So, where to begin? I guess since this year involved a lot of firsts for me, I guess I should lay the groundwork for how the ideas (maybe even idiot-logical challenges, that’s right, not ideological) for these races & events came about.
A few of this years’ feats revolved around mountain biking (MTB). That is totally new for me. I got my first mountain bike last October (HBD to me). It was a full suspension 26’er (26 inch wheels that is, once the standard, now maybe not so much with the domination of the 29’er, especially considering the types of events I’m trying to do). I didn’t really find much time to ride the MTB until late November and December of 2010, but then tore through the trails (along with many layers of skin), as I cut my teeth a little in the world of mountain biking. I rode with good friend and expert rider, T.A., who continues to both inspire and humble me, and help me develop my skills. But alas, I’m still not quite there, especially in the fear-suppression area. But those lack of skills did not deter me from taking on some monumental, perhaps even fool-hearty, challenges is 2011. I had heard of a really nasty event called “Fool’s Gold” sometime in 2010 (via another acquaintance and gentleman / human axtraordinaire, Jim H) and filed it away in the mental Rolodex as a true “ass-kicker” which I needed to try. What time better than the first year on the MTB, I thought. As you’ll read later, I (and riding partner Diesel), really bit off more than we could chew, resulting in much suffering along the way, but still a truly memorable experience.
Another challenge came about simply from the bragging rights claimed by many rides as being “the toughest bike ride in …”. Now Six Gap, as I mentioned in opening, is one of those. We (I and a couple others) felt the need to verify these claims. I’m not sure that we’ve totally exhausted all the possibilities, but we theoretically rode the toughest rides of Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Toughest generally refers to “most suffering”, which in cycling is generally brought about by the addition of hills or mountains. Thus far, and I presume due to the general lack of elevation changes, I haven’t heard of any Florida rides being labeled “toughest”, but if we come across one, I’m probably gonna have to put it on “the list” and try it.
The final category of challenges evolved from my departure into the “ultra” world, ultra-cycling that is, referring generally to anything well in excess of 100 miles in length. Although I’ve never heard them refried to as “ultras”, I think of randonneuring and brevets as those (200 kilo is generally the beginning point for them, based on my juvenile understanding of that culture right now). Another friend of mine, Don M, kinda’ introduced me to this world. It actually came about as I was whining (yes, I occasionally like to whine, usually just to get sympathy) about the 2010 Six Gap, which I rode in miserable cold and rainy conditions. Back in the PTC (er, Peachtree City, I probably need to create a glossary or something for all this terminology) after the ride, I was discussing about how tough the ride seemed at the bike shop. Don was nearby and casually mentioned that if I thought that one was tough, I should try Ten Gap. Immediately the sound of chicken scratch on a Post-It could be heard (well inside my head at least), as I recorded this in the mental Rolodex too, right alongside Fool’s Gold. I’d need to try this mutha.
Oh yea, one more thing (and no, I’m not announcing something on behalf of Apple, RIP Steve Jobs), in addition to all the bike stuff. In the Fall of 2010, a guy at work (I’ll call him Paul, is that okay Pete?) decided he wanted to get in on some suffering too, he wanted a challenge, something to train for, maybe even a reason to live. We set about finding an appropriate event. Cycling wasn’t his thing, nor was swimming, and thus triathlon was out of the question (I thought an XTerra would have been really fun personally). He was much more into strength training, and I think it’s fair to say, he generally thinks of himself as a badass (I’m not judging here, just noting the self-confidence, which isn’t always a negative). After a survey of other “tough” events, we settled on one, coincidently called Tough Mudder, essentially an off-road half marathon with obstacles. This would occur early season. I’m not really much of a runner myself, but figured, “what the hey”, sounds fun. I’d later regret that decision a little (maybe a lot when I feared I had ruined my cycling season) as it led to a pretty serious injury. But through that initial pain, even greater pain was later revealed to me (you thought I was gonna say happiness didn’t you). The results of a treatment I can only liken to actual torture, no doubt one of the most painful events (actually a bunch of them, had to go in quite a few times) in my entire life, seriously, like “begging for unconsciousness” type pain. Well get to that soon enough.
And so my 2011 event calendar was created. I called it my “Race / Ride / Hurt Schedule”. I knew some, many, of them would lead to suffering. I looked forward to it. The calendar was broken into two significant peaks, times when I’d build my fitness up for a key event. I had a Spring build and peak which included “Cheaha Challenge” and peaking with “The Assault on Mt Mitchell” with a ‘lil “Tough Mudder” thrown in for fun, and a Fall build and peak including “Fool’s Gold” and “Ten Gap”, ending with “Six Gap” just this past weekend. Sprinkled throughout were other centuries, training rides, and something I termed the “Summer Solstice Sufferfest”, more on that one later. I also intended on doing some track and criterium racing, two different forms of biking. Time unfortunately got away from me and I didn’t have an opportunity to do either of the latter. Honestly, with all the endurance training, and essentially no “speedwork”, I would have been ill prepared for the track or road circuit races anyway.
Following is the calendar as I published it in a note in my FaceBook life at the beginning of the year. The “A”, “B”, “C” tags theoretically denote the importance of that event. Some would also think the level of effort too. I’d say, I generally give every event all of my effort, so it’s really probably better correlated to suffering. The “C” means I’ll walk away, “B” means I may be hobbling and achy, “A” pretty much guarantees I’ll be crawling back home, winded and exhausted. Some are called “Social” where I plan on riding with other folks and having a good time, still riding hard, but generally riding with others, socially. None of these rules are hard and fast. For instance, this year’s Six Gap was listed as A but ended up being a “Social C”, go figure. Or conversely, Bundrick’s Revenge (10 Gap), supposedly a “B” here, wound up nearly killing me. In fact, not to spoil it, I DNF’d (Did Not Finish) and had to be carted back in after collapsing. Luckily this was my only DNF for the year. As you’ll read later, if I hadn’t pre-ridden the Fool’s Gold 100 and subsequently dropped back to the 50 mile version, I can all but certainly predict that I would have DNF’d that one too. There’s also a section in the schedule called “Other 2011 Goals”. This is merely a collection of some things I wanted to accomplish this year, not races or anything, just generally other bike related milestones. I’ll touch on those at the end.
At the beginning of most chapters, I pasted my initial, post-ride notes from said event at the top of the chapter, in italics. I wrote these notes along the way, back into the original ride schedule which I maintained throughout the year on FaceBook. They are essentially a short synopsis of what happened, my gut reaction right after it happened. The full text that follows in each chapter is a more thorough recount of the event, plus a lot of extra baggage (which coincidentally mirrors how my life actually works).
Spring 2011 Bike Build
- March 19, Saturday: Tour de Pike (100 mi) / C Event
- April 2, Saturday: Wheels of Fire Century (101 mi) / B Event
- April 10, Sunday: Cheaha Challenge (102 mi, 7400′) / B+Event
- May 16, Monday: Assault on Mt Mitchell (102 mi, 11000+’) / A+ Event
Summer/Fall 2011 Bike Build
- July 10, Sunday: Hospitality Hwy Century (100mi) / Social Event
- July 30, Saturday: Blazing Saddles Century (100mi) / Social Event
- Aug 6, Saturday: Fool’s Gold recon ride (50mi, 7K+’) / SELF-INFLICTED PAIN
- Aug 13, Saturday: Tour of Faith (100mi) / Social Event
- Aug 20, Saturday: Fools Gold 100 MTB (100 mi, 14400′) / A+ Event
- Aug 28, Sunday: Wilson 100 (100 mi) / C Event
- Sept 10, Saturday: Bundrick’s Revenge (AKA 10 Gap) / B Event
- Sept 25, Sunday: Six Gap Century (104 mi, 11000+’) / A Event (annual obligation)
- March 12, Saturday: Tough Mudder (~10 mile, running/challenge) / Social Event
- Weekly Thursday BU shop ride (when I’m just having fun)
- Weekly Thursday Madras ride (when I’m feeling frisky)
- Weekly Wed PTC Tri Club training (may actually try running this year, not necessarily will)
- Weekly Sat morning PTC Trek A/B rides as the mood/audience hits me
- Weekly “Sunrise Century”, typically uber-early Sunday mornings
- February 19, Saturday: Tundra Time Trial (10 mi) / C Event
- Track Racing, Dick Lane Velodrome, April-Sept, Every Tue and/or Wed evening / Social&B Event
- Select Georgia Cup TT, Crit & Road Race Events (as time/training allow)
- Possibly GC Atlanta Summer Criterium Series
Other 2011 Goals
- Hit a 25mph solo average over the BU 30 mile route (almost hit 23 in 2010, it can be done)
- Finish the business of the Atlanta-Tuscaloosa solo Tour de Pain (230 miles, 7000+’, lots of isolation)
- Get prepared for potential run at the 2012 Heart of the South 500
- Complete my cycle coaching certification (so the nickname “coach” can actually apply)
- Figure out the blood sugar/sodium problem I get about 6 hours in
- Avoid the demon that is a pinched nerve / nerve damage or figure out how to cut it free
- Have fun / Don’t get maimed