Every new day brings new beginnings. Near the end of December, I was on a training ride with my friend Tim, the Renaissance Man, and we were discussing our great cycling accomplishments of 2013, when it dawned on us he was going to run his total miles for the year over 3,ooo and I would pass 4,000 before the ball dropped in NYC. This was a major accomplishment for both of us, and he ask me what was I to shoot for in 2014? That was a simple answer: no mileage goal, but more of the same … more staying fit and well, both physically and mentally! It kinda felt weird not making “New Year’s resolutions” for the first time in a long time, but rather, personally committing to stay the course that was laid out over the past year. I remain loyal to the idea that I don’t ride to accumulate miles, instead the miles, whether they’re few or many on any given ride, are my healing power. I say “I don’t ride for the miles,” but in fact, the good that comes about for me because of the miles I ride (and now occasionally run) is the beat of my heart, the breath of my lungs, the desire to wake up early each day and be better.
I developed my plan to regain fitness last year as I began training for Assault On Mt. Mitchell, which I knew would probably be the toughest ride I ever attempted, but I found the mentality to dig deep and challenge myself from the “lead by example” mentality of my mentor Chris “Big Dog Schmidty” Schmidt. We have come a long way from the first GABRAKY ride together, and when I learned about him completing his first Ironman triathlon in Louisville 2 years ago, I was inspired to push myself to reach my full potential. That’s the basis, the whole philosophy behind L3, which stands for Live, Learn, Lead. To quote Schmidty: ” We hold each other accountable for getting together to train, to race, and especially to have fun. There are others who join in that kind of make up our Team, we try to invite and include anyone who shares our same passion for life that we do. L3 is a philosophy about life. It’s about mental, physical, and spiritual wellness. It’s about being a lifelong learner. Finally, it’s about being a leader and realizing our (and others) full human potential.”
During the events that I rode with Schmidty last year, he couldn’t help but notice how much we have in common in our ability to sweat! Near the end of some of our century rides, I would be wearing down and certainly not feeling as fresh as he was, nor as strong as I would earlier in the ride. In early August, we rode the Louisville Ironman course for training and recon, and it was a hot day indeed. At the finish, my jersey appeared to have enough salt on it for several of the big hot pretzels you get at a ballpark, and while I felt spent, he and Toby Young (another Ironman and member of Team L3) went for a run. I know they have developed more endurance from their triathlon training and racing, but they also have a secret weapon in their bag tricks, or water bottles to be more specific. A product call Skratch Labs.
Near the end of the season last year, Schmidty sent me an article to read, about proper hydration and electrolyte replenishment. Obviously, a couple of strategies that I could benefit from. Then, as the new year rolled in, he ask me to join his Team L3 as we became officially sponsored by Skratch Labs. I’ve honestly never tried the product, but from what I’ve researched and heard from my very trustworthy mentor, it’s exactly the product I need in my bottles in 2014, and I’m very excited to try it. Who knows, maybe I’ll win some county line sprints and still feel like joining Chris and Toby for a run after a century ride this year!
I look forward to representing Team L3 and Skratch Labs at some awesome and challenging events this season. Some of those include Redbud Ride, Assault On Mt. Mitchell, Horsey Hundred, Tour de Lou, Preservation Pedal, Hub City Tour, GABRAKY, Bluegrass Cycling Club rides, and numerous other cycling events. I also plan to run in a few various 10-K and 5-K road races but have not decided which ones yet, and I am even giving serious consideration to attempting my first triathlon in the Olympic distance at the Buckhead Border Challenge in Louisville. Not to mention, I have sons that tend to sweat like their old man during the heat of summer baseball season, and they’ll be drinking Skratch in the dugout as well. I’m excited to be included in Team L3 and fully intend to continue to stay my course and rise stronger each day.
I don’t ride a bike to add days to my life, I ride a bike to add life to my days,
Redbud Ride in London, KY is cycling at it’s best. This event never ceases to amaze me, when it comes to the categories of friendliness, organization, beautiful routes, and awesome support. Every season, I find myself thinking I’ll try some different rides next year because there are great venues that I hear or read about, and financially I am somewhat limited on my “paid events” commitment. This is one ride that I just don’t think I can replace on my schedule. For several reasons. The timing is great, I always look for a big ride early in the season to help me train steady though the winter. The scenery is spectacular along the many winding roads along creek and river beds, not to mention the amazing redbud trees just beginning to blossom and the beautiful pink flowers they host. And probably most importantly, the fellowship. This has become like my cycling family reunion. I’ve invited new folks each of the last three years to join me for this ride, and for three straight years, new folks have showed up and ridden in all the various routes.
I was very pleased to be reunited with some strong cycling friends in Jim Simes from South Carolina and Chris Schmidt from Kentucky. This year we were joined on the century route with one of my wife’s cousins Jeremy Wheatley, along with numerous other friends that I regularly ride with in the Bluegrass Cycling Club. I was also excited to run into a couple brothers that I haven’t seen since third grade about 30 years ago, Darin (who was my best friend when I lived in Casey Co.) and Sean Cundiff. Both guys rode very strong finishing their first century at a pace around 19 mph. My dad Charles Pearl and brother-in-law Jamie Garrett also came back for their second consecutive Redbud. More near and dear to my heart, riding in her first organized ride event was my big sis Charlsie Garrett. She has come a long way since buying her first road bike less than a year ago and I’m so very proud of her. I think she probably enjoyed riding more than driving a SAG vehicle! I was simply amazed by Schmidty’s wife Becca Schmidt, who is one of my Skratch Labs Team L3 members as she completed 88 miles (parts of the 70 route and parts of the century route). She had signed up to do the 38 miles route, but proved she’s an endurance athlete like her husband. I hated that Tim Stout couldn’t attend but he’s made a commitment to becoming a deacon in the Catholic church, and for back to back years now, his monthly training weekend has conflicted with the Redbud schedule. Sorry Tim, but considering how awesome the weather has been the last two years, I hope they don’t change the date.
I’m not the only one singing the praises of the Redbud Ride in London, KY. I simply haven’t heard anyone with negative feedback and I’ve solicited several riders comments listed below to back up my statements. If I had any recommendations for the organizers of the event from this year, I guess I would say they could use a few more porta-johns at the busiest rest stops (but that’s every event I ride), and there was a very long line for food and drink refills at the stop at the top of Tussey Hill (didn’t affect me, but it did a lot of others).
“Could not have ordered better weather. Much more prepared than my first time riding Redbud in 2013. Beautiful day with a strong group of riders from Bluegrass Cycling Club. Pace was comfortable at @17 in a double pace line. Was glad to get the miles under my belt and pushed on the harder climbs in preparation for AOMM in May. The themed rest stops were well stocked and enjoyed the friendliness of the volunteers. Redbud was worth the day trip down to London from Lexington. There were more port-a-pots this year, but half for the men and half for the women. For the first time I can recall, I had to stand in line longer than the women. Maybe there could be a 3:2 mens to womens port-a-pot ratio :-). Looking forward to riding again in 2015 with the goal of hanging with Masher and his group.” -Linn Laborda (Lexington, KY)
“I just started cycling about 8 months ago, so the Redbud was my first century ride. Since this was my first organized ride of any kind, I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I can tell you that I enjoyed it so much that I’m already wanting to do another one. The weather was perfect, the course was beautiful and well marked, and I thought they did an awesome job organizing the ride. Can’t wait to do it again next year!” -Darin Cundiff (Liberty, KY)
“This was my first century, so I didn’t know what to expect. I had a pre ride feast of bourbon and a box of tagalongs the night before the ride. It was an awesome course. We finished it in less than 6 hours so I was happy.
> We will be back next year.” -Trevor Williamson (Louisville, KY)
“Watching my husband, father, and brother participate in Redbud 2013 inspired me to do the ride myself. Goal Accomplished! Redbud 2014 was my first organized ride and it did not disappoint. My riding crew opted for the 34 mile route. It was a beautiful ride on great roads with lots of wonderful cyclists. London is a wonderful bike friendly town. I’m already looking forward to next year’s ride. Goal is set to complete the 70 miles!” -Charlsie Garrett (Gravel Switch, KY)
I had requested comments from a few others but have not received their response yet. I highly welcome any other rider that has a comment or any feedback they would like to share to please do so. Simply click on the yellow quote button near the title and share your Redbud experience. Thanks in advance, for your comments! See you next April, Redbud Ride, and I’ll hopefully bring others again.
I stopped briefly at the intersection of Hwy 80 and Blue Ridge Parkway along the eastern continental divide, and refilled both water bottles, adding Skratch Labs hydration mix to one. I then saddled back up and thanked the park rangers as I pedaled up onto the beautiful BRP. Thoughts running through my mind include hopes that the grade lightens up from the hard work I had just put in on Hwy 80 leaving Marion, NC headed to the tallest peak east of the Mississippi River. I pass through two spectacular rock wall tunnels and catch a quick breather on a short descent. As the pavement once again turns up, I witness two female cyclists up ahead, and hear two males coming up from behind. There are no quick passes on this part of the ride. Eventually, the guys catch me about the same time I catch the gals, and we all leap frog each other. I offer greetings to all, and soon we are all separated again.
On down the road, after many more climbing miles, I find another descent, this one much longer and extremely fast and frigid cold. Shortly after beginning to climb again I was passed by a female who softly said “only 8 more miles.” Last year my goal was simply to finish and I preached to myself, “if I don’t mind, it don’t matter.” This year my goal was to ride the mountain segment in at least an hour less time than last year, a goal that may seem unrealistic to some, but one that I took full aim at to conquer. I held her wheel after she pulled in front of me for a mile or so and she finally managed to pull away. This year was not about mind or matter, it was about truly testing myself, and when you find yourself pedaling a low cadence with no gears left for miles at a time, you come across some testy moments.
Why do we feel the need to do this to ourselves? I’m not built to be a climber, why don’t I stick to rides that favor my strong suits? Why drive six hours from home to put myself through this agony when I have a hometown century ride later in the week? Why, why, why …? And as simple as the questions arise, so too is the answer simple: because I can! And with that answer, I continue to push the pedals forward, with no stopping. I would enter the Mt. Mitchell State Park in under seven hours total time and had an emotional feeling hit me as I finally endured the first 3 miles of the park entrance road, the toughest section of pavement on this 103 mile trek from Spartanburg, SC to the top of Mt. Mitchell. As the grade became less, I shifted the chain onto the big ring and stood out of the saddle, and took off as if I was in a county line sprint. Soon, I made the final turn, and was all smiles as I crossed the finish line, and I was more than ready to get off my bike.
I hung out at the finish line area waiting to see my Bluegrass Cycling Club friends, who made the journey from Lexington and Georgetown, KY to the Assaults. I looked out over the mountain in every direction in awesome wonder at the beauty beneath us. I wondered what it must be like to be a bird and be able to fly over this immaculate area and witness the art of God’s canvas we call mother nature. It is simply stunning, only an experience you can truly appreciate by seeing for yourself in person.
Not long after I finished, I saw Jack Daniel from South Carolina come across the line (I had met him here last year when I started the ride with Aaron West, a local cyclist and excellent blogger). The finish was emotional for him too, and I could see he was also glad to be off the bike. It was nice to see him and converse for a few moments until my guys started coming in, one at a time.
I was very calm and not anxious at all leading up to the ride this year. I came along with 8 other cyclists from the central Kentucky area, and I was the only one who had done the ride before. We picked up our packets on Sunday and fueled up for the ride at Mellow Mushroom in Spartanburg. I had salad, a calzone, and water, with a Michelob Ultra later at the hotel. We all met around 5:45 am and rode our bikes 3 miles to the start point. The first part of the ride was again nerve-racking as I maneuvered my way through the pack and settled into a nice group riding along around 22 mph average until the climbing began with mileage in the forties. Finally, climbing up Bill’s Hill, our pack was split up. I continued to ride strong into Marion and felt fresh and energized as the real climbing began with about twenty miles to go.
I felt pretty good about my training plan for the event after my rookie year, and I think it paid off as I took nearly two hours time off my ride from last year. My stats last year were 9:20 total time for the event, with around 8 hours riding time and 3 hours, 57 minutes on the mountain segment. This year I had 7:35 total time, 7:07 riding time and rode the mountain segment in 2:49, achieving my goal. Again, at the top, I told my friends I was not interested in doing this ride ever again and most of them agreed. Having said that, my goal for next year will be to break seven hours total time. I’ve got a year to talk myself out of it, but I’ll probably spend that time training for it instead!
KP the masher
“Pain is weakness leaving the body.” We have all heard this quote and some cycling friends have even credited Lance with its origin. In reality the quote comes from General Lewis B Puller who was in the Marine Corps. And it simply means if you work through the pain, then strength replaces it. Well after the Assault on Mount Mitchell, my body has a whole lot of room for pain.
The Assault on Mt. Mitchell (AOMM) is a ride that brings the pain like no other I have ever experienced. And after 11 Hours and 8 minutes, the pain stopped. This is my review of pain and suffering that I have labeled “the hardest thing I have ever undertaken both physically and mentally.”
A year ago, my good friend KP the Masher, completed his first AOMM. I was there along the ride, specifically in Marion, 2 hours by SUV from the starting point, and at the top of Mt Mitchell, 2 hour bus ride up the mountain. As I recall my spectator status was filled with “those people are crazy” and “I would never attempt this.” Yet one year later, I had helped organize 8 fellow riders from the Bluegrass Cycling Club to attempt the AOMM. Besides myself and Kevin, there were Linh, Gene, Ken, Howard, and Adam, all going to Mitchell. We also had Steph and Rusty going to Marion.
All along, my plan was to just ride to Marion. I knew I could do that. After all, it was just 5500+ feet of climb and 72 miles. I was telling myself this so that I would not have to cross the mental hurdle of facing the 20+ mile climb so far away from the ride. So as I do, I poured myself into the details of the organizing the ride – the hotel, the cars, the meeting places, the car drops, etc. Still not even thinking of the climb but focusing on the fun our group was going to have.
I trained more this year for this ride than any previous ride I have ever performed. Several of us went to Clingman’s Dome and after a near death experience, I decided that I could make the climb. It was on and the climb became my focus. I was even helped by the news that Clingman’s climb was rated harder than Mitchell’s by some bloggers. Next up was a practice century that was dubbed the Masher’s Hilly Hundred. Awesome ride at over 8,000 feet of climb that was challenging but reinforced that a century with 11,000+ feet of climb was now possible.
Time ticked away at a rapid pace. And before I knew it we were on our way to Spartanburg, SC, the starting location. We got there Saturday night and rested up. On Sunday we went to Church and I prayed for surviving the ride. The Linn and I set out to Marion to meet Steph, Ken and Gene to drop vehicles for ride day. After getting back to Spartanburg, all of us met for the pre-ride dinner and tried to forget about the climb. We all went back to our rooms and prepared everything for the morning. Bottles filled. Attire laid out. Bike checked. Food and hydration checked. Nerves checked. Sleep.
Race morning was a blur. We met at Sunoco from the three separate hotels at 5:45 am and rode 2.5 miles down to the starting line. The weather was perfect and the nerves were settling down. We took lots of pre-ride pictures and prepared to start the journey along with about 1,000 other riders.
When the ride started, it was somewhat chaotic. I tried to just settle in and ride carefully watching for crazy riders and dropped water bottles. The ride to the first rest stop was fast at over 18.3 mph. I saw everyone there except for Gene, Kevin and Linn. I wouldn’t see them again for 10 hours. The ride to the second rest stop was a more realistic pace for me at just under 16 MPH and 42 miles complete.
Now we start the pre-climbing 5 miles to the next rest stop and an average of under 13 mph, which as consistent from 3 to 4. From 4 to 5 I was down to under 10 MPH for that section that included Bill’s Hill. I still felt OK after Bill’s Hill and Marion was close.
Marion – I rolled into Marion with Rusty right behind Ken, Howard and Steph. The ride so far was not very painful with an average pace of 15.2 MPH. A few big climbs, but I was rocking a new 11-28 cassette that was a huge improvement over the 12-25. I also had Skratch fuel onboard and my hydration plan was being followed exactly. Refueled my body and my bottles and decided to go check out the food with Ken while we were waiting on Howard to get ready for our departure. As I was checking out the food, a fellow taps me on the shoulder to wish me luck for the climb as he saw I had a Marion bib number. I turn around and low and behold, it is Phillip, the trail angel that saved my life on Clingman’s Dome. (Read Masher’s story about Clingman’s for more details.) His encouragement was all I needed to set out on the climb and know that God was with me and I would complete this task. (Insert story that many of us now believe Phillip may not be real but areal Angel.)
Now I knew there was no stopping. Most likely everyone would be waiting on me. And there was no way I was going across the finish line on top of the mountain in a SAG vehicle. I was either going to ride, walk, or crawl across.
Five rests stops left meant five five mile rides. The rest stops were not equally spaced but my approach was just that. Five rides. Nothing more, and nothing less. It was harder than I imagined. After the first two stops, I did not see Ken or Howard again. Ken had said at the second stop, that he was thinking of calling a SAG. That was all the justification I needed – if he could SAG out so could I. But did he? That crossed my mine at least 1,000 times in the final 15 miles.
At the Blue Ridge Parkway I was still average over 13 MPH but I still had almost 5,000 feet of climb ahead. The riders were thinning out. I was still being passed but much more infrequently. Was anyone behind me?
I remember vividly walking for a about a mile. I was looking out over the mountains and God’s creation. It was an amazing feeling. But then I started to feel pain in my hip. This was very unusual for me. But I think it was a message to get back on the bike. During this walking period, I did learn that I can walk at about 2.2 – 2.5 MPH and I can ride as slow as 3.5 MPH. Riding would give me about a 30% improvement in speed which meant I would finish faster if I rode and maybe less pain.
At about this same time, I was contemplating whether I had enough time left. I calculated again that even if I had to walk the rest of the way – I was going to make it.
Now it was time to bear down and make it happen. 2 miles form the top at the last rest stop, the volunteers lied to me. But I am glad they did. It was a tough 2 miles, but there lies made me not face the mental side of 2 more miles of climbing pain and suffering. The last four miles seemed like an eternity – 4.4 miles and 1500 feet of climb = PAIN!
The finish line – what an amazing view – eight friends cheering me on when I came around the last turn. All yelling words of encouragement. Steph and Rusty taking pictures. Kevin running along side of me. I had completed the challenge. I had beaten the mental and physical demons. I had accomplished what I had set out to do – finish the Assault on Mt. Mitchell.
Final stats from AOMM:
If I said it once I said it a hundred times – never again will I make this ride.
So after about four weeks, my goal for next year is to finish in 8.5 hours.