Saturday, March 9, 2013

AOMM - 3/9/2013 Training Ride

Today was the second of the training rides for the Assault on Mount Mitchell. This ride was originally scheduled for last Saturday, but due to bad weather it was delayed until today. We couldn't have asked for any better weather than we got today to play around in the mountains. The ride started at 10am, so I showed up a little early and started getting ready for the ride.  I had gotten my brakes replaced last week in preparation for the ride, and I wasn't happy with how the front brakes were set up as they were a bit tight.  For this level of effort I didn't need my brakes to be helping me get a better workout!  By the time I had the brakes adjusted to the point that I was happy with them, the groups were forming up.  
My original plan had been to hang back with the C group to get a feel for the level of effort that these rides entail, since this is the first of the rides that I've done in preparation for AOMM.  Once I saw the folks and how they were breaking into the groups, I figured that the B group would be okay, and if I felt like the pace was too strong I could always fall back to the C group if I absolutely had to.  I'm also figuring that if I can train at the B pace it'll push my limits, and I can be more than ready to handle the AOMM rides at a C+ pace come May.  

The A group headed out, and the B group started forming up.  We ended up having about 23 people in the B group, and the established pace that was being aimed for was around 15mph.  The main thing about pace that I've learned is that elevation wreaks havoc with what the expected pace can be.  A mostly flat, or slow rolling, route can pace up to 18 or 19mph without any real struggle, especially with a group this large.  For the amount of climbing that we had ahead, 15mph was going to be a strong effort for sure.  After forming up and discussing the plans specific to the B group, we head out.  The first 10 miles are so are pretty easy rollers, and the group stays together really well.  I ended up spending a lot of this time period up at the front, taking some turns pulling!  The group was working really well together, and we didn't have any craziness of folks flying off the front to make the pace creep up.  We made it up to Tryon with no incidents, and made the turn for on 176 towards Saluda.  

Typically this section is known as the "Saluda Grade", but for the sake of this ride we were not going all the way up to Saluda, but instead we were turning off on Pearson's Falls Road about halfway up, and from there going around Fork Creek Road.  We head up 176 at a good pace, but the group definitely starts breaking up more as we go.  The climbers who were feeling froggy definitely got up front and started hammering away.  I tried to keep with the ride leader at a decent pace early in the climb, knowing that we had a lot of climbing to go int he next couple of hours.  We got up to Pearson's Falls Road and regrouped, taking the time for a quick pit stop.  At this point I pulled out a banana and washed it down with some water.  

Once we were done with the pit stop, we made our way around to Fork Creek Road.  This is a road that I'm familiar with, but I know it as the way down to the Saluda Grade from Mine Mountain Road.  When going down this road it's a technical descent, as it has a few steep sections right before turns.  Going up Fork Creek Road is another matter entirely.  The climb was challenging, mostly because of the length than any one particular area.  Strava marks the climb as 2.2 miles with an average grade of 6% totaling ~700 ft of climbing.  The trick is that the average grade is an average.  This means that during the climb there are sections that are well less than 6%, and then sections that are up around 10%.  Once we got to the top we regrouped and continued to Mine Mountain Road.  At this point I had a box of raisins in order to make sure I was fueling properly throughout the ride.

Once we got to the top of Mine Mountain Road, we regrouped again prior to making the climb the rest of the way into Saluda.  It was agreed that we would regroup again at the Wildflower Bakery there in town, although it wasn't a store stop (so no Stickies today).  Once we were regrouped the Bakery, we started down the Saluda grade to the store stop in Tryon.  This had to be one of the most fun sections of the ride.  A few of us got going down the decent, and had a really nice clip to the bottom.  I wish I had thought to grab video of the decent, as the ride down is not excessively technical, and thus we were able to get a fair amount of speed going without having to slow down to make turns.  The turns on the Grade are very sweeping, so you can really dig into them and have fun.  We got to the base of the Grade and regrouped at the store, where the A group was just finishing up and heading back out.

At the store I had a chance to do two things:  first I was able to test out my cleat covers, which worked exceptionally well.  My hope is that they extend the life of my cleats, such that I don't have to replace them this year.  They aren't horridly expensive, but not having to replace them every year would be nice.  The second thing was work on my food intake.  One of the things that I had been told is that Soda (specifically Coca-Cola) is often times offered to the riders on Mitchell, and that we'd want to partake some of it to help keep our energy levels up. I decided that the store stop was a good time to test this out, and got a small regular Coke to have for the second half of the ride.  I also picked up some oatmeal sandwiches to snack on, figuring they should be a good combination of fast and slow burning carbs.  I knew after having the Coke that I wasn't feeling all that well, and I think my body is just not used to having that much of a sugar inbalance anymore.  I didn't feel terrible, but I knew I wasn't quite right.  The store stop finished up, and we headed out towards Hogback mountain.  

Hogback Mountain is a residential area just outside of Tryon, NC.  The route that we took is considered a Category 2 climb by Strava, and is 1,300 feet of elevation over the course of 4.2 miles.  This is probably the second hardest climb that I have attempted since I've started riding, with Skyuka Mountain Road (which is nearby) being a harder overall climb. 
As we head up Hogback, the challenge of the climb is obvious.  Several folks decided very early on that they were not up for that amount of climbing, and had elected to stop at one of two pre-determined stop points along the climb.  I had decided well before this that I didn't want to attempt a climb that I wasn't prepared to see all the way through to the top.  I have felt this way for over a year, since the first time that I made my way up to the top of Paris Mountain.  If I start a climb, I intend to finish it.  Very few times do I second guess this mentality, and this wasn't one of them.  The climb up is hard, much harder than the 6% average grade lets on.  Unlike Skyuka, there are places where the grade lowers significantly, so you can catch your breath.  Like Skyuka, there are plenty of sections with 10-15% grade, so you had better be ready to grunt!   The part of the group that challenged the entire climb regrouped at the top, and some of us that hadn't seen the view took some pictures:

Once we had regrouped and had a chance to rest for a minute, we started back down.  The decent for Hogback is technical;  It's not the most technical decent that I've done, but it definitely isn't for a novice or someone that is unsure of their bike handling skills.  I was sure glad at this point that I had gotten those new brakes, as they worked exceptionally well during the decent.  What didn't work very well during the decent was the disposition of my stomach.  What I had thought was just a bit too much sugar erupted into full blown sour stomach about halfway down.  I'm not sure if it was the effort on the climb, the speed of the elevation change coming down, or some combination of the two, but my stomach was fully prepared to reject any offering that would be sent to it.  I slowed down even more on the decent, and made it to the bottom without having to deal with any stomach-based revolutions.  I never got to the point where I felt like I needed to get off the bike, but I was definitely uncomfortable for that point forward.  There was still around 20 miles left to go in the ride, too.  This definitely would become more challenging...

The rest of the ride was mostly uneventful rolling hills back to the starting point.  Not having my stomach to a point where I could continue to fuel made keeping energy and hydration challenging, and it showed in the last 5 miles or so.  Once we got back to the main stretch the lead riders started to make a push for home, and it was really more than I had left in the tank to keep up with them.  I tried a few times to get back onto the main group, but in the end I was with a small handful of folks off the back that huffed it back in.  The last couple of miles I think I could even safely say I "limped it back" more than anything else.  If my stomach hadn't been a factor, I think I would have been okay, though.  

In recap, the ride was extremely challenging, and just what I need to figure out where I am fitness-wise for AOMM.  I think I can do the remaining 3 training rides at a B pace and be okay, although for the actual event I think I'm going to be better off if I slow it down and reserve more energy for the final climb.  

No comments: