Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Vacation - Revisited

As I posted earlier this summer, we had some biking in mind for our vacation to North Georgia this summer. We had big plans of riding our own modified 3 Gap ride, which I posted details about here on the blog. We also had plans to meet up with Vonnie & Tiffanie to do some riding. Vonnie kept trying to coax me into assaulting Brasstown Bald with him. I knew Vonnie's prediliction towards suffering, as I saw him ascend Brasstown last year, and heard about his own personal journey through the pain cave. I have a healthy respect for Brasstown, as I have hiked up it's face several times to watch the mountaintop finish of the Tour de Georgia. I knew the effort required just to hike it was large, and was not relishing the attempt, but Vonnie is both persuasive and relentless. He wore me down with his enthusiasm, so I reluctantly said ,"OK.".

Brasstown is not terribly long, it is just steep and fairly relentless in the climb. Vonnie & I started out from their campsite at Trackrock and rode up the back side of Jack's Gap to the base of Brasstown. Suzy, Tiffanie, Cadie Bug & LuLu were our sag support, meeting us at the entrance to Brasstown in Vonnie's truck. The ride over started out innocently enough, but I should have read the omens when we saw a hawk swoop down and snatch a squirrel up and fly off with it in its talons.

I was admiring the beauty of the scenery, and not minding the rolling terrain until we hit the base of Jack's Gap and started the climb in earnest. All the idle chit chat subsided and we started concentrating on the climb - going into that place in our minds and settling in for the effort required. I thought I was familiar with Jack's Gap, having ridden the other side of the Gap last year with what I thought to be relatively moderate effort. The back face is a totally different animal, though. The pavement is much rougher, and the climbs are more steep. Once we reached the entrance to Brasstown where our crew was waiting, I was starting to seriously doubt my ability to tackle the big hill on this outing. Vonnie wisely left me to my own devices, allowing me to recover and regain my composure and let my heart rate return to some semblance of normal. After about 10 minutes or so, I had resolved myself to at least attempting the climb. Vonnie was already set and after a round of good lucks and knuckle taps, he was off, with me not far behind. I had no illusions of attempting to keep pace with him, rather I set about trying to set a tempo that was sustainable for me.

Not far up the first ascent, there were road crews mowing the shoulders with weed wackers and a tractor with a mower attached to an articulated arm, followed by a large dump truck. This was the first obstacle to get around. I had to stop periodically to regain my composure and allow my heart rate to subside. My legs never really felt like they couldn't handle the grade, but my heart rate would get elevated and I'd have to stop to let it calm down. After about half of the climb, I started tacking across the grade rather than attempting to ride straight up hill, and this helped somewhat, allowing me to go further between rest breaks.

After what seemed like an eternity, I reached the Team Vehicle and they told me that I was almost done, I just had to make it to the second power pole, then it was around the corner, and another more gentle ascent to the finishing area - the parking lot at the base of the final ascent, which we could not ride due to park regulations. Vonnie had already finished his ascent, recovered, and ridden back down to check on me and he regrouped with me for the final climb back to the parking lot. I was glad to have him helping me set a tempo and just having another person present somehow made me dig in and finish the last section without stopping. I even found enough energy to zip up my jersey before Suzy took my finishing shot, arm raised in the air in triumph.

Brasstown is a monster. I am not sure I will attempt it again, but if Vonnie is around, I am sure he'll be prodding me for a repeat. It was something I had on my big "TO DO" life list, and to cross it off before I hit 40 was icing on the cake. We didn't get any other rides in on vacation, but we did have loads of fun, and it just reminded us that our decision to buy property up here was the right thing to do for us. Trout fishing in some of the many streams and creeks up here, night hikes to view the fireflies and foxfire, tubing down the 'Hooch, good food, good friends and good times... Doesn't get much better than this!

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