Improving My Time

At one time, I kept a detailed journal of all rides, races, finishing times, heart rate stats, weather, general notes about my cycling and running experiences…you name it, I recorded it. This was well before such tools as Garmin, Strava, RideWithGPS, etc.. Now keeping track of your performance is easier than ever, yet, I no longer have an interest in such things.  That is, until I started training for Mountains of Misery 2014 (affectionately known as MoM).

Suddenly, I wanted to know that my training is working, that I am riding faster, climbing harder. I wanted to know that I am ready to meet the finishing time goal that I set for myself when I registered for MoM. And so, I created a training plan that required that our training team, Misery Loves Company, “ride your own ride”. Meaning that I would sacrifice the social element of leading rides for the structure and discipline of a strenuous and demanding training schedule.

This plan was put to the test when the team tackled the seriously steep Mt Hebron climb for the first time. Torn between riding on to the finish and staying put at the top of the climb, I chose to stay put (along with Tom) with authentic Italian cow bell in hand and tears in my eyes, I watched as each team member summited. After all, this is why I do what I do…why would I skip out on the opportunity to see success in action?

Trucker's Nightmare, Cyclist's Dream

Trucker’s Nightmare, Cyclist’s Dream

A couple weeks later, the Team met again at Tour De Lure. The 10th Annual Tour de Lure was better than ever. Great support, perfect weather, challenging route. While it falls early in the cycling season, it is perfect for those who are training for a late spring or early summer challenge century. So we set off with a buddy system plan of action. We were going to pair up with a team member of similar strength and spend the day supporting one another.

Team Misery Loves Company at Tour de Lure 2014

Team Misery Loves Company at Tour de Lure 2014

The best laid plans of mice and men…you guessed it, we kept regrouping at the rest stops, socializing, cutting up, and generally having a good time. A “good time”, but not a best time. One priceless moment came when, while breaking at Rest Stop 2, I noticed a van that pulled up quickly. Out jumped two women. One went to the back of the van to unload a bicycle and the other opened a side door to reveal…a celebrity? Not exactly, but close. EK Morley emerged from the van after having taken a lift to avoid the Stone Mountain climb. At the young age of 83, EK still rode more miles in one day that most people you know. Besides, he is so charismatic it’s not surprising that he charmed the SAG drivers into giving him VIP treatment.

And then there was the cookie incident. Rest Stop 3 had the most awesome display of homemade cookies I had witnessed since well before David and I started cutting back on carbs in December 2013. While the cookie that I ate tasted awesome in my mouth, my body was repulsed by the sudden introduction of white flour and butter. After the ride, I nearly vowed never to eat another cookie in my life. I say “nearly” because my experiment with giving up alcohol for lent has provided some valuable life lessons and I didn’t want to act to hastily with something as loved as cookies.

As we neared the finish line, PJ urged me to finish strong…and he promptly dropped his chain. Ruthie, looking like a million bucks, greeted us at the finish. Eric locked his keys in his trunk. David suffered from cramps. We had an amazing dinner with Martin, Helen, PJ and Andi.

What do you think I will remember about this experience? My heart rate, my average speed, my finishing time? Did I improve my time? You bet I did! Actually, I had the best time ever.

Am I worried about being properly prepared for Mountains of Misery? Not at all. My training is going well and I am feeling very strong. I plan to ride hard, laugh lots, wipe tears, climb like my life depends upon it…make memories. Join me?

PJ summits Mt Hebron

PJ summits Mt Hebron

Elk Mountain Ride Recap

Although I frequently join the Monday Asheville Bicycle Racing Club Women’s Ride that leaves from Youngblood Bicycles, this was the first time to lead a Velo Girl ride from this location.  Youngblood and his staff were very accommodating and we enjoyed some shopping after the ride.

First Ride at Youngblood Bicycles

As I mentioned in the last weekly update, David and I had never climbed Elk Mountain although we had descended it many times.  Kelly and PJ joined the ride to make their first attempt as well.  Jeff, Susan and Carrie joined as seasoned EMPs (Elk Mountain Professionals).

After winding our way out of the city, Jeff stopped the group at the start line for the Elk Mountain time trial…that was the last the we saw of him until he doubled-back to rejoin the group.  Congratulations to Jeff for setting a PR on the climb.

Jeff Sawdy

While Elk Mountain did not replace my latest favorite climb (Doggett Mountain), I did enjoy the experience from start to finish.  I completely understand why so many cyclists who live or work in Asheville use it as part of a frequent, relatively quick training loop.

The elevation begins at around 2,117′ and finishes at 3,538′ a little more than 5 miles later (per David’s Strava activity… forgot my gps again).  At various points the grades are 7%, 9%, up to 12.5%.  We all enjoyed the grade markers on the pavement.  I assume that these were added for the enjoyment of the TT participants.  For more, see David’s Strava.Top of Elk Mountain

PJ, Carrie, Susan, David and I finished the climb at about the same time and we all chatted briefly about the Redneck Bojangles Broken Down Car experience (a harmless and friendly group) while we waited for Kelly.

Kelly Koney

Allow me to introduce you to Kelly.  She is from CHICAGO…home of one of the flattest (and friendliest) marathons.  Did I mention that it is FLAT in Kelly’s home town?  Kelly is in the process of moving to WNC and she decided that there was no time like the present to start embracing our hills and climbs.  This took a lot of courage and she had plenty to spare.  Kelly completed the climb and the ride in style.  There wasn’t even a bead of sweat on her brow.  All transplanted Floridian cyclists, take heart!  This Midwestern girl can show you that it is possible enjoy riding here.

Another first for many of us — a trip to Dough for lunch.  Dough offers soups, baked bread, cookies, desserts and sandwiches.  They also have an impressive line up of cooking classes.  And did I mention cookies?

Lunch at Dough

And, while enjoying our lunch, a little trash talking about Mountains of Misery (MoM) ensued…Jeff’s in, Susan and PJ are nearly over the fence and ready to join us.  David will be driving his motorcycle as SAG/EMT.  Great route, good company, excellent support…what’s not to love?

If you’re interested in this challenge, get in touch with me… we’re taking a group to Virginia, and more importantly, we’ll be training hard for this ride which comes up soon… end of May!

Good thing another little climb is accessible from Youngblood Bicycles… Ox Creek will be coming to ride near you SOON!

What a great ride… fantastic group!

Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville SC

Yesterday, David and I visited Greenville SC to ride the Swamp Rabbit Trail.  I recommend adding this day trip to your list of things to do.  It’s great to beginners, families, seasoned cyclists, runners, walkers and those who love good food.

The Swamp Rabbit Trail runs from Travelers Rest, through Falls Park and Cleveland Park in downtown Greenville to Greenville Tech.  There are many options for parking all along the trail.  As I was planning this trip, Colin Young, who is the Program Coordinator for the Division of Greenways for Greenville County Recreation District, provided lots of information and guidance for navigating the trail.  You can find more information at the Swamp Rabbit Trail website.

The weather was ideal and there were many people using the trail on all sections.  For this reason and because you will find many things to explore, you should plan for a full day.   There are many businesses along the trail that offer bathrooms, snacks, lunch and water for filling your bottles.   We saw several very interesting playgrounds and the trail passes the Greenville Zoo.Playground along the Swamp Rabbit Trail

The section that passes through Falls Park is heavily used so be ready to take it slow.  There you will see the Reedy River in all it’s glory, the Liberty Bridge and many displays of public art.David on the Swamp Rabbit Trail

The Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery is located the at mile marker 31.5 near the Furman Campus.  There we saw groups of runners and cyclists gathered to socialize after exercising.  The Cafe offers yummy snacks and sandwiches as well as some groceries and many locally sourced food options.

Near the cafe, there is an old auto repair building that has been converted into a bike storage and workshop for TTR Bikes. TTR’s main shop is located in downtown Greenville — the trail location is used for test riding tandems and recumbent bikes.  It’s the perfect use of an old abandoned building with an ideal location for trying before you buy.  We watched as a couple learned how to ride a tandem and as the mechanic assembled a CoMotion tandem for a racing team (valued at $7K!).

Don’t miss the detour onto the Furman campus.  The campus is beautiful and there is a trail that will take you around a scenic lake and clock tower.

There are several restaurants in Travelers Rest that flank the trail and all eagerly welcome trail patrons.  David and I selected The Cafe at Williams Hardware where we enjoyed a delicious lunch.  Don’t miss the cole slaw…it was fantastic.Slippery When Wet Bicycle Sign

Some sections of the trail have cushioned running strips that give runners and walkers their own lane which is a huge plus for all users.  All of the pavement is pristine.  The only hazards are the road crossings where train rails are still imbedded so you have to navigate the rails while watching for auto traffic.  The only negative comment that I will make about the experience relates to my own peeps —  the “roadies” — who were a bit rude.  Most of them gave no warning before passing and once it nearly caused an accident as bike traffic backed up at a busy road crossing.  Use your bell if you have one to alert other trail users that you are passing.  If you don’t have a bell, just yell “On Your Left” and pass with caution.  It’s just good manners.

Andrew’s Geyser via Mill Creek (Mountain Bike)

 

My friends know that I don’t ride my mountain bike nearly enough.  I do love being in wooded areas, smelling the fresh air and enjoying the view, but my bike handling skills are much more well suited for the solid surface provided by pavement.  I am a true Roadie to the core.  But when autumn rolls around and the leaves fall, I long to dust off the mountain bike and try again.

The Inn on Mill Creek

The Inn on Mill Creek

Winding Mill Creek Road

Winding Mill Creek Road

If you are an accomplished mountain biker and would enjoy a rip-roaring descent, this is the ride for you!  This route is also perfect for those of us who aren’t ready to tackle stumps, large rocks and trees in our path.  It follows Mill Creek Road  past the Mill Creek Inn toward Andrew’s Geyser.  Mill Creek Road is a well-packed dirt road with very little gravel, sweeping and tight turns and great views.  The road is open to automobile traffic and you must be careful when you enter blind curves because the road is narrow and cars commonly take up most of the road.  Having said that, it’s been my experience that automobile drivers travel at a slow rate of speed and are very courteous to cyclists.

Sign at Andrew's Geyser

Sign at Andrew's Geyser (can you see David's reflection?)

The return ride is all uphill and follows Point Lookout Trail (which is a paved bike path).  The route is about 14-1/2 miles long and the climb is physically challenging — especially with the extra weight of my clunker of a mountain bike vs my sweet little road bike.

Here’s the Map My Ride link for more details.