Six Gap Century - CycleCentury

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Dahlonega, Georgia
United States
Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce/Dahlonega Wheelworks
80F / 27C
Total Time = 9h 12m
Overall Rank = /
Age Group =
Age Group Rank = 0/
Pre-race routine:

Woke up early (really wanted to sleep some more) with the obligatory hotel sore throat. no matter how much I plan and adjust the dang A/C, I'm gonna wind up with a sore throat. Oh well, it worked itself out after some coffee. Ate 1.5 bagels and a banana and drank maybe 6-8 cups of coffee (that's standard fare for me, love me some coffee). Debated which / how much medication to take. Been fighting a nasty shingles outbreak for about a week and had steriods, viral killers, and narcotics to consider. Ended up just going with the minimum Prednisone (since you can't just jerk yourself off that stuff) and skipping the others. Also slathered a good serving of Lidocaine over the affected arm to numb it to oblivion. Wore my mock "samurai tattoo" arm warmers the entire race to keep the sun off the offending appendage. Packed up the truck and waited to meet my riding partner who was driving up from the PTC that morning in the hotel parking lot so we could carpool to the HS. Glad we carpooled cause that lot was packed.
Event warmup:

More mental preparedness than any physical warmup. Made my peace with God 'cause I knew we would be talking later along the course. Took a pic with my friend and talked with a bunch of folks I met while waiting for the start. Surprising how many folks I actually knew from other things (i.e. Dick Lane Velodrome, Trek bike shop, etc.).
  • 7h 07m
  • 103.7 miles
  • 14.57 mile/hr

Going into this thing, I had really three goals:
A) Just finish. I knew this was gonna be rough. Just wanted to survive. Funny listening to the King of the Mountain chatter prior to the race. No way was I getting tied up in any competition, just wanted to beat the cutoffs and finish with some sort of dignity.
B) Don't walk the bike, ever. In my Labor Day training ride, Hogpen gave me a swift kick to the gut and I ended up walking about 2 miles of that wretched beast. I subsequently spent almost an hour on Saturday before Six Gap, cutting the mangled cleats from the bottom of my cycling shoes so I could replace them. I had walked the heads almost off the Speedplay cleats and had to resort to the Dremel.
C) Don't make any "unofficial" stops. Try to only stop at the real aid-stations. Just a mental thing for me that the course not crack me.

My friend and I toed up at the starting line back near the HS. Pretty good sized group there, really not sure how many but at least maybe upwards of 1000 or so for the Six Gap. The most dangerous part of the race I think was getting through the timing gate with such a large, slow moving slug of people. Once out on the road, I was slow to get warmed up. I still wasn't feeling fully warm even by Stone Pile. We hit the first stop at Turner's Corner and did a quick splash-n-dash (liquids in / liquids out) and continued on up Neel's. Had a great climb up Neel's. It seems much worse when driving but I settled into a nice rhythm. Even shot some climbing video on the iPhone (I got a mount attached to the aerobars). Folks got a kick out of watching me working the phone while climbing and wondered if I was gonna watch movies along the way. Got to the top of Neel's and refilled my fuel bottle (I had consumed my first hour's Perpetuem and downed a Gu for good measure since I knew Jack's was coming). Chatted a little with some folks. One guy, from South FL (Naples area I think) was commenting about how tough that climb was and whether it got much worse. I mentioned that this was just the warmup (internally I was thinking, dude, you may be screwed starting now!) and wished him the best. We saddled back up and hit the descent. Still lots of folks grouped together and the roads were still wet so I tried to keep as much clearance around me. Amazing how many folks feel totally fine hurling their a$$ down the hill at speed, oblivious to what's going on around them. It was tough to get past those folks 'cause as soon as you got near (even when yelling on-your-left) they almost always veered into you. Come on! I saw one guy attempt a pass on the right, get shoved off of it by a veering rider, and then do a nasty end-O and face plant into the dirt. I came up on him at about maybe 40mph and yelled at him (really to make sure he was conscious). He had dirt and grass coming out of his face and just yelled "my face". I looked back and luckily some folks further back were stopping. I figured if I tried to go back it would be like an 1/8 mile to just get stopped and then I would have to climb back up to him. Since he had folks with him, I journeyed on (I really don't like to not help, hope the dude's okay).

We made the right onto Hwy 180, site of my Labor Day misery experience. I knew what was ahead. Funny how many folks were looking down at their wheels. I knew what was happening. Everyone was saying "do I have a flat?". I just chuckled. That road just drags the life out of you, rough as all get out. We started the climb up Jack's. Seems that most folks don't think its that bad. I for one, think it a son-of-a. The pack just split right up within about 1/4 mile. It must the the constantly changing grades, but I struggled to really settle into a good rhythm. I made good time though, kept HR in check, and did enjoy the climb. Made it to the top, mixed another fuel bottle, took a pic or two and hit it again. I knew Unicoi wasn't that bad and just made sure to keep up on nutrition and hydration in preparation for the he77 to come at Hogpen. I had a blast on the Unicoi descent. By then, the field was pretty well strung out so I didn't have to contend with unpredictable riders and I was able to get down on the aerobars and really fly.

We made our right turn onto Hwy 348 and I sort of said my little prayer. No way around it, that mountain is just nasty. I couldn't quite seem to find the right gear, cadence, stand/sit, whatever to get comfortable. So I road with discomfort. I knew I was really muscling it out. Heart rate and breathing weren't blowing up, just my legs were burning, and bad. I continued on over the first portion of the climb, fully expecting the rest stop to be in that flat. It wasn't!!! Man, I was kind of counting on getting myself together before the main part of the climb between miles 3 and 6. No rest for the weary, I journeyed on. I was starting to loose it. I had already passed plenty of folks stopped or worse yet, walking, up the hill. I had been there and could sympathize but seeing it wasn't helping me to not give up. I kept pushing. There were strips of severe burning in my quads. I thought for sure some muscles must have just ripped loose and were rolling up in my thigh. I couldn't stand, that just made it hurt worse. I kept on, telling myself, this thing will flatten out just around the next corner. But every next corner, it just got even steeper! Come on, really! I was finally just blowing up. I thought I could hear cowbell and yelling off in the distance. I made a deal with myself, next corner, if I can see the rest stop in the distance, I will make it there. I turned the corner, almost like a kid coming down on Christmas morning. Surely my oasis is there. He77 no! More hill. That's it. I've gotta stop for just a minute or two. I drank maybe half a bottle of water, took some deep breaths, and got back on. Turns out that rest stop was just one more corner away. Dammnet, almost made it! Oh well, at least I didn't walk it any. I got it together there, sucked down a Gu, stretched, and then we climbed it on out. It wasn't as bad (still bad mind you, just not AS bad) to the top except for that one final push up the hill. I was starting to loose it again, there were walkers, but I made it through on to the summit. I knew I would make it through the entire Six gap now (or so I thought) because the worst was over. We took a little bit to recover (honestly, I have no idea how long we were spending at the rest stops but over the course of the 9 of them (and a couple of extras) we burned almost 2 hours!) and then started the descent. Roads were pretty dry by now and I knew this descent was a steep one so I recorded it on the iPhone. Looking back at the video, its amazing how violent that descent really is. The roads aren't all that smooth and the turns really sneak up on you. My computer says I almost touched 50mph and I'm sure this is where it was. Luckily no issues here. I can see how if you got into trouble, it would get real bad, real fast.

So we got off Hogpen and made the left onto Hwy 180. I felt kinda weird. Couldn't put my finger on it though. I yawned to clear my ears since I came down off the mountain so quick. I started pedaling out Hwy 180 but my gas tank had a leak in it, a major one. I was going downhill (figuratively, not literally at this point) in the matter of like 10 minutes, real fast. I was starting to get nauseated and dizzy and could feel myself weaving a little. Not good! Since my partner was a better climber than me, and I a better descender, we would allow a little separation at times and meet up at the rest stops. He was a couple hundred yards ahead so there was no way to yell up to him that something was wrong. I barely made the climb up to Hwy 129 and was really losing it bad. I wasn't sure I could even safely cross the road at that point without veering into traffic. I saw a little gas station about 50 yards down on the right so I thought, if I can just get there, I will get some sugar into my system. I just didn't want any more Gu at this point or I would spew. That morning, I initially put a single dollar bill in my underseat tool bag to use to repair a cut tire in an emergency. Something seriously told me to make that $2. I figured it was just a little OCD moment, but I complied anyway. Turns out that a Snickers bar and small coke cost $1.94 (or so) at that store. Sweeeet! I starting shoving that down and tried to call ahead to my buddy's cell to let him know what's up. He said he would come back and get me, so I waited a couple of minutes, stretched, and just kept waiting for the sugar to kick in. I kept re-evaluating how I got to this place. I had stayed up on my nutrition as planned. Not sure if I really needed to be eating more since the mountains just take more out of you, or if it was the week's worth of unknown medications for shingles which have thrown off my system. Will never know I guess, but I was in this bad place and had to get out. We agreed to kinda take it slow up Wolfpen while I recovered.

We got back onto 129 and started our climb. The rest stop at Vogel came really quick. Since I had just stopped at the store, we blew this stop and continued on up the mountain. In general, I didn't consider Wolfpen really that bad of a climb, in isolation at least. Coming off Hogpen, its sort of like kicking a man when he's down. But if you were in at least moderate shape, it'd be very do-able. I unfortunately wasn't yet in even moderate shape at this point. As we started the heavier climbing, my friend had to pull ahead. I was running a triple and had the advantage of my lowest gear being a 24x28 (that's right, my chainring was smaller than my rear cog, nothin' to be ashamed of here if it gets me up that hill!). My buddy had a compact with ??? in the rear and so he just couldn't comfortably go as slow as me (sounds weird writing that out). As soon as he was out of site, I started cracking again. The sugar just wasn't doing it or just wasn't in my system yet, I dunno, but I was hurting real bad. I pushed and pushed as hard as I could until I literally almost fell off the bike. I had to stop. I laid the bike down and stood over it telling myself not to sit. I drank some water and just looked down for a while. No thoughts, just a blank stare. Riders were coming by, granted it was well strung out, but no-one was really giving me the look of shame 'cause they were all hurting too. I finally sat. I kind of wanted to cry. Of course I asked myself what the he77 I was doing here. A SAG came by. I so almost flagged it down and just said "get me outta here". I wasn't sure how I could go on. I wasn't really cramping, I was just hurting all over. I still felt like crap to boot. I sucked on some more HEED (I had replaced Perpetuem with HEED on the summit of Hogpen because a half gallon of Cafe Latte was just enough). I eventually laid down and just looked up at the sky for a little (I have no idea how long I was there). Eventually, a little gust of wind came along and knocked a very large branch loose from the tree above me. I saw it coming down, right at me. I sat my a$$ up real quick and it landed maybe 3 feet from me. I guess this was some kind of sign. I stood up and said "screw it" and got back on the bike and spun on. I reached the next rest stop in about another mile. I questioned my riding buddy about whether I was gonna make it. The last thing I ever want is to be a quitter but at some point you've gotta face reality. I knew Woody's wouldn't be too bad and that we would be in the home stretch after that so we agreed, me a little reluctantly, to move on. I also made sure to eat some pretzels. Pretzels are my friend, they've saved me from bonking before so I figured I'd give them another chance. We made moderate progress to the summit at Woody's. I was obviously okay on the downhills (now that I wasn't on the verge of passing out), and I could hold my own in the flats, but any sort of climb just sucked the life out of me. I had no strength left. I was at least starting to get my sh!+ together. Made it to the top of Woody's and I was pulling it back in. Wouldn't say I was the strongest because I was mighty weary but I was back on to finish the ride. I ate another back of pretzels and some cheese crackers and we rolled out.

The descent from Woody's I think may have been worth the whole ride. It is something I'll never forget. Beautiful sun, moderate temperature, endorphin high (probably, or just hallucinating). The road is so deceiving in a lot of places, like a reverse false flat. Looks like you're flat, or even uphill, but you're actually going downhill. No pedaling required for quite a few miles. I hit the brakes just a handful of times but other than that, I just laid down and soaked it all in. Once we got down into Suches, I thought the HS would never come. While the terrain was just rolling, my a$$ had been on that bike seat for over 8 hours and I was so ready to get off. Finally, finally we made it. In fact, we almost overshot it. While the entire course was so well marked, it wasn't apparent how to get back into the school. We nearly blew right past the entrance. Luckily someone yelled and got us back on course before we started back into Dahlonega. That would have been a real pi$$er! I pulled past the timing mat and let the timing folks remove my chip. I figured, if my butt left that seat, I was gonna have to walk it back to the truck and if anything I was at least gonna keep my "no walking" promise.

No doubt, epic ride & monumental suffering. Something I'll never forget nor would I trade it for the world. Also really glad I finished. I had bought two of the Six Gap jerseys and there's no way I could have ever worn them if I didn't actually complete the race. It was both beautiful and ugly but at least its done!
What would you do differently?:

Be about 50 lbs lighter, don't carry so much crap (i.e. food) with me and live off the course more, train better for mountain climbing (just need more experience here).
Post race
Warm down:

Showered off at Lumpkin County HS and had the post-race spaghetti. That really hit the spot but only briefly. After the 2 hour drive back to the PTC, I then assaulted the Five Guys and topped off the tank for the evening. Feasting continued the next morning.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Fat and heavyness. Problems with nutrition / medical which caused the bonk or whatever it was. Aside from the bonk, I think I was reasonably prepared physically to perform. I could just perform faster if I wasn't toting an extra small person along in the form of fat and upper body muscle.

Event comments:

Very professional and well run race. It appeared that there was plenty of SAG and medical available if needed (saw at least 3 ambulance runs???). Course was well marked. Aid stations were spaced just right and well stocked. Cheerful workers. Great organization overall.

Last updated: 2009-09-14 12:00 AM
07:07:00 | 103.7 miles | 14.57 mile/hr
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Performance: Average
Wind: Some with gusts
Course: A little hilly, something more than "rollers". The best description, based on my experiences so far, is unreal.
Road: Rough Dry Cadence: 82
Turns: Good Cornering: Good
Gear changes: Good Hills: Average
Race pace: Hard Drinks: Just right
Post race
Weight change: %?
Overall: Average
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5