Posts Tagged chattanooga

3 State 3 Mountain 2013 – A Rider’s Diary

I road 3 State 3 Mountain bike ride this weekend in Chattanooga. It was a difficult day for many reasons, but mainly because a man died descending down Lookout Mtn. He lost control and went into the other lane and was hit by a car coming up the road.

The weather on May 4, 2013 was awful. All week I kept an eye on the various weather sites hoping that their forecast of rain and chilly weather would change. It never did and the reality was worse.

I spent a restless spring trying to get ready for this ride. It always comes too soon in the season for my taste as I like it hot and sunny. This spring was anything but. I try to get a couple of 1-2 hour rides in during the week after work before launching 3-4 hour training rides on the weekend. I like getting up early and beating the traffic for space on the road. This year it was cold and rainy forcing me on the bike around 10. Heck, even the Saturday’s leading up to the ride was wet and/or cold so I hedged my ride to Sunday thinking it might be better. I am a gym rat and did as much spinning and weight work as I could figuring I could use the strength even if my cardio might be lacking. Training for 3 State is a challenge.

I left my home near Nashville on Saturday morning at 4 for the drive to Findley Stadium in Chattanooga. The air was damp and cold but it was dark and I had hopes that things might turn out OK after sunrise. The rain spared us for an hour or so as cyclists milled about getting themselves ready in the parking lot before lining up for the start. The thought creeped in that maybe we could be spared the worst of the weather forecast.

I had already decided that I wouldn’t ride the 100 mile challenge and instead opt for the 83 mile route avoiding Burkhalter Gap. It was a disappointing decision as I rode the 2012 course and had a really good ride up Burkhalter. I trained over all the hilly terrain, which is considerable, where I live to get ready for it this year.

I didn’t have any decent inclement weather riding gear. I found a pair of running tights a couple of days before the ride on sale at a sporting good store. But other than that I had the typical cycling shorts, half-finger gloves, long-sleeved jersey and a light jacket.

I rode to the start line and noted that the pack looked a little lighter than typical. The folks that parked beside me decided not to ride and they talked to some friends of theirs and they decided to bail as well. It was seemingly a lighter turnout than past years.

As soon as we rolled out it started to rain. I mean the second. It never stopped. And it was cold. I felt pretty good but knew the adrenaline would fade and misery might set in a couple of hours into the ride. When we hit the split for the metric century and those taking the full challenge, I knew I was staying straight on 41 while the majority of the herd veered right down the hill toward a rendezvous with Raccoon Mtn. It ended up being the best decision I’ve made in quite a while.

Very few were in front of me and fewer behind. I don’t think the option of doing 62 was on the minds of many. The route took us through 3 States but up only Sand Mountain. True enough after about an hour I was in a fight to keep myself mentally in the game. I stopped at the first rest stop for a bathroom break and a cup of peanuts and chocolate then I hurriedly got back on my bike to warm up.

Somewhere around the 2 hour mark I lost feeling in my right foot. Why not the left? I dunno. It was a block of wood. Numb. I worn thin wool socks but, yea, had no shoe covers. They were soaked. I made it to the second rest stop, I think on top of Sand Mtn, and squeezed out my sock for whatever good it would do. I got another cup of salted snacks and took off. I was cold but felt okay riding.

Riding Sand Mtn was eerie. Typically there are tons of people in front, beside and behind. There was nobody around when I climbed up. Nobody. I knew coming down the mtn would be troubling. The rain and cold made it tough but I took care and got down with no problem.

3.5 hours in I was ready for this ride to be over. I pushed hard to get to the finish. I was cold and soaked but felt like I had accomplished something epic. I must say as miserable as I was for almost 4 hours, the 2009 3 State 3 Mountain is still the coldest I have been. I figure training in the cold helped greatly in my preparation. Getting dry was a great feeling.

Sunday I checked Facebook and the 3 State Page. I was stunned to find that there was a tragic fatality and another woman in the hospital with serious injuries. I was deflated that something like that could happen. I didn’t know the guy but no cyclist in the community ever wants something like that to happen.

Questions about why they didn’t cancel the ride were posted. One cyclist’s scary/uncomfortable day of riding is another’s fun day of cycling challenge. Cycling is dangerous on the best of days. We know the risk of riding while sharing the road with cars, when it’s raining, windy, cold. Many folks used their good judgement and opted out of the ride altogether. Many more SAGed out after Raccoon Mtn. The bus was filled with bikes and riders. Others rode shorter distances. Should the ride be held in the parking lot of an industrial park so no one will have to ride down a hill? Maybe only ride when the temp is 65 degrees? 70? What happens if it starts raining 2 hours in? I’m a fan of personal responsibility. We always feel the need to find blame when something bad happens. I don’t blame the event organizers like some did on FB. At. All. They organize the best cycling event in the Southeast. Nobody is forced to attend and ride. Nobody is forced to keep riding. Sometimes bad things happen.


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3-State 3-Mountain Challenge 2011 – A Rider’s Diary

This past weekend I rode in the 2011 3-State 3-Mountain Challenge. I skipped last year’s so I kept thinking about the pain of 2009. The weather that year was atrocious. Coincidentally the weather affected this year’s ride but not in the way you might think. The horrible tornadoes the previous week required a change to the route. The most noticeable was the assault up Lookout Mountain via Burkhalter Gap Road was not included this year and the century route was reduced to 90 miles. What didn’t change was how great this ride is.

The weather was fantastic. It started out cool. It was maybe 50 degrees at the start. I wore typical shorts with a light cycling windbreaker. I probably kept that on for the first 2 hours.

The ride through Chattanooga is always fun. 2000+ riders rolling through the streets with full traffic support is a blast. Rolling over the Tennessee River bridge gives a great view that you otherwise would miss riding in a car. The ride gets a special one-day pass to cross. Once we cross over the bridge the riding gets a little more serious. You know the long grind up Suck Creek is waiting.

Suck Creek is a great climb. We hit it early in the morning and there is little traffic. The climb is long yet not very steep. I love being in the woods and settling in to a nice rhythm. The ride hasn’t yet split so you are riding along with a lot of other folks. I really enjoy it. Coming down the other side was fantastic. You can really get some nice speed on the decent and hitting the switchbacks are fun as well.

Once at the bottom we hit the first rest stop at a park. As usual the rest stops are stellar. Well stocked. The volunteers are fantastic.

I am no road racer. I do these events for the challenge and because I love to ride. My main issue is not bonking at ~80 miles. If I eat I don’t bonk, natch. But sometimes I have a hard time eating. I forced myself to consume bananas and a bag of trail mix or Fritos or chips at every stop. I have had problems with cramps in the past so I make sure to eat plenty of high sodium foods too. I also use Endurolytes by Hammer as well as some energy chews as I ride. I drank Heed and Powerade. The result is I had no cramps and more energy than any other ride I’ve done.

Anyway, once off Suck Creek we made our way across the Valley to get to the start of Sand Mountain. We crossed over the “blue bridge” again. The views across the river is gorgeous. Before Sand Mountain we had to deal with Ladd’s Mountain which is a tough little climb. It’s short but steep.

Sand Mountain is tough. The climb up can be steep. The ride on top of the mountain is rolling terrain with rough pavement. The views are freaking incredible. It seems like you will never come down that mountain but you eventually make your way across the top. The ride down is a blast. Very fast. There are a couple of switchback turns that are challenging. I love the descents. A lot of riders are very cautious coming down this mountain.

It was interesting coming off Sand Mountain and realizing that there would be no pain up Burkhalter and within 15 miles you would be done. The ride into Chattanooga was great. Full traffic support. We climbed up the side of Lookout Mountain and they had a lane coned off all the way up and down and back to the Stadium. The climb wasn’t that long, or hard, but it made the ride to the stadium easy.

The ride completely screwed up mid-day traffic. Those folks in Chattanooga that were not on a bike were no doubt pissed. We breezed through each red light with full support. I don’t know how the organizers pull that off but it is simply incredible to be given that kind of support.

3-State 3-Mountain Challenge has been my favorite ride over the last couple of years. Nothing compares to the support. You never ride alone. There are so many riders that you are always within site of another group of riders. It’s challenging and frankly I didn’t mind missing the pain of Burkhalter. The views from the rolling farmlands to mountain woodlands to steep valley views was spectacular.

It’s always nice to roll back to Finley Stadium. People are lined along the drive cheering you on. Whatever goal you had for yourself seems to be validated, recognized, by the friendly people at this great ride.

The thing that I don’t like about 3-State 3-Mountain Challenge is it is hard to get ready for. It requires me to train during March and April, which is usually tough due to weather. It’s always cold, rainy and windy here in Nashville during that time. Yea it builds character and yields better training but it tough to get motivated. I never really get out of shape as I weight lift and attend spin classes year round. This year I started the training in earnest at the start of March. I went to spin class on Friday. I did more spin on Tuesday and Wednesday. If the weather was decent I hit the road on Saturday. If not I put my bike on the trainer and rode. By April the weather was good enough to plan longer rides on the weekend like 50 and 60 mile rides on my favorite routes. I included all hills that I normally train on. I also began riding my local hills in a 2 hour circuit once maybe twice during the week eliminating all but the Friday spin class. This seemed to be good enough and will be how I prepare for next year’s ride. Spin gets flack for not being a good way to train for rides but it works just fine for me.

I expect to be back next year. 3:30 was an early wakeup call to make the drive down but it was definitely worth it.

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3-State 3-Mountain Challenge 2009 – A Rider’s Diary

I finished the May 2, 2009 3-State 3-Mountain Challenge. It started and ended in Chattanooga, TN. I participated in the 100-mile option and I can tell you on this particular day, it was definitely a challenge. It rained virtually all day. Almost to the second of when we started it began sprinkling and the rain only got harder as the day wore on. I kind of liked that it rained because it made the ride even more of an epic ride. I mean, I did 100-miles through three states over three mountains in the rain.

At around 8 A.M. we made our way through downtown Chattanooga, leaving Finley Stadium. I have to say that the traffic support we received from this rather busy little city was amazing. We had right of way and police support through virtually every red light and stop sign through the complete route. Police traffic guards and sheriff patrols were available at all the stops. It was amazing. The organization and the city, counties and states deserve a lot of credit. I for one thank you.

Suck Creek Mountain

Anyway, the first big climb loomed after about an hour of riding. The pace was fairly slow almost all the way to the base of the mountain so it was a pretty large group working their way up Suck Creek Mountain. It was a long climb and not very hard. It had a nice steady grade with nothing too steep. It rained the whole way up which was not as bad as you would think. However the downhill ride was another story.

Getting to the top of Suck Creek and starting the decent was brutal. With the driving rain pounding into my eyes it was nothing short of grueling. And it was freezing. The road is twisty coming down so you had to take it slow. But I had my brakes full-on and it wasn’t enough. There was no way I would be slamming on my brakes so I just hoped no one would fall in front of me. But the main thing was the driving rain and being cold.

At the bottom of Suck Creek there was a rest stop. It wasn’t that I wanted to stop but I just needed to try to get warmed up and keep fueled up. The rest stops were great with everything you might expect. They had something called Heed to drink along with water. I tried the Heed and kind of liked it. I credit it with keeping my energy levels as high as possible.

Anyway, I got back on my bike to try to get warm. I figure I had about 10 minutes until I would end up hypothermic. It was pouring rain and I needed heat. I put my head down and just rode and got warm. We rode alongside the Tennessee River as we made our way along the valley to our next big challenge which was Sand Mountain. The countryside was pretty and it was mostly flat. Yep, it was still raining and we saw more than one lighting bolt rip across the sky.

We crossed the Tennessee River on what they called the “Blue Bridge”. The wind had kicked up unbelievably traveling across it. It was neat to ride that bridge. Just after the bridge was the turnoff for the metric century option. I declined and kept forging ahead on the 100 mile route.

Sand Mountain

Sand Mountain was ahead of us now. I got fooled into thinking that we were on Sand Mountain which ended up being Ladd’s Mountain. It was a short steep little bugger. I think I had to stand and grind my way up a short section. It was tough but blessedly short. Finally Sand Mountain loomed ahead.

Sand Mountain was much steeper and more twisty than Suck Creek. It was a fantastic climb getting to the top. The road was pretty rough in places in Alabama and Sand Mountain was no different. It was just a long grind up but nothing that was too tough to handle. I rather enjoyed that climb.

The ride across the top of Sand Mountain was pleasant. The view was nice, what you could see of it. We were in the clouds due to the rain so there was very little you could see. The road on top was rough in places. It was at this point that I was getting a little tired. I tried my best to stay with the larger packs to draft the stronger riders as much as possible. For much of the ride across the top of Sand Mountain I did my best to stay with the group.

That brings another point. It was very tough to draft behind people with the rain. The rooster tails, the spray from folks tires, blasted into my eyes. It was worse than simply having the rain in your eyes. Anyway, we finally got to the downhill off Sand Mountain which would pretty much deliver us to the base of Lookout Mountain. I flew down that mountain. It was rainy and slick but I managed to get down much quicker than most. People were very conservative about the turns and such. Actually on three of the bends they had paramedics and ambulances sitting there. I felt like my mountain biking skills may have helped me. I knew that one little slip would spell disaster but I was in control and felt confident.

Lookout Mountain

Made it to the base of Lookout Mountain. They had a rest stop that I took advantage of. I had no idea what awaited but I wanted to be ready for it. I felt better at 84 miles than I ever had before.

So I fuel up and started the climb. We went up the back of Lookout Mountain on Burkhalter Gap Road. From the base it just looked long. And deceptively not very steep. I immediately had to gear down to first gear. Understand I had not been in first gear all day. I could get no momentum going up this climb. None. At about a half of a mile I began wondering how I was going to finish this. It was 2.5 miles. It got steeper the further up the mountain you went. I tried to relax. I thought I would just take it easy but it wasn’t like I could have gone easier. My god I was dying at about a mile in. I tried to stand on my pedals to get a little energy into the pedals but my legs felt like concrete. I could have walked faster up this hill at this point. I got about 100 yards from the top. With each pedal stroke I wanted to quit. I stood. As I leaned forward trying to get get my body forward up this damn hill my rear wheel kept slipping on the wet pavement. I started to see stars. My head was pounding. There were people standing on the side of the road urging us on. If they hadn’t been there I might have stopped. I knew I would hate myself if I quit so close to the top. I. was. dying. Somehow I made it to the top and rolled into the rest stop. That’s right. They had rest stops 2.5 miles apart and it was greatly needed. How do these pro bike riders do this? I had never suffered like this in anything I have ever done.

I rested for a few minutes. Fueled up thinking that it was all downhill from there. That was not to be the case. There was more climbing for the next 5 mile. Lots of rolling hills, but a steady uphill. In fact, right in front of the rest stop was a hill that was such a bummer. Short and steep. And these rolling hills never stopped. This extra climbing was almost as disheartening as the big hill, but not quite. Just when you thought you could not make it over another damn rolling hill, the downhill off Lookout Mountain came and it was a fast decent into Chattanooga.

You came down the main Lookout Mountain road right into downtown. Within about 2 miles you were rolling through downtown to the finish. It was over. I survived and could not be more proud. Again,the traffic control through the town was phenomenal. They had traffic cones set up. Police guarding traffic. Those poor people in cars had to be pissed. We screwed up traffic for miles.

Rolling into Finley Stadium felt great. People welcomed you in over the finish line with cheers, clapping and cow bells. That felt good. I can tell you I appreciated that a lot.

Huge respect for everyone who ventured out in the rain for this event. That wasn’t easy to do. I saw people turn around. But for those that made it the full 100 miles…I am really proud to be among you.

What a wonderful day. It rained. I suffered like no other time in my life. I feel like I accomplished something monumental. I rode 3 mountains through 3 states for 100 miles in the rain.

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