Laying on the ground above the parking lot at Mt. Mitchell State Park, too tired to eat the complimentary tomato soup and bread that is offered to riders who complete the century ride “Assault on Mt. Mitchell,” I said to my friend Tim (the Renaissance Man), “if I ever mention coming back to do this ride again, please stop me!” He listens very well (sarcasm). In a matter of days, I will return to Spartanburg, SC to endure the painful fun agony of once again riding in the “Assault on Mt. Mitchell” which finishes atop the highest elevation in the United States, east of the Mississippi River. This time, I’m not the only sucker. Not only did Tim neglect to hold me accountable for MY statement, he’s part of the reason I’m returning! It was a very challenging ride for me a year ago doing my first extended mountain climb of 20+ miles and the finish was an emotional experience. I was honored that he was able to take off work and ride the bus to the top of the mountain to see my finish, and this year, I’ll break my legs to beat him to the top, so I can see the look on his face when he pulls into the finish shoot and rolls past the completion clock.
We aren’t representing the Bluegrass Cycling Club at AOMM alone, we know of at least 7 (BCC) riders total that plan to ride with the Freewheelers of Spartanburg this year. I’m somewhat flattered that many of the riders we know going to do AOMM said they were inspired by the story of my experience last year, and want to endure the challenge themselves. No doubt, they will know they have chosen a challenge about 90 miles into it when you realize it just keeps going up. It’s also a nice feeling to be able to share my ride experience from last year with the cyclists I know going this year … I feel as though I’m helping them be better prepared than I was.
There have been a few rides in my lifetime that I would have said immediately following the finish, “this was the toughest ride I’ve ever done.” However, after having time to recover and reflect on those rides, I believe AOMM is the champion of challenges for me. Some of the runners up were more difficult than should have been, do to my lack of physical fitness at the time or simply poor preparation in the days prior to each ride. Truth is, I was in good shape and had ideal weather last year, and doubt I would have finished otherwise.
I’m methodical, structured, and I’m always setting goals. Whether it’s a club ride, solo training ride, century ride … doesn’t matter, I like to have a plan in place and not stop short of achievement. Last year’s goal for AOMM was to finish. Actually, I hoped to finish with “gas left in the tank.” I achieved that, and have set my 2014 goal a little more lofty. The ride is beautiful enough (and I don’t get the fortune to ride in awesome mountains very often) that I refuse to set a goal of a race style pace that will not allow me to enjoy the ride, the scenery, the cyclists, and the wonderful volunteers. I have set a goal to shave off nearly an hour of time on the mountain climb segment from what I achieved last year. This simply means I intend to push myself harder on the climb and not take as long at the refuel stops. From the training I’ve done, I anticipate some friendly help on achieving this goal from Linn and Gene who will help me push my pace. I also hope to get further along the route before I make my first stop this year. Last year, I pulled out of the pack around mile forty for a restroom break, I’d love to stay in that pack as long as possible this time around.
So, how’s my hype? Well, honestly, I’m not really hype at all this year. I definitely had some anxiety and excitement leading up to last year’s event, but this year I feel pretty calm. I am a stronger climber and much more confident cyclist now, than I’ve ever been in my life and I certainly attribute much of that success to my AOMM 2013 achievement. I have been pushing myself to become the cyclist I now am because of that summit a year ago, and I’m more thrilled and excited for the experience that my friends are about to have. One thing I am hyped about (because I love ice cream) is that when I tried to lure Gene into a racing bet, and he graciously stated “if I get to the top, I’ll buy everyone (in our group) dessert!” Trust me folks, he’s going to the top. So is Linn, Tim, myself and all the other Bluegrass Cycling Club riders I know going.
Stay tuned for our group photo near 7000 feet up. And as always, you will be able to see the details of the route and our ride on our RAM Cycling Strava activities section.