Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ride Report: 2011 Assault On Mount Mitchell

The ride started at 6.30am in Spartanburg. That meant a 3.45am wake-up call for us. I packed all my stuff the night before, so all I had to do was getting dressed and get some breakfast in me. I was expecting to be more nervous, but I was oddly calm. Terry put the bike on the bike rack and we left the house at 4.30am to meet Stacy at her house at 5.00am. From there, we did a little bike switcheroo and her husband took us to the start line. In the parking lot of the auditorium, we got our remaining gear and nutrition on our bikes and stuffed in our pockets and then made our way to our meeting point with the 3rd member of the dynamic trio. Suzanne was signed up for the Marion ride and graciously offered to pull us along for the first 2/3 of the ride. Yay!! When I walked by a girl pumping her tires, I realized that I completely forgot to do that.. Fortunately, she let me borrow her pump. That would have been a classic rookie mistake: Showing up at a century ride and have the tires at 80 psi… ;-)

Mile 0 - 22
The screen at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium counted us down and off we were. We were lined up in the last third of the field and just went with the flow for the first couple of miles. Then Suzanne started pulling us and once the field stretched out a little, we were a nice little pace line of three, that hopped from one group to the next and sometimes stayed a little longer in a group, when the pace seemed to fit for us. On this stretch, we also found one of our training partners Roxanne that we rode two AOMM training rides with and she jumped on the pace train for a while. We originally planned on skipping the first rest stop, but my left hip flexor was tight right from the beginning of the ride and it started to really bother me. After a brief discussion, we decided to pull over at the stop, so I was able to stretch the hip out. This was probably our longest stop out of all of the rest stops between me stretching and the porta potty lines.

Looking back, this was the only time during the complete ride that I questioned, if I am going to finish, because of the hip pain. Fortunately, the pain was gone completely when I got back on the bike.

Mile 23 - 65
We stayed in the pace line most of the next 42 miles and also didn't stop much anymore. We spend a couple of minutes at the rest stop at mile 43 and then rolled through the rest stop on top of Bill's hill (mile 48?). The stretch was pretty uneventful. We made good time. It seemed like my climbing legs decided to show up, but my "hammer-it-on-the flats" legs were not quite as responsive as I would have liked them to be. While a lot of people talk about Bill's hill, I don't think it's all too bad… It's the constant up and down that starts around mile 45 that is eventually going to fry your legs. We stopped at rest stop #4 at mile 65 and Suzanne took off to complete her ride, so she could make it up to the top of Mitchell on the bus to cheer her husband over the finish. Stacy and I took a little longer pit stop to eat something. I was hoping for something salty, because my stomach was a little funny, but no such luck. Instead, I gobbled down another peanut-butter and jelly sandwich. I was not going to bonk on this one.

Mile 66 - 73
At this point, it was just Stacy and me. I don't have much recollection of this portion of the ride, but I believe that my legs recovered a little and that we were able to draft on and off on that stretch. The Marion finish was at mile 73 along with rest stop #5. They had coke and pretzels…. That was exactly what I was craving for the last 40 miles. We got to Marion in around 5h30m and I was pleased with that. Roxanne rolled into the stop shortly after we did, so we started out the last 30 miles of the ride together.

Mile 74 - 86
This is were the real fun starts. At this point you have 70% of the distance covered, but that probably just reflects 50% of the effort. As mentioned earlier, my climbing legs showed up for the party and that combined with the tunes in my ears, I found my climbing groove quickly. I didn't stop for rest stop #6 and just kept on going to conquer the three hardest miles for the whole ride (personal opinion here!). On this stretch, I saw a couple of people catching their breath on the side of the road and we were chicking dudes left and right… I might not be a fast rider in general, but give me a couple of miles of hills and I channel my inner mountain goat. We were on the turn to the parkway at around 1:20pm. Didn't stay long, I just wanted to have some coke, but they were out. My feet started hurting a little bit on this portion of the ride, but being off the bike was actually worse than being on the bike, so we were back in the saddle in no time.

Mile 87 - 92
Back to the grind. But we also knew, that there would be a rest stop in a couple of miles, which made the whole thing more manageable. Once again, I was rocking away to my tunes and picked targets to pass. Every now and then, I had a brief chat with my fellow riders and then kept on climbing. On this stretch of the course, we saw many people walking on the side of the road. The mountain was taking it's toll on everybody. I was fine, feeling fine, just plucking along... And then, we reached the next rest stop. It's the Mitchell Outlook parking lot and I was honestly glad, that Mitchell was covered in a fluffy cloud, this way I didn't have to see, where we have to go.

One word about the volunteers: While all of the volunteers on the course and behind the scenes deserve a big old hug, there was one volunteer on the mile 92 rest stop that was just cracking me up. He was yelling at people to get on their bikes... I quote here: "There are no butts on the bikes, get your butts on the bikes!", "We are doing pushups in five minutes, if you are still here in five minutes, you have to do pushups!" From what the other volunteers said, he was keeping this up since 10:30am and it was 2:30pm at this point.

Mile 93 - 100
Right after this rest stop you start a glorious two mile downhill that will chill you to the bone when it's getting a little colder. I don't wanna say that I was glad to be climbing again, but it sure felt better temperature wise. When we reached the last rest stop on the parkway (around mile 97/98) we just kept on going and rode directly into that big fluffy cloud that we saw earlier.... and then it started to rain on us twice for about five minutes. I don't want to complain, the weather was almost perfect for this ride, but it did get quite chilly on the last couple of miles. The first two miles on Mitchell are supposed to be the hardest of the whole ride. While I do remember that it was quite a climb, I think at this point, I was just so hyped up to finish this thing, that I didn't care anymore.

I pulled into the last rest stop at mile 100 to regroup once more... Stacy and I started this whole process together and we would be finishing it together.

Mile 101 - 102
The last two miles were just the icing on the cake. We were chatting a little for some of the way and were silent for some of it... And we saw first hand, while you should never buy/wear white cycling shorts.... I won't forget that picture for a while! ;-)

After one last turn, we got on the parking lot and after 9 hours and 33 minutes, we crossed the finish line of our first Assault on Mount Mitchell and what a ride it was.

 When Stacy and I talked about this ride previously, we said to stick together until Marion and then each of us just stick to her climbing pace. Turns out that on Monday, our climbing pace was pretty much the same. We regrouped at the stops, but were never far apart. Seriously, I can't say enough, how valuable it was to have my friend on my side for this crazy trip to check in on each other and encourage each other... "Turn the frown upside down!"

As soon as I stopped, I got cold, but I got a space blanket handed right away and that helped. I also received my finishers patch (of honor! ;-), got rid of our bikes, got our clothes and got changed. We were hungry, but there was not much time to get a lot food into us, because we boarded the bus asap. Once back in Marion, we met up with Terry who picked us up to take us home. I walked into the house around 10pm that night... That was a long day... But it was all sooooo worth it.


  1. Absolutely awesome Kathrin!! Great training, sounds like a perfect partner and a nice day to boot - all three makes for a wonderful attitude too!

  2. Congrats Kathrin! Note taken with the white shorts. When I'm not photographing the event, I'll be sure to wear darker colors haha.

  3. Well at least the only thought of quitting was so early on! (and passed, of course)
    LOL about the pushup guy. What a good volunteer! I don't think I want to know about the white shorts...

    Sound like you were perfectly prepped for the climbing! Glad you had a great race. I can't believe you're already wanting to get back on the bike and ride (*leisurely!!*) with me. But yes we must do that soon. I should get around to upgrading my bike...

    Congrats again!!!

  4. That was Bubba Brunson with the Spartanburg Running Club rooting you on at Rest Stop 8 on the BRP

  5. Hope you didn't have to do push ups at rest stop 8!! That Bubba is crazy but he will motivate like nobody can!!

  6. Way to go Kathrin! Sounds like you really had a great ride - having a good riding buddy helps SO much, doesn't it? (Even if you're just complaining to each other the whole time...which I may or may not be guilty of.)

    I've said it before & I'll say it again - that elevation chart looks SCARY. Congrats on powering up that mountain!