Thursday, September 25, 2014

Six Gap Again... Sort Of.

Photo: Tom Simpson, Flickr Creative Commons

Last year I attempted the Six Gap Century bike ride in the north Georgia Mountains. It didn't end well. The long, vicious climb up Hogpen Gap cracked me and not long after the descent, I loaded my bike into the trailer of a SAG wagon and hitched a ride to end my day. I was 74 miles in but I had 30 miles to go and wasn't sure I had what it took to finish the last climb of the day. This has bothered me ever since, although my recovery and subsequent wall-busting in this year's Cheaha 50k eased my wounded ego a touch. I'd had a similar moment of existential crisis at an aid station for that run, but unlike Six Gap where I packed it in, I eventually forced myself to keep going and I'm glad I did. It still didn't fully let me get over that Six Gap DNF.

To punish myself for the last year, I have refused to let myself wear the jersey for the event that I purchased last year. I plan on wearing it on my second attempt this year. If I quit this time, it goes in the trash (or more likely is given to another cyclist somewhere). There are several factors going into this year that suggest I should be able to keep that jersey. First, I've ridden my bike more this year than I ever have before. As of today, I have ridden 1,581.9 miles and my two best months were July and September (272 and 269 miles respectively). August was a bit of a rough month, but compared to 2013 when I only rode twice in the month before Six Gap (and only 5 times the previous month, I'm essentially at least twice as prepared. To give perspective, I've ridden nine times already this month and have gotten more consistent with my training the closer to the ride I've gotten. Last year I was really more focused on getting prepared for my second marathon than riding. My cardio was great, but for anyone who's ever put the bike aside to focus on running (or vice versa) has discovered, training for one does not prepare the legs for the other. There's also that guilt for quitting last year that I hope to be able to tap into when things get hard to keep me going. Finally, I have that memory of Cheaha where I felt just as bad, perhaps even more defeated, but ended up getting my head back and genuinely enjoying the second half of the race. Just because I feel done at this moment doesn't mean that feeling will last.

But there are a couple of catches. The distance was never the problem last year. I rode 100 miles in 2011 when I'd only been riding a bike for five months and had never attempted anything close. I was in much better shape last year when I attempted Six Gap. What killed me were the climbs. I simply have no way to truly train for them where I live. I have been trying to simulate something by repeating this one hill near my house where a quarter mile averages around 6% grade and gets up to 8 or 9% at times, but even repeating that doesn't match the miles of unrelenting climb I'll face multiple times Sunday.

There's also the fact that I'll face Hogpen Gap close to 10 pounds heavier this year. That may not sound like a lot, but weight really matters when the roads start to get steep. I had a rough summer in regards to self control and I came into August at my heaviest since early spring 2011. I've worked my weight down to the point where I've lost half of what I gained over the summer, but I'm not where I hoped to be. This worries me. I'll need to forget that it worries me on Sunday. Endurance events are always at least as much what's in your head as what's in your legs. Let's hope I can remember the Cheaha and not the jiggle.


Sid said...

I understand the guilt of quitting all too well.

Since completing the marathon, I've been toying with the idea of entering a triathlon. Training for a run and swim should be fairly easy. There are plenty of public swimming in CT, but I'm not too keen to get on a bike and ride around the streets. The thought terrifies me. Too many cyclists have been killed by reckless drivers.

Jacob said...

Buy a stationary trainer to hook up to the bike. Keeps you off the road, but lets you put in the miles. You can get a decent one for just over $100 US, but the more expensive ones do give you better results. The link below will give you examples. You'll just have to up the resistance until pedalling feels the same as it does on a road. From there, increasing your gears will simulate hills, but not perfectly.

Also, there are probably cycling clubs around where you live who could point you to safe routes and include you on group rides (which are safer than riding solo.) Strava also will show popular routes in your area (I searched some) and if they're popular, they're probably relatively safe.