Friday, August 3, 2012
Late Friday morning, three of my athletes and I arrived at the High Valley Resort in Suches, GA for our weekend of riding The Gaps. For those of you who are not familiar with The Gaps, it is a popular location in North Georgia to ride for serious cyclists. It consists of a series of mountains with rolling hills in between each mountain. It’s a short 90 minute drive from Atlanta and is one of my very favorite places to ride!
On Friday, the plan was to ride from the cabin to conquer three gaps: Woody, Neels and Wolfpen. This is a 35-mile ride but it would probably take us approximately 3.5 hours. We filled our bottles, put on our helmets, locked the cabin and we were off!
Starting the ride with a big, fat headache didn’t make for a good start to our ride. Sometimes I get motion sickness, especially when riding in the car across the curvy, country highway, which probably contributed to my headache. Alas, the ride must go on, headache or no headache!
Two of the four of us were brand new to riding The Gaps, so there was a bit of anxiety along with excitement. When we planned this trip about four months ago, the two Gaps-newbies were already pumped to take on this challenge. They have both come a long way even in those four, short months.
As we headed up Woody, the shortest climb of the three, two of my athletes took off to the point in which I could no longer see them. A good sign! My other athlete and I hung behind to conserve our energy <wink> for the remaining two gaps.
At the top of Woody, it was all smiles!
As we descended Woody, many thoughts crossed my mind: What if someone has a mechanical bike issue? What if one of my athletes can’t complete the entire ride? What if one of them crashes? These are all legitimate concerns, however I decided to put all of those thoughts out of my mind.
We regrouped at the bottom and continued on to Neels.
Neels is a bugger! It’s long. It’s curvy. It’s long. Did I already mention that? The shoulder is narrow. Anyway, I just got settled in and continued making progress up the mountain. At the top, two of my athletes were waiting. Again, with smiles! My other athlete made her way to the top and there were “high fives” for all!
Onward to Wolfpen!
We regrouped at the bottom of Neels at the turn to start Wolfpen. My Gaps-experienced athlete and I warned our two Gaps-newbies to take it easy and beware of the hairpin turns and a few steep sections of the climb. Both the newbies were ready. It seems as if their confidence got higher and higher with each Gap accomplishment. Sweet!
Wolfpen was a nice ride. Not too much traffic (bike, car or motorcycle). We were all slowing a bit on this one, but we all made it up. Again, smiles! Again, “high fives”!
We finished up the ride at our cabin in Suches, The Husky (far right).
Saturday, August 4, 2012
We got an early start on Saturday since our ride was much farther.
Two of my athletes were taking on Wolfpen, Jacks, Unicoi, Hogpen and Wolfpen (66 miles). One of my athletes and I decided to go a bit shorter and save Hogpen for our next Gaps outing <wink>. We rode Wolfpen, Jacks, top of Unicoi, back down the same side of Unicoi, Jacks and Wolfpen (58 miles).
The four of us regrouped at the top of the climbs and at the turns until we got to the top of Unicoi.
Then, we went our separate ways.
I was really excited to go up the back side of Jacks since I hadn’t done that previously. It was a nice change because it wasn’t as tough as the front side of the mountain. My other athlete and I also got a chance to chat without worrying about the guys. The two of us have known each other for almost nine years, however we’ve only been working together as Coach-Athlete since April. It was fun to spend time with her and get to know her on a more personal level.
We made it up and over Jacks, then we made our way to Wolfpen. Before we made the turn to start Wolfpen we stopped at Sunrise Grocery to refill our bottles. Best.Country.Store.Ever! This place has everything from cantaloupes to coonskin hats, boiled peanuts to bear poop candy! Seriously! It’s the bomb! After we refilled, we set out to finish our last Gap of the day.
This was tough. I noticed my speed was almost an entire half mile per hour slower than yesterday going up the same Gap, which is a lot when you are talking about the difference between 6 mph and 5.5 mph. Ugh. Decided to keep on repeating my hill-climbing mantra: “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10…” This is me..counting my pedal strokes. When I decide to get out of my saddle, I only stand for a count of a ten, then I sit for a count of ten. This is a way to control my heart rate so I don’t get too tired too quickly. Also, it helps me not roll backward. LOL!
My athlete and I made it back to the cabin and we were pooped! About 30 minutes later, my two other athletes made it back. Hurting, but happy! Actual quote: “Hogpen was tu-uff”! WORD!
Sunday, August 5, 2012
We got psyched for our third day of riding. I opened this ride up to others who wanted to join us for the 35-miler. For us, this would be the same route as Friday. For everyone else, the plan was for them to ride from the rock pile up/over Neels, up/over Wolfpen and up/over Woody.
We rode up/over Woody to wait for the group. Only one brave soul decided to join us, so off we went at 8am! Onward to Neels!
For some weird reason, Neels seemed to have gotten longer since Friday. Hmmmm…. Maybe it was just a mental game my mind was playing on me. Again, I settled in and climbed the mountain. There was not as much regrouping at the top of Neels. I wanted to ride the Gaps straight through this time around. As I sped down Neels, I made the turn to Wolfpen and got some really good momentum! Unfortunately, again, I noticed my pace begin to slow. Since this was the last Gap of the weekend, I decided to push a bit harder and get up Wolfpen as fast as possible! I was up before I felt the pain! Woo Hoo! If the truth be told, I didn’t experience much pain at all during or after my rides. Nice!
Onward back to the cabin!
As I pulled in to the resort entrance, my face was sore…from smiling from ear to ear! Not only was this a big training weekend for me, it was HUGE for my athletes, especially the Gaps-newbies! They did AWESOME, in fact they did much better than I expected! It is a joy for me to see athletes accomplish something they weren’t sure was possible.
My accomplishment over the weekend went beyond my own expectations. Of course, I knew this would be a tough weekend. It was. For sure. But, being able to dig deep to push it past my comfort zone up Wolfpen was a fantastic feeling!
Actual quote: “A successful weekend”! WORD!
Day #1 - Woody, Neels, Wolfpen - 35 Miles - Elevation gain of 4,173 feet - 792 Calories burned - 622 Calories consumed
Day #2 - Wolfpen, Jacks, Unicoi, Jacks, Wolfpen - 58 Miles - Elevation gain of 6,049 - 1,584 Calories burned, 1,343 Calories consumed
Day #3 - Woody, Neels, Wolfpen - 35 Miles - Elevation gain of 4,173 feet - 792 Calories burned - 622 Calories consumed