Monday, April 13, 2009

Furman to Saluda - 68 miles of bliss

Saturday, 11 April, 2009. My friend Kip and I took a 'little' ride from Furman University up to Saluda North Carolina. I have to admit, I knew this was going to be my longest ride to date from the outset. He is already signed up to do Mount Mitchell next month (his 11th or 12th time), and I am waffling whether to do it or not. Regardless, I can only benefit from following along with his training plan.

Kip (who has done many long distance rides - including the aforementioned Mount Mitchell 10 or 11 times) encouraged me to take it easy from the outset. That's to say we don't need to push too hard, we just need to continue building our base. Last week we did 46 miles with lots of climbing from Tigerville to Saluda.

We actually broke the ride up into three legs. The first leg was about 15 miles (give or take - I didn't really look at my odometer). We stopped a few miles short of Tigerville due to a flat tire on Kip's bike. What should have taken us about 10 minutes to fix, ended up taking for sure 30 minutes and maybe longer. We trashed two tubes (one by pinching it between the bead and rim, the other by snapping off the presta valve core!) before we ended up patching the original tube! Something (glass, metal or whatever) put a pretty good slice in his tire and of course, punctured the tube. Thankfully, Dan showed up and had a tire patch. It worked out well and the repair lasted the rest of the ride.

The second leg was from the repair stop up to the Bakery at Saluda. Nice ride, of course we took the more direct route up the watershed (instead of the mine mountain route we took last week). This was because we (I) didn't know for sure how we (I) would feel after so many miles.

So, those of you who are accustomed to doing centuries every weekend, go ahead and call me a wimp or whatever - My previous PR for distance was 57 miles set just this past January on the First Fifty which of course wasn't really 50 miles, it was 57!

That's not to say I don't ride my bike - I ride plenty, but a typical mountain bike ride for me is in the 12-20 mile range. A typical road bike ride is in the 20-40 mile range. A few years ago, it became more important to me to enjoy my workouts than to pressure myself to always reach the next milestone (faster per mile pace in my runs, longer distance, higher average speed etc.). So, my current philosophy is get out as often as I can (the past couple of years it is 4-7 days per week, probably averaging 5+ days / week) and enjoy it.

What this means is if I feel good, I push. Sometimes, I push really hard. Usually this is more common when I ride in some type of group (or run in a local race). Mountain biking in a group allows me to go really hard for the hills, and use the downhills to catch my breath. I'm still working out what it means to do the group rides on the road. See my archive on Donaldson Center and Sprint zones for my recent ramblings.

What it also means is if I don't feel good, I sit back and grind it out. Sometimes I'll shorten a ride when I don't feel inspired. That's OK for me. In the end, it is most important for me to look back and say 'that was a good ride'.

So, with this in mind, Kip and I did the direct route from Tigerville to Saluda. We got surprised by the weather as we climbed up the watershed. We actually got a few sprinkles and the temperature was much cooler than we expected. Normally, I'm the guy who has the proper clothing for almost any conditions - this time I left Furman with no extra layers!

Despite the weather, the climb was pretty nice. Kip is a really strong rider and I found myself working pretty hard to stay with him or close to him on the climbs. Something in my DNA makes me give an extra boost as I approach the top of the climb, so although he may have pulled several bike lengths on me in the lower and middle climb, I usually managed to bring him back a little as we approached the top.

Downhills are a completely different story. Years ago, I was heavily into motorcycle road racing. I did some racing of my own, and spent a lot of time studying the mechanics of performance riding (in this I mean what does it take to make that motorcycle go quickly through that turn). Of course, this translates quite nicely into bicycle riding. Obviously there are some differences, but screaming through a turn on 2 wheels is still screaming through a turn on 2 wheels. As we crested the top of the climbs, I had to work to keep from totally riding away from Kip.

Of course, this wasn't really an issue as we climbed through the watershed, but even in that short downhill into Saluda, I held back a little so we could maintain some sort of visual contact. We got into Saluda and stopped for a little snack at the Bakery. It was cool enough we sat inside

We laughed at how cool the descent from the top of the watershed might be for our third and longest leg back to Furman. Kip went so far as to put a newspaper in his jersey to fight off the cool. I didn't know how it would be, but was wishing for my light jacket! It turned out not to be too bad. The temperature really was borderline for me - I would have worn my jacket if I had carried it, but I survived fine without it.

As we passed Tigerville, the temperature had definitely warmed up, but it seemed we had a bit of a headwind. We re-traced our route which includes Sally Gilreath road - a very picturesque little country road that winds through really beautiful farmland. One of the great things about this ride was the relaxed pace we took. We actually had an opportunity to look around and enjoy the scenery!

As we made our way closer to Furman, the temperature continued to climb. To our delight, the wind seemed to calm down a bit. I was feeling pretty good after more than 50 miles in the saddle, and we took an alternate route through the 'Little Texas' area just north of Paris Mountain.

This is a really beautiful area - who would have know this place existed!! Part of what I really liked about it was the several little climbs along the route. Nothing terribly difficult, but enough to make our legs really feel the distance we had traveled. I was feeling surprisingly good! I would like to think I was at least as strong as Kip on these hills. I can't say for sure as the hills were too short to really gauge - and usually they occurred at the end of a short downhill. Which of course put some distance between him and I.

Little Texas road put us out on the Hwy 276 frontage road near the end of Altamont road. I looked at Kip and asked him if he was ready for the ascent up Paris Mountain! I was kidding of course, and he had been plagued with a neck or shoulder cramp for the last few miles (maybe another reason he didn't appear so strong on those hills).

We crossed Hwy 276 and made our final run back into Furman. We made a couple of laps of the mall area as cool down then went back to the car. I don't know how much longer I might have been able to ride at that pace, but I felt like I could have kept going. It was a great ride to share with a great friend. What better way to spend a Saturday?

1 comment:

  1. yay for just enough sun to keep you from being super cold! glad you had a good ride!


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