Monday, March 17, 2008

First Big Climb of the Year...

I just got back from a weekend trip to Asheville and thought I would share the experience with you guys. My girlfriend had a volleyball tournament on Saturday so she invited me to come and check it out and sneak off for a ride. Of course, I took her up on the opportunity loaded up the car and headed to the mountains.

We arrived late Friday nite and just chilled out at the hotel. I got up early and dropped her off at the tournament and boogied on back to the hotel to get suited up for the ride. As I was driving back I was trying to think of a road ride. I have been to Asheville several times to hang out and have spent some time in Brevard on the MTB but never hit the road. I figured the best thing to do was to link up with the Blue Ridge Parkway and go from there.

I got some quick directions from the front desk and headed out. The sky was ominous and it was pretty chilly out so I was ready to get going. As you guys know, I tend to go a little lite on the clothing as I hate to sweat in the cold temps. I was hoping for a nice climb to get the blood flowing and a solid warm up.

As soon as I turned onto the parkway, I let out a little scream "Hell Yea". I love climbing on the road bike in the mountains, it makes me so happy. I just wish that I was better at it!

Anyway, I fed into the parkway and was faced with the decision head north towards Asheville or South towards Brevard. As I love the riding in Brevard I decided to head South...that turned out to be a great decision as the road north is basically just a bunch of small rollers with a couple of small climbs.

I hung a left heading south and immediately started up hill. I love the solitude of climbing, it's so peaceful and therapeutic for me. I found myself clicking along staring at the scenery and finding my rhythm. The roads were completely vacant without a car in sight. I think I saw 4 cars the whole ride it was primo.

About 25 minutes into the climb I saw a group of 5 guys zipping down the mountain with huge grins on their faces. I recognized them from the hotel and we gave each other the traditional head nod and I got out of the saddle to stretch the legs. Just as I saw them I began to think, I wonder how long this climb will be? Didn't they head out an hour or so ahead of me?

I passed a mile marker and made note of it mentally so I could keep track. The road continued to wind and the legs began to feel better so I shifted from the 25 to the 23 then the 21 then the 19 then the 17...oops too much so I backed off to the 21 and just noodled for a while. Before long, I had passed a couple more markers and realized that I was 6 miles into the climb and loving every minute of it. The breathing was under control and the heart rate was slowing down...recovery is a nice thing.

I started going through a couple of those tunnels that are cut right out of the mountain and I got a little nervous as they are pitch black for a little bit, not so bad on the climb but could be a factor on the descent. I came out of the first tunnel and got hit with a little rain, I started thinking about the descent and the challenges that it may pose. Nevertheless I kept climbing. With each mile the grin on my face got bigger and bigger and the pain in the legs got greater and greater.

There is just something about climbing that changes my perspective on riding bikes. My body goes through all kinds of emotions and pain but at the end of the climb it feels so satisfying. It makes me want to come back for more.

It turns out that I went through 7 tunnels and the climb topped out at just over 14 miles. It was beautiful and I can't wait to do it again.

The descent, on the other hand, was a bit grizzly. The wind picked up ripping across the mountain pass, the road was wet and while those zero gravity brakes excel in the bling factor they are not very efficient at slowing you down.

To add to that, I had to release the front brake before the ride because my wheel was rubbing a little bit. I found myself going 40+mph on rain soaked roads with limited stopping power, then I hit the tunnels. The fist 5 were short and I zipped right through them with no worries. The final two were a bit longer and stressful. I would say there was at least 5 seconds of complete darkness. I just had to hold on and hope for the best. Luckily, I faired well and headed back home.

I was glad to pop off the first real climb of the year and I am super motivated to get the team up to Boone and start hitting the hills. Sorry for no pictures, I forgot the camera.

See you guys soon,



jd said...

It would be hard for me to leave the fat tires at home if I was going that close to Pisgah but tackling a 14mi climb sounds tasty.

Korps said...

Wow Ben, made me feel as if I was there with you, except I would be miles behind, puking and cursing.