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6 Gap Centruy Ride Report: A religious experience(12 posts)

6 Gap Centruy Ride Report: A religious experience_rt_
Sep 30, 2003 6:31 AM
(x-post on MTBR/Passion)

Warning this report contains no reference to any of the following:
• Crack smoking (see last year's report)
• Sandbagging
• Winning
• Losing
• Mechanical woes
• Disk brakes
Or for that matter
• Mountain biking
However, it does contain direct reference to:
• Religion
• Riding a bike in the moutains
• Having a headwind in all directions
• Achieving personal goals

I am a bad Jew. Every year I come out of my non-secular shell and whole heartedly celebrate the two big Jewish holidays: Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Attonement). I take the day off of work (if the holidays fall on a work day), get dressed nicely, and join the legions of other twice-a-year-Jews at the synagogue of my choice for 3 days of praying, 2 days of feasting, and 1 day of fasting.

But this year I broke the mold. Ever since last year's crack smoking decision to do the Six Gap Centruy Ride through north Georgia's beautiful mountains (like, all of one day) I've been looking forward to getting back out there and suffering, I mean doing it, again.

The course looks like this:

In 100 miles you get ~10,000' of climbing with the kicker being Hogpen Gap starting at approximately the mid-way point of the century and climbing to the lofty height of 3500' above sea level over 7 miles with an average grade of 7%. (Yeah, yeah. All you Rocky Mtn dwellers can stop snickering now. On the east coast 3500' is waaaaay up there! ;-P)

By all accounts this is one of the hardest hill (aka mountain) centuries around. Last year, it was my first ever century and I finished with a total time of 7 hrs 15 minutes (6 hrs, 40 min ride time). My goal was to finish with a total time of 6:30 this year.

Our day started at 5am. It was dark and it was cold (about 50*F (10*C).....well, it's cold for us thin-blooded southerners). We dragged ourselves out of bed, made & drank our pre-ride protein shakes, threw everything into Ed's truck, turned the heat on like it was december and pulled out onto the deserted streets. I asked all the important questions "Do we have your/my shoes? Helmet? Gloves? Front wheel? (who'd forget their front wheel? Really!) The answer was ‘yes' to all. It was still dark and cold.

Although according to (filed under the name in my list of favorites) the low temp in Dahlonega was the same 50* as in Atlanta but it felt a lot colder. (maybe because I got out of the 90* heated car? Or maybe it was the wind blowing with gusts of 20 mph?) We were running late and as I dug around in my bag for my arm warmers I discovered what I'd forgotten: my undershirt and saddlebag (with multitool, ID, spare tube, and CO2). Doh! While we were scrambling to get dressed and organized the horn blew and 1100 riders rolled out of the parking lot. Ed grabbed his helmet, said ‘good luck!' and jumped into the masses. I prayed to the G-d for whom I was not spending my day honoring in synagogue for no flats or mechanicals, pulled up my arm warmers, grabbed my waterbottles, and joined the shivering masses as they headed out of Dahlonega.

The ride from Dahlonega to the base of Neils is about 20 miles. I worked my way from the back of the group towards the middle and concentrated on not freezing to death while I warmed up. Neils is a long (8 mile) climb and the first SAG is at the top. My plan was to bypass as many SAGs as I could stopping only at the ones at the top of Unicoi (to prepare for Hogpen) and Hogpen (to recover).

My body temperature finally surpassed the ambient temperature and my climb up Neils was uneventful enough for me to be smiling as I got towards the top:

Smile! (sorry about the photo quality. you get what
ps: Link to last year's report..._rt_
Sep 30, 2003 6:35 AM
for those who might be interested...^130@.ef7123c

re: 6 Gap Centruy Ride Report: A religious experiencebriburke
Sep 30, 2003 6:37 AM
Hey _rt_ - good story, where's the rest of it?

Hey, RT, part of your post was cut off! nmMike P
Sep 30, 2003 6:38 AM
ahhh sh!t! that's what i get for being long winded!!_rt_
Sep 30, 2003 7:14 AM
i'll post the rest below.
re: 6 Gap Centruy Ride Report: PART 2!!!_rt_
Sep 30, 2003 7:20 AM
guess someone at RBR doesn't like long winded posts! ;-P

here's the next installment....

Smile! (sorry about the photo quality. you get what you pay for!)

Yup. Still smiling. (well, sorta. i kinda look like i might be getting ready to throw up.)

Ed, on the other hand, who passed by the cameras about 10 minutes before I did, does not seem to be as cheerful.

Nope. Ed is definately NOT a morning person

rolled passed the SAG at the top of Neils and began my first descent of the day. BRRRRRR!!! It was cold!!!! The arm warmers quickly got pulled back up to my shoulders. I'd have pulled them up over my chest & head if I could have!

For reasons that I can't remember I decided to stop briefly at the top of the next gap, Jack's Gap. My descent off of Jack's was colder than I think I have ever been on a bike. My teeth chattered louder than the wind in my ears. My legs turned a shade of red that has no name and probably has never been documented by man. And I was shaking so violently that I thought I was going to cause myself to crash.

Fortunately, the descent quickly came to an end and I began the short but steep climb up Unicoi Gap. Following my plan I stopped at the top of Unicoi and tried to follow the food approach that had worked so well for me at the Firewater 50. A bottle of Endurox, a bottle of gatorade/water mix, 2 gu's, and peanut butter. All they had was peanut butter sandwiches (no jelly) and I didn't think I could ask them to just stick a glop of peanut butter into my mouth so I ate my ½ sandwich without complaint & I was off.

Hogpen was every bit as horrible as I remembered it, but I was bound and determined NOT to stop. I loved my 39-27 and wished for a triple. I pedaled slowly. I marveled again this year at how I can remain upright at less than 3mph. I got passed by people who had cadences like Lance Armstrong and I hated them.

At mile 5 there is a SAG. It is the evil SAG. It sucks you in and makes you believe that a short rest will help you finish the climb. It also makes you believe that the top is near. Both are patently untrue.

I past the evil SAG and kept going. I pedaled in ovals. I pedaled in squares. I pedaled in shapes that I didn't think the cranks and my legs could make. I thought I saw the top. I was wrong ...........................................................................................................................
but then! Lo! What is this I see?? Blue sky above the road. The end is near and I have not stopped!!! The look on my face says it all:
re: 6 Gap Centruy Ride Report: PART 3!!!_rt_
Sep 30, 2003 7:22 AM
The look on my face says it all...

I have hit 55 mph (51 mph with no draft) on the descent off of Hogpen but contained myself to sluggish 47mph this year. Mostly because of the brisk wind that seemed to constantly be in my face. (What I love best about riding road is that you can go stupid fast and not have to worry about a tree jumping suddenly into your path. trees do that, you know.)

I made it through the rolling flats (yes, I know that rolling & flat are contradictory but if you've ever done 6 gaps you'll understand) despite the headwind-crosswind combo (why wasn't there ever a tail wind???) and hit the base of Wolfpen Gap. Wolfpen is like a twisted Neils: A long but not terrible climb. UNLESS, you do it immediately following Hogpen......with a head wind.

This is the spot where, last year I looked at ditches and wished to lie down in them. It is also the spot where I threatened to quit. Amazingly, those ditches looked just as comfortable this year. Weird. But I knew that once I got to the top I was, for all intents and purposes, finished with the ride. I slogged onward.

I stopped briefly at the top of Wolfpen to stretch my back and eat some gu. Between Wolfpen and the final gap, Woody's, there is another rolling flat section (complete with headwind and crosswind) where I hooked up with a couple guys from Tampa, FL. We were all going approximately the same pace and we traded pulls along the flats and up Woody's. They stopped at the SAG and I rolled past.

I had 14 miles left and I was getting precariously close to the 6 hour mark. Eventhough I knew that the remaining 14 miles were mostly down hill I also knew I'd be cutting it close to finish in 6:30. The descent off Woody's is possibly one of the best descents ever. It is about 10 miles long, with gently banked turns, and the open possibility to fly and never touch your brakes. I picked up the pace but was beginning to prepare myself for not making my goal time of 6:30.

The route usually takes you straight back into Dahlonega and over the 7th but unofficial gap, the Col de Walmart. However this year the route took a right before the Col and we were instead left to contend with Mount Lumpkin (a hill that passes by the Lumpkin Co. High School). The timer on my heart rate monitor read 6 hrs 25 min. I stood to scale the final (educational?) heights and made a beeline towards Handcock Park and the finish line while watching the seconds tick past.

A quick right turn and I crossed the finish line............ 6 hours 32 minutes and 30 seconds!

Which, as far as I'm concerned, means I achieved my personal goal. Today I am still grinning ear to ear. I cut 45 minutes off of last year's total time. My actual ride time this year was 6 hrs 19 mins. 20 minutes faster than last year.


rt - happy but sore
Great report from you and Mike PSpecialTater
Sep 30, 2003 7:39 AM
Loved reading both of yours plus one from a Hightailer from here in Memphis who did Bridge to Bridge and the 6 Gap. Hope to have legs, lungs and heart enough to do this one next year.
Great report, _RT_!Mike P
Sep 30, 2003 8:30 AM
Way to go on the time! It is a good feeling to make a goal like that.

How'd you snag the pictures - or did you pay? I found mine but they sure are proud of the work; $21 for one photo! That's crazy! I think I was near Ed on Neels Gap; I remember the truck towing a trailer with the jeep on it as we rode past the camera.

It is nice to read another riders take on this ride. I hope we hear from 12x23 and others.

Oh, what did you think of the Firewater 50? I rode the MTB a couple times with Barry Smith, the guy that started that sick-o ride. Did you drink the firewater? I didn't ever work up the nerve to ride that one but did hear the stories at the post ride party a few years ago.

thanks Mike!_rt_
Sep 30, 2003 9:40 AM
pay?! pshaw! i am a master thief! oops, did i say that out loud? i meant i liberated those pictures from their bondage.

$21 is way to much for 1 pic. i can get a friend to take a pic of me for free while i ride my bike up a hill! ;-)

Firewater 50 was a great ride. ironically, that also took me 6.5 hrs! seems to be my modal time. i did take a requsite shot of the firewater at the end. that was rough - it went down and nearly bounced right back up. doh! i can't wait to go back and do that loop again.....on my FS! doing the whole thing on a hard tail was a bit harsh.

congrats again on a great effort on 6 gaps!

re: 6 Gap Centruy Ride Report: A religious experiencedave_w
Sep 30, 2003 11:52 AM
Oh my gosh, You actually got sore! LOL, nice ride report.
lol! go figure..._rt_
Sep 30, 2003 12:06 PM
sore is an understatement. i was crippled yesterday! just looking at stairs made me want to cry.

feeling much better today, though.