The day arrived. I woke up at 4:15 a.m. and really never went back to sleep. The alarm went off at 5 a.m. and I got out of bed, showered, got everything together and headed out the door by 5:30 a.m. I swung by McDonalds to be my favorite before morning ride meal (a steak and egg bagel with a black coffee).Here I am after resting a bit once I finished the Assault on Marion.
The service was SOOOO slow. It was getting closer and closer to the point where I would end up really pushing it to make it by the start time. Finally, I got it and headed up I-85 to Spartanburg. I didn't get much coffee down because it was very hot. Still, I got enough and made it to Spartanburg at 6:15 a.m. - that put me at the back of the field.
I had not been there long when the countdown started. The riders clicked in and everyone started - and then stopped. With only about 200 riders behind me, we did quite a bit of starting and stopping until everyone got underway.
Once we got to rolling I stayed in the main pack, but soon grew antsy because they were just taking their time. Me, I was hoping to finish in 3:30 minutes. With the size of the pack I felt hemmed in, and kept looking for ways to thread through the group.
Finally, about 10 miles in, things started to spread out just a bit and I was able to jump on the wheels of other riders coming along the outside of the slower riders. Within 20 miles there was no longer a large group, but various smaller groups of 10 to 15 riders.
I would merge with one of these groups (at that point we were averaging anywhere between 22 to 26 mph) and then work my way to the front. At that point, I would often see another group up ahead and I (and often another rider) would break away and try to draw in the distant group.
That is what really tired me. Reeling in those groups meant I would be out there by myself. No drafting or pacing. Still, I was happy that I was able to do this over and over before we reached Bill's Hill.
Just before the hill, there was a long climbing stretch - nothing too steep, but a long gradual climb. I felt like King of the Mountain as I was climbing through all the riders struggling along. Dog gone it! My chain fell off and wedged between the gear and the hub. I had to stop and pull it back on. All those people I had passed, passed me back.
Before we reached Bill's, I had made up the ground. I caught some more on the way up the hill but then my chain did the same thing again! Once again, I lost ground but passed the majority of those riders again. Coming off the hill, there were no groups. The hill had busted them all up and you would see riders spread all over.
At 20 miles I was feeling really good! By 36 (basically halfway) I was finding a groove. At 45 (Bill's hill) I was starting to feel it. I just aimed for the 53 mile mark. Got it - 20 miles to go.
After that I just kept trying to focus on the 63 mile mark. Man! the cyclometer was moving awful slow! Then salvation! A group came up and swallowed me up. I hopped on and we did a pace line that lasted past the 10 miles to go goal.
Then we hit the last gradual climbs before coming into the Marion finish line. The group came down to about three. At the 70 mile mark, I started to pick it up some and up ahead I only saw two riders. Then there were just two of us.
We came down an extensive downhill and my computer showed 72 miles. "Hey, we're almost there!" I thought. So, I let up a little and just continued with the guy in front of me. He got upset and told me to lead some. I was wondering why since we were almost there. Anyway, it kind of ticked me off, so I came out of the saddle and just dropped him.
Oh boy, the 73 mile mark came and went - where was this Tom Johnson Camp Ground? Did it exist? I had just pushed expecting it to be right around the corner, but it wasn't there. The thing that kept me pushing was I didn't want that guy to pass me!
Finally, when my computer showed over 74 miles, I saw two riders ahead turning into a new road. As I caught the two of them, I saw that the end was just ahead. I made it!
3 hours and 46 minutes. The lead pack had entered Marion at 9:50 a.m. (3:20) and I followed 26 minutes later. It made me wonder what I could have done had I gotten to Spartanburg early enough to get in that lead pack. I also realized that I had riden my bike from my car to the starting line. It added an extra mile to my computer.
Next year, it's all the way to the mountain. I've decided I am just going to work to get in the best shape of my life and then when I do the ride, I will not try to bridge the gap between groups. I will settle in with a group with a pace that I like and stay there.Off to Mt. Mitchell - as one man said who rode by and asked me what was going on, "God bless 'em."
By the way, the first rider to the top of the mountain did it in 5 hours and 22 seconds. That means he climbed the mountain in 2 hours and 2 seconds. Wow!
Labels: assault on marion, cycling