Monday, April 30, 2012

Wheels for Meals 2012

Originally I had set myself some rather meager goals for this year, mostly in preparation for the Stars and Stripes Challenge over Memorial Day and in general being able to hang with the Donaldson Tuesday night Country Loop.  After having such a spectacular time going through Rob's Big Losers, when Rob invited me to ride on the Wheels for Meals charity ride I couldn't say no.  I was honored that he'd think of me and invite me to come out!  That said, he helped me get my registration information in, and I was all set for last weekend.  I decided to challenge myself and make this trip my first Metric Century (100km or ~62 miles) as well.  I knew that this would be rough, but I also had a few friends that were planning on taking on the course and said they would ride with me.

It was a nice cool morning as we headed out from Furman University heading towards the base of Ceaser's Head Mountain, which was very much a blessing.  This course was extremely challenging for me as a less experienced rider.  The terrain was non-stop for the entire 100 kilometers.  Unlike several courses I've personally done already where you get some longer stretches of flat or near flat and enough downhill to recover for the next push uphill, this was true rolling hills, where each downhill was greeted with more climbing.  The event was extremely well organized and well planned out, so the water stops were really when you needed them, and the snacks they had on hand made me regret packing a bit heavy for the trip.  I had packed snacks, extra electrolytes and an extra water bottle not knowing for sure what to expect.  I also made a mistake in having both my main water bottles be full of my electrolyte powder, which was way too strong and too much for my body to handle while at speed.  Until the first water station, where I refilled one of my main bottles with just water and sipped the electrolyte drink when I felt I really needed the extra, I was really hurting to keep up. Once I made that adjustment it was good.

The "main event" for the day though was really going up Callahan Mountain right by "Camp Old Indian".  This one mile stretch of road is 400 feet of elevation at an average of 7% incline.  There are sections of it that are over 10% at times.  It was also the midpoint of the ride, so I had to ride what was typically a "full" ride for me, then climb this gruntastic beast, then ride another 30 miles.  The water break was about 2 miles before the start of the climb made a huge difference, too.  When we got to the base of the climb, we were able to scale it efficiently and had reserves to keep on going.  As we got to the 50 mile mark, I was really ready for that last water stop, though.  Just the time with our feet down to let my legs rest was a much needed break for me, even if I didn't need much more than a water refresh to keep on going.

The most difficult part of the trip was the last 4 miles, though.  When we got back into Traveler's Rest, I was very prepared for the route to push us onto the Swamp Rabbit and a nice easy spin back to Furman.  Instead we went beyond the entrance to SRT and into the neighborhoods to the west.  We got to go by the TR YMCA (which looked to be a really nice facility from what I saw of it) and around to a little golf community on the side of a hill.  There were some very challenging climbs in here, not as long as anything like Callahan, but steep for the little bit of time you were climbing them.  That plus the 60 miles that were already on my legs made the end extremely challenging for me.  At the end we paced over 15mph through the course including stops, and got back just in time for lunch (which was Pork with Rice and Beans!) and a nice cold beer.  I am definitely looking forward to going on this ride again next year, as it was a lot of fun and benefits a great organization.

At the After Ride luncheon!

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