Tuesday June 27, 2017: The sanctity of the Buckhorn Presbyterian Church Sunday School resulted in an extremely peaceful and comfortable nights sleep that was rudely interrupted by 2 duelling alarms at 4:45 am. The sofa that was so very kindly offered up by JJ the night before (although it was only fair given he got the dusty old mattress in “The Shed” back in Wyoming on Day 11), was extraordinarily comfortable. Perhaps it was blessed? Although to be fair given yesterdays 2,900 metres of climbing interspersed with dog skirmishes aplenty, I could have slept anywhere.
We were now in the Appalachians proper and today would be another day of climbing. This was the sting in the tail of the Trans Am route. Nowhere to hide. Having thus far favoured the ignorance is bliss approach I tried to avoid looking too closely at JJ’s Adventure Cycling Association maps which indicated an alarming array of lumps.
After a quick breakfast of snacks purchased at the local convenience store the previous evening we headed out into the chilly early morning mountain air. It was 5:31 am. We were able to ride alongside each other, chatting away for the first few kilometres, but the first few lumps of the day soon put an end to such frivolity and it was back to the salt mines, back to finding the right gear, the right rhythm, the right headspace.
Always forward, never back.
After a couple of solid hours effort I was getting pretty damn hungry. A big diner style breakfast was definitely on the cards and being quite the diner connoisseur (just read his race blog, My 2 Cents Worth), JJ needed no convincing.
Well might I have had a real hankering for a big plate of American Breakfast goodness but 24 days on the road had taught me not to get too carried away with my gastronomic desires and to temper them by the reality of what was more often than not available. That being, gas station crap.
However, on this occasion, thanks to a wrong turn on State Highway 15 by yours truly, near Hazard, we stumbled across exactly what we were after….a Diner! And to say that the subsequent large omelette with the lot, home fries, cranberry juice and copious coffee refills, hit the sport, would be a massive understatement. We both mounted our bike about an hour later, brand new men.
A Message To Future Trans Am’ers
Giddyup being the operative word as about 30 minutes later I set my first ever Strava KOM (King of the Mountain). I know that I promised in an earlier Trans Am day recap (Day 17) that I would no longer be boring you with my tedious Strava achievements, but I beg your indulgence on this one last occasion.
Here it is in all its guts n’ glory, a solid 1 kilometre 9 percenter:
…although it has since been knocked off by the fast n’ mysterious “Whiskey Pedaler”.
Yes, writing about this Strava stuff is particularly self indulgent but there is an element of altruism to it. It also serves as a message to all those considering riding the Trans Am in the future:
RIDING THE TRANS AM WILL MAKE YOU A MUCH BETTER CYCLIST!!
(not that setting a Strava KOM means you’re a better cyclist, but it is a handy quantitative way of judging improvements).
Rightly or wrongly (I mean who really knows with this ultra endurance cycling caper), I did a huge amount of training for this race, nigh on 15,000 kilometres (9,300 miles) in 8 months. My cycling and fitness improved dramatically over that period of time, particularly as the starting point was pretty damn low. I was previously averaging only about 2,500 kilometres per year!
BUT undoubtedly I obtained greater improvements during the actual race.
Which brings me to another message for future racers:
Yes, you have to do a significant amount of training to complete the Trans Am but don’t get hung up on it. You will get fitter and faster during the race.
Wrong Turns And Creek Crossings
Not long after my amateur “heroics” on the Highway 80 climb we missed a right turn off that State Highway onto the relative back road of State Highway 476. I say we, although it was very much me. I plead the “Bloody Garmin” defense however – that pesky issue with the purple route line not overlaying onto the actual road line had reared its ugly head again.
We actually didn’t realise at the time that we had taken a wrong turn although it soon became glaringly obvious when we ended up at the end of someones driveway.
For the second time in 2 weeks JJ and I found ourselves door knocking some random house in the middle of nowhere, although this time it was only for directions, not for accommodation as it had been the first time in Wyoming. The lycra clad Aussie / Canuck connection were again met by complete bemusement but our new acquaintance was kind enough to indulge us and point out the road we were after, State Highway 476.
He first pointed across a creek that bordered his property and then indicated we should just ride back down his driveway and around onto the road we needed, a journey of about 700 yards at most. Now I was prepared to take the suggested route to get back on track but JJ would have none of it, and adhering to the Principle of ‘the shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line’ began clambering down the creek bank with a sense of purpose rivalled only by George Washington crossing of the Delaware in 1776.
Did I laugh!
It was not only bloody funny but it was also somehow appropriate that after all the crap that we’d dealt with, that a creek crossing was to be part of our Trans Am adventure.
As I’ve mentioned before, the Trans Am Bike Race is an emotional rollercoaster. Laughter, tears and everything in between. There were many experiences that resulted in a good old belly laugh and I must say, upon reflection, a lot of them occurred when riding with the mad Canadian, JJ Simon.
It was a pleasure ole’ mate!
Burgers n’ Shakes Before The Hard Stuff
The next 65 kilometres took just over 3 hours. The road trended upwards, with a couple of little lumps here and there. Toughish riding in the heat and humidity but easy compared to what was coming.
We were keen to get a meal on board before the big hills and we were lucky to stumble across a hole in the wall style burger joint by the side of the road near Wheelwright Junction, in what was otherwise an area pretty devoid of services. Our meals took a ridiculous amount of time to prepare, a good 60 minutes but JJ took advantage of the downtime by taking a nap on a bench. I could have done with a nap but preferred to spend the time being pissed off by the delay and people watching.
People watching conditions were pretty good with the coming and going local lunchtime crowd. I attempted eye contact on a few occasions as a precursor to conversation but it went unrequited. I reckon by nature these mountain folk would be pretty closed off to outsiders let alone ones adorned in tight-fitting brightly coloured clothing. JJ’s raucous snoring didn’t bloody well help.
By aesthetic and by demeanour, we really were from another world.
Anyway, once finally ready, we annihilated our Burgers, shakes, Cokes and fries. The meal was pretty damn good but only borderline worth the wait.
A Rather Hilly Afternoon
We were off the road for 90 minutes for lunch. Too long in my books so once we were back on the road I took out my frustration on my pedals and attacked the next few hills.
Abner Mountain (2km @ 7%), KY 611 Climb (3.11km @ 8%), Ashcamp Rd Climb (1km @ 10%), and plenty of climbing in between.
After a brief stop at the Subway in Elkhorn City to cool down via the air conditioning and a couple of cold drinks, I crossed the Virginia State Line at about 5:30 pm. I was cooked but at the same time ecstatic to be entering the last state of the Trans Am.
The next 20 kilometres to the town of Haysi was a real battle, taking almost 90 minutes. It was becoming very apparent that I had pushed too hard and that I needed to rest, maybe even call it for the day. However, I had only banked 200 kilometres, well below what I had believed optimum for the day.
I came across another Subway come gas station / convenience store and went in to think. I wasn’t hungry (no doubt I was on the way to dehydration) but purchased a meatball sub meal to accompany my pondering. The food and drink wasn’t doing anything for my energy levels and I was considering enquiring about what time the gas station closed so I could catch a few hours kip right then and there, when JJ rocked up.
He was a tad more spritely than me, having assumed a much more sensible pace. He ordered some food and we chatted for a while. Long story short we jointly decided to find somewhere to stay in Haysi.
We found nothing on the main street of Haysi and were in the process of tracking down the local Post Office when a guy in a very new looking BMW wound down his window and asked if we were looking for somewhere to stay for the night. It turns out he operated an Airbnb metres from where we standing and that as he hadn’t had a chance to get it cleaned from the previous night’s tenants (also Trans Am racers apparently) we could rent it on the cheap, $20 each.
We of course accepted and it turned out to be quite the pad, decked out like a Brooklyn Loft Apartment. It was literally a palace compared to a majority of the previous 24 nights accommodations.
We’d already eaten (at the Subway) but jointly agreed this little piece of luck required a toast or 2 so I went off to buy a 6 Pack. When I returned JJ had showered and was kicking back in a robe watching Netflix, providing yet another opportunity for a good old giggle. What a scene, so ridiculously incongruous to our adventures to date but at the same time so well earned, although I really wasn’t expecting such comforts until after the race.
Anyway, I barely finished 1 beer and 1 episode of Trailer Park Boys when I had to call it for the night, exhausted.
Day 25 Territory Covered and Stats
3D overview from Relive:
2D overview from Strava:
- Distance = 204 km
- Cycling (ie moving) Time = 9 hours and 36 minutes
- Stopped Time = 5 hour and 30 minutes
- Elevation = 2,783 m
- Money Spent = $78 ($58 on food/drink, $20 on accommodation, $0 on bike maintenance/stuff)
Keep reading…..Day 26.