It was a lovely day yesterday. The forecast had been good for something after all. I texted and called several ride buddies as early as Tuesday, hoping to get a least a couple of others to go on a ride of the closed (read that "long unfinished") section of the Foothills Parkway between Walland and Wears Valley. The Foothills Parkway was envisioned as a scenic roadway skirting the north and western edges of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Congress authorized it in 1944. Construction began in 1960, starting at either end with the intention of meeting in the middle. What we've ended up with is a well-used 17 mile section from Walland to Chilhowie Lake on the western end, and a less used, though open and viable, 5.6 mile section on the eastern end between Interstate 40 and Cosby. Both were completed during the 1960s. Fifty years later, there still isn't commitment to ever complete the entire project.
Still, work has been done in places. The 15.8 mile section from Walland to Wears Valley was mostly completed except for the 1.6 mile "Missing Link" that includes several bridge in various stages of completion. The rest of the planned 71 total miles of the Parkway? Well, we'll see. After all, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Natchez Trace were only completed after several decades of work. Still, the best I think we can hope for now is that it gets completed before the 100-year anniversary of ground-breaking, if it ever gets completed at all.
OK, enough with the history lesson, lets come back the present. Though (obviously) unmaintained from a roadwork perspective (e.g., badly degraded pavement, etc.), the Walland to Wear's Valley section is well used and loved by hikers, equestrians, and cyclist alike. We saw all three yesterday morning. The "we"? Oh, sorry, I forgot to introduce my ride buddies du jour, John B. and Joshua. Big call-out to John B., who had a birthday on Friday (and still showed up without a hangover!).
The ride up this section of Parkway starts out steep, so I'd arranged to start a mile or so off to give us at least a five minute warm-up before the climbing starts, but it didn't help much. John and I rode away from Joshua (and his mountain bike) pretty quickly, and then John rode away from me. Soon after that was when the gorilla stared making its presence known.
The gorilla? Beta-blockers, which is a class of drug used for a number of things, including hypertension. I don't think my blood pressure is that bad, but the doc wants to see how I do on Propanalol for a month, so ...
What beta-blockers do, though, is keep your heart rate low. So I can't get my heart-rate up too high. Literally. I don't mean that I'm not supposed to, I mean that I cant. I thought, until yesterday morning, that the limit was higher. After all, I had been on other rides since being on the drug without any issues. Not the case yesterday.
There are two "tops" on the piece of road we were on. As I got close to the first one (at a lovely overlook of the valley and the mountains) I was seeing spots in front of my eyes (maybe gorilla hands?). Joshua caught me and we rode into the overlook so I could take a break. I sat down, and stayed down for a while. Joshua left at one point to go look for where John had gone (after I assured him I'd be fine). My intention was to just rest until I could continue the climb. I soon realized that if I when the rest of the way up, I'd be in the same boat again. Joshua showed up with John B. soon (along with another guy John had met out on the road) and discussed my options. Continuing was pretty much out of the question for me, but I insisted that they go on. After I convinced John (and pointed out that he'd know where to look for me if he got back and my car was still parked next to his). Then I got up and rode back down to Walland.
But you know, I felt so good when I got back down there that I decided to keep riding. I left a note on John's car and took the relatively flat River Road from Walland to Kinsel Springs. That's a road that is heavily used by cyclists. You can't swing a cat (or an 800 pound gorilla) on a Saturday without hitting at least two, so I knew that if I did have problems, somebody would be along quickly.
But I had no problems. The gorilla didn't even move (I think he may have even jumped off at the car thinking I was done). I rode at a good pace the whole way without even getting close to being out of breath. I even felt good for the rest of the day without feeling tired at all.
So hear is the new formula for me and beta-blockers. Climbing for more than 2 minutes = bad. everything else is apparently good. Still, this is East Tennessee, so climbs abound.
I have an appointment with the Doc this Friday. I gotta talk him into taking the gorilla back.