Monday, August 10, 2009

Mountain climbing

So far:
2:53 ride time
Avg speed: 22.9 K/hr

Its been all uphill from Asheville to the base of Mt. Mitchell. Very very pretty up here.

I'm out of water though...woops.

2hrs back to the hotel.


Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

Friday, August 7, 2009

Adding Value..

Boy it's been a long time since I posted...I suck.

I have this new thing I'm going through where I try to add value with all of my actions. I wash the dishes to have a cleaner house...value added. I provide comments on documentation only if they are needed to improve the quality of the final product...value added. It's been pretty good so far, but I've been pretty quiet online because of it. I haven't had much value to add to the online-osphere (is that trademarked?). So I figured I'd post about something that's been bothering me the past couple of weeks. Not really bothering, but just sitting in the back of my mind: Thursdays nights at Hains Point. Hopefully, it'll add value. :)

There should be four types of bike riders that show up for the group ride on Thursday nights down at the point. Depending on the day, and even the lap, you should be able to classify yourself within one:

1) The aggressor, the pusher-of-the-pace, the screw-turner, the one who strikes fear into the hearts of other bike riders. You show up to the Thursday night group ride to dish out pain and suffering to everyone else each lap. You're less happy winning the bunch sprint to the line and would be more satisfied crossing the line first and leaving a shredded field behind you gasping for air and waiving their little white flags in surrender. You attack often, you ride smooth, and you believe that the ride is safer between 30 to 35 mph than it is between 20 to 25 mph.

2) The organized rider, sometimes the sprinter, sometimes the leadout, each lap their is a goal for the lap. Maybe you'll organize a leadout train with the rest of your teammates that show up this lap and then attack and counter with a teammate the next. Maybe you'll take a 2K flyer at the beginning of the lap. Maybe you sit in every lap and then set yourself up in the top 5 for the sprint once you cross the double manholes. You understand when you're out of the sprint. You're not dangerous and you don't take crazy risks because you know that this is training and the glory is in winning the race and not the bathroom sprint.

3) The along for the ride rider, the enjoying the camaraderie rider, the check out my sick new 404s on my new colnago guy, the "I'm getting stronger and one day will whip all of you guys" guy. You're out to enjoy the pace and get a workout and aren't contesting the sprints. You're holding onto the back end of the group and will contribute in a pace line if one forms, but aren't going to be spending much time on the front. You don't sprint for the line because you want to hang with the group for all the laps and not just one or two. You're safe in a pack. You don't do anything stupid because you don't want to risk getting your bike all messed up with pavement. You let the guys coming off the front back into the paceline in front of you when they're looking over their shoulder for a draft. You know what people should be doing because you used to be in groups 1 and 2 before (you actually might be in that group but are taking a recover day/recovery lap). You also might not quite be strong enough to be in the 1 and 2 group yet, but you're working on it, and until then, you understand that it is safer for you to hang back.

4) The Suck. You are dangerous. You sprint for the line when there is no chance you can win. You like to contest the sprint when you are 30th wheel when the first person jumps. You like to pass cars on the outside when they are trying to turn left at a stop sign. You ride way too close to riders being passed by the group when you are on the front. You surge during pacelines and aren't smooth. When you "pop" you just sit up and stop pedalling instead of letting those behind you know you are about to blow up. You're strong, but you're not yet 100% comfortable in a pack and swerve left and right way too much. You'll sit in when guys from 1 & 2are killing themselves on the front driving the pace and attack them for the sprint way to early (disrupting the whole thing).

I guess the goal at HP on Thursday nights is to find yourself in either 1, 2, or 3. If you see that you're a type 4...reconsider what you're doing and try to get back to being a 1, 2, or 3. It's better for everybody.

See you next Thursday at HP....cheers.