Monday, June 25, 2007

2007 BSG Ride Report

Okay, y’all. Enough time has passed for me to be able to do my Ride Report on the 2007 Blood Swear and Gears Century. I have good news and bad news. Which do you want to hear first? No opinion? Okay, then, we’ll do it my way.

Here is the bad news.

Snake Mountain kicked this fat boy’s butt. I got off and walked up a good portion of the steepest part of that hill. To my credit, I did make it to the steepest part of the hill before getting off, and I did get back on the bike near the top, where the road levels off, and rode over the summit.

The other bad news is that despite what the results show (, #508) , I didn’t ride a full century. I missed the time cutoff to do Georges Gap, so the time I posted is for only 88.5 miles. Honestly, it didn’t matter. I decided that after limping up some of the smaller inclines after Snake Mountain, my legs didn’t have another mountain in them – so I wasn’t going to do Georges Gap under any circumstance.

Now that we’ve got all the bad news out of the way, let’s look at the good news.

I think it’s fair to say that the BSG was the greatest physical challenge that I have ever faced. I spent over 7 ½ hours on this ride, 6:48 hours of that in the saddle. I achieved a max speed of 46.5 (could have gone faster, but there was some traffic). My average speed was 13.5. Based on the reported cumulative climbing of 13,000 feet, I estimate that I climbed close to 10,000 on the part of the ride that I did finish.

The weather was in the low 60's and overcast at the beginning of the ride. The sun came out but most of the route was under a canopy of leaves, which kept things most bearable. It seemed like we almost always had a slight breeze in our faces, but it was a cool breeze that took the edge off the heat.

I rode every turn of the pedals with Mark Borkowski, except that Mark stayed in the saddle on Snake Mountain. And, to his credit, he didn’t leave me when I told him that I wouldn’t be doing Georges Gap. As a matter of fact, Mark even smiled good-naturedly when I blew by him about 50 yards from the finish on my soon-to-be-patented sneak attack sprint to the finish line.

Others from this area who did the ride include Mike Scott, Pat Scott, John Price, Joe Price, Troy Bush, Ralph Rutledge, Jim Weant, and Paula Weant. All posted excellent times.


Things Doc did right. Food and drink.
Before the ride, I decided to carry food that I was familiar with. I have found that you really cannot rely on ride organizers to furnish the kind and quality of food that you know you’re gonna need to finish the ride. Even at a well-supported ride such as Murray’s Mill, there was no sports drink at any rest stop. So, I carried small zip lock baggies of Gatorade to make my own. In addition, I carried my old standbys of NutraGrain Bars (a.k.a. ‘Doc’s cobbler’) and Marathon Bars, along with some Cliff Bar organic whole grain bars. I also took a minute to cut the bars in half, leaving the food in their wrappers. That way, I was able to feed myself going down the road without having to fool with tearing off wrappers while riding.

Things Doc did right. Gearing.
I deliberated over what gear ratio to select for this ride. I ride a standard double, (ultegra 9-speed 53-39) with an XT rear derailleur. I usually take a 32-tooth cassette to ride in the mountains, but I also have one with a 34 tooth cog. Either cassette yields pretty low gears, but I feel that I have more useable gears when I take the 32. However, given Snake Mountain’s reputation as a leg buster, I made the final decision when I saw that Borkowski’s Campy Record triple was matched up with a 29-tooth cassette. This little guy (maybe 150 lbs) was taking a 30 x 29 low gear up Snake Mountain? That made the decision for me -- I'm not crazy, we'll use the 34.

Was that a low enough gear? The short answer is that it was. As a matter of fact, it might have been too low. Just before getting off to walk up Snake Mtn, I actually pulled the front wheel off the ground on 5 or 6 pedal strokes. Maybe it was a sign that I was getting out of control or perhaps something else, but I don’t think I needed any more gearing than I had. In other words, the failure on Snake Mtn was software, not hardware.

Things Doc could have done better. Knowledge of the Route.
Although I had ridden parts of this route before, I wish that I had known the route better. I was prepared for Shull’s Mill Road’s deceptive gentleness. I had also ridden Greenhill Road, the street that takes you from 321 to the Parkway in Blowing Rock. Railroad Grade road approaching Todd was no stranger to me either. And, I had ridden up Snake Mtn (in my car) the night before the ride, but that didn’t prepare me at all for the challenge that awaited me there. Similarly, with no knowledge of smaller intermediate hills, I was kind of on my own as far as having some idea of where to power up a hill or where it was better to settle in.

Things Doc could have done better. Conditioning.
Let’s be clear. I did train for this ride. I logged nearly 1800 miles since January of this year. I slowly increased my distances and included some mountain miles in my training regimen. Actually, in a lot of ways, I had been preparing for this ride since last year’s BSG. In 2006, I had registered for the ride, but picked up an intestinal bug the week of the ride. I decided that I was too dehydrated and weak to attempt such a challenging ride so, this year’s ride became, from that point forward, Unfinished Business.

So what went wrong? I cannot say with certainty, but I do have these observations. If you’re going to do a hard ride, you must train hard. I think that means if you’re going to ride up some sustained 18-20 degree inclines, find some of them to train on. If it’s going to be a long ride, train long. An 8-hour bike ride probably requires several 6-7 hour training rides. Another thing that I underestimated was the importance of upper body strength when climbing steep, gut busting mountain hills. The only parts of my body that really felt bad after the ride were my arms and shoulders. I know that it was my pulling on the bars while climbing Snake Mtn that caused me to pull my front wheel off the ground. If I had been better conditioned, I believe that I could have been under firmer control and perhaps completed that part of the ride.

This was not an unpleasant experience for this fat boy. I am in the best physical condition of my life. On the long hills, I was able to recover while climbing. It was only on stretches of hills such as Snake Mtn and Big Hill Road that really took it out of me. I made some good decisions in preparation for the ride and really cannot think of any single decision that I would change. For the most part, I controlled my mind and emotions. I did pace myself (mostly). I resisted the urge to push too hard at the beginning and I actually felt pretty good at the finish. I could have ridden further – just not up another steep grade.


Blogger rich said...

Hey Doc - Big congratulations on your ride! And thanks for the summary.

7:45 PM  

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