Many have probably seen this "I lift things up, I put them down" Planet Fitness video. I suspect most non-cyclists, and even a few cyclists, view hillclimb enthusiasts in a similar light as this body builder. Seems like I've had a one track mind for a long time now. Sunday's ride was a monster climb. We went up, then came back down. We did come down a different way, so not a pure out and back. Monday's ride was a pure out and back. We rode from Rosman, NC to the high point of the Blue Ridge Parkway and back the same way. Hitting this stretch of the BRP has been on my list for a while now. We thought about riding all the way out to Balsam Gap, but this would have doubled the climbing and mileage. We just didn't have that in our legs today.
The air has gotten considerably more humid. There were even a few sprinkles around in the morning. But mid day was partly sunny and mild 70's. Our route would take us up Rt 215 to the BRP, then another 7mi or so on the Parkway to the highest point just above 6000ft elevation. Turns out both 215 and this section of the Parkway have been recently reconstructed. The pavement was flawless. The descent was going to be sweet. The ride runs about 54mi total with 5000-6000ft of climbing, starting at around 2200ft elevation.
I felt pretty awful heading out on Rt 215. I figured Dave and Brett would slaughter me on this one. Good thing there is very little climbing in the first 10 miles. Most of the climbing happens in a short distance approaching the Parkway.
Bottom of Rt 215.
Once we got to the steep part, I realized my legs had a little spunk. I turned it up a notch, first dispatching Brett, then Dave. I felt decent, so I went with it. Don't know where the kick came from. Perhaps it was the mostly protein meal(s) I had the evening before. I protein loaded.
40 minutes and 2400ft later, I popped out on the Parkway. I figured based on my total weight, I averaged about 285W, well into the threshold training regime. Not bad for the fourth day of hard riding.
Brett and Dave approaching the BRP on Rt 215.
After regrouping, we worked over to the high point. This section between 5400-6000ft elevation was like riding on top of the world. It stays near the crest of the Pisgah Ridge. Incredible views alternated between both sides of the road. There were some multi-hundred foot rollers along here, mostly up. I was still hitting these pretty hard.
Perfect pavement, no cars, and glossy calendar scenery.
Eventually the high point came. This was easily my favorite climb of the trip so far. A car passed us maybe every 5-15 minutes on both Rt 215 and the BRP. We went from trees fully leafed out in the valley to just budding at 6000ft. The temp was a tad chilly up top, but we could have hung out there all day.
I resisted the urge to put a wind shell on for the descent. I go faster, and I hate all the noise. I run hotter than the slow twitch guys anyway. The perfect pavement allowed pretty much brakeless descending on the Parkway, carrying 40mph around the swooping turns. The same was not true for Rt 215. Its turns were much sharper and steeper.
Riding at the top of the world, east coast style.
We finished with 53.4mi, 5560ft and 3.2hrs on the Garmin. A short ride, but a liberal dose of intensity thrown it. Not sure how that will sit with me for the Caesar's Head loop planned for Tuesday.
Interestingly, DeLorme Topo gives 10,400ft of climbing for today's ride. That almost a 2:1 discrepancy. How can this be? Comparing the Topo and Garmin plots below, you'll notice Topo has lots of fuzzy noise on a monotonic climb. I've commented on this before. Roads are approximated by many straight line segments which cut across contour lines. This creates many small ups and downs along a pure up, thus driving the climbing way up. The Garmin measures air pressure, thus a smoothly increasing elevation. I get a kick of of folks that use DeLorme or other mapping software numbers to tout how much climbing a ride has. I occasionally fall into this trap too. GPS satellite elevation data can be almost as bad. Barometric altimeters can actually under-measure in some cases, but may be best bet for now. The truth may never be known.
DeLorme Topo 7.0 gives 10,400ft.
Garmin Edge 705 gives about 5560ft of climbing.