Event summary: The Fabulous Fourth is a well supported ride, and popular enough to where you shouldn’t find yourself alone for very long amongst all the participants. The first part of the Metric Century ride is generally through scenic rolling countryside, with the last “half” sending you on a climb up the Greenville Watershed to Saluda, and finishing with an invigorating descent back to Tryon.
Seeing the Fourth of July approaching this year, I couldn’t help but think back to when I rode in this event last year – and how I made it tougher on myself with some “self-destruction.” One year later and with more experience and training, I wondered if I could best my time and overall approach this time around.
Last year saw excellent weather. This year … not so much. Looking at the precipitation prediction for the day, I was wondering if I would get any dry miles at all!
Once again, they had doves ready to release at the start of the ride. Always a unique touch.
I lined up at the start, very conscious of my mistake last year, trying to stay with the front group (what on earth was I thinking?!).
This time I positioned further back…
Once we were off it took a serious amount of self control to not get caught up in the speed. I watched the front group go, then constantly held myself back as I saw a couple more small groups swallow me up and then leave me. One of the things about this ride is that the rollers start right away – no time to warm up on some flats.
After about 15 miles I was riding alone and thought “well this is going to be a long day.”
Here’s one of the few photos of dry pavement. The first 35 or so miles of this ride is through beautiful “horse country!”
Although not as many as last year, still quite a few folks out for the morning to cheer on the riders. This was one of the most surprising and enjoyable parts of the ride which I discovered last year.
Many many farms along the way.
I remembered this turn from last year – where I had to stop and stretch out a leg muscle that was complaining after my too-fast start the last time. Not this time!
A few miles in and somewhat happy about my pace to this point. Still mostly riding alone, and it was windy. Wondering if I was going to be able to beat 4 hours again…
After looping through the countryside southeast of Tryon, crossing over I-26 to head northwest up to Landrum and back to Tryon.
This is where I finally got with a group! Just before this were rollers along the interstate, where I was surprised to be able to keep with these guys.
This group was a Godsend as we worked into a strong headwind and quite a few “flats.” I was able to conserve a ton of energy thanks to these guys – although be forewarned, there are a few “grunts” north of Landrum on this route!
Arriving back into Tryon after finishing the “first loop.” Just after this was the second rest stop. I decided to keep going to the third, while the rest of the group stopped. I hated to lose the group, but I had a plan to only stop once.
It was interesting to see many of the people who had passed me earlier at the second rest stop. I never saw them again … either they were on the shorter ride, or they had done like I did last year…
This might look familiar – descending back into Tryon on the same road as the “out route” at the start of the ride. After reaching 176, don’t miss that left turn onto the road around Lake Lanier (Lakeshore Dr). I think this gets a few people every year, and it got a few this year too. Some folks got a few bonus miles…
Get ready for some climbing around the lake.
One of the few views you have of the water.
Soon you get some relief with descending after the lake but the rollers keep coming. I was able to keep with this guy for a little while, he had his phone jamming some music and it made me want to keep up.
Then he left me at the church. Oh well.
Looking towards the northwest I should have known the clouds were an omen…
Finally to the third rest stop. Now my stops are more efficient … grab something to eat, use the can, refill bottles and add Skratch, stretch … look for a group to join and hit the road. Experience is a good thing, despite what you have to pay for it sometimes.
And look who I found! These guys were still rolling strong and passed rest stop #3 just as I was leaving. I joined up again and was happy to have their draft for a few miles. Truth be told, I never had to pull with this group…. it seemed this pair was much stronger than they let on, and they kept pulling for whomever was behind them. With the strong headwind today, I was thankful for that.
Passing the Cliffs…
Strong winds today!
Our little group has grown a bit! Here we are on Highway 11 fighting the wind
The route takes a turn off of 11 and when you see this sign, know that there is going to be a very steep section up to Camp Old Indian.
Grunt! This is where I really started to suspect that the two guys in dark gray were out for an “easy” metric. As I was sucking wind at max heart rate, they were having a really deep conversation about military something or other (it’s hard to pay attention when you’re maxed out).
Down the other side and past the Boy Scout camp – too fast to focus for this picture!
Cross a couple bridges before reaching Old Highway 25 up the watershed.
Here is where the rain let loose. No thunderstorms, but from here almost all the way back to Tryon was showers and heavy rain. Soaked!
I wondered about this section, with all the previous miles and tough efforts, was I going to be able to ride strong on this last climb?
More climbing and wet roads ahead.
At the state line I had to take a break, but I was happy with the climb to this point – able to dig down and climb at my expected pace the entire way. The rain was nice and cool, and didn’t have to worry about heat today. But with some ups and downs ahead I put my vest on to avoid getting the chills.
Looking at my bike computer I wondered if I was going to get back before 4 hours…
From here I would have liked more pictures, but with my camera in my jersey pocket under my vest, only got a few. I wasn’t looking forward to the rollers after the state line, but it was unexpected how I was able to still reach down, “power” through them and get them over with.
I caught and passed a few groups on the descents back to Saluda, but it was getting tricky with all the rain. I hope I didn’t make anyone angry with the passing … but I knew what my bike and tires could do and stuck with it. On the other hand, my brakes were getting on my nerves!
Finally back into town.
The normal stop for the typical “Bakery Ride”
Down 176 into Tryon was somewhat anti-climactic. I hated I missed some pictures here, and a video would have been so telling … rain at 35+ mph really stings! The new pavement was sweet but I had to be extra cautious as folks said it was still slick in the rain, being so new. Couple that with my brake delay (rim brakes, arg…) and it was a terribly annoying descent.
The last stretch into Tryon the guy I passed on the descent got me back, and I jumped on his back wheel almost all the way to Harmon Field. The draft was nice, but when there is that much rain – I felt like I was drinking from his rooster tail! It was a huge contrast to last year – instead of fighting cramps and limping back, I was in for a full-on sprint back to the finish line!
Still, I missed beating 4 hours by a couple minutes. I blame the windy day and the rain … 🙂
It was nice to have the rain end just as I got back. Quite a challenging ride, but in unexpected ways.
Looking at my ride data from this year it was clear to me that I was able to finish much stronger than last year, and I was nowhere near as physically exhausted at the end as last time. I probably could have pushed more, worked harder to stay with the groups at the start – but I was pretty happy to have such a satisfying ride.
A couple thoughts post-ride…
- Stomach problems are gone thanks to Skratch (No more Accelerade for me during rides). I’m fairly convinced the type of whey that is used in Accelerade gives me problems.
- Experimenting with different solid food options is still working (carried Clif bars this time around)
- It’s telling that my AOMM training plan this spring gave me much more endurance, but not huge gains in power. Said another way, my peak efforts are about the same as last year but I can do more of them. Next time I get into a “training block” I think I’ll look for something to give me power improvements. I’m thinking the TCTM Cyclocross plan will be just the ticket before CX takes off this fall.
- Most of all, having a mindset of “negative split” enabled me to finish strong today. It is much more satisfying to sprint at the end than to roll into the finish completely gassed out
- Short term, I have got to swap out my stock 105 brake pads for Kool-stop pads. I had those on my old brakes but couldn’t swap them over to the new when I did a 105 upgrade. The bite, feel and wet weather performance were much better. Long term … a new road bike with hydro discs would be fantastic…