Aug 2014 28

photo (10)

A few weeks ago, the Masher was able to enjoy a return visit to the Great Smoky Mountains, well part of his journey was enjoyable! The training ride we had planned for early spring turned out much more eventful than we had hoped, and it left us all yearning for another chance to conquer the climb to the highest elevation in Tennessee, after we had to stop at the summit due to inclimate winter weather setting in. There had been some recent discussion among RAM Cycling friends about planning another group ride from the Gatlinburg area up to the top and back down, but too many schedule challenges have prevented the group event. Maybe a spontaneous ride can happen, but not planned at this time.

 

Masher took advantage of a weekend get-away with his wife (one last break before school and fall sports crank up for the kiddos), and caught a break in the stormy weather long enough to make the trek back up to Clingmans! I departed my cabin in the mountain village of Cobbly Nob around 7:00am, about 15 miles east of Gatlinburg, and rode along Hwy 321 into and through downtown, in route to Hwy 441, which crosses the Smoky Mountains into Cherokee, NC.

 

The sky was pretty cloudy, and I had already decided that if I rode into rain, I would just turn back this time (to avoid another stuck atop the mountain adventure) and ride back to the cabin, not risking my safety or interrupting my wife’s get-away to rescue me. The local forecast predicted 60% chance for scattered thunderstorms, but I remained optimistic. It was more than humid, as I was sweating heavily only 5 miles into the climbing, and by the time I reached Newfound Gap, nearly seven miles below the summit, my entire kit was soaked, gloves and shorts included. While my solo ride was not a rapid pace pushing myself for speed, I had a strong ride making it all the way to the Clingmans parking lot from Gatlinburg without stopping a single time. I had planned to stop and rest at the Newfound Gap overlook and the traffic was a little congested at the time I rolled though, so I continued onto the Clingmans Dome access rode thinking I would pull off at the first pull out.

 

Into the clouds I rode, as the fog was very thick in this higher elevation. I guess the visibility was probably 20-40 yards, making me a little nervous about traffic, but the amount of vehicles on this road was much lower than on the main highway. The first pull out came and went, and I thought to myself “I just may make this complete climb without stopping … what an achievement that would be.” Well that’s all it took. Now my mind was set, there would be no stopping, although my legs and butt were very ready to get a break several times over the last seven mile climb. Especially after that one brief downhill/flat portion for about a mile and a half, with only about 3 miles to summit! Nevertheless, I pushed on, and rode strong into the parking lot with a smile on my face, as I reminisced about the first time I rode into this parking lot, thinking I may be suffering from hypothermia.

 

Immediately reaching the top, I was cooled down a little as I spun my road bike up the pedestrian trail to the sign located in front of the visitor’s center, and felt the stiff breeze pushing across the top of the mountains, as I enjoyed my first rest stop. I calmly ate a Cliff bar, while drinking a bottle of water and basked in the glory of my accomplishment cycling to the top of another mountain, and I relished the many compliments from passers by, as they walked up to the dome. What are the odds of running into someone I went to high school with at the summit? I have no idea about odds, but I bet they increase when you attend a different school every year … and yes indeed, I was greeted by Greg, whom I had graduated with twenty years ago. He and his wife (who also happen to be cyclists and runners, even coach cross country and track teams at schools in KY) were celebrating their wedding anniversary by driving up the mountain and hiking up to Clingmans Dome.

 

Not wanting to tighten up too much, I changed into a long sleeve dry jersey and saddled back up for the ride home. WOW! My first twenty mile mountain descent was awesome fun! The initial take-off from Clingmans parking lot was fast, and I was a little timid due to some stretches of the roadway still being damp. As I reached Hwy 441, there were a few technical curves rolling past the Newfound Gap and in the next few miles. After that, it is all out fun rolling down the mountain, weaving back and forth, through the short tunnels, and flat out flying. The clouds made it somewhat difficult to see some of the rough part of the pavement, but it didn’t slow me down as I got to the bottom pretty quickly. I would later learn that my top speed was just over 50 mph after I uploaded my ride to Strava. Fun, fun!

 

The descents I’ve ridden in the blue ridge foothills on the Hincapie Gran Fondo were too steep and too technical for me to enjoy. The Assault on Mt Mitchell I’ve ridden twice finishes at the summit of the highest elevation in North Carolina. The first time I rode up Clingmans Dome in the Smoky Mountains stopped at the top due to weather. After cycling back down this time, I’m convinced, the ride back down is now my favorite part of taking on these challenging mountain climb rides! And, as usual, it has left me yearning for more.

 

 

Sep 2014 12

photo (3)

I think since I first found my passion in road cycling, I have been somewhat lured to seek out big climbs and ride them. It probably started out as a means to test myself, prove to myself what I am capable of. On numerous climbs, I’ve witnessed riders have to stop and walk, and it’s always a goal of mine to finish on the bike and never walk. As my cycling passion has evolved, I believe I now seek out the beauty that lies along the roadway and especially at the top of long climbs, and I truly have a heightened sense of faith and closeness to God on the long, grueling climbs, but the challenge aspect is probably still the primary purpose for me to find and ride mountains and long, tough hills. I’m the type of person that wants to challenge myself to get better in everything I do, and while it’s pretty cool to do a 50 mile group ride and average 20 mph, I’d rather do a 70-100 mile ride and not care what my average speed is because I climbed 10,000 feet of elevation, or more!

 

Most anyone that has ever accepted an invite to join me on a ride that I pick the route, surely knows they will get to endure some hills. They also know, that my unsupported rides aren’t always planned for the “what if” factor. This makes for great bonding time among cyclists, and allows us to work together to solve problems as they arise, whether it’s a mechanical issue, route problem, weather doesn’t cooperate, or if the ride can’t be completed by one or all. This is the aspect that I am asking for help with as I plan a few RAM Cycling group rides next year in mountainous terrain.

 

My initial plan (and this is very early and bound to change somewhat as I figure out all the details) is to host at least 2, hopefully 3 “Mountain Challenge” rides. These will be century rides with some big climbing involved and I hope to be joined by as many friends of RAM Cycling and personal friends as possible. My plans for the first two will be loops that will ride out from Gatlinburg and cross the Smokies, including a ride up to Clingmans Dome and a route that will start/finish in Harlan, KY and cross the Appalachians via Black Mountain. Yes, since they will be loops, there will be some out and back, which means YES we will come back across the same mountain we climb earlier in the ride. The third location has not been determined yet but my initial thought process is to host one in spring, summer, and fall. There … we’ve all been forewarned. This ride series will test us both mentally and physically. I don’t care if you normally ride with a fast group or a slower pace group, I want you all to know that you are welcome to attempt these rides, since we all climb at our own pace.

 

The “Mountain Challenge Series” is not a race (not officially, but I know there will be some friendly competitiveness) and the best part is, they will be free! Sure, I could find a charity and really organize this thing to the point that it would take some of the fun out of it for me, then we could donate the profits to the charity, but if you really want to donate to a charity, pick one and do it on your own. This is all about the ride. I don’t want anyone to pay for a RAM Cycling ride ever, we want to raise awareness for cycling and more importantly, we want people to find lasting memories from our rides. I think it’s safe to say that so far, any cyclist that has ridden a ride that I planned, can recall a memory from the ride (maybe not a memory of bliss, but a memory of being on the bike with friends, no doubt)!

 

Here’s the part I really need help with: Support! I’m very confident that I can plan the route, the dates, and communicate all the details to all that decide to join me, but I know my weakness and it’s providing proper SAG service. I would like to find a few sponsors, such as a bike shop that would be willing to send someone on the rides to help with potential bike issues, a store that could donate water and/or snacks for the ride, or any business that could donate money for purchasing the water and ride fuel snacks. I think it would also be cool to have a cycling kit made up for the riders that can complete all of the rides in the series. Obviously, we would do all we can to promote and patronize any business that would be willing to lend a hand of support and help make these ride more enjoyable for us! I won’t attempt to make a promise that your support for these events will increase your profits greatly, but I will guarantee that we will put your company logo as a supporter on our website and I will sing your praises on our social media outlets, and of course we will include your logo on the cycling kit if we decide to have one designed and made.

 

Please consider letting us know if you or anyone you know can help make the “Mountain Challenge Series” more enjoyable by your support and more importantly, please consider joining us on one or all of the rides in the series. We will still plan and host our shorter local group rides on occasion as we have done throughout this year, the series is just our way of saying “sometimes you gotta go big, or don’t go at all!” Stay tuned for more details to be published as they become available. I look forward to riding with all my friends at next year’s RAM Cycling Mountain Challenge Series …

masher

 

 

 

Jan 2016 04

image

I’m very excited to release my 2016 cycling schedule and I have included my personal goals for each event! As anyone can clearly see, I fully intend to make up for some lost time from 2015, and will be happy to have any of my cycling friends join me on any of these rides. A common theme with this schedule and my goals can be summed up with one word: challenging!

 

April

Event: Mountain Recon at Mt. Mitchell and Clingmans Dome

Goal: climbing training and route reconnaissance

Event: Masher’s Hilly Hundred 2016

Goal: climbing training/ AOMM prep

 

May

Event: Assault on Mt. Mitchell

Goal: Reach the 102 mile summit in under 7 hours

 

June

Event: Cherohala Challenge

Goal: Rank in top 25 on the strava long climb segment

 

July

Event: RAIN Ride

Goal: finish! 160 miles, one way, one day … Nuff said!

 

August

Event: Madara’s Mountians of Pain

Goal: KOM the Black Mtn strava segment climbing KY to VA

 

September

Event: Churchill to Keeneland (RAM Fondo)

Goal: Ride my first century at an avg pace of 20+ mph

 

October

Event: Oktoberfest

Goal: have fun with friends!

 

If it seems as though I’m “dangling a carrot in front of a rabbit,” that’s exactly what I intend to do! I am realistic and the 2015 season was a friendly reminder that sometimes other priorities get in the way of my cycling plans, which is why I strategically placed one event in each month, therefor if I happen to have a schedule conflict, I still have 3 weekends each month to find a replacement event. A couple of the rides I’ve listed, have been on my mind since I first heard about them and I’m ready to experience some new venues. A few of the others are some of my favorites from the past. I also have a few challenging fitness goals I plan to achieve including: riding 4000+ total miles, running 200+ miles, dropping (and keeping) my weight below 200! Be sure to track me along the year to see how the rides go and hopefully my 2016 recap will be very entertaining!

Nov 2016 18

image

 

I’m focused to ride my bicycle up to Clingmmans Dome (the highest elevation in Tennessee) again next year and hope to take a few friends with me. For nearly two years now, I’ve struggled with knee agony. For a little over a year it was aggravation, swelling, and consistent pain, sometimes dull but sometimes excruciating. And now for a little under a year, in recovery from knee surgery to repair an injury and arthritis, I have found plenty of excuses to why I’m not back. Unfortunately, what I have not found, is enough fortitude to bring back the old masher.

 

Well, it’s time to let go of the excuses! I see a comeback in my future and I’m not waiting to make a New Years resolution. I have already made a resolution to make a full comeback and I have already set the wheels in motion. Sure, it’s a long winding road to the pinnacle of my comeback, just like it is to the top of the Smoky Mountians. I’ve completed the grueling climb to Clingmas Dome on my bicycle several times now, and I’m well aware that you can’t always see the bumps in the road, nor what lies around the next switchback. It’s a simple philosophy that I used in the past to transform my physical and mental fitness, and I’m confident it will work again.

 

I recently shared a video of a motivational speaker with my fellow employees at work. The message was one that has helped awaken my sleeping giant within. Of coarse, my biggest hope in seeking the old masher is to rid of my inner giant (meaning lose the excess weight, and the other problems will go away with it)! The speech goes like this…there was a younger, ambitious, excited person who was consumed with the idea of being successful. He was so in tune with becoming successful that he seeked  out an older, wiser, very successful guru and he went to the guru and ask to learn his secret to success. The guru told him if he wanted to learn his secret to success he should meet him at 4:30 in the morning at the beach. The younger, ambitious guy thought to himself why so early and why the beach? Nevertheless, he ventured out in his 3 piece suit to the sands at the edge of the shore way before sunrise and  there he met the guru who was wearing only swimming trunks.

 

The guru ask the ambitious one if he trusted him and the younger one said yes, but was not too sure in his mind. Guru reached out his hand, and as the protege grasped it, they began to walk out into the ocean. Now the younger one was thinking he should have worn shorts instead of a suit and at the same time, was beginning to think the guru was a little crazy. They went from ankle deep to knee deep to chest deep. Guru ask if he still trusted him. Younger, ambitious one was now not sure and reminded the guru that he wanted him to teach him his secret to success, and was questioning his sanity at this point. Guru ask how bad he wanted to be successful. He answered, “more than anything.”

 

At that moment, the guru grabbed the younger one by the shoulders and pulled him into the deeper water until he was submerged and held his head down. The younger guy fought trying to come up for air, but the guru continued to hold his head below the ocean as a wave crashed, and then another. Finally, the younger one found the strength the emerge from the water and he opened his mouth and let in as much air as he could. Disgruntled, he ask the guru why he tried to drown him and the guru replied, ” when you were below the surface, what did you think about?” The younger, ambitious one stated all he could think about was breathing! The guru finally shared his secret to success with him: “When you want to be successful as bad as you wanted to just breathe, while you were drowning in the ocean, you will be successful. When you want to achieve anything as bad as you wanted to breathe, you will achieve it.”

 

I want to be the old masher as bad as he wanted to breathe! The trek to Clingmans Dome on my bicycle will be in late March or early April, however the official journey has already begun. Who’s with me?

image

 

@KPtheMasher

Mar 2017 12

IMG_0295

 

The date is officially set for our second attempt at a RAM Cycling ascent to the highest elevation in Tennessee: April 4, 2017. The crew is planning to head down on Monday April 3, ride on Tuesday April 4, and stay to visit the lovely Gatlinburg area for a day before heading home on Thursday.

 

Ride details are posted on our Strava club page. We will roll out fairly early on Tuesday morning from the east side of downtown Gatlinburg, allowing us a few miles to warm up before the climbing starts at the Sugarlands Visitors Center area. It is about a 20 mile ascent to the top. We plan to take a group pic at the top and head back down. I arramged for a SAG vehicle to follow us and carry any drinks/snacks/clothing that any cyclist joining us may want to have access to. Just bring it to the start point and we’ll carry it for you.

IMG_0296

Let’s just hope the weather is more kind to us this time than it was on our first group attempt! Anyone interested in joining us, please contact Tim or me directly for any specific details. Hope to see you there!

@KPtheMasher

SEO Powered by Platinum SEO from Techblissonline