During this time of reflection in the early off season, I’ve decided to return to Spartanburg next May and attempt my second Assault On Mt. Mitchell! Next time, I intend to bring friends, and the following will include some of my two cents on how to prepare for such a grueling century ride. I know for sure, the 4 guys planning to go with me are capable of making it to the top, assuming they take the proper preparation necessary. Tim, Chuck, Linn, Adam, and I will hopefully receive the official patch that is given to riders upon reaching the summit.
Masher’s five primary principles to success at AOMM are training, nutrition, weight management, mental toughness, gameplan! Training is necessary to complete any century, and definitely a must complete any climb of this magnitude. Some things I will focus on in my training this time around that will be different than my first try: distance, resistance riding, and longer climbs. I rode some steep roads and climbed the toughest hills out my back door but there’s only a few miles that find a grade that hurts on the Mt. Mitchell climb. The toughest part is how long the climb is and how many miles are on your legs when you reach the hard part (not to mention, the ride comes early in the cycling season). My top two recommendations are ride as much resistance on a trainer or stationary bike as possible and complete as many real climbs as you can. No one wants to ride indoors for 3 to 4 hours straight, but unless you live near real mountains, the trainer is the next best way to get a steady resistance spin for the same time frame that you’ll spend climbing Mitchell. I also plan to ride an 85 mile loop that ends climbing Black Mountain (about a 9 mile climb) in southeastern KY in early spring along with a trip to the Smokies to complete a 70 mile ride including a trip to the top of Clingman’s Dome (25 mile climb).
Nutrition and weight management go hand in hand. Obviously, completing a serious climb is much easier the lighter you can be, but it’s important to not lose too much, too quick. For best results, determine what your ideal weight would be and try to establish an eating plan that enables you to lose only a pound or two per week until you get there. Trading fat loss for muscle gain is the best method. I know, muscle weighs more than fat, but lean muscle growth is also the best way to burn fat not needed by your body. Somewhere around mile 98, you’ll need to dig deep and hope you’ve got the strength to get you home. Nutrition on training rides and on the bike on AOMM is very important. Eating healthy meals is only half the plan, if you don’t give your engine the proper fuel on gameday, it can be the difference in stopping at the top or short of it.
Assault On Mt. Mitchell is the most physically challenging ride I’ve ever completed, but if not for a true mental toughness, I have serious doubts that I would have made it. When I rode my first attempt, I had made great strides in my physical fitness level, but I was not at my ideal weight or strength. I often found myself in scenarios where I could have easily stopped and said “enough.” It wears on you when you’re tired and you look down at your bike computer hoping to see speed and distance gains, but find your mph around 4 and tiny distance movement over an hour or so. It’s also very demoralizing to witness others stopped on the side of the road, not sure if they can continue. Or even worse, the cyclists that turn around and head back down the mountain (especially near the top). I never had a doubt in my mind that I would finish, and it was because I mentally prepared for a war, and took on each battle, one revolution at a time. There are many things that can help or hinder your ability to reach the top, and attitude is probably the most important. Stay positive, focus on happy thoughts … this mentality is best learned by training in difficult weather, on difficult roads, and when feeling tired and worn out.
All the training, nutrition, strength training, weight loss, mental and physical prep are vital to your gameplan. Your gameplan is your road map to where you want to be. Want to complete the Assault? You can possibly get there by just taking off and often stopping and asking for directions, but you stand a much better chance of reaching the summit and getting there much more efficiently by following a Game Plan! Design a gameplan for you. Everyone must climb at their own pace in order to be successful, so decide how that road map best suits your needs to get you there, and most importantly: write it down. Make it visual, read it often. I also recommend following the training blog posted on The Assaults webpage by the Spartanburg Freewheelers Cycling Club. I was honored to contribute a few pieces to the page last season, and learned a ton from the info I read by others there.
I’m excited to make the return trip next year … and I’m already way ahead of where I was when I started training for my first attempt. I’m also very excited to take some friends to share in the fun (agony) with me next time. I know how awesome it’ll be to take a group picture at the top! I will be returning with a new challenge at hand. I will either be a climbing coach to Renaissance Man and be by his side as he makes his first attempt, or I’ll be pushing myself to test my limits as I strive to finish the ride in under seven hours overall. My time this year was around 9:20 total. The choice is yet to be determined, but one thing’s for sure: I will reach the top. Again!
Find us on Strava, Twitter, and Facebook … and especially on the road …