Assault on Mt.
102 miles - 8:42:01
I have approached the summit of Mt.
Mitchell almost a dozen different ways; on trail and asphalt. I have run
up and down hwy 128, the 5 mile road up to the summit multiple times
(Mt. Mitchell Challenge alternate weather coarse, and Pitchell). I have
also run to the summit from all sides of the peak on trails. I have
driven a car to the summit, the least exhilarating of them all. I would
now attempt to ride a bike to the summit. The Freewheelers cycling club
out of Spartanburg, SC puts on a bike race dubbed the Assault on Mt.
Mitchell, and this would be its 35th year. I had to sign up for this.
The ride is on a Monday to
avoid vehicular traffic on the parkway. So all the logistics went down
on Sunday, and it got complicated. Long story short, dropped off the
bike in Spartanburg, drove up to Marion, parked my car at the Marion
finish (campgrounds), hitched a ride back to Spartanburg just in time
for the last left over’s of the pasta dinner and called it a night on
M’s couch who offered me a place to crash the night before this monster
I woke up at 5am, doubled up
on oatmeal because the pasta wasn’t as filling as I would have liked it
to be, and rode my bike to the start. There were hundreds of cyclists,
all decked out and lined up at the starting line. We took off at 6:30am.
The first few miles were a
bit nerve wracking as we were all squeezed in like sardines in each
lane. It took 10-15 minutes to thin out and I began to ride in a huge
pack. Im new at this riding thing, and wouldn’t consider myself anything
more than a novice. So when It came my turn to lead a line, I pushed
hard. Breaking the advice of badass cyclists friends Greg Paige and Mike
Jackson who told me not to lead early on. I lead with excitement, and
pushed hard. A line of 60 cyclists behind me followed along, and like a
snake we passed a few solo bikes that we zipped by. After a hill or two
I felts my legs get weaker and my pace begin to slip. So I pulled to the
left and let someone else lead.
“Nice lead yo,” “sweet pace…”
“awesome lead…” a few people complimented. They all zipped by, and I had
a hard time keeping up with my pack, and slipped up as a solo rider for
a few moments. Only to be picked up by another pack. I did this a few
times and realized that I was expending more energy than I needed to
while leading, and tried to draft as much as possible. It was going to
be a long day.
Every few miles I would see a
bike on the side of the street with a cyclist down, either a crash or a
flat. Both would be bad news for me, and I hoped for the best. I kept
pushing as fast as I could maintain. I filled up water and ate at the
aid stations, and just got into a good groove. The weather couldn’t have
been better during the morning.
Around mile 55, a rider that
was only going to Marion (shorter ride), with a bib # of 2009, slammed
his brakes hard while we were in a tight line. My fear became a reality,
half way into this adventure. My front tire slammed into his rear tire,
and I lost control of my bike making me go down and kiss the asphalt
hard. I got banged up, but only a few scrapes here and there. I looked
at my bike, and the handlebar was twisted to the left. Rider #2009
stopped and came back to help. “Are you ok?”
I was fine, the bike appeared
to be in working order, but didn’t look the same as it did at the start.
I was already tired and knew that I had to finish this thing because I
might not be back next year. I hoped onto the bike, and slowly made
forward progress. I proceeded with caution, which a wise friend taught
me. About 10 miles later I noticed that the bike was making a weird
sound, and realized it was my brake pad rubbing. I couldn’t tell if it
was my front brake or rear brake, I didn’t care so I kept pushing.
At mile 73 I made it to
Marion. Here I refueled, and took in more calories. I fiddled with the
brakes and couldn’t seem to figure out if it was the front or the rear
breaks, and decided to push on with the added resistance. I knew it
would be painful as the real climbing comes after Marion. I rolled out
of Marion about 4:30 after the gun time and found my way onto Hwy 80,
passed lake Tahoma and started a grueling climb.
I was moving anywhere from
4-10 mph and I could feel my quads pulsating. It began to rain, and I
could hear everything on my bike, including the rubbing brake pad.
Everytime someone got near my bike, or passed me, they would tell me my
brake was rubbing on my bike. I didn’t care anymore. I was on a mission,
and I wanted the summit. Yet I was still so far away.
Here I took advantage of my
ipod, and played the recently downloaded funky beats of DJ Icey. These
tunes gave me a boost and I passed my cyclist up the hwy 80 hill, on the
parkway section, and all the way up to the summit. While on the parkway
the rain got heavier and made for some scary descents. I didn’t want the
bike to slide from underneath me and crash again, so I was cautious
going down the hills. When I finally reached hwy 128 I knew I was home
free. 5 miles to go, and all a climb. I kept passing people on the
uphills, and loved every minute of it. The last two miles were
surprisingly level and I pumped my legs even faster, and kept passing
cyclists and even a few cars that were just behind some cyclists. I
crossed the line in 8:42:01. I wanted to carry my bike up to the summit,
but they wouldn’t allow that! They took my bike and shuttled it down to
Marion to the campgrounds where my car was.
I followed the scent of the
great smelling tomato soup and downed 3 warm cups. I retrieved my drop
bag, and found Greg who parked his car at the Black Mountain Campgrounds
and hiked the six miles up to the summit. Hey provided some more
nutritional calories which I was very thankful to scarf up. I then
strapped my cycling gear, helmet an all to my running back, and threw on
my inov8’s. After hiking up to the summit, I attempted to run down the
MST, which turned into a speed hike for the first few miles and then
gradually got faster. My legs were toasted, but I wanted to push myself.
We made it to the campgrounds in just over an hour and half, and I
jumped in the South Toe river soaked the body. I would feel the affects
of this even a week later as this was a monster adventure. Greg, thanks
for helping out and meeting me at the summit!!