Wednesday, November 16, 2016

From Couch to Competitor: Titans Stage 2

View from the top of Sassafras

Stage two was the toughest stage of Titans. This was another 95 mile jaunt where we tackled Sassafras, rode along some rollers on the plateau, descended, rode along the shore of Lake Jocassee, and hit some rollers heading back to Lake Keowee. We set off in overcast skies but relatively warm conditions. It seemed there were some tired legs from the previous day because the pace was a little more leisurely at the start. Just like on day one I told Anthony to sit in, eat, hydrate, and conserve because this adventure was a new thing for him. It isn't a good idea to push hard from the start on the hardest event you have ever done. Pushing your hardest early only will ensure you suffer the entire time and that you may not even make it through the event. That doesn't seem like a fun experience to me. Anthony heeded my advice and sat in for an easy ride all the way to the base of Sassafras. 

                   Sassafras Descent. I hit 60 mph!

Well...well...well... Now we had arrived to the biggest challenge of all at Road Titans. Simply put, Sassafras is the toughest climb I have ever done. There is no strolling up Sassafras. With an average grade of 8% (with some reprieves) and some pitches approaching 20% for 4.5 miles it is a near max effort at times just to make it to the top. Anthony chugged up it and did 6 more watts up Sassafras than his "stroll" up Caesar's Head on Stage 1, but his normalized power was 20 watts more than the previous day! His effort really impressed me. On the steepest pitches he grinded out a cadence of around 50 rpm. To make the situation tougher, Sassafras was still wet from the day before. The wet road made it impossible to get out of the saddle on the steepest grades because your rear tire would slip. When Anthony arrived at the top of the mountain I told him congratulations on finishing Titans. Did I mention Sassafras is a tough climb? The rest of the ride is tame compared to that beast. Since the descent was wet I really didn't want to take any risks riding with anyone. I wanted to take it easy, so I took off from the top of Sassafras with Anthony in tow. I helped show him some good lines on the 178 descent. After the 178 descent the group caught us, and we rolled along the flatter roads back to the start and took in the scenic views of Lake Jocassee. 

Lake Jocassee

With stage 2 of Titans done and dusted, we fueled up with some muesli and bananas and drove back to my house. Anthony was now thoroughly tired with sore legs but 2/3 of a Titan nonetheless. Be sure to check out my next post on how we fueled for optimal recovery after the ride and how the final stage went.