Hurricane Jeanne was on the way to Central Florida and therefore our
friend Dan boarded up his house instead of driving 8 to 10 hours up to
Georgia. But Barb had us signed up for the ride and this ride caught our
interest, so we went.
No century since June, not on the road bike for 7 weeks, just some
easy riding on the mountain bike. This is not really what you call
prepared for this ride and as it was proven once more, you have to pay a
toll for this. Barb on the other hand just finished BMB four weeks
before. Still, this was not an easy task for a Florida flatlander.
Ride start for 1,500 riders was at 7:30 AM and we had to meet a deadline. We had to be on
top of Jacks Gap at mile 36 before 11:00 AM to be allowed to do the
started 2 minutes ahead of the main field and up, up, up we went. While Florida
flatlanders kept it at 10 mph, the lead group was flying by with 20 mph.
Soon we were passed by hundreds of riders. We reached Neels gap. This was not too hard. It was just a long
steady and not very steep uphill. There was not much time to rest. We had to
watch the time limit.
we were up on the way to Jacks gap and we realized, the second one was
not as easy as the first one. More riders were passing by, some of them
from Florida. A lot of them knew Barb. Up, up, up, watching the time,
controlling the speed. We were still fresh, the legs were fine and we
made it to top by 10:45 AM. We met Kevin Kaiser, who did PBP 2003 and
BMB 2004. He was on top of this gap approx. 45 min. ahead of us and
while he was waiting for his friends, he did Balds Gap in between. At this point the Florida Flatlanders
decided to go for the century and not just for the 50 mile option.
After a fun downhill we had to go up towards Unicoi Gap. This time the
uphill was not too long. Barb and myself went slow and steady on this
moderate uphill. We were still in good spirits and reached together the
gap. I felt my legs, but was overall still better than expected.
3 Gaps were done, wasn't this half way? Hey, why was I afraid? This was
fun and it looked like a piece of cake at this moment. Now I was
confident to make it.
After a break, we went to the downhill. Wow, what a downhill. I didn't
like this one. Switchback over switchback, constantly using brakes in
between. My hands were getting tired from braking. At this time I was
not for sure what I liked more, the uphill or the downhill. We descended
approx. 1,600 ft down to an elevation of 1,400 ft and had now approx. 55
Miles. I could have been done now, but instead we had chosen to do the
Barb told me that we were now heading towards Hogpen Gap, the highest
gap and most difficult one. Sure enough we had to go up. I was getting
slower and slower, used my small chain ring at front and the smallest
gear at the rear, a 25 ring. It still was hard to move. This was getting
harder and harder and my cadence lower and lower. Why didn't I have a 27
or 29 ring on the
like Barb? She overall looked fresh and maintained a solid cadence. A
group of 3 cyclists went by and Barb was trying to hang on to them. I
couldn't keep up.
This way I cycled up the mountain for approx. 2 Miles, at a speed of 4
to 5 mph, meaning this was a half hour. Now it became really steep. Why
didn't I take the 50 Mile option? I was fighting this for another Mile
and than I started cramping. I had to get off the bike. Break, back on
the bike, cycling 50 ft, cramping, off the bike. This went on for a
while. It seemed that now even the last riders behind me were passing
me. Most of them very slow and using words I don't want to repeat in a
ride report. In front off me and behind me I saw people walking. I
decided for the same. But even pushing the bike and myself up hill
walking caused cramping. Finally after endless time I made it up to the
next SAG stop. Coming up here was a grate like Sugarloaf Mountain, just
that it went on for approx. 2 Miles.
Barb was waiting here for me. She told me that we still had to climb for
3 more Miles until we were at the top of Hogpen Gap. I thought she was
kitting me, but unfortunately she was not. Why did I decide to do the
century with all that lack of training? We still saw a lot of riders
here. Several of them were loading their bikes on a pickup truck, either
to SAG in to the finish or at least get a ride to the top. For a short
moment I was considering this too, but then I said to myself, that I had 7
more hours of daylight and approx. 40 Miles left. That would be approx.
6 Miles an hour. Team Tortoise could do this. I wouldn't quit before
dark. I asked Barb to go ahead and not wait for me.
After the break I continued the journey. I tried to cycle, but was
cramping again after just 300 ft. That meant more walking. I guess this
was most walking I ever did on any bicycle ride. The grate was getting
more moderate again and with stopping, cycling, stopping, walking, I
made it to the top of the Mountain with an elevation of more than 3,400
ft of elevation. Another SAG stop and Barb was waiting for me once more.
This was a 7 mile uphill with more than 2,000 ft of climbing. For 1.5
hours I averaged at a speed of 2.6 mph. Now I understood why people were
saying, this would be hard ride. And there were still 2 more gaps
waiting for us.
My cramps didn't stop and I had to go really slow. I
convinced Barb to move on and not to wait for me. At this time from the
1,500 that started we only may had 10 to 20
riders behind us. Of course not knowing how many smart people did 50 and
how many others did decided to SAG in.
Another crazy downhill was ahead. Just hang on to the bike, get no flat
and hope that the brakes would hold. That's what counted for the next
Miles. Hands were hurting again from holding on to the brakes, but the
good news was the legs were not cramping. After the downhill I we had
to go rather flat for a while. I still was taking it easy to get my legs
some recovery. I reached another SAG, the one before Wolfpen Gap. I only
took a short break
Out of the SAG and it went up again. I tried to go very slow to prevent
further cramps, but eventually had to go off the bike again. I walked
for another 10 minutes, as others did also. After that I cycled again. Very carefully and slow I was able to maintain a steady cadence
without cramping. I was slowly more and more recovering. A 1,000 ft of
climbing later I was on top of Wolfpen Gap.
After a short break, I went towards the downhill and the last gap. The
good thing was, that this time we didn't went down that much and I
was feeling better and better. I was able to make it up to Woody Gap in
one stretch cycling without stopping and without walking. What a
recovery. On top of Woody Gap I found the last 5 to 10 riders on this
After some food and good break, I went towards the final stretch. As I
descended the others came flying by and passed me. Not just that I was
the slowest uphill, I was the slowest on downhill too. But it didn't
matter. All I wanted to do was to finish. After a long downhill, a last
slight uphill towards the finish came up. This was an easy one. Why
weren't all of them like this?
Finally after 10:45 total time I reached the finish. Barb and Jutta were
waiting for me and cheering as I came in. What I great feeling. Here the
good news: I didnít come in last. At least one of the other 1499 riders
came in after me.
I have to admit this was only a 98 Mile ride and not a real century. For
some strange reason I was not up for riding the other two miles. In
addition this was my slowest century ever. 10:45 hours, even Team
Tortoise usually is faster than this. But I finished and survived the
Will I be back? Maybe, after PBP 2007, when I am in better shape than