Monday, July 30, 2012


"...he cast the thought from him, but it returned unceasingly to his mind..." - Jules Verne - "The Blockade Runners"

All last week I was tormented by the previous weekend's failure: "This is something you can do, damnit."

So yesterday I was back at it as if I'd been born for that single purpose.

To Helen and back, or die trying.

Shortly after 10 AM I left my place, grabbed some breakfast at the Racetrack and headed north out of Cumming.


Hwy 9 became Hopewell Road, Lumpkin Campground Road, and whatever other roads it becomes. I drew up alongside the Outlet Mall.

 The Mall

The windy, snaky roads led me back and forth across Hwy 400. I could always hear its traffic in the distance but as I wound my way north, the roar of the highway softened, and the passing cars became fewer and farther between.

I could finally see the mountains of the Blue Ridge looming in the distance.

 Mountains Way Back There

My knees protested though: "What are you doing, Dave?"

As well, I'd forgotten to apply the Chamois Butt'r that morning. I'd gotten to where I didn't really need it much any more, but post bike-fit, I seem to need it again. I guess with my seat lower, I was kind of perpetually lifting myself off of it a bit. Now I'm solidly crunched down on it and the Butt'r feels good again.

This time, climbing Long Branch, I rememberd that it's long and uphill, and that the horse farm isn't anywhere near the top end.

At the T'Mater corner, they were giving away free bottles of water, but I didn't need any yet.

 T'Mater Corner

I was making good time, but I wasn't feeling all that good.

This past week, I put in probably 60 or 70 miles on the road and 3 on the mountain bike. Last weekend, I'd been off the bike for two weeks or more, so I felt substantially better and stronger yesterday than the last time, but I could feel the weakness creeping in just the same. Instead of punching over the rollers with authority, I was sitting back and conserving. Hmm...

The mountains were getting closer...

 Mountains Getting Closer

...and closer.

 Long Mountain

I rolled through Cleveland...


...and past Mt. Yonah.


My neck was starting to hurt. My legs were twinging when I'd stand. I was less than 50 miles in. How is it that I rode all those miles in Florida, or the TNGA route for that matter? Yeah, it was hot yesterday, but it was hot in Florida too. It just didn't feel right.

But, at least I was making progress.

I passed the Nora Mill Granary.

 Nora Mill

Clark and Suzy took me and the girls there once and we fed some of the biggest trout I've ever seen below the dam.

I passed Cool River Tubing where we met Tim and Lisa once for a day of luxurious relaxing and pizza.

 Cool River Tubing

I was envious of the tubers. They looked so comfortable and cool.

 Tubing the Chattahoochee

At least I was able to relax a bit too though. I'd made it to Helen.

I sat down on a bench in the middle of town and called Clark. He and Suzy were about to head up to Jackrabbit. It was like 1:50 or so though, so of course, they'd already eaten, like a while ago. I should have called earlier, maybe when I'd left Cumming, or like during any of the 55 miles between there and Helen when I had nothing else to do but pedal. Why didn't it occur to me to do that? Why doesn't it occur to me to do that, in general? This is one of life's great mysteries. That's the kind of friend I am folks, at least, at present. Damn.

I was starving and I needed lunch, so I headed south to the Nacoochee Tavern. There are other places to eat in Helen, but on the bike, that seems like the most convenient because you can park your bike behind a bench, sit outside and keep an eye on it.

The chicken parmesan was bulky and generous.

 Nacoochee Tavern

It's a foot long, and that's a "half" sandwich. The "whole" sandwich must just be two sandwiches. They couldn't possibly fit a sandwich twice that size on any plate.

I had a glass of ice water and a glass of Pepsi. The water kept giving me brain freezes but for some reason the Pepsi didn't.

The guy and his family at the next table were driving back from North Carolina and he asked me a dozen or more questions about road vs. mountain bikes and about how tough of a time I'd had it with some of the grades up that way. I got the impression that they were thinking about getting into it themselves and were trying to figure out what to buy. I hope they figure it out. It'd be great to run into them on the road or on the trail one day.

The sandwich was beyond delicious but it sat heavily in my stomach when I got going again. Dead legs and a ton of lead. This was no problem though, I know that feeling well, and around Cleveland I started feeling a little better. I was burning water though. It was as if water was a thing that could be burned. I downed 40 oz in 20 miles.

Pulling into Dahlonega, I was a wreck. My neck and back were killing me. My legs were still twinging whenever I'd stand. My right arm was burning like I needed more sunscreen, and the energy from the sandwich was just barely starting to hit me.

Back at the restaurant, some weird bug kept landing on my arm and eating the delicious salt crystals off of me. I'd shoed it away at first but eventually I became fascinated and examined it closely enough to watch it eat the individual crystals. Though I knew not why at the time, the image of that little bug eating that salt had invaded my mind and nagged me persistently. The rusty gears of my subconscious had apparently been turning too, and as I approached the Shell station in Dahlonega, it occurred to me... Electrolytes. Big time.

 Magic Gatorade

When you're really thirsty, Gatorade tastes really good.

The guy behind the counter seemed concerned for my safety in the heat. I don't know how hot it was, but he was from India, and no matter how hot it was, it doesn't compare to the heat in India, and I've seen videos of kids running around playing soccer in the dead middle of summer there, so I'm not sure why he was so worried. It was definitely a kind gesture though.

About a mile later I felt like a new man. No twinging legs. My back and neck still hurt but that was going away too. I drank another 40 oz over the next 15 miles and had to stop again in Matt. More gatorade. This time I just filled one bottle with water, the other with Gatorade, drank the rest and hit the road. By the time I got back into town, I felt like I hadn't ridden more than 20 miles.

Rolling into my neighborhood, I powered over the step-ups like they weren't even there and ended the ride feeling the strongest I'd felt all day.

Ok, so, when I race, I always drink well and eat well, but that can get expensive, so when I'm just out riding or "training" I tend to drink water and eat whatever garbage I can scrounge up at the gas station. This is more than sufficient for short road rides and medium-length mountain bike rides, and it's good to run yourself short on one resource or another on a longer ride from time-to-time so you know how your body will react to such shortages, but I guess what I realized today is that if I'd fueled myself properly from the beginning, I'd not only have enjoyed the ride more but I'd have been able to work myself that much harder as well. I need to re-evaluate my non-race nutrition strategy and come up with a better balance. It's important to know how to manage suffering effectively, but it's also important to not always suffer. Or something like that. I don't know yet.

At any rate, yay, I made it home and Kathryn didn't have to pick me up. And I didn't give into the temptation to go try to climb Unicoi Gap, though perhaps just because I haven't watched any cycling on TV for a week. Either way, it all worked out and the nagging thought of having to do it over again has finally been cast from my mind.

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