I left Sunday (5/17) morning around 10:30am, headed towards Marion, to meet up with a few other people to take a chartered bus from Marion to Spartanburg with bikes included. It rained on me pretty much the whole way to Marion, IIRC, and once in Marion, it was a lot cooler than when I left Clayton.
Parked the car at Tom Johnson's, loaded up my bike and bag and then waited for, probably half an hour on 2 other guys, who got lost. *roll eyes* Finally rolled out of Marion around 3pm, arriving at the Marriott in Spartanburg around 4:45-5pm....after the driver got lost 2x. How do you get lost??? Especially when you are using a GPS??? Whatever. Unloaded and went to my room then to pick up my registration stuff.
Wow!! The bike expo was very lacking, compared to last year's expo. Very. And, I paid for a t-shirt, which was no where to be found and all sold out. I did get a refund though. It appears that you can purchase the t-shirts online now through Active.com. I'll probably get one. My friend Neal also rode the bus down, but was staying at the Days Inn down the street. We met for supper, which consisted of penne or bowtie pasta with either alfredo or meat sauce, bread and salad. It was ok, but I sure couldn't eat $15 worth of pasta. Dessert was a banana bread pudding and cookies....chocolate chip cookies. Those cookies were Great!!
After dinner, everyone (the 2 late guys, Neal and I) said our good nights and I went on up to my room. Slept from 9:30-11pm, then up for a little while and back to sleep around 12-12:30am. I set 3 alarms for the next morning. I always have this fear that I'm going to sleep through the alarm and miss my ride! But, I woke up prior to the alarm going off - got a shower, dressed and then had to figure out how to carry everything I wanted to take with me or leave stuff behind in my bag.
Temps on Monday morning were in the high 40s to low 50s, so I opted for the light wool base layer (no vest then) and arm warmers. Packed the knee warmers, vest, hat in the bag. Now - how to carry all 7 baggies of Perpetuem, a bottle of gel, pills, camera, & phone. Should've just left the camera cause I never really had a chance to use it except right at the beginning. I managed to stuff all that stuff in the 3 pockets, headed down to check out and go wait for my wave to head out...
I started in the last wave of riders, at 6:35am or so. There was this cute little guy in a Columbia/High Roads kit...we didn't really talk too much prior to the start, but I decided that I would hold his wheel as long as I could without jeapordizing my plans for my MM ride. I did well at the start - did not "jack-rabbit" out and try to keep up with everyone...just rode easily, getting the legs warmed up good because of no warmers and because that's what Andy would tell me I should do. *smiley* I don't know how far into the ride, but I found High Road and let him know I was there.
We were now in a group of about 40-50 cyclists! And, surprisingly, the group rode well. None of that slowing/accelerating that happened at Burnsville. We were hauling the mail! Blew right by the first rest stop at 22mi in less than an hour. I kept High Roads wheel until sometime around 36-38mi, when we hit the first little hill. Knowing that Marion was NOT my ride, Mitchell was my ride, I had to let everyone go. Hard, but I had to remain focused. You guys (Andy, VV, skiffrun, et al) should be very proud of me! I did it. I Started Slow To Finish Fast. Hell Yes. So, yes, I got dropped around 38mi, but, I didn't let that deter me. Skipped the 2nd rest stop, as I had enough left in 1 bottle to get me to the top of Bill's Hill.
Turned onto the road that leads to BH's, riding solo for a short time, until I hear "on your left". Hearing that, I kicked it up a gear and proceeded to jump onto the back of a 4man paceline that pulled me all the way to the turn up to BH's. It's amazing what a year's worth of riding will do for you and all hte climbing I've done in that year. Last year, I had to stop shortly after starting the climb because I was already starting to get cramps. That climb was hard - last year. This year - meh. Nothing to it. Damn. Do you believe I just wrote that???? Well, it's true!!! It was easy, ok, well, not easy, but not nearly as hard as the prior year. Nor was it anything like CMR, Ellijay, etc...
Stopped at the rest stop to refill bottles. Neal was already there, so I asked how long he'd been there to guage my climb. He said he'd been there only 3-4minutes. So, I guess I'm not really climbing all that bad. Maybe it's just all in my head now. *rolleyes* Neal and I left together, but he soon dropped me. No big deal. Not part of my plan to try and keep up to him. Around 50mi into the ride (where I cramped severly last year), I just went up that climb like it was nothing. How's that??? I hate to keep saying it, but these climbs were just not all that difficult to me....
Rode solo for a while and then, again, hooked up with 3-4 more guys, strong guys. I let them pull as long as they would. I did take a couple turns at the front, but not for long - keeping in mind what Andy told me - let the others do the work for me and get me to Marion....Stopped at the 4th rest stop for my one and only pee break for the day. Neal and I set out, again, hooking up with different groups to help us get to Marion.
I don't know if the guys (or other women) feel this way, but when you realize that you are making the turn that result in you riding 75mi from Spartanburg to Marion - it's emotional. For me at least. I can't explain...it's just, uh, I get a lump in my throat, a tear in my eye, at what I've done. It's awesome!
Last year: 4:59:11hr/15.1avg
So, I made it to Marion, keeping The Plan intact. I'm so damn proud of me!!! See - Andy - I can do it...I can listen when it truly matters.
Stopped at the 5th rest stop and filled up only 1 bottle. I was the 500th rider to go past this stop. I sorta left Neal....I was ready to go and he wasn't, so I left him...knowing he'd eventually catch and pass me. I took it sorta easy, spinning the legs out, trying to get a tiny bit of recovery before the climbing on Hwy80 started. I'm so glad that Andy and I went up over Easter weekend and rode 80/brp to MM entrance. It helped somewhat....
I did fine going up & over Lake Tahoma dam, letting more people pass me. I had my own agenda to follow and no one else's. I reached the turn where Hwy80 turns Up...a brief stop to take the arm warmers off, as they were bunched all up around my wrists and seriously getting on my nerves. That was my only stop on Hwy80. Andy had told me, when we did the ride, to not stop at #6 because a lot of people don't make it any further when they stop there. Rode right on by that one.
Oh boy...the last 3 miles up to the BRP were friggin miserable...I seriously had doubts about being able to finish the ride. I was in a world of hurt. I wanted to call someone/anyone/Andy/VV/G'ville guy...I needed some words of encouragement...I needed someone to tell me I could do this, that I could finish the ride. I didn't see how I was going to be able to finish another 15-16mi. I had thoughts of just giving in once I reached the BRP. But, no. THERE IS NO QUIT IN ME. I dug deep and found out that I'm stronger than I think sometimes. My right knee hurt like hell, as did my hamstrings. The hell with them is what I thought. The half miles ticked off...eventually, I came to one of the last hair pin curves and a nice lady was standing there - she told me I didn't have far to go...next turn....there it is....BRP Next Exit or something to that effect.
I made it to the BRP. I stopped for a little bit, ate, probably 2-3 oranges, tried to call Andy, but no service. Tried to call G'ville guy. No service. I made it that far, but I still needed those encouraging words...well, I didn't have them. So, I climbed back on my bike and proceeded to climb the BRP. That was difficult too, but not as hard as I thought it would be. The oranges were kicking in I think. I climbed and climbed and climbed. Eventually, I reached the crest, where RS #8 was located. Legs were still in a world of hurt.
I got off the bike, removed the helmet and just lay on the ground for a while. Oh man, I was so friggin tired. More oranges - probably 3-4 this time. Tried calling everyone again. No luck. 10mi or so to go....you're not quitting now!!! A fast and fun 2.5mi descent then hte last climb to the entrance to MM. Stopped at RS #9 - more oranges. Lots of oranges. Finally, just get on the damn bike and finish!!!!
Started the MM climb and it was as hard as I thought it was gonna be after 95+ miles in my legs. Reach the sign that tells me the summit is 3.9 (?) miles further. I finally reach the Visitor's Center, skip that last RS cause you ride a false flat for a ways, till just past the restaurant, then it's back to the real climbing. I finally see people sitting at the parking lot, shift up, and give it everything I have left, which wasn't much, but I stood out of the saddle and finished strong.
Damn. What a great feeling that is!!! I did it!!!! Hell Yes. I crossed the line and stopped where the lady was tagging bikes. Got my patch, handed over my trusty steed, found my bag and changed my clothes. Didn't even get the soup. Didn't want any either. I just wanted out of those clothes and to sit down. Damn. Writing all of this just brings all those emotions back. I damn well did it. Wooooooooooo-Hoooooooooooo
OK...so I got changed and went straight to a bus. Propped my bag up, laid my head on it, and I think I was out -->| |<-- like that!! Next thing I remember is waking up somewhere headed down the BRP. We took the long route down, not down Hwy80, and didn't get back to Tom Johnson's till a bit after 5pm. I went for food. Two plates of spaghetti. Damn. That was the best 'sghetti I've had in a while! Then, it was the wait on the bikes. Rumors circulated that the bikes were going to Spartanburg!!!!! No Way!!! Eventually, that rumor was squashed, but it still took FOREVER to get my bike. Did not get it till after 8pm. Grrrrrrr. I had a motel for the night in Marion, so after getting my bike, I went straight there and the rest is history..... Marion to Mt Mitchell:
Total (per Powertap):
Mitchell "Official" Time:
Damn. Would ya look-it that!!!! I had a negative split!!!! Hell Yes Again!!!
Now....would I do it again? As I stood around waiting on my bike, my answer was HELL NO. But, today, two days later, the answer is HELL YES. I have a goal - I have to see if I can beat that time next year. *roll eyes* even if it means waiting on my bike again.