Saturday, July 17, 2010

de Gaps! de Gaps!

Well, really only one gap.  As you will also see evidence of this on the CLM blog and Barry's blog, I won't overdo it.

Next week is the (in)famous Hurt, Pain, & Agony ride and we're all stoked to hit it.  That said, we needed to hit some climbs longer than those we typically find between our front doors and Pilot Mtn.  Barry suggested to do part of the Tour de Gaps route and the idea stuck. 

Today, I found myself in a gravel parking lot beside Reeves Community Center in Mt. Airy at 8:00 am with Barry.  Mitch and Cisco were to arrive shortly to make our group a merry 4.  Our plan:  Hop on the Tour de Gaps route up to the top of Squirrel Spur (4 mile climb at around 7%, I would guess) and on to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Shortly after departing the parking lot, we crossed into a state known to be for lovers.
The roads to the bottom of Squirrel Spur were perfect for a morning ride.  Farmland as far as one could see, until one could see the Blue Ridge Mtns creep into the frame.  On the lower slopes of the climb, the humidity made itself truly known and we all began to sweat buckets.  Climbing around the first two corners, we could already see across the valley and back to the roads below.  At this point, Cisco increased the pace a bit and I latched on with my elastic band.

The climb up Squirrel Spur is actually very nice.  The grade is mild and the pavement very good.  Very little traffic exists here so you are indeed left to your thoughts and free from distraction.  Unless, of course, you are distracted by the worrying amounts of sweat leaving your body.  I did a little math and quickly surmized that I would run out of fluid on the way back.  Other distractions?  The sveltle cyclist in front of you dancing on the pedals and looking rather fresh.  True, he does not have a front derailleur on his bike and that is like, 70 grams, but surely that couldn't help him TOO much.  Or could it?

My previous experience on the climb helped as it is a steady, unrelenting grade.  Overcook it once, and it will nash its teeth into your cramping gastrocnemius.  Cisco and I regrouped at the top with Barry rapidly closing.  Impressive.  The descent was downright hair-raising and may have taked a few years off my life as I maxed out at 49 mph.  Not bad for a toothpick on wheels!

Apart from the wonderful friends on this outing, a key highlight was the stop at a corner store.  We grabbed some Gatorade and yes, some homemade fudge.  The woman behind the counter essentially convinced us to buy it and I am glad we did.  Yummy sugar goodness.
In summary:  Climbing was good, friends were better, and I think we're as ready as we can be for HPA.  Oh, and Mitch won the haybale climbing competition.  You should've seen him bunny hopping across that row!  Yee-haw!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Hotness.

And I don't mean in a good way.  Rob and I set out to meet Barry on our way to Pilot Mtn. this evening.  With temps in the 90s and the humidity creeping up into the "I didn't know I could even sweat this much" category, it was going to be a good one.

Rob and I whistled out to Donnaha Rd. and shortly found Barry chilling out under a shade tree's loving shelter.  Climbing up Donnaha, we each looked at the others thinking "what are we doing, it's way too hot for this."

Despite the beckoning of reason, we pushed on.  Up Spainhour Mill and Perch Rds, finally cresting at Pinnacle and taking a good look at our nemesis.

We made our way up the beast slowly but surely, with Rob making quick work of Barry and me.  After a requisite stop at the Ranger station for some cold water, we soldiered back south.  I was thinking we had a bit of headwind on the way out, and was looking forward to a little push on the way home.  More likely, however, is that the air was so thick and still that it actually takes a bit more work to push through its lushness than on our beloved crisp October days.

Barry peeled off at Donnaha to get home, so I was left to deal with Rob and his 4 quadzillion mitochondrial pulls.  All ended well as even the Rob was glad to see our last stopsign. 

All of this, of course, is to get us ready for the Hurt, Pain, & Agony ride coming up in just over a week.  60-some miles in the hills around Stone Mtn will certainly be a good challenge, so we figured a little practice was in order. 

Oh, and that subject line above?  The hotness?  Well, here you go (hide the women and children).