The Six Gap Century, a bucket list ride for any roadie in the Southeast and riders as far away as Canada. It’s a challenging ride both mentally and physically. I had only done the shorter version of it before, Three Gap- 58 mile ride, which is still quite a challenge, so I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to handle the longer, harder one. I decided to do it conservatively and hopefully finish feeling ok, or heck, just finish! My time goal was 9 hours. My preparation was a few trips up to the mountains to ride sections of the loop to get familiar with the route and build up my climbing legs and I also rode a century about two weeks before the event to get my bike sorted. I ended up with a new Mimic Saddle afterwards and boy did that make a huge difference during the race! Highly recommend the Mimic.
I have to admit I was very anxious the morning of the ride but not for the distance or climbs. The mass start in such a tight area had me pretty sketched out. My husband urged me get in the front with them, and I was glad I did. It was right at two thousand riders lined up. It took about 90 seconds to get rolling enough to clip in but it moved very smoothly and I was thankful I wasn’t in the back trying to fight my way through the tight crowd. The ride starts with lots of rollers and some steep sections that many think is the first Gap climb, but you are probably 25 miles in before you start climbing Neels Gap. The next 3 climbs head off into the busy touristy area of White County with lots of traffic and terrain that I am not as familiar with and the longest steepest climb on the route…. Hogpen Gap! I stopped at almost half way through the race on Unicoi Gap to refill bottles and eat but I tried to keep my stop time to a minimum so I moved on pretty quickly for the next climb up Hogpen which is the bear of the event. I knew it wasn't going to be easy as I've ridden it before and race day was extremely hot adding to the struggle for everyone. There are two SAG stops on top of this climb it's so tough. By the time you reach rest stop number one on Hogpen you are in pain or numb. You are 60 miles in and hundreds of feet of elevation change, hungry, tired, thirsty and ready to be done. Honestly this climb didn’t bother me as much as I had built it up in my mind but the next one, Wolfpen nearly got me. I have climbed Wolfpen many times but with fresher legs and during the race fatigue takes hold, everyone around you is dismounting and walking or cramping. There were men walking it the entire way up. I refused to get off my bike during any of the climbs, even on Hogpen when my Garmin was showing 1.5 mph a couple of times, I kept pedaling. The route is absolutely gorgeous! I tried to focus on how beautiful it is several times to get my mind of the pain and fatigue. I rolled over the finish line at 8 hours 20 minutes. 104 miles! My ride time was 7:59 minutes. I was completely happy with that and I was pretty exhausted. What does one eat on such a long challenging ride? It was not the correct balance, but 100 oz of water was consumed, 40 oz of electrolyte mix. 3 bars, 1 gel, ½ banana, 5 grapes, ½ pbj sandwich. It was not enough and it was the wrong mix of stuff. I learned a lot about my nutrition on this ride. My top speed was 49.2 mph on the Hogpen descent. Still not sure how I managed that but my overall was 13mph. I climbed 11,657 ft of elevation. It took me 1 hour and 1 minute to climb up Hogpen Gap. I rode my Specialized Amira with a 50/34 and 11-28 cassette. I wished I’d had more climbing gears on Hogpen and Wolfpen! I made it though and most importantly I learned a great deal about myself from this ride. I can push myself well beyond what I thought I could do. It's time to move on to another challenge and I can't wait to get on the dirt now. The trails are calling!