This event was hosted by the Marion (NC) YMCA, a great facility with a great cause: All proceeds from the ride were used to support kids who can't afford swimming camp.
The ride took me to my limits. Winds reaching 30 mph brutalized us all day and we ascended to 5300 feet elevation. The terrain was scenic and we eventually toured though Chimney Rock and around the lake. It's a great destination and I plan to go back on another social occasion.
I've learned that mountain cycling brings out the hammer heads. These guys ride to finish and finish fast. I just don't have the drive to push to that limit.
Here's a confession: I was riding alone and cruising into Chimney Rock when I saw a Hershey's ice cream shop. The pack raced through town, but master competitor stopped and had banana cream and coconut scoops in a cup! As I sat in the sun and enjoyed my treat, I realized endurance sport has become a somewhat different animal. I like to participate, but the intensity is gone. Give me the ice cream and nice seat in the sun.
We climbed and descended for about 50 miles, then transitioned into big rollers for the last 20 miles. I rode a bit with some guy who incessantly talked on the downhills, then went silent as he groaned on the uphills.
"I'm toasted, dude" was all he could mutter as I rolled forward and away.
The Marion YMCA had a great after-party with live music and a spaghetti feed. The spaghetti had small bits of meat in it, but I was so hungry I wolfed it down. Not my first choice, but I'm not a black and white vegetarian anyway.
I could feel the energy sucked out deep inside me as I drove home. That ride was a ton. I'm on the edge when it comes to that sort of effort. Master man produces mini results on some days, but at least he's still rolling across the finish line.