Last Saturday we headed up to the Elijay area for a preview ride of the newest Half Iron distance triathlon in Georgia called Mountain Madness. The race takes place in May and will be a good training day in preparation for Ironman Louisville. I had previously ridden in this area while training for Ironman Coeur D’Alene. In fact I was training with the race directors who decided to take their love of the sport and make a business out of it. Together they formed Zone 5 Events. That being said, I had a vague idea of what was ahead including a climb up Fort Mountain. What I didn’t know was that the climb was 6 miles and that was just one of the many climbs I would encounter on my 56 mile journey.
Prior to Saturday my longest bike ride this year had been around 15 miles (the previous weekend!) I had made sure my few bike outings were hilly in order to prepare a tiny bit but I knew I was in way over my head. So much so that I brought my rarely used road bike so I would have that extra granny gear to get my a** up those hills. I was less intimidated than I would have been had I not done so many hills last year and 2 trips to the gaps. That was a big confidence builder and although slow and painful I was pretty sure I would survive.
Saturday’s forecast was warm with a slight chance of rain. We packed up the car the night before and headed up to Carter’s Lake. I brought all kinds of clothes to cover the changing temperatures and settled on a short sleeve shirt and light jacket with bike shorts. The ride started on a super steep incline to get out of the park with no warm-up and knew this would set the tone for the day. Thankfully, I was able to pull my a** up the hills getting out of the park and started onto the main road. The first major road was a nice downhill stretch which had me cursing since I knew we would be climbing back up that hill on the way back. There was tons of support out there with people stationed at every turn plus the turns were all marked. I started to recognize parts of the route from my previous ride up there. I knew the middle stretch on the out and back was not too bad. I also knew I wasn’t moving fast but I wanted to take things easy and save my energy for the mountain.
I was making my way along the road and enjoying the scenery when I spotted a little grey blur off to my right. I thought it might be a squirrel and hoped he would just stay put. Well, it started coming closer and getting bigger and I realized it was a small dog. It ran onto the road and started barking and chasing me so I had to pick up the pace or be in danger of it biting me or me running over it. Eventually, it got tired and I was able to get my heart rate back down (you could actually see the spike on my Garmin data!!). I hate dogs while on the bike. Thankfully, I could outride this little guy.
At the base of the big climb there was a store where many were stopped to either grab some food and drink for energy to get up the hill or as a little rest before heading back to the start. I still had yet to see anyone head back down the mountain so either I was keeping good time or the mountain was really a bitch! Once I started the climb I felt better because I knew it was tough but totally doable. In fact it was not as steep as stuff we did last summer so I just settled in and climbed. The worst part of the whole climb was that I was at the back of the pack doing the whole route so I had a truck riding my butt to keep an eye on me. I tried very hard to shut out the sound of the engine but it was a bit nerve racking.
Eventually, I made it to the top and grabbed a snack and a drink and headed down. In some ways down was worse because my brakes were not super grippy and I had to really squeeze to engage them. This combined with the whipping wind caused my hands to go completely numb and they were totally frozen when I got to the bottom. I spent a little time warming them up and then headed back on my journey.
I was still feeling good. A little tired but not completely wrecked like I have been on other rides. This was good since I had already doubled my longest ride for the year. The flat part was nice and I kept it easy since I knew the final climb was coming up soon. As expected it was a bitch but I kept climbing along with my entourage of trucks right behind me. I am sure they were thinking why doesn’t this bitch just stop. I thought that a few times myself!! I had plenty of offers to take my bike and get a ride to the end but I didn’t feel too bad and although I was slow I felt good knowing how much I had accomplished on Day 13 of my training.
At last the big climb was over and I just had to turn into the park and get back to the car. I made that last left turn and said “WTF?” I had completely forgotten about the realtively short but steep hill before we turned onto the main road. Grumble, grumble , grumble I got up it and finished the rolling section and back to the car - finally. Bill Monahan called out my name on the bullhorn as I came into the parking lot. I was, as per usual, the last person back who did the whole ride. I yelled back “I hate you!!” but it was all in good fun. It was a tough, tough ride but I made it. Now I just have to shave about an hour off that time!
So, what’s on tap for the upcoming weekend? I am signed up for GUTS Operation Endurance 12 hour race starting at 8pm on Saturday through 8am Sunday. Not sure when this sounded like a good idea because it just sounds like a pain in the a** right now. I know I will have fun while I am there but there is no reason why I need to run for 12 hours right now. NONE. I am just starting my Ironman training. I have a decent run base (I did a 50K and a half marathon 4 weeks ago). I could drop back to the 6hr run which starts at 2am Sunday morning. This will just screw up my sleep schedule and again, what is the point? John is running the 24 hr race. It was supposed to be training for his 100 miler this year but we got that out of the way back in December . So, who knows why he is doing it. Regardless, I need to make an appearance but I am dreading the drive and I would rather just stay home right now. Things have been so hectic and stressful lately that a weekend at home sounds really good right now. As things stand I think my plan is to sleep in, get a massage Saturday afternoon, ride for 2 hours later that day and then head down to the race sometime Saturday evening. I need to gett some sort of run done (my schedule has me running 2 hrs) so I will run a little at the race (it’s a one mile loop) and just generally help out, nap and probably whine a bit (or a lot). Then I will drive home, nap some more, maybe do some yard work, laundry, eat and get ready for another fun week at work.