“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” ~ Sir Edmund Hillary
As Sunday quickly approaches, I am left to ponder what the hell I have managed to get myself into yet again. After all, since the beginning of my cycling journey I haven’t been known for making the soundest decisions…
Here is the formal description of this Sunday’s Six Gap Century Ride:
“The Six Gap Century boasts many of the same roads and mountain climbs as the elite Tour de Georgia. The ultra-challenging route takes you up and down six of the steepest climbs in the North Georgia Mountains. Elevations on the six gaps in this ride range from 1,400 feet to 3,460 feet. The toughest climb, Hogpen Gap, will challenge even the strongest riders, averaging a 7% grade for seven miles, with sections as steep as 15%.”
Let me give a little history lesson about some of this course… In 2014, Three Gap Fifty which consists of the first and last two “gaps” (climbs) of Six Gap Century was my very first organized ride EVER. Yes, a Miami girl decided that her first organized ride ever would be 58 miles with 6,385 vertical feet of climbing. If I may say so myself, it was NOT my smartest move ever…
Wolfpen Gap made me cry. I wanted to quit. I wanted to throw my bike off the mountain and never ride again.
But I did not quit.
I did not throw my bike off the mountain.
I did not even walk once.
But, had one more person told me that the rest stop was ‘right around the next turn’ I may have opted to get off my bike and throw them AND their bike off the mountain.
I finished Three Gap Fifty and it was amazing, glorious, and utterly painful all at the same time. That was the day that I truly fell in love with riding in the mountains.
There is something about the pain and suffering that goes along with riding in the mountains that I hate, love, and crave all at the same time. It is the epitome of entering the “pain cave” and “embracing the suck.” There is no way around it and the only way to go is up, one pedal stroke at a time. There is this funny swerving movement that starts to happen when going suuuuper sloooow up a steep incline… You can’t control it, it just happens. When stuck in that space you only have two options, keep pedaling or get off and walk. The problem with quitting and walking is the realization that you will have to walk the rest of the way up because there is absolutely no way to get back on your bike and get forward momentum again. So you just keep pedaling, one stroke after another, how ever you have to in order to keep moving. When one set of muscles starts to hurt, you simply start pulling up on your strokes until those muscles start hurting too and then you go back to pedaling like normal. You repeat the process over and over and over again until you reach the top.
It appears that I love to put myself through the wringer whenever possible. Despite, analyzing this fact to death, I have yet to figure out exactly why I do these things to myself.
I love a challenge.
I love the feeling of being on the edge of life and death.
I love proving the doubters (including myself) wrong.
I love the suffering.
I love giving everything I have and then digging deeper for a tiny bit more.
I love crossing the finish line.
I love the exhaustion and rush of emotions that comes afterwards.
Six Gap Century is a bucket list ride for me and I have been waiting three years to finally get to do it. (I even tried to convince my friend we should do it in 2014, thank God that he knew better than I did then.) Unfortunately, this has not been a banner year for me so far with all these injuries. I am not going into this ride having trained how I wanted/needed to. But, what I do know is that I am in 100% better shape now than when I did Three Gap Fifty, Assault on the Carolinas, and The Assault on Mt. Mitchell (read about my Mt. Mitchell ride here: The quest towards a century ride, REALIZED.). I also know that I have a bike that is lighter, faster, and better than the one I had back then. And, most importantly, I know the drive and determination that I carry inside me to be successful at the stupid things I challenge myself to.
What’s the saying? “If you’re going to be dumb then you better be tough.”
I am incredibly lucky that I am going to be able to do this ride with one of my favorite people and biggest inspirations, Caroline. She is, by far, my favorite training partner (sorry Zac). Caroline drives me to be better at everything that I do. I know that there will be moments where I will want to quit and may not be able to rely on my own brain/heart to push me forward so I am thankful that I will have her there to look over at and give me the “put on your big girl panties and suck it up” face.
Although I am nervous about how my foot and hip will hold up, I am beyond excited for the challenge that is ahead of me. I have been waiting for this day for so long and I am 100% sure that the climbs and descents will not disappoint. My main goal for Sunday is to soak up every single second of this experience no matter how difficult it gets.
I have written about visualization in some of my past posts and that is exactly what I have been doing the last few days, visualizing this experience and visualizing myself (in one piece) crossing that finish line.
And, let me tell ya… the end of this ride feels pretty damn sweet.
See everyone on the flipside!
5 thoughts on “Hold my beer, …”
L❤️VE!!!! You’ve got this! Can’t wait to hear how great you did!
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Thank you!! Fingers crossed for this one!! Lol!!
I know you are going to just love this ride and hate it at times, but you are stronger than you give yourself credit for, you are amazing, you are a freaking wonder woman!!!! Wear that shit! Be that shit!!! You are amazing!!!!
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I’m definitely going to have to dig up my Wonder Woman for this one!! You are such an amazing woman and friend, love you!!
I enjoyed reading your blog. I have ridden the Assault on Mount Mitchell twice. The first time was in 2014 and I returned again in 2016. I have also ridden Six-Gap 4 times in 12,13,15,and 16. I enjoyed your story. Breaking down your first century and being able to relate to the fears and struggles and the incessant drive to finish and the desire to quit creeping up on you. I saw much more of that in my first Assault than in my second. I finished in what I would call the middle of the “strugglers” at a little under 9 hours. My second came at the beginning of my greatest year back as a cyclist. At the age of 51 I finished the Assaults in 7:07. Wow! I rode in 2 other rides the last of which was Six Gap and finished beating my best time there by 20 minutes(6:24). 2017 was going to be awesome……Screech!!!!! I lost the whole season, first to a thigh tear and never really getting over it. Reservations to the Marriott in downtown Spartanburg….Cancelled!! Dang….Everytime I tried to get going something knocked me down. I got a cold in early August after finally getting some good mountain climbs under my belt and decided that Six Gap was out. I would rest up, get healthy and start over next year. Finally, I found some interval videos on youtube and managed to get in pretty good shape by the end of 2017!
It was a long journey to 2016 from 2009 where I lost my career and got back on my old 80’s road bike at the age of 45. I get the struggle you had. I get the pain you felt and the desire to succeed at something physical that pits you against a mountain, weather and lets not forget…yourself. Maybe reading your blog will help me to accomplish more off the bike. I know that what I’ve accomplished on those days on the bike are something few people ever will. Most people just don’t realize what it takes and how it can translate to other parts of your life. I wanted to quit so many times. I was also like you in that in my second Assault I coaxed many a wanna-be quitter into finishing. Seeing them after the ride and knowing I helped them stay at it was truly special. You picked the worst one as your first one. I’ve never ridden a harder course. Six gap is tough, but you get to descend every bit that you ascend… especially that long descent near the end of the ride. It is my favorite for that and for being at the end of the season when I’m at my strongest. I’ve done Blood, Sweat and Gears, 3 State-3 Mountain, and Mountains of Misery. None compare to Mitchell.
I was inspired to write this because of my fears for next year and how conquering the mountain has made it easier to conquer smaller things in life. I still fear the Assault. I always want to do better than last time. I fear never being as good as I was in 2016. Thanks for helping me realize that whether I am as good, better, or worse, just getting back there will make all the difference!