So sorry for the delay in writing and publishing summaries of these great rides. Horsey weekend fell right after AOMM, in the same week, and I was sorta ready for a mental and physical vacation momentarily, so I just didn’t recap it immediately, then it was no longer a priority. After completing the Preservation Pedal century ride a few weeks later, things were really busy with work and it got pushed aside, as well. I know, both excuses are fairly lame, but please forgive me anyway.
Horsey Hundred weekend rides were on May 24-25, and as usual, around two thousand cyclists of all varieties showed up to ride one or multiple routes on Saturday and/or Sunday. Personally, I rode the century route on Saturday, then the half century on Sunday. It capped off an epic week for me. Completing AOMM on Monday, then a couple moderate rides during the week, and ending with 155 miles over our beautiful rolling, challenging terrain littered with plank wood fence horse farms and bourbon distilleries was epic enough, however I chose to run 4 miles or so after the Horsey century with Toby, Nate and Schmidty (my Ironman friends). Needless to mention, my legs were tired by the time the Memorial Day holiday arrived. The highlight of the ride for me was getting to finish the last 10 miles with my best friend, the Renaissance Man and few other local cycling friends as my group finally caught up to them near Keeneland race track.
I certainly recommend the Horsey Hundred event to all cyclists, whether you ride centuries or you joy ride on trails with your children. It offers a route for everyone and the folks that organize the whole weekend always do a great job trying to cater to all the variety of cyclists, and it is the single event that raises the most cycling awareness in my home town of Georgetown, KY. If only more anti-cycling folks could see the positives that are generated by the tourism and economical boost our community receives from such a great cycling event, maybe they would be a little more respectful and thankful to share the road with us!
Preservation Pedal rides continued it’s tradition of moving location every year, and offered cycling routes on Saturday June 21, 2014 from historic Winchester, KY. This was the third century ride offered in the new KY Century Challenge that was started last year by Adventure Tourism KY. The challenge offers 4 events with century cycling rides, and any rider that completes at least three of the century routes can purchase a special jersey at cost, while riders completing all 4 will receive the jersey free. The ride had an awesome start/finish spot in the heart of downtown and I thoroughly enjoyed the ice cold Ale-8-One beverages served at the finish. If you’ve never had one, it’s a special ale with a flavor of sweet ginger, that’s made and bottled in Winchester. We refer to it as “Kentucky’s soft drink.” I recommend trying it, and it goes down great after any hot day on the bike!
The century route was very nice, with much of it along the Kentucky River basin over very rural roads, lightly traveled. It was my first time riding most of these roads, and I look forward to going back to the area for more cycling rides. Kudos to the Preservation Kentucky group for continuing the event and doing a great job hosting it. All the volunteers are very nice and wanted to converse and educate folks about the historic parts of the ride. I follow their organization on Twitter and occasionally click on the links posted and view the stories and pictures they publish. All the stuff is very interesting when I can find the time to check it out.
The PP ride this year was a little bitter-sweet for me because my grandmother, Ma’amwaw Lucy Pearl (my last grandparent), passed away on the Friday morning, the day before. The way it happened was somewhat of a blessing, and the ride for me was kind of a mental get-away. I certainly enjoyed the time I got to spend on my bike on beautiful scenic KY backroads, especially getting to hang out with most of my cycling friends before, during, and after the ride! However, my heart just wasn’t into the ride, but I’m glad I did it anyway and now that I’ve successfully completed the first three routes in the century challenge, I look forward to riding the last one, as well. It will also be a route on new roads for me as it’s hosted in Elizabethtown, my birthplace town. If (when) I can complete it, I will have managed to finish all 4 century rides in the challenge again this year (I think there was only around 40 that did all 4 last year), placing me in a minority that I’m proud to belong!
Again, sorry for the delay in publishing these great ride recaps, but please put them on your list for next year! They are both great rides that deserve to see more cyclists.
I don’t cycle to add days to my life, I cycle to add life to my days … @KPtheMasher
Renaissance And Masher have landed on the east coast at Oak Island, NC. Today’s ride was a pleasure ride, casually strolling along the avenue parallel to the beach, checking out the local scenery and enjoying the brisk ocean breeze. The majority of the 25 mile ride was along the coast with a brief jaunt across the Atlantic Intercoastal waterway and back, finding a few Strava segments and finishing with one of our own in the last half mile to our condo. See our Strava details on the homepage to view the route.
Why Oak Island? Why not? Actually, we are making our first visit to Oak Island to witness the wedding of my brother later today (July 14, 2014) to his fiance Andrea (Andi) B, as this is where they have vacationed with her family for years now, and they finally decided to tie the knot as she always dreamed of marrying at a beach wedding. So, technically, we didn’t choose Oak Island, but we’re happy to be here. Wouldn’t have missed it for anything, and neither would our bicycles (as usual).
Since we are on summer family vacation, we have not made plans for the rest of our week, but I’m sure it will include cycling, along with beach time, pool time, beer time, sun time, and much needed fellowship time throughout! Stay tuned to our Strava page for future routes here on the island and see if we can crack any segment Top 10s!
“Pain is weakness leaving the body.” We have all heard this quote and some cycling friends have even credited Lance with its origin. In reality the quote comes from General Lewis B Puller who was in the Marine Corps. And it simply means if you work through the pain, then strength replaces it. Well after the Assault on Mount Mitchell, my body has a whole lot of room for pain.
The Assault on Mt. Mitchell (AOMM) is a ride that brings the pain like no other I have ever experienced. And after 11 Hours and 8 minutes, the pain stopped. This is my review of pain and suffering that I have labeled “the hardest thing I have ever undertaken both physically and mentally.”
A year ago, my good friend KP the Masher, completed his first AOMM. I was there along the ride, specifically in Marion, 2 hours by SUV from the starting point, and at the top of Mt Mitchell, 2 hour bus ride up the mountain. As I recall my spectator status was filled with “those people are crazy” and “I would never attempt this.” Yet one year later, I had helped organize 8 fellow riders from the Bluegrass Cycling Club to attempt the AOMM. Besides myself and Kevin, there were Linh, Gene, Ken, Howard, and Adam, all going to Mitchell. We also had Steph and Rusty going to Marion.
All along, my plan was to just ride to Marion. I knew I could do that. After all, it was just 5500+ feet of climb and 72 miles. I was telling myself this so that I would not have to cross the mental hurdle of facing the 20+ mile climb so far away from the ride. So as I do, I poured myself into the details of the organizing the ride – the hotel, the cars, the meeting places, the car drops, etc. Still not even thinking of the climb but focusing on the fun our group was going to have.
I trained more this year for this ride than any previous ride I have ever performed. Several of us went to Clingman’s Dome and after a near death experience, I decided that I could make the climb. It was on and the climb became my focus. I was even helped by the news that Clingman’s climb was rated harder than Mitchell’s by some bloggers. Next up was a practice century that was dubbed the Masher’s Hilly Hundred. Awesome ride at over 8,000 feet of climb that was challenging but reinforced that a century with 11,000+ feet of climb was now possible.
Time ticked away at a rapid pace. And before I knew it we were on our way to Spartanburg, SC, the starting location. We got there Saturday night and rested up. On Sunday we went to Church and I prayed for surviving the ride. The Linn and I set out to Marion to meet Steph, Ken and Gene to drop vehicles for ride day. After getting back to Spartanburg, all of us met for the pre-ride dinner and tried to forget about the climb. We all went back to our rooms and prepared everything for the morning. Bottles filled. Attire laid out. Bike checked. Food and hydration checked. Nerves checked. Sleep.
Race morning was a blur. We met at Sunoco from the three separate hotels at 5:45 am and rode 2.5 miles down to the starting line. The weather was perfect and the nerves were settling down. We took lots of pre-ride pictures and prepared to start the journey along with about 1,000 other riders.
When the ride started, it was somewhat chaotic. I tried to just settle in and ride carefully watching for crazy riders and dropped water bottles. The ride to the first rest stop was fast at over 18.3 mph. I saw everyone there except for Gene, Kevin and Linn. I wouldn’t see them again for 10 hours. The ride to the second rest stop was a more realistic pace for me at just under 16 MPH and 42 miles complete.
Now we start the pre-climbing 5 miles to the next rest stop and an average of under 13 mph, which as consistent from 3 to 4. From 4 to 5 I was down to under 10 MPH for that section that included Bill’s Hill. I still felt OK after Bill’s Hill and Marion was close.
Marion – I rolled into Marion with Rusty right behind Ken, Howard and Steph. The ride so far was not very painful with an average pace of 15.2 MPH. A few big climbs, but I was rocking a new 11-28 cassette that was a huge improvement over the 12-25. I also had Skratch fuel onboard and my hydration plan was being followed exactly. Refueled my body and my bottles and decided to go check out the food with Ken while we were waiting on Howard to get ready for our departure. As I was checking out the food, a fellow taps me on the shoulder to wish me luck for the climb as he saw I had a Marion bib number. I turn around and low and behold, it is Phillip, the trail angel that saved my life on Clingman’s Dome. (Read Masher’s story about Clingman’s for more details.) His encouragement was all I needed to set out on the climb and know that God was with me and I would complete this task. (Insert story that many of us now believe Phillip may not be real but areal Angel.)
Now I knew there was no stopping. Most likely everyone would be waiting on me. And there was no way I was going across the finish line on top of the mountain in a SAG vehicle. I was either going to ride, walk, or crawl across.
Five rests stops left meant five five mile rides. The rest stops were not equally spaced but my approach was just that. Five rides. Nothing more, and nothing less. It was harder than I imagined. After the first two stops, I did not see Ken or Howard again. Ken had said at the second stop, that he was thinking of calling a SAG. That was all the justification I needed – if he could SAG out so could I. But did he? That crossed my mine at least 1,000 times in the final 15 miles.
At the Blue Ridge Parkway I was still average over 13 MPH but I still had almost 5,000 feet of climb ahead. The riders were thinning out. I was still being passed but much more infrequently. Was anyone behind me?
I remember vividly walking for a about a mile. I was looking out over the mountains and God’s creation. It was an amazing feeling. But then I started to feel pain in my hip. This was very unusual for me. But I think it was a message to get back on the bike. During this walking period, I did learn that I can walk at about 2.2 – 2.5 MPH and I can ride as slow as 3.5 MPH. Riding would give me about a 30% improvement in speed which meant I would finish faster if I rode and maybe less pain.
At about this same time, I was contemplating whether I had enough time left. I calculated again that even if I had to walk the rest of the way – I was going to make it.
Now it was time to bear down and make it happen. 2 miles form the top at the last rest stop, the volunteers lied to me. But I am glad they did. It was a tough 2 miles, but there lies made me not face the mental side of 2 more miles of climbing pain and suffering. The last four miles seemed like an eternity – 4.4 miles and 1500 feet of climb = PAIN!
The finish line – what an amazing view – eight friends cheering me on when I came around the last turn. All yelling words of encouragement. Steph and Rusty taking pictures. Kevin running along side of me. I had completed the challenge. I had beaten the mental and physical demons. I had accomplished what I had set out to do – finish the Assault on Mt. Mitchell.
Final stats from AOMM:
If I said it once I said it a hundred times – never again will I make this ride.
So after about four weeks, my goal for next year is to finish in 8.5 hours.
I stopped briefly at the intersection of Hwy 80 and Blue Ridge Parkway along the eastern continental divide, and refilled both water bottles, adding Skratch Labs hydration mix to one. I then saddled back up and thanked the park rangers as I pedaled up onto the beautiful BRP. Thoughts running through my mind include hopes that the grade lightens up from the hard work I had just put in on Hwy 80 leaving Marion, NC headed to the tallest peak east of the Mississippi River. I pass through two spectacular rock wall tunnels and catch a quick breather on a short descent. As the pavement once again turns up, I witness two female cyclists up ahead, and hear two males coming up from behind. There are no quick passes on this part of the ride. Eventually, the guys catch me about the same time I catch the gals, and we all leap frog each other. I offer greetings to all, and soon we are all separated again.
On down the road, after many more climbing miles, I find another descent, this one much longer and extremely fast and frigid cold. Shortly after beginning to climb again I was passed by a female who softly said “only 8 more miles.” Last year my goal was simply to finish and I preached to myself, “if I don’t mind, it don’t matter.” This year my goal was to ride the mountain segment in at least an hour less time than last year, a goal that may seem unrealistic to some, but one that I took full aim at to conquer. I held her wheel after she pulled in front of me for a mile or so and she finally managed to pull away. This year was not about mind or matter, it was about truly testing myself, and when you find yourself pedaling a low cadence with no gears left for miles at a time, you come across some testy moments.
Why do we feel the need to do this to ourselves? I’m not built to be a climber, why don’t I stick to rides that favor my strong suits? Why drive six hours from home to put myself through this agony when I have a hometown century ride later in the week? Why, why, why …? And as simple as the questions arise, so too is the answer simple: because I can! And with that answer, I continue to push the pedals forward, with no stopping. I would enter the Mt. Mitchell State Park in under seven hours total time and had an emotional feeling hit me as I finally endured the first 3 miles of the park entrance road, the toughest section of pavement on this 103 mile trek from Spartanburg, SC to the top of Mt. Mitchell. As the grade became less, I shifted the chain onto the big ring and stood out of the saddle, and took off as if I was in a county line sprint. Soon, I made the final turn, and was all smiles as I crossed the finish line, and I was more than ready to get off my bike.
I hung out at the finish line area waiting to see my Bluegrass Cycling Club friends, who made the journey from Lexington and Georgetown, KY to the Assaults. I looked out over the mountain in every direction in awesome wonder at the beauty beneath us. I wondered what it must be like to be a bird and be able to fly over this immaculate area and witness the art of God’s canvas we call mother nature. It is simply stunning, only an experience you can truly appreciate by seeing for yourself in person.
Not long after I finished, I saw Jack Daniel from South Carolina come across the line (I had met him here last year when I started the ride with Aaron West, a local cyclist and excellent blogger). The finish was emotional for him too, and I could see he was also glad to be off the bike. It was nice to see him and converse for a few moments until my guys started coming in, one at a time.
I was very calm and not anxious at all leading up to the ride this year. I came along with 8 other cyclists from the central Kentucky area, and I was the only one who had done the ride before. We picked up our packets on Sunday and fueled up for the ride at Mellow Mushroom in Spartanburg. I had salad, a calzone, and water, with a Michelob Ultra later at the hotel. We all met around 5:45 am and rode our bikes 3 miles to the start point. The first part of the ride was again nerve-racking as I maneuvered my way through the pack and settled into a nice group riding along around 22 mph average until the climbing began with mileage in the forties. Finally, climbing up Bill’s Hill, our pack was split up. I continued to ride strong into Marion and felt fresh and energized as the real climbing began with about twenty miles to go.
I felt pretty good about my training plan for the event after my rookie year, and I think it paid off as I took nearly two hours time off my ride from last year. My stats last year were 9:20 total time for the event, with around 8 hours riding time and 3 hours, 57 minutes on the mountain segment. This year I had 7:35 total time, 7:07 riding time and rode the mountain segment in 2:49, achieving my goal. Again, at the top, I told my friends I was not interested in doing this ride ever again and most of them agreed. Having said that, my goal for next year will be to break seven hours total time. I’ve got a year to talk myself out of it, but I’ll probably spend that time training for it instead!
KP the masher
Okay, so I’m not a seasoned Assault vet, but I managed to achieve success in my first attempt at Assault on Mt. Mitchell, and here’s a few ideas that I believe contributed to my triumph and can hopefully be helpful to you, as well. Good luck to all the riders this year and have a safe, fun, and successful trip up!
10. Set up your bike and equipment early on Sunday. Check your bike over thoroughly, ensure everything is situated from the transport to Spartanburg. Lay out your kit, gloves, helmet, any nutrition/energy you plan to carry and anything else that will be on you or the bike. It’s much easier to rest knowing you won’t worry about forgetting something first thing in the morning.
9. Get proper rest. It’s a long day that starts early and ends late by the time you complete the century ride to the top, then wait to be transported back down the mountain and by the time you retrieve your bike and return to Spartanburg, you will need all the rest you can get.
8. Eat properly before and during the event. It’s very important to eat healthy before the ride and avoid junk food. Your performance will be a genuine reflection of how well you properly fuel up before the ride. It’s also very important to ensure you replenish the calories you are burning along the way, especially since your hardest effort will be the last 25 miles. It is very hard to compensate for bonking during this section of the ride.
7. Thank the volunteers early and often. This event takes a lot of planning and logistics to provide us, the riders an awesome experience and wonderful challenge. The support of the volunteers is great, so please tell them thank you, when you can.
6. Be mentally tough! By this time, you cannot do much, if anything to improve your physical preparedness, but it is very important to focus your mind on the task at hand. Some say this event is more mentally than physically challenging, set your mind to stop nowhere short of the top and it shall take you there.
5. Have a goal and push hard to achieve it. Whether you’re goal is to simply make it to the top, or make it in less than 5 hours, stay focused and push yourself to accomplish the goal you set.
4. Ride within yourself. The ride has a mass start for both Marion and Mt. Mitchell riders, so it’s easy to find a pack or group that fits your pace and ride with them, taking turns pulling and drafting to save energy. However, don’t get caught up trying to ride with or pull a group that is faster than you, it will only hurt you later in the day and remember that everyone climbs at their own pace. Don’t attempt to go too hard too early, or you may find yourself walking or worse, getting picked up.
3. Be very cautious at the start of this ride! The first 5-10 miles is total chaos. You will see dropped chains, flat tires, crashes, loose water bottles in the road, and you will get tired of hearing “slowing.” But it is very important to be very alert and communicate to others riding around you during this start segment. Also, there will be traffic, as it is Monday and some folks are on their way to work. The first ten miles won’t make you’re day, but it can break it.
2. Have fun and be safe. This may sound redundant, but safety is paramount, not only in the start, but throughout. There will be some traffic on the climb as well. Remember to keep a positive attitude if you have to deal with a mechanical issue or personal issue such as cramping, tired-ness, bonking, etc. and if you don’t mind, it won’t matter. Keep moving forward, it’s the only way to the top.
1. Masher’s #1 tip has to be respect the mountain. This is a lesson I’ve learned more than once, the hard way. Most recently, on a training ride up Clingmans Dome in Tennessee with a few friends. If you ignore any one of the previous nine tips, you can still over-compensate another area and be effective, however, if you choose to not respect the mountain, it will be a mistake. Be prepared for anything once the climbing begins! The weather difference from Marion to the top of Mitchell can potentially be daylight and dark in contrast. Don’t take the mountain for granted and don’t underestimate the challenge it will present for you.
I hope some of you can find these tips useful to help you focus and achieve success at the Assault on Mt. Mitchell. Obviously, the main points are stay focused, stay positive, stay on your bike moving forward, and believe you will see the summit. When you do reach the top, be proud of your success, it is one of the toughest rides in the eastern and southeastern United States, not too many cyclists will ever even try it! Tweet us a picture of you at the top of Mt. Mitchell and tag @RAMCycling with #AOMMSummit and we’ll retweet it! Good luck, have fun, be safe, and enjoy the view at the top!