Riding the Mountains of 3-Gap Part I: Getting There

Too bad I can’t add a subtitle like: “How this average (not particularly fast, not particularly strong), run-of-the-mill, humble cyclist worked up the bravery and audacity to get her tail-feathers (and her bike) at the base of a 7-mile mountain.” Oh, never mind. I just did. ;p

It’s been 2 weeks, now, since I did the Gaps ride. Thought it’s time to write about it before I forget too much. In this post, I’ll be sharing the process that actually got my butt in the saddle at the base of the first mountain. The next post will be about the actual ride. If you haven’t figured out by now from my other blog posts, I’m a storyteller. That means, my posts are long. So, grab a cup-a-whatever and enjoy best you can. :)

The Gaps ride takes you through several of the highest peaks in north Georgia. In fact, the ride I did is the 3-Gap route, part of the official “3-Gap Fifty/6-Gap Century” ride that attracts at least 2500 riders each fall.

My husband has done this ride several times and thensome. I’ve driven up in those mountains a few times in the past few years. Each time I’d go, it would floor me to see bicycle riders going up those flipping mountains. I couldn’t understand how on earth they could possibly work up the strength and endurance for such an endeavor. While I have joked about this, there was a part of me that really did wonder if these people had some kind of physical gift that allowed them to undertake a ride like this. I mean, My Goodness! Those mountains look sooo steep from the seat of my car and sooo long! I honestly thought I’d have to do some serious muscle building at the gym. …and… Surely, I’d have to be able EASILY ascend any of the steep hills in my area w/o having my HR hit the ceiling before I’d even entertain the idea of trying one mountain, let alone THREE!

Then, I have a friend who goes up there with her hubby, regularly. Sure, she’s been riding longer than I have. Much longer. However, she kept going on and on to me how she knew without a doubt in her mind that I could do all of 3-Gap. Really? Are you nuts? Heck, I can’t even climb ___ (the name of a local, much dreaded hill). How on earth am I going to climb a mountain that’s ~15-20 times longer? How?!

Alas, she was immutable. Eventually, her drips made an impression upon me, and I began to give it some consideration. I started asking my husband lots of questions. He had even offered to be my personal SAG. Still, I wavered.

Why? Well like many of us, I have my issues with failure. Failing at an endeavor (particular here in the USA) is socially unacceptable. We “rah!” and “yeah!!!” our way to many supposed successes. Failure is not an option. Heck, how many times have you heard that sentence in your life?

Yeah. Too many.

I really wanted to be one of those people who could climb mountains. I wanted to know what it takes; what is required of me! The ONLY way to find out was to go up there and give it a shot. Endeavor. Try. However before I could do that, I needed to do one thing – which I did do – and that… was…

Give Myself Permission …To Fail. !!!

Yeah…so unAmerican of me! How could I think of such a thing? Gee, I should just hand in my citizenship right now. Honestly.

So, the ride was scheduled. My friend and her husband were going up there, and I was going to meet them in downtown Dahlonega, about 15 minutes away from our start point. The weather forecast for the day? Near perfect. It was cold (upper 40’s) to start with a quick warm-up to the low 70’s and pure sunshine, nary a cloud to be seen.

Now, just to get some sleep the night before. THAT would be quite the accomplishment. I know me. When I’m worked up about something, particularly a neat, new and/on “important” ride, I have a hard time sleeping. I don’t know how, but I did sleep and very well. I was amazed. When I woke up, I pushed my thoughts of insecurity to the side and focused on the tasks ahead of me before I left the house. Even on the ride up, I somehow managed to keep my fearful thoughts at bay. Then…I took the final turn toward Dahlonega, and “it” began instantly. The thoughts started to come, and the pit in my stomach began to grow.

In the ten minutes it took to reach our meeting point, I had begun to shake. Once we took the final drive to get to our actual starting point (Turner’s Corner), the thoughts, feelings, emotions rushed in like a tidal wave.

Yeah. You name it. I thought or felt it. (“Who do you think you are? What if you fail, [expletive]?! You’re too weak to climb these mountains! Heck, you can’t even climb [bleep] hill! How the heck are you going to climb one mountain?! You’re awfully damned assumptive.” Yada, yada, yada. Then, there were the tears of fear and audacity, and the pit in my stomach had grown to the size of 10-story boulder. I was trembling, shaking, and my heart rate was skyrocketing.)
Holy Bleeping Bleep, those minutes never seemed so long! However…I did have one ace-in-the-hole, and that was a simple technique called EFT, my saving grace. [Goggle it.] I used it, and it began to work. The tears stopped. The trembling stopped, and I began to calm down. I exhaled. I was so thankful I was in my car by myself!!

When I got out of the car at our starting point, I was still shaking, but this time was because it was so bleeping cold, not b/c I was so darned feaful. I had reminded myself of the permission I had given myself, and I would be okay if I had to turn around and coast back down the 1st mountain. At least, I would have tried. I would know where I stood, and I would know where I needed to go and what I needed to do in order to get better. I would have the much needed feedback that’s so vital to any self-improvement endeavor.

I began to get ready to pedal down. As I did, I had a smile on my face. My friend, her hubby and I laughed much. I was gently, self-deprecating in my humor. More laughter. We took some pictures, and then… it was time to roll.
[Read more in my next post!] :-)