My training program for this bicycle ride across America consisted of doing four left turns around my parent’s house the day before departing. In essence, there was no training program. This lack of preparedness for grueling climbs made me destined to hate Hayters Gap.
Miles: 63 miles
Date Published: 05/25/2017
I almost got caught up in the excitement of going to Nashville and that fire quickly, and smartly, got extinguished. Nashville is 300 miles away from Troutdale but the TransAm trail heads north towards Kentucky while the Virginia Creeper trail heads south towards the Tennessee city.
Troutdale is the intersection between the TransAm and Appalachian trail. A hiker from Maine shares the funniest luxury item I have ever heard of – an electric air mattress inflator: “You don’t get light headed!”
The AT hikers and TA cyclists wake up alongside each other at 5:30 a.m. with over nine hours of sleep. You can do the math to figure out when we passed out from exhaustion.
The morning descent into Damascus is a cruise down smooth concrete with weaving corners following the roaring river. An ice-cream shop and cyclist outfitter marks the beginning of town.
At Sundog Outfitter I pick up a few items
- Dr Bronner's Soap – concentrated, biodegradable soap that you can use for anything
- Microfiber towel – drying yourself
- Chain lube – bike maintenance
- Patch kit – best spent $1
“Do you all have spray for the dog’s in Kentucky,” I ask like an innocent child. Nope.
Over the weekend was the Trail Day’s festival in Damascus and that wiped the store clean of most supplies. So I am leaving towards Kentucky like a knight without a sword or shield. They say the best offense is a good defense, so I better be able to pedal fast??
How do you navigate the Transamerica Trail?
For those following along at home, you may be wondering how cyclists find the Transamerica Trail. First, the TransAm is also called route ’76, which is a reference to the bicentennial celebration of America in 1976. According to Wikipedia, Adventure Cycling used to be known as “Bikecentennial.”
Cyclists keep an eye open to the green signs marked with 76 and a bike logo beneath. These appear alongside other exit signs that any drive is familiar with following.
Today’s map is marked with the words “Hayters Gap.” Sometimes, a name phonetically matching haters may descend from family lineage. The naming of this gap comes directly from the pain of climbing the mountain – you hate every moment of it.
The elevation gain of this climb is near 1,500 ft. Although I missed it, a comparison is that the climb to the Blue Ridge Mountains is 2,000 ft.
In Monroe, where two farmer co-op buildings exist, a sign warns those who dare to enter the gap about 10 miles of steep grade.
I enter the winding switchbacks alone with Annalisa and Taylor way ahead because I took the morning to do some writing. Triathletes are trained to keep an even cadence (cycling stride or pace) uphill or downhill. I love climbs and go all out disregarding any practical advice.
You reach the top of one switchback and are eager to see that descent. It continues. You reach the corner of the next switchback and think this mountain could not possibly continue. I turn one corner and see Annalisa doing some “hiking and biking.”
Panting with sweat pooling on the inside of my glasses, I exchange a quick hello and keep pushing.
I am forced to take a break every four to five switchback to catch my breath and drink water.
On nearly the last switchback you see a “for sale” sign for a small little cabin that has sweeping views of the mountain valley below. I collapse at the sight of the descent ahead.
The time it takes to climb up the hill is swept away quickly by the fast descent.
A Network of Churches
We can sleep in the pews, under the garden’s patio, or anywhere we want. Elk Garden Methodist Church has left their doors purposely open to give cyclists a roof over their head, a cold hose shower, and a kitchen to use at the end of the day.
Churches here serve a critical role as a community organization beyond a place that is only attended for the Sunday sermon.
The freezer is stocked with frozen meals to get the required 4,000+ calories for every starving cyclist.
Blood sugar as hilly as Hayters Gap
Once again woke up with a high blood sugar. Each night we tend to eat a large dinner to feed our appetites and keep up with the calories needed for endurance athletes. One adjustment I made is setting the high alert to 180 mg/dl to begin waking up at a more stable level.
Sitting in Damascus and writing caused my blood sugar to spike close to 250 mg/dl. This may have been caused by grits or that every moment I stand still causes my blood sugar to start rising. I aggressively treated this high to get back on the trail and suffered the appropriate low.
Another goal is to prevent post-workout blood sugar spikes by properly cooling down for twenty minutes. A cool down reduces the amount of lactic acid that is released into your blood sugar and thus keeps your levels more stable. I cycled around an elementary school parking lot in the lowest gear with no panniers for the entire time.
Dinner could have caused the 300 spike but there is also someone to highlight. One of the frozen meals is tortellini with a creamy alfrado sauce. The nutrition facts say the dish is only 180 calories and 24 carbohydrates. Yes, I checked the serving size. Food engineering is pretty remarkable now a days but it really does feel like these nutrition facts are far from accurate.
It is only day 2 so let’s hope the body begins balancing out and new tips and tricks keep everything more stable