Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Mountain Bike Training at the Beach????

Probably an odd title might be the first reaction to this post, but if you just stick with it, I'll try and make some sense out of it.  Living in Charlotte NC is a blessing as someone who loves to mountain bike.  Locally we have access to some great trail systems; U.S. National White Water Center, Lake Norman State Park, Sherman Branch, Rocky River Trails and if we feel like venturing just a couple hours away we have World Class MTB locations like Dupont State Forest, Pisgah, Warrior Creek, Tsali I mean seriously folks how fricking lucky are we!  We get to ride and train in some of the best and toughest trails around.  I just competed in The Off Road Assault on Mt Mitchell (you can read my race report in an earlier posting) one of the hardest 1 day MTB races around.  I have reached on many other events in SC, GA VA and TN and am always surprised by first, the number of Floridians that compete and Secondly by how well some of them do!  I know I'm not the only one who holds this opinion.  Don't get me wrong this isn't a rant against them but rather an intriguing look into this phenomenon.  Now I've ridden both road and MTB in Florida and its not without its own good routes and trails but the one thing they do lack is altitude and sustained climbs...a plethora of which we have.  So how do these guys and gals do so well when they don't have the terrain to train on that they ultimately travel to race on?  Here is my theory:

I spent the last week visit visiting my dad in Pawley's Island SC.  Pawley's is located south of Myrtle Beach not far from Georgetown SC.  Its a small island that calls itself Shabby Chic.  Its a nice place, good restaurants without the crowds of MB.  There are no MTB trails that I have found but they do have a nice Pathway that runs along HWY 17 called Wacamaw Neck Bikeway.  the Bikeway meanders from Litchfield (the next town up form Pawley's) Past Huntington Beach State Park and up to Murrell's Inlet.

Waccamaw Neck BW

Then There is Old Kings HWY,  it parallels HWY 17 and is very well know as the place to ride in Pawley's and Litchfield.  It s a pretty safe road, dead flat and and with 3 turns i can extend it to 8 miles  I think I know every bump, crack and loose bit of asphalt on that stretch of road. It gets incredibly boring but it is a great for intervals.
To give myself some variety I did bring a road bike and mountain bike...I ended up only riding the road bike once.  So i sent most of my time on Kings HWY.  Back to my theory though.  On one had miles are miles and saddle time is saddle time.  With a structured workout plan you can get fit and fast regardless of terrain.  The one constant at the beach is wind.  The the wind is the crux of my theory.  Climbing is basically sustained resistance and depending on the severity of the grade typically involves a lower cadence than you are usually accustomed to.  Just like an uphill grade provides resistance so does wind.  The beach and FLA have plenty of that on hand.  So in essence Kings HWY became a sustained hard effort when going into the wind...its like an 8 mile climb.  If you ride enough into the wind...you will get to be a strong climber of this I have no doubt.  There is one more part to the theory and its the mental side.  Riding on flat boring terrain is mentally exhausting.  It takes a lot of motivation to repeatedly go out on the same stretch of road and attempt to get in a good workout. Try getting in an 3hr ride on a 8 mile stretch of road and you'll know what I mean.  Part of getting through tough climbs is being mentally tough...no one doesn't hurt when going uphill, even the best climbers in the world will tell you that.  

The one thing my theory does not account for is descending skills and bike handling.  I suppose the FLA crowd can get good at bike handling..there is single track and you can hone your bike skills there like anywhere else; but I have found most of the FLA crowd to be less than skilled on technical downhills...you just can't substitute that skill set without actually having technical downhills.

Now I didn't spend all my riding time on Old kings Hwy.  I was able to string together a quasi urban assault linking sections of Old Kings Hwy, Pawleys Island, the Waccamaw Neck Bikeway, and Old Hwy 17 in Murrell's Inlet.  Here is what it looked like
My totals for the 6 days at the beach:
  • 194.01 miles
  • Avg speed: 16.2 mph
  • Cal Burned 6571 
  • Normalized Power Avg 199
Finally some random pics form my rides.  Thanks for reading.


  1. Terry, next time you go back, check out The Hulk. Imaginative use of terrain to make a very reasonable MTB trail! It's North of Myrtle Beach.

  2. Terry, next time you go back, check out The Hulk. Imaginative use of terrain to make a very reasonable MTB trail! It's North of Myrtle Beach.