I just had the realization that I’m a lot like a dog that was bred for work. If I’m tasked with something difficult that requires my full attention and skill set, I’ll be happy and effective. Bonus if it’s a task that requires me to grow my skills.
But if I don’t have that job to do, I can be pretty dang annoying.
Shock and awe! Did not see this coming. I honestly thought I was at least a year away from this happening. A lot to say about that, but I’ll save it for a different post.
My general opinion on belts/stripes is that I just wear whatever my instructor tells me to wear. A changing belt color doesn’t change anything about me from one day to the next. For me, a promotion doesn’t need to be anything more than him throwing a stiff new belt at me at the end of training and saying, “Wear this the next time you come in here. ”
But I’ll admit that I’ve taken some time to pause and reflect on this one for several reasons, which will also result in more posts if I’m not too lazy to write them. I’m starting to understand why promotion is a big deal in the broader sense, even though the ceremony of it all may not mean that much to me personally.
I had to switch gyms when I started back training in Florida in December 2021. As much as I love everything about Off The Grid, the class schedule was a struggle for me. I meant to get over there and train for the whole month of November, but just couldn’t make the classes. Being a one car family now didn’t help any either. When I texted Professor Frank to tell him my situation, he immediately responded, “Go train with David–I’m just happy to hear that you’re going to be training again!”
That’s what kind of guy he is. None of that crap about loyalty or anything–he’s just happy that I’ve got the BJJ bug (that he put there) and am continuing.
Anyway, I showed up to class at Carlson Gracie Melbourne as I normally do and was warming up when I all of a sudden saw a ton of my old training partners and Frank there. I knew then that something was up, and immediately realized I was probably being promoted. Why else would they show up here and sneaking in through the back? Honestly, it was very awkward for me. I don’t like being the center of attention.
But…man! I can’t express how it feels that so many of the people who built me showed up for this. When Frank and David called me up at the beginning of class and said, “You’re number is up!” I was overwhelmed. I mean, I didn’t cry or anything, but I really didn’t know how to react. I was speechless.
As I later told my old teammates in a post, I don’t even feel like I “have” any jiu jitsu really. I just have little pieces of their jiu jitsu that I’ve cobbled together. Every movement, trick, defense, submission, transition, escape I have came about from what they’ve taught me and beat into me. My new gym has definitely made a big contribution in a short period of time (new perspectives–also a separate post), but the bulk of the reps and rounds were with these folks.
Being promoted by both of my coaches at the same time took away a lot of the awkwardness. And it says so much about both of these instructors that it went down like this. That David would invite the OTG crew and that they would show up says everything about why I consider these gyms my extended family.
And then…my boy Ed got his purple belt too! Ed and I started BJJ on the same day. We were promoted to blue belt together. He’s my best BJJ frienemy. We have spent countless hours beating the doo-doo out of each other. For instance, one day we were the only two people at an open mat and we decided to roll until one of us tapped.
I lost, but it took us 56 minutes to get to decision. Ed is my boy!
So, enough of the mushy stuff. Like I said, I have a lot more of that coming. But here are some stats, because people love to ask the question, “How long does it take to get your purple belt?” Your mileage may vary, and I know people who are younger and more athletic who’ve done it a lot faster than me, but..
Training sessions: 392 as a blue belt, 594 total
Mat time: 755 hours as a blue belt, 1,110 hours total
Days: 1,626 as a blue belt (*1,063 discounting covid break), 1,519 total
Uncountable number of taps
1 Competition as a blue belt
1 dislocated/broken rib
1,000,000 lessons learned
1,000,001 lessons forgotten
A bunch of connections made with people I probably wouldn’t know otherwise
A lot of introspection and realization (jiu jitsu really is life)
Never ending excitement about showing up to the next class
As much as I can’t wait to just get back to grinding/training and forget about belts, this has forced me to realize a few things about this art that separates it from any thing else I’ve ever done. Not much of it is belt specific–it’s more about the _________ that is jiu jitsu. I had do leave a blank there, because I don’t know if there’s a word in English that describes what BJJ is.
If that word exists in another language, I don’t know that either.
Last night, at the end of class, David called Z (I won’t out his name) up to talk to us about his experience competing last weekend. Z started off by telling us about his first two competitions, and how he’s evolved through the process of training.
He talked about his attitude/approach towards competing the first time out, and how he got beat and injured at this competition. And he felt like he’d let his teammates down. Even though I knew he was talking about the past, I hated to hear that he’d felt this way.
In his second competition, he got some wins, and he felt redeemed. He said his time actually learning and applying knowledge instead of relying on aggression and ego made the difference.
Last weekend, he lost. But he was super excited about what he accomplished. His goal was to control the match–both himself and his opponent. Though he lost by an advantage, he felt like he had a handle on the situation the whole time.
Then he started talking more broadly. He told us a little about the person he was before he joined the gym and started training–angry, frustrated, alienated, lonely, unhappy, etc. He thanked everybody for being accepting of him, helping him, loving him (violently), and being a part of changing himself. Of course, that’s not word-for-word what he said, but I don’t think he’d mind me taking some liberties here, because I think I know from experience these are all things that he meant.
He was tearing up as he spoke. And I was thankful it was the end of class and crazy humid last night so that my sweat could camouflage my tears too. The whole time I was thinking, “Man…I hope he’s about to get his blue belt, because THIS is what it’s all about. Not winning tournaments.”
So I was super happy when David pulled out the blue belt and gave it to him. Of course, that broke him and he started crying for real.
It really touched me to see someone affected by BJJ this way. I could relate to everything he was saying. Granted, my “aha moment” didn’t come from BJJ, but knowing that light came on for someone is cool, no matter how they got there. And he was up there spilling it in front of 30 people, many of whom he probably didn’t know that well on a personal level. I mean, I didn’t know anything about Z until last night. Now I feel really bonded with him.
After class, I shared a little bit with him about how I could relate a lot to what he talked about. As I told him, there are countless guys out there who have amazing jiu jitsu and can easily whoop us both, yet they can’t comprehend what he’d just said. Some don’t get it because they are nice, happy-go-lucky people to begin with. But there are a lot of others who are still what he used to be. They are BJJ world beaters, but they have not realized who their biggest opponent is. Maybe they even dodge this opponent–I can’t speak to their journey.
Of course, it’s a daily fight. And there are plenty of days when you lose. But, just like in BJJ, you get better at the dance. You start seeing the stuff you have to defend against coming at you sooner. Sometimes you can even chuckle at the simplicity of the coming attack (that you’re mounting against yourself). You continue to learn how the difficulties and struggles you experience can be your greatest opportunities if you are willing to let go and just flow with them.
You start realizing that sometimes the best “move” in an awfully uncomfortable situation is to simply stop and take a deep breath.
This week in particular, I needed to be reminded of all the things Z said.
Am I in rigorous training against false impressions?
Yes I am!
Wait…am I? Let’s get real.
I see false impressions coming from a few different sources. There are false impressions that are purposefully made by others (“fake news”), there are false impressions I generate myself because I’m misreading situations (“bad comprehension”), and there are false impressions I generate myself because they fit with my inner worldview/narrative (“wishful thinking”). I think I’ll address these in reverse order, because that’s the order that I have the most control over.
*This is part of the Daily Stoic Journal I’m keeping, which is a companion to the Daily Stoic book. I’m on my 3rd time around reading this book, and can’t recommend it enough if you’re looking for an framework for living a happy life. I don’t (and won’t) post everything I write for this journal publicly, at least not yet. But this is one I’m good with letting out into the wild.
The job here, and it’s a tough one, is to keep my own thoughts, preferences, and opinions in check. Do I perceive this as a good thing because it aligns with the way I think the world should work? Or because it agrees with the way I think the world actually works? Do I perceive it as a bad thing because it goes against the way I want things to be, or the way I perceive they are? Have I decided who the good guys and bad guys are beforehand, then try to cram everything into that narrative?
One thing I do try to guard against is taking events personally. I try to at least look at them objectively to see if they line up. An example would be when I don’t approve of something one of the kids does or says. I have to immediately realize this isn’t (usually) intended to make me angry–it’s to further their personal agenda, which will never line up 100% with the story I’m trying to write about my own life.
Does that mean I let it go? Absolutely not. It just means I try not take it personally.
Am I always successful in not taking it personally? I wish. But not even close. An example would be someone shirking responsibility. See…even in typing that sentence I used the word “shirk” instead of the phrase “not meeting”. I have to set aside my own feelings about people who shirk don’t meet responsibility to realize it’s something that is common in life, and something I’ve been guilty of myself countless times. But I do have to guard against taking that one personally, especially when it’s a responsibility to me.
In the instances I do take things personally, it helps for me to write them down and try to objectively see them through the other person’s eyes. That doesn’t mean that I always come down on the side of understanding why they did what they did. Sometimes I can still find a rational flaw in their motivation, or lack of motivation. But it at least helps me to find a rational flaw instead of a personal flaw.
And I’m not gonna lie–sometimes I can see no motivation from a person other than them getting what they want without regard for how others are affected. This is a real thing. It happens. And it’s another thing I’ve done countless times. Luckily, lots of people have been gracious enough to forgive me, and I can only make an effort to be just as gracious. But that’s not the topic here, so I don’t have to give myself that examination today. 😀
Another tough one, but at least it’s easier to recover from this one. I can always go back and apologize for misunderstanding. I can always re-absorb the information with more concentration, research the parts I don’t understand, and try to get context. I think the important thing here is to filter out what actually matters and needs further study. A good rule of thumb here is probably to give anything that gets a strong response out of me a closer inspection. If it makes me angry, sad, or scared, I should probably try to understand it better to find out if my reaction is warranted.
I guess this is one reason why I prefer to be alone when something upsets me. It not only keeps me from doing something reactive that I’ll regret, but it also gives me a chance to figure out exactly what part of the event bothers me and decide whether it’s worth being this upset over. Spoiler alert–it’s almost never as big of a deal as I make it out to be initially.
The other side of this is things that make me happy. I try not to inspect these as closely and take happiness at face value. Still, there’s value in stepping back every now and then and making sure I’m not just selling myself the story I want to be told. Part of that is having trust in my own perception, and I’m gaining more of that trust in myself as I grow older and have more experience.
I’m not using this term around the way it’s typically thrown around. I’m talking more about my ability to filter out all sorts of false information–a “BS Filter”. This is where I’m seeing the value of age and experience the most. Over the years, I think (hope?) I’ve gotten better at reading situations and people. I’ve learned that it helps me to look for motivation above all else. I feel like if I can understand what motivates people I can get a better idea of how their actions and words line up.
Take politicians, for example. Are there politicians out there who aren’t motivated by power and perks? I’m sure of it.
Can I name any? Uh…not with any certainty. In my experience, any politicians who don’t have these motivations aren’t likely to have risen to a level that would make me aware of them.
And the politicians are the ones that are actually pretty good at intentionally misdirecting impressions. Most of the people you have to deal with on a daily basis are amateurs at this.
Do I still get fooled? Yep. Does it happen as much as it used to? Nope.
History, both “history-history” and personal history, are a great source to start to understand patterns of behavior and begin to do some predictive analysis. I got a very late start on this in life, and I took some lumps because of it. But, luckily, I have a decent analytical mind when I decide to turn in on and focus, and I feel like I’ve made a lot of gains in the last 20 years.
I think the real key here is to be ok with other people having this “snake-oil-salesman” trait. I have to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s not their fault–they were either born with the tendency to mislead, or they learned it out of necessity. They are what they are, and it’s highly doubtful they could ever be convinced that this isn’t a trait they should foster.
As long as I know what they’re up to, I can manage my relationship with them appropriately. But I have to constantly continue “training against false impressions” by always paying attention and keeping notes.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my life is that being burned usually occurs when unrecognized “fake news” is coupled with either “wishful thinking” or “bad comprehension”.
This isn’t so much a political thought as it is a sociological one. I think the best thing that could happen in 2022 would be for Joe Rogan to come out and say, “I endorse no one. Instead, I think everyone should vote for a candidate that doesn’t have an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ beside their name.” That would give these two major parties the wake up call they need along with plenty of time to get their ships straight before they throw joke candidates at us (again).
Before I get into the actual race, I’m going to take a moment to recognize the organizers of this event and the people of North Georgia. This was an amazing experience–start to finish. Everything was well organized, ran on time, plenty of options and amounts of food/drink at the SAGs, lots of friendly and helpful volunteers, law enforcement assistance at the turns and helping tamp down the speeding vehicles, etc. Well done!
This is the first endurance event I’ve ever participated in that had showers available at the finish. This was an amazing amenity, and it sets the bar pretty high. I’ve had some great showers in my time, and this one was right up there with the best. It changed my day post-race for sure.
My co-worker Dallas has been gently pushing this ride on me for about 5 years–the whole time I’ve known him. For most of that time I didn’t even own a road bike. But when my friend Bill died in July 2020 his wife Stacey wanted me to have his bike. I was reluctant, but Dallas was the one who convinced me that taking it was the right thing to do. He also reminded me that Bill would love for me to ride, not just store bikes.
Bill and Stacey lived in Cumming, Georgia for many years, and Bill loved riding the roads in the Helen/Dahlonega area.
He bought this bike to ride these roads. It was the bike’s purpose.
Dallas’s wife made some cool decals for me to add to the bike right after I got it. As its new owner, I thought it would be really cool and meaningful to take it back to where it belonged and where he loved to be.
So…this one was for Tiny.
I did this event with a mix of people I know and people they know. Primo Juan came down from Louisville to do the ride, and I can’t thank him enough for driving his vehicle and, more importantly, doing a lot of shepherding for me during the race. I’m not super-experienced in big group rides, and he did a great job at the start especially of keeping us in safe and fast lines. He picked out good groups for us to stick with and kept the pace fast and easy at the same time.
His ability to climb is inspirational. We have dubbed him “El Chivo”.
Dallas drove up from Florida with his friend Dave as well. As I said, a lot of the the credit (blame?) goes to Dallas for convincing me to do this race. It was really cool to get to start the ride with him. I think we were together for the first five miles or so.
Justin is a co-worker and training partner from back in the day, and he was in with his brother-in-law Todd. I’ve done a fewrideswith these guys since we got up to Tennessee, and they are both my kind of people. Was so happy to get to share this experience with such a fine group.
Nothing to say other than “super smooth”. Drive through check in!!!! Of course we got out and walked around the expo, but if all you wanted was a race packet, it could not have been easier.
Justin and Todd were picking up packets at the same time, and we decided to go on an easy 10 mile ride just to work the car ride out of our legs. It was really nice, but also a little jolting to see that the rollers start right out of the gate. And they are there at the end. Sunday was going to be a tough day.
Race Day Logistics
I was a little late booking a hotel room, and Juan and I ended up staying about an hour away in Jasper. It was worth the drive, because we had some amazing barbecue the night before.
We woke up at 5:00 am and arrived at Lumpkin County High School at 6:30 after a coffee stop. We wanted to get a spot in the main lot, and luckily we were one of the last 10 or so cars that made it. We had plenty of time to relax and prepare for the start, and we met up with Dallas and Dave at the queue. We weren’t sure where Justin and Todd were at that point. As I said, really enjoyed getting to start the race with Dallas–he’s a big reason I was doing this ride in the first place, and almost all of my outdoor riding this year has been with him.
The energy at the start felt a lot like a triathlon start to me with one exception–even though there was the same nervousness in the air, there wasn’t a competitive vibe going on at all. Maybe up front it was different, but our spot in the queue was just nervous, but friendly. That changed later…I’ll get to it.
Summary – Ride Plan and Execution
Spoiler alert: I’m really happy with my execution for the entire race. One thing I like about cycling, especially with the trainer, is the amount of data you are able to collect for planning. You can’t control things like temperature and wind on race day, but my goal is to have so much data before the race starts that I can develop a plan based on things I can control, like what cadence I want to ride at, what I’m willing to let my heart rate get to, and how much power I’m going to produce.
I don’t have a power meter on my bike, so that’s a little tougher to gauge when I’m not on the trainer, but I’d calculated a couple of months ago that I should be able to average 180 watts for an effort of 7-8 hours, and my Strava estimated power for this ride ended up being 188. Spot on. I’ll take it.
But without a power meter, this ride was going to be all about heart rate management. The plan was to finish overall with an average of Zone 3 (143-154). In order to accomplish this I wanted to keep my HR really low at the start, keep it under 160 for most of the climbs, and allow myself to get closer to red lining on Hogpen Gap and Wolfpen Gap–what I’d estimated to be the toughest climbs. I know from doing a bunch of races on Zwift that I can maintain that high Zone 4, low Zone 5 heart rate for at least 30 minutes. I also know how I feel after doing that, and I wanted to avoid that feeling. I ended up averaging 144 for the ride. That’s on the low side of the range, but I’ll take it based on the last third of the ride. That was the toughest portion to manage, at least for me.
The Details – Start Through Hogpen
I think thirds is the best way to break this down–not 1/3 distance necessarily, but three separate sections. At least that’s how I had broken it down in my plan. For me, the first third ended at the Hogpen descent. I’d game-planned this ride assuming I’d be solo or close to it the whole way. Juan gave me some really solid info around the bunches of riders early on and that minutes could be banked here with minimal effort. The Neel’s Gap climb started at around 20 miles in, and I hit that with an average HR of 130. NICE! Bonus was that we were averaging 17.7 mph at this point. Lots of speed with little effort.
I haven’t climbed any of these before, but Justin’s recon gave me the knowledge that I’d done a climb very similar to Neel’s many times before. I really kept myself in check on this first climb–HR average was 143. The cool temps helped a lot, along with the really nice jersey Juan gave me that zipped all the way down. Was feeling great at the top, and the descent was so much fun!
That left us a little break before Hogpen. The plan here was to put in a little bit harder effort, but nothing too out of control. I was going to have to use all my gears on this one, and I knew it was going to be a solid 30 minutes of climbing. I can’t emphasize enough how much all those trips up the Alpe du Zwift prepared me for this climb. It takes me 75+ minutes to do the ADZ, and that makes Hogpen seem pretty manageable. I put in the effort I wanted–156 BPM average, and solidly in the 160s for the second half of the climb, which is steeper.
Juan and I had picked up Justin along the way, and we had a chance at the top to reload on goodies and get some photos. I knew Juan and Justin were both a lot stronger riders than me, and I encouraged them to go on, but their plan was to stay conservative and together-ish until the last 25 miles or so.
At the summit, you could feel the mood had changed. The excitement and good humor in the air was palpable. We’d just completed what was technically the hardest climb of the day. Time to restock, get some photos, and have some fun descending into what was mentally going to be the toughest part of the day.
The Details–Middle Of The Race
Segment two was three gaps long–Unicoi, Jack’s, and Wolfpen. Unicoi was a pretty gentle climb. I saw Juan again at the top (Justin was steaming to the finish already), and I think this was the last time I saw him until the finish. I was feeling the beginnings of a cramp, and I took the time at the SAG to rub it out, stretch, and make sure I got everything I needed to finish the race.
I did get a little tripped up on Jack’s Gap, and was almost sucked into making a mistake. My Garmin 1030 registered 12 “climbs” on this course, but for some reason Jack’s Gap didn’t show up as a climb. I’m not sure why. I wasn’t sure where it started, but I knew (thought I knew) I wasn’t on it yet. This “climb that’s not a climb” seemed to go on forever, and it had me a little nervous about what was ahead. That was a little defeating. If this wasn’t a climb, I was going to be in big trouble when the actual climbing started, because this was not an easy haul.
I was a little worried.
It was only at the top when I saw a sign that I realized I’d reached the top of Jack’s Gap. I ended up averaging 155 and 153 BPM on Unicoi and Jack’s respectively. It was time for what I’d guessed would be the toughest climb of the day. Wolfpen isn’t as hard as Hogpen on paper, but we’d climbed Hogpen at around 35 miles in. Wolfpen was going to hit us at 70-something miles with at least one big climb and a few smaller ones already in our legs.
Wolfpen did not disappoint. Well, I guess it did–I was disappointed to be right about it. It was a dang tough climb. I’d planned to push a little on this one, and I did. Constant cadence, HR in the mid 160s for the last two thirds, and I knew that the race was mostly downhill from here. This last big push was probably responsible for the only real unexpected event of the day, which happened early in the last section of the race.
The Details – Wolfpen Descent to Finish
I felt really good at the top of Wolfpen, and the descent was another fun one. But I think my muscles cooled down a little too much while I was resting. As soon as the terrain leveled off again (at exactly mile 82), cramps started forming for real. The best decision I made all day was to get off the bike at a church parking lot to stretch and massage my legs. It was a good investment of time. I got back on the bike and felt good.
For exactly 5 miles.
Just before mile 87, the same thing was happening again. I took my time again…a little more time, and while I was stretching and massaging I realized the problem was the cooling of the muscles and that I could feel the issue most in right leg at the top of the stroke. So a little change in tactics for the finish–keep the legs moving as much as possible, even hitting some strokes now and then when descending, and don’t stop at the top of that stroke.
It paid off, and I’m glad I took the time to figure it out. I could feel a bit of a cramp every now and then, but I worked it out as best I could without stopping the machine from going forward. Woody’s Gap wasn’t too tough at all, even at this point of the ride.
The original plan was to ride as hard as possible from Wolfpen to the end. The plan was also to change the plan if the plan needed changing.
On that last big descent, I started piecing together what was going to come next. I knew I had the cramping issue going on, and as I tried to calculate about how much time was left to complete the last 18 miles, I was having trouble doing the math.
Now, I’m a math guy. You have to know this. And I have enough experience to know that when I’m having trouble doing math on a run or a ride, it’s a real sign of fatigue. So even though I felt pretty good I decided to be conservative–the cramp situation and the “can’t-do-simple-math” situation were signs that I needed to pay more attention to finishing than to the clock. It was a little frustrating to see groups go by me and know that I had the ability to run them down and finish with them, but…
Did I actually have the gas to run them down? Then what? Would I have enough to hang? If not, it would have been a waste. What if I had another cramp while putting in that effort and I had to get off the bike again?
I figured it was too much of a gamble for a very small potential payoff. I was really close to finishing, and getting into a group was going to save me a few minutes at best. And for what? Nope–I decided to play it safe, enjoy the scenery, and get home in a time that was way better than I’d been hoping for. I’d already secured what, for me, was going to be a great finish, and I wasn’t about to risk it.
So I rode the last 18 miles alone. Fitting, because I almost always ride alone. 😀
I will say that the rollers at the end were kinda brutal. I mean, not hard climbs at all, but I guess I had it in my head that you could climb the 6th gap and then just coast. It doesn’t work that way. LOL.
Still, I finished with a clock time of 7:32:xx, chip time of 7:27:xx, and a Strava moving time of 6:56:17. I was shooting for 8:00:00 as a chip time, and would have accepted that for a moving time, so needless to say, I was ecstatic with what I’d done.
I coasted over to the car to find Juan sitting in a chair relaxing. I was pretty beat, and it was all I could do to remove some clothing and shoes and get my stuff together to go take a shower. As I said, that shower was amazing. Really hot water and great pressure–like a massage. Funny thing–I enjoyed that shower so much that I had a flash right in the middle of it that scared me to death. Was this real? I was scared I was about to wake up from a dream in our hotel room and have the entire ride ahead of me.
I also took Juan’s advice and applied the Inbike Amino Recovery salve we’d received at packet pickup. Amazing! I knew for sure I’d be cramping the whole way home and in bed that night, but this stuff fixed me up–absolutely no issues, which I didn’t think was possible after an effort like this. By the time I’d gotten dressed and had a few cups of sweet tea I was a new person–completely different demeanor when I got back to the car.
We got everything packed up for the trip home and headed into the school cafeteria where we saw Justin and Todd eating. It was great to share some time with them after the race. We also saw Dallas on the way out–he was waiting for Dave at the finish line.
My biggest worry was that we were all going to be doing this together but separate, and I’m really glad I got to spend some time off the bike with my friends at this event.
Amazing event. I don’t know if I’ll ever do 6 Gap again, but 3 Gap is a definite possibility. I enjoy cycling, but not enough to let it take time away from other things like jiu jitsu (which I hope to start back soon) and even things like rock climbing. Three hours on the bike is enough for me, and I’d rather not have cycling training be my focus.
But I’m really glad I got to do this with some cool people.
Most importantly, I happy I got to honor my friend’s memory by riding his bike on the same roads he loved to ride. I’m sure that he was up there somewhere watching me suffer and laughing his butt off, not just in the race, but also in the training.
Bill was a guy who was always there to push you to be more than what you are today, and this ride pushed me for sure.
Well, here we are just a few days away from Six Gap Century, and I’m writing my final update. As usual, I’m excelling at the taper part of the training program.
The move up to TN definitely caused a few ripples in my training for the final two weeks, but that’s ok. It also gave me a chance to get in a couple of confidence-boosting rides that make it easy to take my foot off the pedal.
The morning after we got here I met up with some former co-workers to put in a pretty tough ride on Foothills Parkway. One of the guys has done a good bit of Six Gap recon, and he lined us up a route that looked like a little mini version of what we’re facing in Dahlonega. It even had some extra juice squeezed in with the Sweetie Pie segment showing us something much steeper than we’ll be seeing on September 26.
This was the perfect ride at the perfect time. Temperatures were in the mid 50s at the start of a beautiful day that eventually reached 80 degrees. 8,500 ft of climbing in 63 miles made sure that there wasn’t much time for “just riding”. We were either climbing or focused on descending for most of the way. These long descents really gave me confidence–haven’t done them in quite a while–but also were the source of my soreness the next day. My lower back and neck aren’t used to being in that position for long periods of time, but I can deal with that on September 27.
The big piece of information I got on this ride was that my rig was set up correctly. I purchased a new cassette earlier this year in case I needed it. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find one with just a couple of weeks left, but I didn’t want to change it out until I knew I actually needed it. There were a couple of spots where I needed to stand and put in a hard effort on this ride, but I was able to comfortably spin most of it.
I got in a couple of Zwift rides during the next week, and there was plenty of exercise unloading trucks, carrying boxes, and building furniture, so the “rest” was pretty active. Then, last Saturday we went out to Tellico Plains and road the River Road at Cherohala Skyway in Cherokee National Forrest. This was a really cool ride– a really gentle 25 mile ascent with a big boy climb at the top. Once we were on the River Road section of this ride we saw less than a half dozen cars. It was another beautiful ride, and a real confidence builder.
From there, it was off to the bike shop for a tune up, and I’m hoping to get just a couple of gear check rides in between now and Sunday.
The final results aren’t in, but I’m really happy I chose to do most of my training on Zwift for this event. The lack of mountains, or even hills, in Florida is a tough obstacle to overcome unless you can go out and find spots with a good headwind. Zwift has plenty of virtual hills that work the same way as real hill–if you don’t keep pedaling, you stop going forward. That constant cadence required to finish a route is feeling like the most important aspect of training. I realized in the last couple of weeks that this event is about being able to spin your legs for 45 minutes to an hour without stopping while keeping your heart rate in check, then being able to recover and do it again and again.
The rides I’ve done in the past few weeks like Mega Pretzel and Four Horsemen lined me up for just that. As a bonus, I feel much better climbing real hills than virtual one. Not having to worry about where all that sweat is going to go, having something real to look at, having climbing partners to talk to…all of that should make Six Gap much more enjoyable than the training.
This song hit me hard the very first time I heard the lyrics. It’s challenging to someone who grew up in the South, lives in the South, is proud to be from the South, but also has the ability to see the world through (slightly?) different lenses now and then. At least I like to believe I can–maybe that’s just a story I tell myself.
And I have to say, it really did change my perspective. It made me look at racial inequality and police brutality, oddly enough, through my own eyes. That allowed me to see the whole situation under a completely different set of eyes. Ultimately, it challenged me to find a way to reconcile these views and try to get to the truth of what is actually happening.
I’ve read/seen a lot of reaction to this song, mostly by people who I don’t think fully get what Tyler Childers is doing here. Hell, I may not 100% get the whole idea, but I think I have the background to get it better than most of the people who’ve reacted to it.
It’s really clever.
How many boys could they haul off this mountain Shoot full of holes, cuffed and layin’ in the streets ‘Til we come into town in a stark ravin’ anger Looking for answers and armed to the teeth?
Tyler is appealing to a couple of different things that are common in Southern culture here. If you took this question completely out of the context of the song and asked any self-respecting Southern man how he’d react to someone from his community being hauled off and killed, he’s HONOR BOUND to tell you he’d do something about it. At the very least, that’s the story he has to tell himself–he wouldn’t stand for it.
Tyler is setting up a logical trap here.
“Hell yeah…that’s right. I’d drive in with my rifle.”
Papaw’s old pistol
“AND my Papaw’s old pistol!” *In fact, you’d feel obligated to bring that pistol to honor your Papaw, who also wouldn’t stand for this.
How many, you reckon, would it be, four or five?
Now, when I first heard this lyric, I thought it was “How many, you reckon, would it be for a fight?” I took that as Tyler pointing out that you wouldn’t be alone in that thinking–your whole community would (or at least says it would) be a part of this trip into town. That actually works too, but that’s not what he’s saying.
I now realize what he means by, “four or five”. He’s again challenging the Southern man’s honor–it wouldn’t have to happen four or five times before we’d do something about it. We’d take care of this after ONE.
Or would that be the start of a long, violent history Of tucking our tails as we try to abide?
Now you have to choose, Southern man. Would you take up arms and do something as you claim, or would you choose to tuck tail. For a proud Southern man, there is only one choice here.
So…why do you fault anyone else for making that same choice? You think they should tuck tail?
Notice that I’m not claiming to have the answer to that question.
We must undergo a hard winter training and not rush into things for which we haven’t prepared.
I tried to make it a pretty big week. We’re headed up to TN for a bit, and this coming week is going to be hectic. I’ll probably get to ride on Tuesday and Friday and Sunday for sure, but the other days are toss ups. So I need to make those three rides all matter–no junk miles. Friday is already planned to be a longish outside ride in the mountains of God’s country! Can’t wait!
So this was my last week of Zwift racing before Six Gap–time to buckle down, focus, and forget about 1 hour hard efforts for a few weeks. I did the last Zwift Classics race on Tuesday, and I thought I was really going to do well in this one. The London Classique course is set up perfectly for my size and riding style–big guy going a steady speed/effort the whole way. But for some reason I was feeling off–just couldn’t hang on after the second sprint effort. My HR never really recovered, and I was probably stupid for going for points there. That big-burst sprint is not what I’ve been training for. Again, I’m lucky that our boy Hal Wye posted this race. Wish I could have stayed with those boys the whole way!
And thanks to all of the fine folks who raced the Eastern European time zone this season. Huge turnout every week, which made for fast times. It was great to be able to hit these on my lunch break and never have to worry about being stuck out on a course alone for long. There’s always someone to ride with in Eastern Europe!
On Thursday, I was back at it with the Dirty Wattz for the ZRL Team Time Trial. We had some strong Bs in our squad this week, and I think I was in the front of the train for less than 2 minutes total. I was barely hanging on the whole time, even though I was being pulled and protected. I’m telling myself this is a good thing, because it means I’ve acclimated myself to longer but less intense efforts. One thing I’m encouraged by is the amount of time I’ve spent during this training with constant cadence. Even when I’m not on hills, I’m not taking a break from spinning (except on the downhills). The ability to spin for a long time should pay off on long climbs at Six Gap.
On the other hand, it was a really good course for me, and I struggled with it. I was definitely putting up bigger numbers in May on these TTTs, and I was heavier then. Robbie got a pretty good screencast of the first 20 minutes or so of this one before he peeled off–I love his setup.
I had zero left for the finish on this one. Again, telling myself this is a good thing, because it’s not what I’ve been training for. But the pace was hot, and the competition between the Dirty Wattz teams definitely fuels the fire.
I took Friday and Saturday off…sorta. I did jump on the bike briefly on Friday to knock out a really short ride with a 37 m climb so that I could finish off the Tron Bike. That sucker was painful to get, but I got it.
Though I prefer to ride long on Saturdays I bumped it to Sunday this week. I was dreading doing the Mega Pretzel, after bailing on it mid-ride a couple of weeks ago. But this one had to be done. No Radio Tower climb, and no trip up Alpe du Zwift like in Four Horsemen, but that second time up the Epic KOM in this one is just mentally defeating. You feel like you are always going uphill on this course. The downhills just aren’t enough time to really feel rested. At least on ADZ, you can jump off the bike, go get some food/liquid, come back and your avatar is still going 65 kph down a mountain. Not so here–if you get off the bike for any amount of time, the avatar stops. It keeps you pretty honest.
But, I got it done in a little over 5 hours. I switched to the MTB for the jungle sections (ick), and looking back I wish I’d used a TT bike for most of this one. I was on my new Tron, and it didn’t occur to me until about 10k left that I’d not drafted AT ALL for the whole ride. Watopia was pretty empty yesterday, so I did this one as a solo effort.
An update on weight–I was below 184 pounds when I got off the bike after this ride. I made sure to re-hydrate all afternoon/evening, and did my best to clean out the fridge and put some calories in me. I’m good at this–it’s my forte. I was able to get up to 190 by bedtime, but I think I’ve broken through that weight loss plateau I hit a few weeks ago, and I may be able to shed another few pounds by pain day.