Saturday, January 2, 2010

How things change in a year

It's funny how things can change in just one year. At the beginning of 2009 I rode the Greenville Spinner's First Fifty. This is a ride put together by the Spinners Touring chairs of Ken Drescher and Steve Yetman. Once again, it was an excellent event with great support at the mile 29 / Lake Oolenoy SAG stop.

Unlike last year, today was a more seasonal temperature day with a reported temperature of 28 degrees as the 75 brave souls assembled to begin the ride. It did warm up a little, but I don't know what the high temperature was for the day. I can only say that everyone I saw out there was well layered!

Ken gave us a quick pre-ride chat and we began our ride through Furman's beautiful Campus. Like last year, the Travelers Rest YMCA's resolution run shared part of the route that we took to exit the campus. It was obvious this year that the number of runners was reduced just the same as the number of riders was reduced. That cold weather kept a lot of people inside today.

I had met up with a couple of my Greenville Spinner's Racing team-mates Tim and Randy. Tim and I found ourselves out front for quite some time. In fact, we were kind of riding by ourselves until we crossed Hwy 25. I was pretty surprised by this as both Tim and I were not really looking to be the pace setters for the ride. Tim is quite the animal - he actually stayed out front for a long time.

Shortly after crossing Hwy 25 we were caught by a larger group. Maybe 20 riders at this point? Not really sure. We kept up a reasonable pace and I let others pull through. I tried to stay near the front as I've learned that riding near the front is generally easier than riding near the back of a group. I was watching our average speed and it took a few miles, but we were over 17mph. I was thinking that our average should have been faster, but the numbers don't lie.

As we rode along in our little peleton, some people were dropped. By the time we were nearing Hwy 288, our pace was in the 17.3mph range and our peleton had dropped to about 13-15 riders. It was here that a couple of Myers Center riders started to have a little fun.

The county line was coming up on Pace Bridge Road. One of the Myer's Center guys took off and Randy took chase. It was a short sprint and the Myers Center guy took him at the line. A little wake up for me - I'm new to this racing thing (and yes, today wasn't a race, but just for fun) and need to learn to keep my eyes peeled for these attacks.

When we made the left turn onto Moody Bridge road, we weren't far from another County line marker and Randy took off. I grabbed his wheel and he set a good pace. I should have been able to reward his strong leadout with a good sprint, but I really didn't realize what was happening until the other guys blasted past us. I'm not sure I would have had much left for a sprint anyway.

The fun part is after the sprints we all slowed down until our peleton re-grouped. We kept our pace around 17.3mph even as we crossed Hwy 11. The group started to fracture a little more on the climb up Mulligan Ford Hill. There were some strong climbers out there today.

Tim was back out front (again) as we rode along Table Rock road. The view of Table Rock is one of my favorites. He pulled us at a strong pace until we crossed the creek and started the climb that would take us up past the vineyard. Again, this hill started to open up some gaps in our peleton. A right turn on Hwy 11 at Aunt Sues and it was a relatively short distance to the
Lake Oolenoy SAG stop. We pulled in with about 10 of the original Peleton. Our average pace was 17.3mph.

I spoke to a friend Rick about the difference between today's pace and last year's pace (last year we were at 18.5mph at this point). He pointed out to me some differences - the ambient temperature was about 15 degrees cooler this year, we had been fighting winds (not constant, but they definitely slowed us down), we were wearing additional layers and our bodies were working harder and burning more calories just to keep us warm. Ok. I can see how that could effect the pace a little. It was cold and that wind was strong at times.

It was a relatively short break for us, but other riders had started pulling in as we assembled to pull out. Our departing group was 9 strong and
included the two Myers Center guys, Tim, Randy and me (Spinners), Will, Rick and two guys I do not know. Our pace was a little stronger as we left the SAG stop and traveled along Hwy 11. As we made the left turn back onto Moody Bridge Road, who did we see going the other way? Yes, we saw Big George decked out in his stars and stripes. Always cool to see him on the road.

Our pace continued to climb as our group made our way back towards Marietta. As we climbed over Coleman trail, our group reduced again. We were now down to six in the lead peleton.

Interestingly, it was about here last year that I had to drop back because the cramps had gotten so bad. However today, while I was feeling the efforts of the day, it was only the effects of those efforts that was slowing me down slightly. I had no cramps and I actually felt pretty good. Our average pace had climbed now to 17.8mph and it looked like we were going to hold that or improve on it.

As we turned onto Tubbs Mt Road, I took the lead for a little while, until the stronger climbers pushed past me. They were going hard, but thankfully I still had enough strength to keep them close. They had a small gap on 3 of us as we approached Poinsett Hwy, but we closed it before the stop sign.

We stayed together as a group along Poinsett Hwy until the stop light at Main street TR. Two guys managed to sneak past the light, but the rest of us got caught. This pretty much finished the group riding. We never caught the two guys as we had to wait through at least one full light. I was still in a small group of 3 as we rode back towards Furman. By this time, the three of us were taking it pretty easy and just trying to cool down a little on our last couple of miles to the parking lot.

When I pulled into my car, I showed an average of 17.7mph. Coincidentally, this is the same average I finished with from last year. As the title states though, it's funny how things change in a year.

Last year I struggled to finish what was at that time the longest ride I had ever done. This year, not only was I not struggling, we actually improved our average pace on the 2nd 'half' of the ride.

Other differences from last year:
1. Not only was this 'just another' 57 miles, over the course of the last year, I logged 4,720 miles on my Giant TCR. By 'just another' what I'm saying is I can't even count the number of times I have ridden that or more miles in a single ride. A metric century for me today is just another afternoon ride. Pretty amazing when I think about it!

2. Last year the First Fifty was my longest ride ever. Today, my longest ride now stands at 105 miles. That was during the Challenge to Conquer Cancer. We followed that 105 mile ride with another century the very next day.

3. Last year I wrote a 2 paragraph message about the First Fifty to thank the organizers and I included some details of the ride. Jonathan Pait asked me if he could post it on his blog. I re-wrote and he posted it. This was actually my first real experience with a blog of any type. In the spring, I wrote another (longer) email to post to the Spinner's yahoo group and he contacted me to post that one as well. I started this blog shortly after that.

4. When I left Furman's parking lot last year, I barely knew anyone in the upstate cycling community. This year, I'm proud to count many people as my friends. I had the opportunity to ride with some of those friends today and chat with others on the road or in the parking lot.

There are other changes I'm sure, but one thing hasn't changed from last year - The First Fifty is a great ride put together by the hard work of some very dedicated individuals - Thank you!


  1. Good post! Glad to hear of your fun yesterday! Knowing most of the riders you were with makes it even better for me:)

  2. Cool JD! I ran the resolution half marathon last year, saw the First 50'ers and vowed then to make the ride this year. Guess what? I ran the resolution half marathon again this year. oh well. i'm training for a march marathon.

    glad you had fun on this ride, it looks like a real gem. next year i'll be out there with you.

    it's amazing how much can change in a year huh?


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