Tag Archives: Assault on Mount Mitchell

Advice for a flatlander

I recently received an email from a rider in Illinois who is longing to ride somewhere not flat. He is drawn to some of the cycling challenges we have here in area and wanted some advice as to which one might be best for him to tackle first. I’m glad to give him some advice, but you all can feel free to chime in with some advice for a flatlander wanting to come spend some time in our mountains.

I am 46 years old  and I started cycling 3 years ago after many years of competitive running.  I live in Illinois and have been longing to ride somewhere not flat.  My only experience with any real climbing is the Horribly Hilly Hundreds which is a 200k ride with about 10K of climbing.  Most of it over short but fairly steep grades with a wicked 900 ft climb at the end.    It’s a tough course because you can never find a rhythm.   This year I decided to do something different and a little crazy so I signed up for Assault on Mt Mitchell.

I recently found a couple of other challenge type rides besides AOMM that may be more suitable to me.  The first one is  the Caesars Head Challenge and the second one is a ride called the Miracle Hill Cycling Challenge.  Seems to me after reading up on AOMM it is very much a racing atmosphere especially at the start.  I do very little pack riding and do not race.  I do plan to add more pack riding very soon.

My question for you is as a first timer to that part of the country which ride would you suggest?  For reference although I am not a seasoned pack rider or racer I am fairly fit.  I am on my bike about 12 hours a week now and I have been doing hill repeats, threshold rides and intervals.  I need to do another threshold test at the bike store with the computrainer but a well educated guess based on my KK trainer would have me better than last year where I could hold 296 watts for a twenty minute test.  I am a small rider 5”6” at about 129 Lbs. so the mountains interest me, particularly a ride that ends with a climb like AOMM and Caesars Head.

So which ride would you recommend? Any advice you can share is much appreciated.

So, let’s see what we can do to help.

First we’ll take a look at the rides mentioned. I have had the opportunity to participate in two of the rides. The third one I hope to take on this summer. I will have to go by what I have been told about the third ride rather than draw from my own experience.

My first thought when I read the email was, “Hmmmm, if you are already signed up for the Assault, you might want to just go ahead and do that one.” The reasoning for this is that the ride is what you make of it. Sure, depending on where you start in the field the beginning can seem more like a race. However, it doesn’t have to be.

The AOMM gives you 12 hours to complete the ride. There are many people who make it more of a social event than a race against time. Some people have a blast taking their time and using up as much of the 12 hours possible. Many find a balance between the two extremes and yes, a few go at it like a race.

The only thing that I would wonder about is the fact that this rider has not had a lot of opportunity to ride sustained climbs. Not being used to climbs can lead to a very sore back and tired legs. On the other hand, if you pace yourself and fuel properly, I see no reason why Charlie couldn’t finish the ride.

The other thing that leads me to consider suggesting the AOMM is the fact that the other two rides are not pieces of cake! Each of them contain a good amount of climbing. Sure, it isn’t the same sustained climb, but climbing to be sure. The Ceasars Head Challenge also shares that “race like” atmosphere. You won’t avoid it on that ride.

My estimation is that the Miracle Hill Cycling challenge is the “easier” of the three. The SAG stops on that ride were some of the best I have experienced on a charity ride and the food at the end…. ahhhhhhh. If I was looking for a fun ride with varied terrain and opportunity for socializing, then that would be the ride.

The Caesars Head Challenge is the one I have not ridden. I do know the intent of the ride is to make it a challenge. On the other hand, you have options for the distance you want to ride. So, you can always cut the target distance a little short if you find yourself in trouble. This is the one I want to try this year.

Now, second, let’s look at Charlie and what he says about himself. Sounds to me that he is training more than I am! I can’t see anything in what he says to give me an indication that he couldn’t complete any of these three rides. The only thing would be simply not having the experience of climbing.

Climbing is all about rhythm. If you can find the right gearing and settle in to a rhythm, you can climb just about anything. It just becomes a matter of time and confidence that you can keep the momentum. That is where the experience comes in. Part of climbing is BELIEVING you can.

So, Charlie, I would say it all comes down to how much of a challenge you want. I can assure you that the AOMM and the Caesars Head Challenge are going to be tough. Doable, but tough. The Miracle Hill Cycling Challenge is still tough, but the ride has many more opportunities to recover along the way. The mental challenge and exposure to suffering is not quite as great.

You can ease into the world of climbing with the MHCC. You can jump right into the cold water with the AOMM or the CHC. My personal opinion is that you could do any of the three. It all depends on how you want to enter… and exit the pool.

What say you, my cycling friends? The comment section is now open.

Wonder if I will regret it?

I received an email message this morning from the Greenville Spinners list serve. It was an alert to everyone that the Assault on Mount Mitchell will be held May 24, 2010. I hadn’t thought about the ride in months. Now that I have, it is with mixed emotions.

Those who have been reading the blog for some time might remember that after the 2009 ride I declared I would not participate in the 2010 event. I haven’t changed my mind. However, I do wonder now if I might regret it later on. The troubles of last year have faded a bit in my mind and the positive memories of that event and the previous attempt are more prominent.

However, it remains that the excitement of the ride oozed out of me in the crowd of riders between Spartanburg and Marion. Any positive memories just aren’t enough to bring me back in 2010. Who knows… maybe 2011 will see me return.

If YOU want to ride, you had better get busy. The first thing you will need to do is make sure you are a member of the Spartanburg Freewheelers before December 31st. The chances of you getting a number for the ride are much greater if you are a member. Even if you aren’t able to get a Mitchell number for 2010, plan on doing the Marion ride. Doing the upcoming Marion ride will get you in the que for the 2011 Assault on Mount Mitchell. Unless you completely drop the ball, the combination of having completed Marion and a Freewheeler membership should land you a number.

That is one of the reasons why I wonder if I’ll regret not riding this year. Not participating will cause me to lose my “preferred” status of a returning rider. Should I wish to return to the ride in the future, I’ll have to work a little harder to land my spot.

Yes, pride enters into it as well. You hear stories of people who have completed the sufferfest each year for over a decade. Part of me wants to be a part of that tradition. In my mind, that really is an accomplishment.

However, my plans for 2010 have me working on my speed and improving on the race distances. Even last year was much more race focused than endurance centered. It hurt me in my goal of obtaining a 6:30 Assault on Mount Mitchell. My training plan between now and May is even more limited in focus.

Finally, call me a wimp. Tell me I’m a quiter, but I simply don’t want to do it. I need a break.

Having said that… If you have never ridden the Assault on Mount Mitchell and you are an avid cyclist, it is something you should do at least once in your life. To say, “I’ve ridden the Assault on Mount Mitchell” is a claim that lives up to everything you expect. One thing for sure, I will never regret the two times I have claimed the top.

Closing a door to open another

Sometimes it seems that I have been riding my bike forever.  That could be due to it being the end of the season, but it also could be because I have packed a lot into the last two years.  Now as the 2009 season comes to a close, I’m having to start thinking about 2010.  I don’t know if I am ready.

My first year riding a road bike, I pretty much meandered around the Upstate and tried to ride fast around the Cleveland Park circuit.  That year of 2006 doesn’t really count.  I started riding in August.

2007 was the year with my first ever goal.  It was to start the process of working toward my first Assault on Mount Mitchell.  Back then it seemed so huge!  Funny, but the fact that I competed in my first race didn’t mean much at the time.  I figured it was a one time experience.

In 2008 I turned 40 and my focus was that climb to the top of Mitchell.  Training for that climb brought me into a close relationship with the back of Paris Mountain and so the obsession with breaking my personal best there was born.  Racing factored into the year as well, but more for the sake of getting ready for my assault.

The Assault on Mount Mitchell lived up to its billing, but the win during the Downtown Greenville Cycling Classic was the highlight of the year for me.  It was completely unexpected, but it got me hooked.  It put me on a high as I headed into the 2008 Palmetto Peloton Project’s Challenge to Conquer Cancer ride.

While on the ride, I met Joey Sullivan and Matt Tebbetts.  We formed a bond during that ride and then early this year, Joey contacted me to see if I would be willing to fill a space for him in the POA Cycling Team.  Secretly, I had been hoping for a spot on the team.  I tried to act like it was no big deal as the guys would talk about it, but coming on board was another one of those unexpected surprises in life.

So, in 2009 my goals shaped around racing – but included the Assault and Paris Mountain.  My goal in racing was to win my first Category 4 race.  My goal for the Assault was to finish in 6 hours and 30 minutes.  My aim for Paris Mountain was to break 12 minutes.

I’ve only got one of those goals – the sub-twelve up Paris.  I finished in 6 hours and 49 minutes on the Mt. Mitchell ride.  My highest place in a race was 4th – in my first race of the year.

Was it a bad year?  Well, I guess if you base it on outcome, one out of three would not be that great.  However, if you consider the goals a means to an end and not the end itself, I would say it was a successful year.  I had fun and learned a lot – not to mention that I am nearly as fit as I have ever been.

One important thing I learned is that if you are going to set goals, you need to have a plan for each of them.  The better the plan, the greater the opportunity for success.  The plan needs to take you beyond your norms.

So, as I close the door on 2009, I’m thinking about the new year.  I’ve decided to have a coach to help me formulate the plans that will help me reach the goals I hope to set.  I’ll be honest, I’m a little scared of the commitment.  Then again, I was scared when I set my sights on climbing Mt. Mitchell.  I was scared when I pulled up to the line for my first race.

I never have regreted turning that crank to start either of them. I’m guessing 2010 won’t be any different.  Now, what will those goals be….?

My calendar is marked

My time away last week was great.  However, as I mentioned in one of my Tweets, I did miss the Caesars Head Challenge.  I don’t plan on doing that again.  I’ve already marked my calendar for next year.

I continue to hear good things about the event – including this report by Kirk Flinte.  If you participated in the event, I’d love to see your comments – or even a report to post here at LowCadence.com.  I would especially like to hear from someone who completed the 102 mile epic ride!

Here is a report from Catherine James.

June 12, 2010.  It’s already set -The Second Annual Caesars Head Challenge.  So for all of you who missed the Inaugural event this past Saturday, you have another opportunity.  And you now have a year to prepare – which believe me, you’ll need.

John and I rode the Metric route, which provided the expected amount of suffering leading to the slog up Caesars Head, but what really made things interesting was the blistering pace set from the gun, and the third hardest climb being a mile into the ride. For those of you who participate in Donaldson Center on Tuesday nights, imagine riding in the A group to the base of Caesars Head, with Camp Old Indian as a warm up. So, if you want a hard, fast, challenging ride with a test of your climbing endurance at the end (and in the middle, and in the beginning), do this route next year. Of course, the route is friendly for all, well supported and provided appropriate rest stops (and bail-out points) – so if you prefer to stop and eat the cookies (Baker) and drink the ice cold coke, it’s even more satisfying.

The full Century, aka Gran Fondo, I hear was the true climber’s test. We’re told that evil genius Boyd managed to put in every infamous climb he could think of in under 102 miles (Watershed, Saluda Grade, Old 25, Mount Olivet, Caesars Head.) The distance, the climbs and the heat were the perfect prescription for a true challenge. So all you gluttons for punishment, this one is for you. Several of the Century “specialists” determined that this ride tops Mt. Mitchell due to the up and down nature of the route.

As for the event venue (gorgeous!), organization and friendly hospitality, the Caesars Head Challenge team did a superb job in their inaugural event, and is already incorporating suggestions into the planning for next year (earlier start time, more directional signs/pavement markings). While there were a few minor (and typical) issues in this first attempt, this ride was as good as or better than many of the other established rides I have participated in. Bravo Nicole, Boyd, Don and Global Bike, and I look forward to next year’s challenge.

Two comments worth repeating

Still out of town for a couple days.  So, I’m not taking the time to come up with something original this morning.  There are a couple of comments from past posts that I think it would be good to repeat.

First, I need to put out a correction to one of my Twitter posts:

Jim Cunningham wins masters race. LPOA rider Reece Jackson was 2nd. 1-2-3 race is underway. Poor cat 3s. http://twitpic.com/65cih #

I was a little confused on this finish when I sent this tweet.  Thankfully, Jeff Gunn caught my errant message and set the record straight:

JP, Cunningham didn’t win the Master’s race, my teammate Bill Short did. I guess he beat them so bad in the sprint you didn’t know he was in the same race.

Next, I’d like to publish some advice given to me by a new friend of mine that I first met here on LowCadence.com.  It was really cool to be riding up Highway 80 during the Assault on Mount Mitchell and overtake a group of riders with one of them saying, “Hey, Jonathan, what are the chances we would meet here!?”  It was Jeff Palleiko from Rollinsford, NH and a LowCadence.com reader.

Here is a cool picture of Jeff circa 2005

Here is a cool picture of Jeff circa 2005

Jeff has been doing this for a while and had this piece of advice for me.  Now, I’ve heard it before, but it is something to keep reminding myself.  Also, if you are just starting out in racing like I am, this is something you need to know.

Hi Jonathan,

I know you just missed your goal but you still had a great race — nice work!

As you know racing is all about output management; essentially you are a book of matches with each extra effort being one less match. Ask yourself “where were the extra efforts?” the corners, too much wind, or floating back and forth through the field?

You asked how to build stamina for this type of racing? Well the best way is to do more races — nothing simulates racing better than racing! Also if you have a weekly training race series, make sure you do as many of those as possible. And since they are training races — be aggressive — ride the front and push your limits and don’t worry too much about race management. Not only will this make you stronger, it will also help you define your weaknesses and help you better manage all future racing.

As you gain fitness and (of course) better race management and savvy, you’ll really start to utilize that “full book of matches.” The key is to save that full book for your “A” races.

Cheers,
Jeff

PS. This may sound a bit masochistic but the “throw up” means you were really pushing yourself. It also means that your body was probably overloaded with lactic acid and a sick stomach is normal. More training and racing will partially alleviate this … However if you really like to go hard, this may still happen to some extent … as all of my best time trails always included a little throw up ;).

If this happens again, spit it out, as the body usually feels much better when it rids itself of all that extra stomach acid — and it will allow for a better race.

Have a wonderful Sunday!  I’m enjoying mine with the family.

Ride the Assault on Mt. Mitchell on your computer

Want to experience the Assault on Mount Mitchell without all the pain?  Okay, so it isn’t a true test of your climbing legs, but I did create a Google Earth map of my ride.  I also have a Google Map created, but it makes you go through several pages to see the entire ride.  I’m providing links to both of them.

The 2009 Assault on Mount Mitchell route.

The 2009 Assault on Mount Mitchell route.

View in Google Earth | View as Google Map

Once you launch the file in Google Earth, you can click the “play” button under the “Places” section.  This will start a “fly over” view of the entire Assault on Mount Mitchell route.  It gets most interesting when you move onto Highway 80.  You really start to get an idea of the elevations we were dealing with!

You also see that it could have been much worse.  The roads hug the valleys as much as possible.  Had we gone up some of those peaks around there, we would have been hurting even more.  Even so, it is pretty cool to see the route along the final ridge line to the top.

The final approach to the Assault on Mt. Mitchell

The final approach to the Assault on Mt. Mitchell

Click the image for a larger view.  Better yet, install Google Earth and then view it from any angle you wish.  Then start training for next year to get a close up view.

On a more positive note

After coming down pretty hard on the Assault on Mount Mitchell yesterday – at least the first 73 miles of it, I think I should take a moment to point out something that I thought was a good idea.  There was one part of the ride that almost went unnoticed – which was exactly how it was supposed to be.  It was the timing chip.

Attached to each bib number was a plastic strip with a timing chip on it.  We detached it from the bib and then looped it onto our cycling shoes.  To be honest, I only thought about it when we went through the timing loops in Marion, at the top of Highway 80, and at the event’s end.

However, because of the timing, I was able to get a very good idea of how my ride progressed and where my downfall came.  I kind of knew it anyway, but it is always nice for me to put numbers with how I’m feeling.  My Garmin could have done the same thing – had I been in the state of mind to push the lap button.  Thankfully, the chip took care of it for me.

The timing tells me I was the 171st person to finish the ride.  It took me 6 hours 49 minutes and 17 seconds. Contained in that were sections from Spartanburg to Marion, Marion to the Parkway, and the Parkway to the finish line.

It is funny to see that the chip data shows that it took me 3 hours 43 minutes and 40 seconds to ride from Spartanburg to Marion.  This was because when I arrived in Marion, I took a nature break just about 100 yards before the timing loop!  Had I waited to go until after the loop, I would have finished the section in just under 3 hours and 30 minutes.

Without that stop, I was on good pace to be in the top 50 by the time we reached the top of Highway 80.  Even so, I was 111th at that point.  On that section I had the 76th fastest time (59 minutes).  That would have put me at that point of the ride in 4 hours and 30 minutes.  Charlie Brown, who reached the summit first, reached that point of the ride in 4 hours and 27 minutes in 6th place.

It was the next section that killed me.  Consider Charlie’s time again… He covered this section of the ride in a few seconds over 1 hour and 7 minutes.  Me?  It took 2 hours and 6 minutes to cover that same distance.  So, even had I reached the Parkway 3 minutes behind Charlie, he would have left me in the dust on this section.

What does this tell me?  Well, first I have a much better feeling about my attempt.  Though the chip didn’t record it, it feels good to know that I rolled into Marion first and it wasn’t any weakness that took me out of the pack.  It was just not knowing where the timing loop was located.  I am certain had I kept rolling I could have acquitted myself well to the top of Highway 80.

It tells me that my greatest failure was my lack of training for distance.  By the time I reached 80 miles in, I had exceeded my longest training ride by at least 30 miles.  The last time I had completed a century was in mid-March.  It was a closed loop with about 7000 feet total climbing in short gains.

My body just entered no-man’s land during that third section.  Of course, this was also the hardest section on the ride.  The difficulty of the profile coupled with me entering a zone beyond my training was my downfall during those 16 or so miles.

Bottom line is that I could fix it.  I could train and go up there and reach my 6:15:00 finish time.  The only issue is that training all that time for one event simply does not excite me.  For now, I’ll just rest in the understanding that it can be done.

My advice to the Assault on Mt. Mitchell committee?  Keep the timing chips.  Can the waves.

Now for my Assault on Mount Mitchell

Yesterday was pretty amazing at LowCadence.com.  There has been only one other day in the history of the blog that had more visitors to the site.  That other day?  The day George Hincapie put a link to the blog on his Twitter account.

Well, today I’m going to share my observations and opinions about the ride.  Let me preface it by saying that I have an appreciation for the people who have put so much into making the ride happen.  It can be a thankless job and I trust this post will be written and accepted in a spirit of hoping things will improve.  However, I am going to let you know at least this one person’s opinion and I don’t think I am alone.

I arrived with a bit of time to spare and moved toward my assigned docking point for the “wave” I was supposed to be in.  It gave me a chance to look around and my initial thoughts were pretty positive.  The setup seemed to be going smoothly and there wasn’t nearly the jockeying for position as there was in times past.

I watched as the first wave started off.  Rather than having the entire field of 1000+ riders starting off at once, the organizers divided the first 500 riders into groups of 100.  Each group would start off with one minute separating the group behind them.  The final group would the remaining riders going to Mount Mitchell along with those riders stopping in Marion.

One minute after the first wave started the second wave – my wave – started.  Before a couple miles passed we caught the first wave.  The Spartanburg city limits were passed before all the waves of 100 were together.  Suddenly we were in a rolling mass start again.

This, in my opinion, changed the entire dynamic of the ride and not for the better.  The guys in the first wave could now see other riders who were a couple of waves back riding beside them.  That meant that the guys beside them potentially had up to a 4 minute lead in time.

The riders coming up from the back were now with the “leaders” and knew they were up to 4 minutes ahead.  They could just sit here in the pack and “coast to the top” with the pack.  In other words, there was no motivation to get the train rolling.

Also, the mass start in times past allowed the Marion riders to mix it up with the Mount Mitchell riders.  It was good to have them because many of them really turned up the juice to get to the campground as soon as possible.  It was not unusual for a Marion rider to come by a Mitchell rider and say, “Hop on. I’ll pull you to Marion so you can save your legs for the climb.”

I realize that the goal was to slow people down and attempt to avoid a dangerous situation.  However, I’m afraid the opposite took place.  Before we were out of Spartanburg I was nearly taken out in a crash that happened to my left.  Thankfully, I saw it start to happen and turned my bike away from it.  I received a glancing blow from a rider and was pushed over to the guard rail, but didn’t go down.

So, here we were in this large bunch of hundreds of riders with no one taking the lead to pick up the pace.  Then the “yellowliners” started.  These were a few riders who kept crossing the center line.  I mean it was really bad this year.  I watched one guy repeatedly stay out there until a car would come toward him.  He would basically play chicken with the car and move over only enough to let the car by.

At one time a rider made a driver of a pickup truck that was coming around a blind curve slam on his brakes to avoid hitting the idiot.  These riders would then dive back into the group causing the riders in the group to compress while letting them in.  This in turn would cause the group to slow almost to a stop.  It seemed I was spending more time feathering my brakes the pedaling my pedals!

I hate to say it but I almost reached the point where I wanted to go up the yellow line and not allow one of those riders back in when the car was coming at them!  That is how irritating and frustrating their actions had become.  If the goal was to slow things down and avoid danger… FAIL.

Finally, as we neared Marion I had enough.  I went to the front and then off the front.  It was so liberating not to be in that surging mass any longer.  I stayed off the front until we reached the campground.  I pulled over at that point to, ummm, take care of some business.

So far things were going as planned – except the time the group took to get to Marion was longer than I had planned.  I was about 30 minutes behind schedule because of it.  Once I started out on Highway 80 things returned to the old Assault I remembered.  It was every man for himself at this point.  There was no large pack for me to worry about.

Up I started feeling pretty good.  It was about this time I met Jeff – a LowCadence.com reader from up north who had come down for the ride.  We talked about the site, racing, his gear choice, and a bit more as we rode along.  It was really neat to put a face with the e-mail address!  He is a pretty cool guy.

Unfortunately, about halfway up 80 I started to get a pain all along my lower back.  I don’t know if it was the positioning on my bike or what, but it slowed me down significantly.  Limping into the SAG just before the turn onto the Parkway, I just had to stop to stretch my muscles.

I had originally planned to skip that SAG as I had been doing a pretty good job eating the food I had with me.  Of course, I had not counted on my muscles seizing up like they were doing.  The stop couldn’t have come at a better time.  The good news is that there was no cramping.

After only the time it took me to stretch out and refill a water bottle, I headed up on the next grueling stretch of road.  Really, the climb up Highway 80 and the first 6 or so miles of the Parkway ARE the Assault on Mount Mitchell.  If you can make it that far, you can make it all the way.

On the Parkway I kept working to avoid that pain returning to my back.  It didn’t return.  I simply was slugging away up the climb that registered between a 6% and 9% grad for mile after mile.  I would pass come riders and others came around me.  Jeff who had fallen behind me at first, had passed me later on 80 and was now long gone.

My goal was just not to stop pedaling before I reached the two mile or so downhill that gives a reprieve as you suffer along the Parkway.  Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I got to coast for a bit.  The only negative was that it was pretty cold!  By the time I started to climb again, my legs had stiffened considerably.

I watched the miles tick by sooooo slowly on my Garmin 705.  The computer was telling me that my Quarq CinQo had captured that I was averaging just under 200 watts for the entire 5 hours I had been on the bike to that point.  For what it is worth, the computer also told me I had burned through 5000+ calories as well.

After that downhill I thought I remembered that the final SAG before turning up to the park would come sooner than later.  However, on this day it seemed like it would never come.  Around every turn I hoped to see some indication of the end, but each turn mocked me with another elevation.

Finally, I stopped looking ahead and just focused on the road before me.  “Keep turning the pedals over,” I told myself.  “Don’t embarrass yourself by getting off the bike to push it!”  Stand and pedal.  Sit and pedal.  Lean forward and pedal.  Hang off the back of your seat and pedal.  Just try to keep your body from locking up and pedal.

I realized that I had not prepared for this ride as I should have.  I honest didn’t care about the goal I had set for myself.  I didn’t care about the people riding around me.  I just wanted to reach the top and drink the bottle of root beer I had stashed in my bag that was waiting for me at the top.

Finally, I reached the targeted SAG.  I stretched, ate some oranges, took a nature break, and then headed up to the park.  At this point it looked like I just might make 6 hours and 30 minutes.  It gave me a little renewed motivation and I tried to give it my best as I passed the sign saying there were 3.9 miles to the top.

Last year this section was really not that bad to me.  I think it was partially because I had rested for a good amount of time before attempting it.  Today, was different, I was really about to stop.  I willed myself toward the entrance to the park.

Then I had something strange happen.  Take your fingers and quickly tap the base of the back of your head.  Do it repeatedly for a dozen or so times.  Well, imagine that same feeling at the base of your neck without your fingers doing it.  I was feeling that sensation with my heart beat.

Alarmed I looked down at my computer to see my heart rate was at 155 bpm.  Okay, that was no big deal, I can ride for long periods of time with my heart rate at 165 bpm.  However, it felt as though my heart was running away from me.  Whew!  There was the entrance to the park and another SAG.

As I rode through the gate my computer registered 6 hours and 27 minutes.  Still, I felt I had to stop to get this thumping out of my head.  The SAG workers gave me some Pringles and I drank some more of my remaining water.  The salty chips were so nice after the bagels and gels I had been consuming.

Two more miles – that was all I had left to do.  However, counting the rest and the remaining distance to the top, that two miles took me nearly 20 minutes.  I crossed the scoring strips with my computer showing 6 hours and 49 minutes.

I had climbed a total of 13694 feet over 103 miles.  My average power for the ride was 191 watts with my max wattage at 1200 watts, my 20 minute peak at 258 watts, and my 60 minute peak at 248 watts.  My ride time was 6 hours and 29 minutes and my finishing time was (unofficially) 6 hours and 49 minutes.

At first I was very down on myself.  I questioned my view of myself as a cyclist.  There were people who looked less fit than myself who got better times up the mountain.  Then I realized that it was just one of those days.  My body just wasn’t ready.  That doesn’t mean if I went out there and did it again that I couldn’t make it in 6 hours and 15 minutes.

Really, after that ride, I was just glad to have finished PERIOD.  I have utmost respect for those people who don’t appear to be as fit as others and still attempt the ride – and even more to those who actually finish.

Still, I will not be back next year.  The joy of the ride went out of me as we rode toward Marion.  It got trampled on as I slugged my way up 80 and the Parkway.  It disappeared entirely with the bike fiasco at the top.  Until someone shows me otherwise, I just don’t see a reason to do it again.  There are other rides out there for me to spend my $80 dollars on.

Been there.  Done that.  Got the jeresy.

Jonathan Pait’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

When you complete the Assault on Mount Mitchell, they give you a little patch. I got mine after and gruelling climb up to the highest point east of the Mississippi River. Can I have another one as a reward for surviving a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?

I’ll write about the ride later. Right now I just need to get the other events of the day out of my system. Maybe it will have a positive purging effect.

Things started out well enough as I had a wonderful breakfast and finished pulling things together for the big ride. The ride over to Spartanburg was uneventful – though I was running about 10 minutes behind time. Still, I made it in time to park along with some other riders behind a church that faced Church Street.

At this point I was rushing a bit putting my bike together and sorting out everything that was to go in my pockets. It took a little bit longer to get the timing strap on my cycling shoe. At last I locked the car and headed toward the start finish line.

You’ll have to come back later to read what happened on the ride. I will say that this was truly the last Assault on Mount Mitchell I will ride. It isn’t that it took too much out of me or that it is too hard. It is simply because the ride itself was not fun – in the “let’s all suffer together” kind of way.

When I arrived back in Marion after the ride, I immediately looked for my family. They were there to pick me up and we would head quickly back to Greenville to make it to soccer games for Things One and Three. However, I couldn’t find them.

I left my cell phone in my car because last year it kept coming on during the ride and by the time I reached the top the battery was dead. The phone kept looking for a signal and it just burned it down. So, it didn’t seem to be worth the weight.

After getting some great BBQ and eating it, I started getting more concerned. If they didn’t get here soon, we wouldn’t make it back to Greenville on time. Oh, well, I wasn’t going to worry yet. I would just go check on my bike.

Arriving at the bike pickup area, I learned that there was an issue with them getting the bikes off the mountain. One truck had broken down and there were not enough volunteers at the top to load the bikes for the trip down. Things were moving as a snails pace.

Finally I sat near the entrance of the camp ground and waited for my family. At last – about two hours after they had planned – they arrived in our Suburban. Hmmmmm. They were supposed to be in the Fit.

I rushed over to check on them. It turns out they picked up a nail or something and had a flat tire between Greenville and Spartanburg. The beautiful redhead had to get the car off on an exit and call her mom to come pick them up. She went home and got the Suburban hoping to still make it in time.

We would have made it except for the fact that the bikes were late. I won’t go into any great detail because it makes me upset, but I handed my bike off at the top of the mountain before 1:30 PM. I finally pulled out of the park heading for home after 9:00 PM. It took much longer for my bike to make it down from the mountain than it did for me to ride it from Spartanburg to Mt. Mitchell!

Around 10:15 or so we finally arrived back at the car I left in Spartanburg. I knew immediately something was wrong. The car was moved out of the parking place and sticking partially in the street. I walked up and the first thing I noticed was the back window was broken. The next thing I noticed was that the passenger side door was ajar.

I opened the door and immediately looked at the dash. Sure enough, they had attempted to remove my radio. The dash area where the radio is was trashed. I looked around and nothing else seemed to be missing. It wasn’t until I arrived home that I remembered leaving the phone in the car!

Tired and frustrated I just went ahead and drove home. Finally, around midnight, I dragged my sore body into bed. I was definitely shell shocked. Thankfully, sleep came much faster than I thought it would.

Now this morning is being spent trying to work with my phone company to stop calls and clear the data from my PDA phone. I’ve got a tire to replace on the FIT and things to work out with my insurance company for the BMW.

Oh yeah, I also have to be at work. I have an important meeting this afternoon that I have to finish preparing for. Still, today the sun is shining and I don’t have to ride my bike up the mountain. Things are getting a little back to normal and it can’t nearly be as bad as yesterday’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day!

The evening before the ride

It has taken me awhile to come to the decision, but I have decided not to take my camera with me on the Assault on Mount Mitchell.  Tomorrow’s ride is going to be for me.  I want to enjoy it without having to work for the best angle or figure out what to comment on while suffering my way to the top.

I think I am ready.  I have gotten everything loaded in the car and breakfast is ready to be cooked.  I even have my bib number attached.

My plan is to carry gels, bars, and bagels with me on the bike.  I should have enough calories on me so that I can make the ride up to the top without having to stop for food.  Four bottles will be in my cages and jersey.  I’ll have to stop for more fluids along the way, but I hope to make it to Marion without stopping at all.

Every hour I will eat a gel.  I have a mix of carb focused and protein focused gels.  Thirty minutes after my first gel, I will start eating the solid foods.  It will be a bagel or a energy bar thirty minutes after each subsquent gel.  This should give me between 200 and 400 calories each hour.

At the top I have my bag which has some water, a recovery mix, and a root beer.  Also in the bag is a large towel, a box of wet wipes, some comfortable clothes (including a jacket), and shoes.  Last year I would have loved to have had the box of wet wipes – and the root beer!

I leave in the second wave at 6:31 AM.  I am hoping that we will all work together and we’ll make it easier for all of us by keeping the speed up in a large group.  That is the game plan to Marion.

I will stop in Marion to shift some more gels and bars into my jersey pockets.  I’ll load up with more fluids and then get back on the road as soon as I can.  Right after Marion I will try to keep the speed up until I start the climb up Hwy. 80.

On that stretch I don’t plan to push it.  I want to conserve as much energy as possible during that time of hard work.  I’d like to feel a little better than I did last year at the entrance of the Parkway.

I really believe that without the heat I faced last year, I should be able to spend less time at the rest areas along the way.  I’d like to stop only once on the Parkway – the stop just before you turn into the road leading to the park.

Can I do it in six hours?  Most everyone except me thinks I won’t have any trouble.  Maybe I should start thinking like they do!  We’ll find out tomorrow.