6 Gap 2012

Here are the stories of our epic adventures in North Georgia.  Can you say Dahlonega?

6gap2012

My 6 Gap Adventure

By Linda Babadelis

The day of 6 Gap would land on my one year anniversary of when I began cycling.  Truly a beginner, I decided to commit to the biggest challenge of my ‘cycling career’.  Crazy you say?  Some would say so, but I would like to think of it as thriving on a great challenge or even endeavoring to prove I can accomplish anything I set my mind to.  Truth is, the real challenge would be getting my body and muscles to agree with this mind set of mine.  For most, 6 Gap seems scary.  I admit, it was for me also, but just knowing others felt like I did seemed to help.

My husband was willing to join me on this adventure and we were excited to see just how difficult it would be, while trying to enjoy the beauty of GA at the same time.  He was more hesitant and felt we were not ready for such a challenge, but I assured him we would do the best we can and just enjoy the experience.

My only true goal the day of the event was to make the cut off at mile 38 and to be able to at least attempt all 6 Gaps.  I needed to feel that sense of accomplishment and I worked really hard over the past year to do just that.  My husband and I made an agreement that we would be off on our own until that rest stop at the 38 mile marker, just in case one of us was slower then the other and did not actually make it. With 25 minutes to spare, we did it!!!  I was feeling great at this point and ironically Peter and I were pacing ourselves at the same speed so we were together and looking out for each other.  I felt great up until this point, mentally  I did what I came to do.  At this point, fatigue had not set in and in my mind I thought “I can do this, I can do all 6 Gaps”, so onward we went.

Once I hit Hogpen, my eager enthusiasm was starting to diminish.  ‘So this is what they were talking about, WOW this is steep” was pressing in my mind as my muscles were aching like never before and I wondered why I was putting my body though this pain.  I had lost Peter by now, he was a little behind me.  That was ok at that moment, I was glad to get a mental break, as he was hurting also and  complaining about how he did not think he wanted to finish.  It became harder for me to fight the negativity in my own mind with that kind of reassurance.  I thought long and hard about how this was the most difficult mountain and once at top, the hardest was over for both of us.  Half way up Hogpen I began to worry about Peter and decided to wait for him.  I was glad I did, it was someone to keep me company as we both decided to walk part of the giant ‘hill’ together.  I praised every rider that passed on their saddle, cheering them on. At least I was good for something at that moment.

The highlight of 6 Gap was all the descents.  They were so amazing, as I took it to 40 mph a few times and loved the feeling of racing myself down the mountains.  This made any pain coming up so very worth it to me.  At the bottom of each gap, I would look for Peter and he would look for me as we both decided ‘we can do this and finish it together’.  I have to admit, at mile 80ish when we stopped for a sag and 6 of the 8 riders there got in the van to get a ride back to the start I began to question if finishing was even smart.  My body was tired, but my mind kept saying you need to finish this-look how far you’ve come!  If I did not complete 6 Gap at this point, I would have felt I let myself down and secretly…I did not want to be the only female rider from Eastside at this event that day and let my team down either.

Finish line could not have looked any more beautiful as the sun was already setting and I wondered if we were the last riders.  Happy to say we were not, but that really did not matter either.  We finished and we were so happy we did.  At that moment, and for a good 24 hours later I was deciding if I ever wanted to bike again.  I recovered from those thoughts and am on to some new goal setting thoughts.  I truly believe without goals and a plan to achieve them, I have nothing to strive for.  At first I was ready to retire from 6 Gap, remove it off the bucket list…but next year, I can ride it better, faster, and without walking up half of Hogpen would be my next goal.  I am also looking forward to my first Horrible Hundred, would love to do the Cross Florida ride, and eventually get fast enough to keep up with A riders.  I love cycling and the addiction I have to it.  I am also very appreciative of all the support I have gotten from all the members at Eastside and the cycling community for encouraging me to accomplish all my goals, both past and future.

6 Gaps, 6 Hours, and (almost) 6 Beers

by Joe Jacoby

Jim Perry and I were returning to 6 Gap after successful completion of it in 2011.  Both of us had aspirations to improve our times.  However, I for one was not feeling confident prior to the ride start.  On that morning, reality seemed to set in.  We knew what the ride required.  It’s a hard ride, and difficult to predict if one can do better or will hit the wall.  Reflecting back on club rides, it seemed like the competition was getting harder and that I may have peaked two months back just prior to a week long trip to Alaska.

The announcer was questioning cyclists who had crossed the “6 Hour” start line on their times from last year.  If they hadn’t met that arbitrary line of demarcation, it was back to the back for them.  Jim asked if I dared to go up to that line.  No way – my time at the Blue Ridge Breakaway was 6:10.  6 Gap has more climbing and more technical descents.  My time would certainly be over 6:10.

The ride started and the usual adrenaline rush never came.  I just felt dazed and I was on autopilot, maneuvering within and around the mass of riders.  It always seems best to stay left and avoid the mayhem of dropped chains and flat tires common in the first few miles.  The first climbs came.  Wow, after completing Blue Ridge Breakaway, even Neels seemed short.  The recent experience from the BRB also calmed me during the descents.  The autopilot was still on and I made my way calmly and smoothly down the descents.

In between the gaps, I looked for groups to ride in.  I have to commend a guy from L5 Flyers, a regional Men’s cycling team from Georgia.  The guy powered the group all the way from Unicoi over to Hogpen.  He obviously didn’t care about taking a toll on his legs  prior to the start of the hardest climb.  And when we hit the climb, the pack dissolved, leaving him and me yo-yo’ing positions.  He muscled up the hill out of gears and with a lower cadence.  When my gearing became insufficient to spin, he’d have the advantage.  When the hill allowed me to sit and spin, I took back ground.

We’re fortunate to have our friend Felix from Epic Sports up at the top of Hogpen.  I pulled in to say hi and zip up the vest.  I still felt dazed, but had alarm bells going off on the right side of my brain.  Hogpen seemed to have hurt more than last year, mostly likely from not stopping at other SAGs.  But the stupid part of my brain said onwards.  I stopped again before Wolfpen to fill a bottle.  This was my only real SAG stop during the ride.  Wolfpen came next and I was slower on it than last year.  Maybe from being tired, but also maybe because I had to fish a leaf out from between the front wheel and brake while climbing an 8% grade.  There was another forced stop just before Woody’s Gap as a cyclist was being transferred from Ambulance to Medevac Helicopter.

Everyone around me seemed to be in the same state.  They’d do well on one hill only to tire out for the next one.  Karma forced me to repay the L5 Flyer rider’s contributions, as two of us did more than our fair share pulling a group of four.  We were all cramping at times.  Mine came 1 mile out and I thought it was going to end any chance of a sub six hour 6 Gap.  Up to that point, the clock on the Garmin was showing that it was possible.  Fortunately, the cramp went away and I powered as hard as possible to the finish line.  The official time: 5:59:58.2.

So I beat six hours, thanks in large part to the increased competition within the club and our hard Saturday rides.  And also thanks in part to Jim’s organization of the Blue Ridge Breakaway trip.  But I failed to drink my six celebratory & therapeutic beers that night.  Our club has standards, darn it.  Five put me right to sleep.

6Gap

Six Gap Century Ride 2012

by John Tenney

To see John Tenney’s account of six gap, including photos and videos, go to:

http://johntenney.com/?p=33