(Winners to the end!)
Much has been written about last Saturday’s Gateway to TheSmokies Half-Marathon. Facebook, along with the printed media, has thoroughly covered the event. Many kudos have rightfully been broadcast concerning the outstanding volunteers that put on the event, the exceptionally friendly behavior of local motorists as they waited for runners to clear, and of the experiences of those crossing the finish line first.
I had a different view. I was the oddly dressed fellow on the bicycle at the end of the pack. I had on layers of Under Armour, topped by mountain bike padded shorts, a winter weight cycling jersey, a Hi-Viz wind breaker, a cycling cap under my helmet, and finally a protuberance upon my helmet. Said protuberance was my GoPro camera. I later saw a picture of myself and came away scared. Putting this in context, it was 36 degrees when I left my home in beautiful Buzzards Roost at 6:00 a.m. and near 44 degrees at the start of the race. I was dressed to keep from getting cold! The only thing missing from my apparel was full fingered gloves. I could’ve used them.
My job, along with Price my cycling compadre, was to remain at the back of the pack and provide assistance to runners as needed, keep our Haywood County Amateur Radio Club command center aware of our location on the routes, and to generally try to provide some protection to the riders from passing vehicles. We were armed with GPS trackers affixed to our bicycles that reported our presence on a map observed in the command center and our handheld HAM radios. In short, we were in constant contact with the organizers of the event and local law enforcement.
When you are at the back of the pack, you see things that others fail to absorb. You see the gaps beginning to open as the runners separate into fastest, faster, and steadfast. You see the lines of motorists, who waited patiently without honking of horns or rude gestures as the runners made their way along the route. You see the lead runner turning the corner on Country Club Drive at the first water station and you realize he has opened up a 2.1 mile lead on your current position.
During our near 4 hours on the bicycles, we saw residents come out and cheer the runners, smiling volunteers of all ages handing out water and Gatorade, and law enforcement officers at intersections with words of encouragement to those runners at the back. As we entered the Village of Hazelwood, we saw owners of the local shops out cheering on our last two participants as if they were the two leaders even though it had been some 40 minutes since the previous runner made their way along the route.
But, most of all, we saw the dogged determination of two runners, Nicole Hill and Joanna Rathbone, finishing their first ever event. We happily celebrated with them as they crossed the finish line, dead last, but perhaps the biggest winners of all!
Cycling Event Planning Continues
We continue to plan for the 2015 Blue Ridge Breakaway and the Mountains to the Coast Ride of CycleNC. This past Monday we had the opportunity to meet with Ragan Williams of CycleNC to continue our community wide planning for this event as Waynesville is the host town for the beginning of this year’s event. One frequently asked question thus far has been “what will be the route from Waynesville to Hendersonville, the stop for day one?” Preliminarily, and I emphasize the word preliminarily, Williams believes the route will leave Waynesville on US 276 and traverse Pisgah Mountain into Brevard and then on into Hendersonville. If this proves to be the case, riders are in for some great scenery as they pedal through the community of Crusoe, by the Shining Rock Wilderness Area, and crossing under the Blue Ridge Parkway above the 5,000′ elevation level. A descent into the Cradle of Forestry will include sharp hairpin curves into longer segments of straight, narrow two lane road in the Pisgah National Forest. A stop by Looking Glass Falls should be mandatory!
Preceding the CycleNC event is this year’s Blue Ridge Breakaway, which continues to show signs of healthy growth. A variety of routes for riders is included and will again include both the 75 miler and the Century running along the Blue Ridge Parkway before descending into Maggie Valley and a return to beautiful Lake Junaluska. Registration is now open for both events.
Please visit both websites if you have questions and feel free to post me back here (gr8smokieszeke AT gmail.com. Replace the word AT with @ so I can avoid even more spammers) with any questions. I’ll be happy to assist readers in getting questions answered.