Taming the Appalachian Gap

8-13-11 top of app gap view

View from the top of the App Gap!

The Appalachian Gap known as the App Gap among cyclists is one of Vermont’s epic climbs over a steep mountain pass. Back when we were serious cyclists in our twenties, I used to love this tough climb. My favorite local bike race back in the mid 1990s started at the Mad River Glen ski area, then headed over the Middlebury Gap, through Bristol and ended up on top of the App Gap. And after 66 miles of riding in the August heat, this was quite a finish. I met my former bike racing coach, Jan Bolland Tanner during one of these races! It was an honor to ride in the lead breakaway group with her. She is still an amazing athlete! (Hi Jan!) So the App Gap has some great memories for me.

8-13-11 scott almost at top app gap

Almost at the top! Go Scott!

Last summer we rode the App Gap a couple times and that was the first year back on our bikes after 12 years of ZERO bike riding (due to my knee injuries). I can honestly say, those App Gap rides last summer were tough! We weren’t even close to the shape we were in during our 20s! Yet we gutted it out and made it to the top both times! One ride was particularly hard because we had gone to the Burlington Wine Festival the evening before…so it was our own fault that climb was a bit more challenging Smile Mild hangover or not, there’s no easy way to the top from either direction!

8-13-11 scott app gap tower

All summer I’ve been seeing so many cool Facebook posts about riding the App Gap and doing all kinds of fun double gap rides from our bike buddies. I’ve been ‘drooling’ just thinking about these rides, but it’s been so hard to fit them into my training this summer. Now that I’m becoming a more serious runner (trails & road!), my training schedule hasn’t allowed me to get as much time on the bikes as last summer. And with running races and some big epic trail runs the last few weeks, long gap rides just didn’t happen. So we seized today as a great opportunity to finally do a gap ride. And my 26 mile run tomorrow will get done!


8-13-11 me app gap view

Normally we start our road bike rides in Richmond, sometimes at On The Rise Bakery. And doing the App Gap ride from OTR gives us a good 50 mile bike ride which is perfect. 8-13-11 scott down app gapBut we decided to do things a little differently. We did stop at the bakery for a small cup of coffee, a vegan apple spice cake and a vegan gluten-free chocolate chip cookie which were both delicious! We then drove to Huntington with our bikes on the roof rack and parked behind the town library which is also a Park and Ride. We wanted to have the option of a shorter ride if we felt tired since tomorrow is a big day of running for both of us. We headed north on our bikes via the Huntington road through Hanksville and ended up on Route 17. This road is gorgeous! We took a left on 17 and slowly made our way up the climb (which was marked on the road to be 4KM to the top).

Scott and I did our own pace up the main climb. Today we both did very well. I couldn’t believe how good I felt riding up the App Gap today for our first time this year! The trick is to not attack it early and to make sure you keep your heart rate at a reasonable level. The temps were nice and cool (low 70s) and there was still some shady spots on the way up which helped. I rode up very8-13-11me down app gap front relaxed and stayed seated except for a couple times around the steeper switchbacks and the final climb. This was the key to taming the App Gap: Staying relaxed and riding conservatively for most of the way up. The final stretch is where it gets tough. It’s very steep and according to mapmyride.com, it’s about a 9-10% grade. I was so excited to feel good on this part! I felt strong like I used to feel back in my 20s! I even caught up to another rider just as we got to the top. It was great to see so many cyclists going up and down the App Gap today! And I’m very happy that I didn’t have to use my ‘granny gear’ for any part of the climb! Running makes you strong on the bike! I’m so relieved that all my hard training is able to transfer over to the bike even when we’re only riding 1-2 times per week and running the rest of the days. It felt so nice to conquer the App Gap and not feel spanked on that final climb (like last summer!) Smile

When I got to the top of the App Gap, I pulled out my camera for some nice shots. I didn’t 8-13-11 bristol bakery signhave to wait very long to take some photos of Scott climbing to the top. He wasn’t far behind me at all today! Go Scott! You did great today!! Instead of heading into Waitsfield, the plan today was to ride back down the App Gap and head to Bristol, Vermont. We love this quaint little town! We also love stopping at the Bristol Bakery for soy lattes and bagels with jelly. This is how we roll. We are very laid back with our long bike rides and enjoy stopping to fuel up. And it was great to run into our friend Jeff in the bakery today!

8-13-11 me bristol bakery

Snack break at the Bristol Bakery!

8-13-11 bristol buildings

Bristol is a lovely little town!

After Bristol we headed back via the Monkton road and were thrilled to have a nice tail wind for most of the way back! We were both feeling good and our legs didn’t even feel like 8-13-11 me down app gap backwe rode up the App Gap today. It must be the hard trail runs that are making our legs stronger! We even had a nice cross wind on the Hinesburg Hollow Road which is fast and fun from either direction! When we got back to the Library in Huntington, Scott ended his ride at 44 miles. He’s running 15 miles tomorrow and felt this would be a good ride today. I was feeling great and wanted to get in 50 miles today! So I continued riding and finished up at On The Rise Bakery in Richmond where I met Scott. Those last 6 miles were fun! I still had a tail wind, it was still sunny and I was still feeling pretty good! To celebrate, we had a very nice lunch at the bakery! We love that place! Thanks to Scott for a great ride and a wonderful day! He had a blast too!

I mapped out the ride here on Mapmyride.com to see if it was close to what my Garmin reported, which it was. Check it out!

OK, now to figure out where I’m going to run 26 miles tomorrow! Let me know if you want to join me!

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