Sunday, February 17, 2008

M is for Mountains

And mountains were on the schedule for Saturday. I met up with the Tri-Cities Road Club for a 50-60 mile ride into the mountains that lie on the TN/NC border for some quality saddle time.
It is no secret that my roots are in pavement and although my heart is all singletrack, I still love to ride the roads in NE Tennessee and Western North Carolina.

It's virtually impossible to leave East Tennessee heading south without crossing the Appalachian Trail. Duck-bike on the summit of Iron Mtn.

I was surprised at the huge group of TCRC racers and others that came out to ride. There must have been at least 30-40 people there as we headed out of Johnson City and into the hills. On the way out of town, I chatted up with a few that I haven't seen in awhile and basically chilled out. I knew the time would come where we'd have to part ways as our agendas for the day weren't the same.
That point came when we got into some hills in the Laurels and the pace picked up pretty hard. I was stuck in no man's land between groups and I just did my own thing and let them go. Since I was on my own, I took a detour off the route and went up Browns Branch Rd.

Browns Branch Rd is a bastard among roads. It is only a few miles long and hooks back up with the route the others were taking but what makes it so special is it has a 2 mile climb that gains about 1800 feet of elevation. It is tough and I was putting my order in for the first serving of pain for the day. As soon as you make the turn, your nose is filled with the smell of coal and wood burning stoves, Marlboros and the dogs, Oh hell the dogs are thick (I had to kick one on the descent because he was trying to bite me). Still, it is a great climb and worth the effort. After the first 3/4 mile, first timers up the road are thinking this isn't so bad, hell is unleashed and the road tilts up in a sickening and unrelenting angle for the next mile and a quarter.
You know you are at the top when you see Oak Hill Church.

My plan was to just hang in for the time, I was going to go up Iron Mtn and I figured I'd make the call on top to go into North Carolina or not and then from there back to JC where I had a few options - one of which was to go over Buffalo Mtn.

On the way up Iron, I was passed by all the TCRC guys coming down, I was alone otherwise and I just worked on climbing and staying within myself. On top, I decided to drop into Buladean NC to a store for some supplies but changed my mind after descending only a couple of miles.
I had ok legs but the one thing that was really starting to bug me was my ass. It had been a about 3 months since I had been on a bike seat for more than 3 hours and my ass was letting me know it. ( I guess I could have prepared better but I am notorious for not, especially on early season rides).

Back over the summit of Iron and down the other side, I made my way back to Johnson City and was able to catch a few TCRC guys for post ride pizza and beer at Buck's Pizza adjacent to the campus of East Tennessee State University. Buck's makes some good pies and if you are ever in Johnson City, you should check them out.

I was well pleased with how I felt and with and with some goodies I was testing from Hammer Nutrition. I have been using Hammer Gel for a few years but was reluctant to go with their other products until now. If you read through their information, there is a wealth of knowledge about nutrition and fueling (a big weakness of mine). I am testing Heed, Perpetuem, Endurolytes and Recoverite and so far I am really pleased. I finished Saturday's ride which was a tad over 4 hours and contained a butt-load of climbing and although I was tired, I wasn't killed and I didn't cramp. I rode again today and felt about 90% recovered from yesterday.

We'll see how it goes.

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