So, the title is a reference to a video posted on none other than youtube. This Aussi dude is telling Australia to HARDEN THE F*** UP!! Here's the video, then I'll tell you what it has to do with me. NOTE: This video is NOT work friendly, NOT kid friendly, and if you have sensitive ears, you probably don't want to watch it. But it is pretty damn funny, so enjoy.
What's it got to do with me? "Harden the F*** up" became my little mantra today. Today was the Six Gaps Century out of Dahlonega, Ga. I'd been looking forward to doing this century since I heard about it last year. I signed up pretty early, and friends of mine made arrangements for us to spend the weekend in this awesome cabin for the entire weekend (fri, sat, sun nights). Really cool.
Most of us arrived on friday afternoon and we went to downtown Dahlonega for a great dinner. Saturday was a beautiful day of sunshine and we got out on the bikes for about an hour. Just a nice easy spin to get the legs, lungs and heart working.
The clouds started moving in last night and the rain began sometime around or after midnight. When I woke briefly around 2am, the storm was in full force with plenty of lightening. This didn't bode well for good riding conditions for the Six Gaps.
When I awoke around 5am, it was still raining. I hate starting a ride in the rain. We were all checking our portable devices to see what the forecast was supposed to bring. The forecast called for rain, so I told myself to HARDEN THE F*** UP! and I got my gear together, packed up the car and headed to the start / finish at the high school.
I sat in my car and posted to my facebook page "...its raining cats and dogs". Further, there was plenty of lightening. Definitely not a good day for a ride. I thought about bagging it and heading back to the cabin, but my mantra rang repeatedly through my head. HARDEN THE F*** UP!
So, of course, I got my gear together and mounted my trusty steed. This year, they were staging those riders who were a shoe-in for beating 6 hours at the very front. Earlier this year, I had targeted 6 hours as my goal for this ride. However, despite my recent post, I really wasn't feeling it in this torrential downpour. However, I did line up near the front of the 'normal' pack.
As I rode out, I chatted briefly with a guy whose target was 7.5 hours. I told him my target had originally been 6 hours, but was not sure how things were going to shake out - not the best motivation and bad riding conditions sure can mess with one's head.
It didn't take long for me to start hearing that dude say "HARDEN THE F*** UP". So, of course I started stamping out a strong cadence to pull myself up further towards the front.
I grabbed on to probably the largest lead pack. I'm thinking there was probably a smaller pack off the front, but this pack was perhaps as much as 75 or more riders. I hung at the back as we rode through a bunch of rollers on our way to Neels Gap. As we rode, more and more riders were being spit off the back and I moved up as possible.
As we got into the heart of the climb to Neels Gap, I too got spit off the back of this pack. No problem, I was just trying to stamp out a nice tempo pace - on the climbs as well as on the descents, flats and rollers. In fact, although I lost touch with the big pack, I managed to gain sight of them a few times between Neels gap and Hogpen gap. I never really caught them again, but I was surprised to see them.
Another interesting thing - because I was just stamping out a tempo pace, I managed to ride really strong in between the hills. I was a little surprised by this. Except for the hills, my legs were just moving and keeping that steady pace. I felt good.
As we rode through Jack's Gap and Unicoi Gap, I would be passed or left behind by other riders on the climbs, only to reel them back in and pass then in between the climbs. Many times today I looked back and found a pack of wheel suckers just hanging on behind me. Pretty funny and I really didn't care. I was out there by myself, so just holding that pace was all about me. In fact, with the wet roads I preferred to be out front - that rooster tail from riders goes right into your face if you are following in these conditions.
For a while, we actually had some good weather - for parts of the Neels gap climb, all of the Jack's Gap climb and I think all of the Unicoi Gap climb. However, as we finished the descent of Unicoi gap, the rain started again. It stayed with us pretty much for the rest of the ride. We had to deal with some pretty hairy fog conditions out there as well.
Hogpen Gap was as hard as I have heard. It was steep, and it was long. I found myself standing up quite a bit up there. As we approached a flat area very near the top of the climb, another rider who knew the route rode up next to me and said "200 yards - then we get a break". Man was I glad to hear that! It gave me a little boost as we rode that 200 yards and I rode next to this guy for a little while. As we rode through this little false flat, we chatted briefly. He knew the route pretty well, so he gave me some hints about what to look for. Appreciate that guy - he helped me a lot when I really needed it.
The descent from Hogpen was pretty hairy. Even in good conditions, it would be a tough descent. With rain, fog and traffic, it was horrible. Most of the riders were taking it a lot easier with these bad conditions. Eventually, I ran up behind some cars who were having trouble getting around another cyclist.
In good conditions, I would have considered passing these cars and putting the hammer down. However, with the conditions we had, I had no interest in endangering others or myself by trying something like that. A pretty big peloton formed behind these cars until they finally got around the other riders.
The next climb was Wolfpen gap. This climb seemed about as steep as Hogpen gap, but several miles shorter. By this time, I was really starting to feel the effects of the efforts I had put out. I still felt pretty good on the descents and flats, but I was losing steam on the climbs. The top of Wolfpen is about 78 miles into the ride. I kept hearing that dude say "HARDEN THE F*** UP!!"
I was glad to crest Wolfpen as I knew that was the end of the really hard climbs. There was still one gap to go, but it would be relatively mild in comparison to Hogpen and Wolfpen. Check out this elevation profile. To review, the order of the gaps is: Neels, Jack's, Unicoi, Hogpen, Wolfpen and Woody.
Once past Wolfpen Gap, I was pushing myself. I still had some chance to hit the 6 hour goal. As stated earlier, I was good on the descents and flats, but the rollers and hills were the challenge. I tried to push hard on Woody Gap. When I crested Woody, I tried to hammer the descent (as much as weather conditions would allow), but again, I ran into a train of cars having trouble passing some bicyclists. This really has everything to do with the weather conditions. Fog had rolled in and the descent was treacherous!
My buddy Bo had said sometime yesterday that the last 10 or 15 miles sucked the most. Well, it is TRUE! By the time you have covered that 85 or 90 miles, you're just beat down. Thankfully, there is some descents that allow you to drive your average up, but for me, the rollers were killing me! I pushed as hard as I could, got into a little rotation with a couple of other guys who were trying to catch the 6 hour goal. They ended up leaving me on one of the rollers, but they didn't really get all that far in front of me, I could still see them when we made the final turn back into the High School.
As I made that final turn, I was thinking I was way outside of my 6 hour goal. I was pleased to see the clock ticking through 6:10:?? (don't know what the seconds were when I passed).
So, despite not really meeting the 6 hour goal, I'll take it. with the conditions today, I can honestly say that in dry conditions, I would have definitely have beat that goal.
The final words I can say is HARDEN THE F*** UP!!!
2 years ago