The next big ride event I will be completing and writing a review for is the Assault On Mt. Mitchell. In full disclosure, I have recently done a little moon lighting, because I was asked by Aaron West, the lead blogger for The Assaults, to help with some of the blogging. Of coarse, I obliged, and have written several short pieces, talking a little about myself, my training, and how I am preparing for such a difficult challenge, in hopes that I may offer a different perspective and some relation to other riders who will be making their first attempt to climb to the highest point in the United States east of the Mississippi River.
I stumbled across Aaron’s personal blog titled “Steep Climbs” some time in the last two years, and have enjoyed reading about the rides he has completed, which include Assault On Mt. Mitchell, and numerous other tough climbing events in and around the Appalachian and Blue Ridge mountains. In one of my blogs for the Assaults, I spoke about the necessity to develop a game plan for success at any challenge, especially one with the magnitude of assaulting Mt. Mitchell. I owe it to my personal viewing group here at RAM to offer MY game plan, then follow the ride up with an official review of the event.
My game plan consists of three main criteria: physical, mental, and the ride! First, I will address the physical aspect. I set out a training plan around the start of the new year that included overall body strengthening, increased flexibility, loss of excessive weight, and consistent cycling time. The strengthening plan includes weight lifting for both upper and lower body, and a challenging core and stretching workout three days per week. To date, I have lost 33 pounds, while adding significant strength, and my road miles are the most of any year I’ve ridden, plus more than I care time in the saddle on my indoor exercise bike.
The mental game plan is probably just as important as the physical, because attitude determines how far anyone will push themselves. To mentally prepare for this challenge, I decided to look at the route elevation profile (this scared the hell out of me), and develop a plan for how I will train now, and what my plan will be for the big day. Also, I chose, against my better judgement, to ride in the A group at our club rides, which rides routes with rolling to moderate hilly terrain for 25-50 mile rides while averaging a pace above 18 mph. I knew I ran the risk of getting dropped early on, but I have made significant fitness gains by riding with this group, and it has definitely boosted my mental confidence.
The final criteria for my personal game plan for success at Assault On Mt. Mitchell, is to set a specific plan for the ride. My entire game plan is somewhat of a guessing game, and this part will include multiple levels based on weather, if I experience any mechanical issues, etc. I have received some great advice for this part of the plan from Aaron, another strong Carolina cyclist Jim Simes, and by reading what others have posted on the Assaults Blog. My primary plan is to settle in with a strong group similar to my club, and get to Marion with an average pace around 18+, while not expending too much energy (trying to stay mid-pack as much as possible, without pulling too often). Upon arrival at Marion, I plan to eat a light meal, while getting off the bike for 30 minutes or so to rest. Once I depart for the Blue Ridge Parkway climb, I will be in for a battle, where the rest of the plan will be to use my mental and physical fitness gains to get me to the top. I will not set a time to beat, since this is my first attempt, but my ultimate goal, given the toughness of this ride is simply to finish! And finish, I will.
Don’t forget to check back here after May 20, for stories from my epic battle in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and see the view from the highest point east of the Mississippi River in the U.S. Please share this article with others, and leave a comment, let me know if you know anyone else training for the Assault!