Oh, the dreaded time change, when it seems like it gets dark around noon and the mileage log slowly dwindles down to one or two rides around twenty to forty miles per ride max (if you’re lucky!!). But, it doesn’t mean all fitness has to stop. Now is the time of year to rest, relax, and reflect somewhat on the past season, while addressing the future and setting some goals for where you want the road to take you next. As I reflect, I know what an importance it is to have a mentor, and even more importantly, the drive inside of knowing you are a mentor to another! A mentor is one who inspires others through actions and words with a lead by example attitude, and who is always there as a push or pull when you want or need it.
Some other thoughts on my mind are what a grand season I have had and how far my fitness level has been elevated this year. As 2012 wound down and the new year was rolling in, I was ready to step off the edge. What edge …?! Well, I’ve always owned a strong will and great sense of self discipline when I allowed it to shine through, but as of recently, I had only been going through the motions. On more than one occasion last year, I found myself asking myself “when I think of what a cyclist looks like, do I come to mind?” Unfortunately, the answer was no. Always NO! But I knew I was the only one that could change that answer, and all I had to do was get off the edge. I was ready.
First, let me go back in time a little … back in 2008, after bringing my cycling experience to an all time high as far as my fitness is concerned, I found myself off the bike near the end of the summer. Many things were going on personally that affected my riding, things that I don’t need to relive, but things that I refer to as “life.” At that time I was riding more than I ever had, but it wasn’t for the miles or speed or any of the statistical reasons, it was to get away from stress. A lot of self inflicted stress, and the bike was the perfect get away! Back then I had no mentor, nor was it any concern of mine. When it all crashed late in 2008, that’s exactly the moment I could have truly benefited from a cycling mentor.
Then in the summer of 2010, a good friend from church mentioned he was getting into bicycling to me at a Knights of Columbus meeting and immediately I was intrigued. Of coarse, I told him I’d like to join him some time and only days later he showed up on his bike at my house … just like that, I was back on the bike. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had just become a cycling mentor myself, and it was exactly what we both needed. I conned him into riding across the state on GABRAKY, a very challenging ride that had once been the ride that got me hooked on cycling, and instantly we were seeing results. Since that first ride, that first GABRAKY, the first century together, the first out of state ride together, and so on, we have become best friends and started this cycling awareness website.
Somewhere between the end of last season and the beginning of this season, we found ourselves on different schedules with different goals, not riding together as much, but one thing stays the same: our passion for cycling grows stronger by being mentored. I set a lot of goals for myself this year that seemed impossible to some, because they only knew the masher that was going through the motions, but when I stepped off the edge and took the plunge, I was transformed into the real me. The KP that is mentally and physically fit, with a good level of self discipline and confidence. The KP that once again enjoys cycling and thrives in competing to improve myself. Part of that is my inner peace, and the other part is the sense of satisfaction I get in leading by example, knowing I am mentoring my best friend, Timmy the Renaissance Man. And now I have a different answer to that question about do I look like what I imagine a cyclist looks like. And an even better feeling, is knowing I’m inspiring another to raise their level of fitness and cycling confidence and also being a yes to that same question.
Sure he is way more technical than I will ever be, and sometimes I ask him questions about data or statistics, but it’s mostly because I know what drives him and I feel that need to push him even when we don’t ride together as often as previously. I’m very driven from within, and take great pride in helping to push others to get the most out of themselves, give their best effort. Sometimes it’s better than mine, sometimes mine is better than theirs, but as long as we are inspired and mentored, we will feel the need to drive harder. As for me, why’d I finally take the plunge I so desperately needed? Well, mostly because I just couldn’t walk the edge anymore. It was time to step away or jump … and jump is exactly what I wanted to do! It also helps me along the way knowing that I now have a mentor too. We don’t always get to ride together either, but I strive hard to be ready to not hold him back when we do, and he knows I’m constantly on his heels, and works hard to stay ahead of me, just as I do for the one I mentor, because leading by example is a sign of a true mentor and friend. Huge thanks Tim for choosing and allowing me to mentor you. Keep pushing hard, before you know it, you’ll be past Renaissance 2.0 and it’ll be time to work towards the 2.22! And a special thanks to my mentor, Schmidty … I constantly strive to reach your elevation. Another mark of a great mentor.
Cheers & Safe Cycling! . . .
Earlier this year, I completed what some call “the toughest ride in the southeast’ when I rode Assault On Mt. Mitchell. I was first inspired to attempt it by friend Jim Simes who has ridden it multiple times and told me what a challenge it was, then I made the decision to do it after a trip to the Blue Ridge foothills last October to ride in Gran Fondo Hincapie. That ride had epic climbs and world class descents. Sounds crazy but I enjoyed the climbing much more than the descending, and have since, found my new passion in cycling: endurance climbs.
My first thoughts about riding up Black Mountain, the highest elevation in my home bluegrass state of Kentucky, came after another friend, Aaron West, told me about his quest to cycle to the highest point in each of the 48 continental states, and asked if I’d be interested in joining him in my state. I very vaguely remember visiting Black Mountain in rural southeastern “coal country” KY as a youngster when my family traveled to see my sister play a basketball tournament in Harlan, KY. All I could recall, was that the view at the top was in the clouds and stunningly beautiful. Those recollections proved accurate.
I recently became more serious about doing this ride myself when I made the decision with the current season winding down and I’ve already decided I’m going back to Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, and attempting my second Assault in 2014. I want to be better prepared for such a grueling climb next time, and going up Black Mtn seemed like good training to me. I have invited numerous friends to join me at AOMM next year and I hope to offer them tips and help prep them for the toughest ride I’ve ever completed.
Initially, I thought I would first ride Black Mountain alone, as a recon mission, before taking my friends back on a training ride, but at the recommendation from my wife, I decided not to go it alone first time. Pretty smart idea actually, considering I would be 2-3 hours from home, maybe no phone service, and on roads I’ve never ridden. So I asked the first person that had mentioned interest in riding up Mt. Mitchell next year, my friend and local strava nemesis, Chuck Allran. It worked out good because we are pretty evenly matched in skill level and climbing ability. So we decided a Sunday would be our best chance of wasting a day on the bike and hoped there would be less traffic and no coal trucks to deal with. The weather could have been an issue, considering the mountain experienced it’s first snow of the season last Friday, but it proved not to be, other than becoming numb from the freezing cold descent after breaking a good sweat on the way up.
Our plan was to depart from Harlan towards Cumberland, then through the base town of Lynch on our way to the top. Upon reaching the summit, we hoped to ride a challenging road across the ridge and then back down into Harlan on a state highway. The road to Lynch was awesome! It was basically the old road that ran along side a railroad track, a river, and on the side of a hill, just above the newer, more busy highway. Lined along both sides about every five miles were freshly placed high visibility yellow “Share The Road” signs with bicycles. We instantly knew we weren’t the first crazies to have this idea. We were only passed on few occasions by vehicles, and when we were, they did so in a very safe manner, moving their vehicle completely to the other side of the double yellow line and never speeding or passing in a blind spot. Southern hospitality at it’s best!
We cruised through Cumberland, crossed the river twice, then rolled through the streets of Lynch, where we were greeted by a pleasant gentleman as the climbing began: “don’t get a speeding ticket,” he said laughing as he smoked a cigarette on his front porch. About two miles up, I was gaining some separation from Chuck when he called out he was getting hot. We both stopped for a moment to open our jackets and shed our head covers, to keep from overheating. Then we continued the grind. I felt strong at this point and quickly found myself in a good rhythm, as I would occasionally come out of the saddle briefly, and kept on mashing at a comfortable pace. The road wound around the side and turned back against itself sometimes, giving us that spectacular view of the portion we had already conquered. The colors of the reds, oranges, and tons of yellow maples out over the edge of the mountain were simply prettier than I could have imagined possible. I was passed only twice by vehicles going up and four times by drivers coming down. I continued to look over the edge and up the road, sitting and standing, feeling the challenge of the climb, but never a thought of stopping due to suffering. I noticed a large road sign up ahead that was pointed the wrong way and as I pulled up to it and looked back, it was a “Welcome To Kentucky” sign, and immediately I reached the summit crossing and pulled up along side the “Welcome To Virginia” sign and stopped to enjoy the view, and wait on Chuck. He arrived moments later and we took a few minutes to rest and snap some pictures.
The Black Mtn Ridge Rd. turned out to be a rugged path, mostly of broken pavement, dirt and gravel. After about a mile of slipping and sliding at a snail’s pace in anticipation of any form of solid pavement, we changed to plan from a loop to an out & back ride. Still holding moisture from the work we did to get to the top, we buttoned back up, and headed back down. Cautious of loose leaves and twigs, and losing feeling in our extremities and face, we barreled down the mountain, at speeds from 20 to 35 mph, navigating the twists and turns all the way to the bottom. It felt good to be able to spin freely again and attempt to regain some warmth in our frozen bodies as we headed back into Lynch and then Cumberland. Stopped briefly at a gas station, in hopes of a cup of coffee, but found none, so continued back down the road that brought us there.
Nearly 70 miles and five hours after departing Harlan, in search of the highest peak in the state of Kentucky, we arrived back at our vehicle parked outside at Huff Park youth league baseball complex. The sun shone brightly as we transformed from our cycling gear and loaded up to head back home. All the way back, conversation was about how blown away we were by the beauty and bike friendliness of the area we had just visited, plans to bring others back with us again soon, more prep plans for AOMM 2014, and how we wished Black Mountain was a lot closer to home. It was a twelve hour trip, that was well worth the time!
Cheers & Safe Cycling! . . .
Georgetown, KY - I don’t have a lot of experience with bicycling clubs. As a matter of fact, I have been a member of only one. Last year was my first year in the Bluegrass Cycling Club. But in all reality, 2013 was my real first year. And it was an incredible experience. What made it incredible? That is a simple answer: the cyclists. For my first 1-1/2 years as a cyclist, riding consisted of the Masher and me meeting on Pocahontas and catching as many miles as we could fit into our schedules. Throw in an organized ride somewhere in the Eastern US and we were having a blast. We caught rides in Alabama, North Carolina, Florida and all over Kentucky. If this was cycling, I loved it. (The picture above is of me and the Masher: at a much larger weight. This is the official before picture. You must stay tuned to future posts to see the after picture.)
But something happened last year. Our life schedules changed and catching rides together became harder. And I started a bad habit: excuse making. If it was cold – cancel the ride. If it was too hot – cancel the ride. If the wind was blowing – no way. Threat of rain – not me. So in 2012, after riding 2500 miles in 2011 (my first full cycling season) I managed only 1600 miles. And that was on a goal of 4000 miles. In addition, I had begun a 5-year spiritual/educational program that took me back to my college days of studying and writing papers, away from the bike. So while I was happy in life, I was miserable in my cycling/health quest. i was not progressing.
2013 did not start any better. January, February and March brought more excuses and only 8 rides and 85 miles. I had hoped to ride the Kentucky Century Challenge – Redbud, Horsey, Preservation and OKHT. Redbud and Preservation were out due to conflicts with class. Horsey was out due to my youngest son’s high school graduation. Motivation to ride the bike = unplugged . No big ride meant no sense in riding. Then something happened: the Masher was killing the bike and getting into the best shape I had ever witnessed. Redbud, Horsey, AOMM, and hundreds of miles of distance and thousands of feet of climbing. That’s what I wanted. But how can I get it when my ride partner and I were on vastly different schedules and training levels? Easy answer – club rides.
I decided in May that things had to change. So I started what I called Renaissance 2.0. I was going to focus not just on riding the bike but riding it with a purpose. I was going to get faster and stronger and lose weight to get to 222 lbs. I wanted to be able to ride 20 mph over 20 miles.
I had been riding the Tuesday Georgetown Club ride regularly. But that was not going to be enough. So on May 2, I took a chance and drove 13 miles to Russell Cave Elementary and experienced my second club ride venue. It became a regular ride for me the rest of the year. And it was a great place to ride and continue to build on the friendships I made at Gtown. AS I started to build my miles in May (240) and June (260), I needed to add some more venues. But I needed to add a trick to my bag.
I am not a boy scout, but I love the motto of always be prepared. So I started something that has proven invaluable: take your bike with you everywhere you go. In June I started to do just that by keeping my bike in the back of my car with my riding bag (clothes and gear) everyday. And that is what opened the door to more venues. I went on a Nonesuch ride where I did not know a soul. Great ride. Versailles Sunday club ride: check. July brought 350 miles. Bluegrass Bike Partners ride also took me out of my comfort zone but now I was meeting and riding with some great people. Add in some non-club rides in Louisville (Ironman test ride) with club members and continuing as many Tuesday and Thursday night club rides as schedule and weather allowed. August (403) went by in a blur.
Then it all came together. Sept started with one of the hardest rides I have ever done: OKHT. But what made it special is starting with the Masher and some other great friends and finishing to see two other club members there to cheer me across the line. More club rides and another club -sponsored century on the Little Miami Trail and September led to a PR on monthly miles: 490.
When October started, I noticed I was moving up the club miles chart. I set a goal: Top 50. And I kept riding: Tues, Thurs and Sat. At the end of the month I even threw in a Masterson Station ride for the first time. October also gave me two “A” rides – a first. All I can say is WOW. Riding fast in a group is a simple thrill that I want. Its like a drug. So I am hooked. Not just on cycling. But on the one thing that can push you beyond your limits to be a better cyclist: the Club Ride.
(As of this writing I have 2414.23 miles of which 1634 were BCC miles. Two months left in the year and I have set a year end goal of 3000 total miles. I believe if the BCC website is correct I have achieved top 50 in club miles. My weight is 232, 10 lbs from my goal. I am inching closer to averaging 20 mph on a 20 mile ride. So there is still work to do.)
Special thanks to Kevin ” KP the Masher” Pearl for getting me into cycling and pushing me to achieve more than I thought was possible and introducing me to the BCC. Also thanks to all the BCC members who have helped me towards my personal goals especially Linn L , Mark B and Tim M who have ridden more miles with me than anyone this year. Thanks to all of the ride leaders who give freely of their time, especially Fran B – who in my opinion is “the most awesomeness” of ride leaders! Thanks to Bena H. for that ride in Sept where you pulled me to a speed that I didn’t think was possible. I call that the Ricky Bobby ride because after that all I want to do is go fast. And to my newest cycling friends Rusty A and Gene F: your cycling futures are unlimited. Thanks to my Ironman friends (who are also club members): Stephanie A, Courtney G and Mark R for inspiring me to aim high, achieve beyond perceived limits and to never give up. And to all the other un-named club members I have encountered this year. Thank you for your wheel at times, an encouraging word or a simple smile.
BCC Club Members: your actions move people forward in life. Keep spinning and keep rolling.