The Mitchell Plan

Last year my plan was just to complete the Assault on Mount Mitchell. This time I plan to do it faster. I finished in 8:05 last year and my first ambition was to beat that time by a mere thirty minutes. That seemed reasonable. I have since set the bar higher and am now shooting for a time somewhere around seven hours. That’s a much higher challenge and will require a plan.

I have done all of the work and all of the training. Now the outcome depends on the choices I make before and during the ride.

First, I am going to eat well. Tomorrow we’re having a Mediterranean dinner because most of those carbs are high glycemic and should be ready to burn on Monday morning. The next day we’ll be having a pasta dinner somewhere in Spartanburg. To be on the safe side, I’m going to have some ice cream on Sunday evening. Yep, I’ll be living it up this weekend.

The next decision is where to line up on Monday morning. Last year I was hesitant to jump into too fast of a pack, so I hung back a ways. That meant I was in a slower group to Marion. This year I am going to scoot my bike up a lot closer to the front and try to hang with the big dogs for awhile. There will be some separation when the hills hit, especially Bill’s Mountain, but there will be groups forming the entire way. I’ll try to hang on to whomever I can and will shamelessly try not to pull.

In total, I stopped around 20 minutes last year. It sure felt like more, but that was it. I need to cut that down drastically this year. I am hoping to only need to stop once along the way to Marion. Hopefully I can manage the way up to Mitchell with just one or two stops as well. Fortunately I have learned how to pace myself on climbs and let my heart rate go down. Rather than stop, I’ll just slow down until my mojo returns.

The problem with not stopping is I won’t be able to eat the delicious rest stop food. I learned a good bit about that from last week. I will pack some mobile food to carry with me, most of which will be Clif Mini Bars and my Hammer Gel squeezer. I’ll also carry a third water bottle in my jersey. If I have to stop along the way to Marion, it should be only to refill bottles and nothing else.

This year I have the support of my lovely wife. She’ll be waiting for me at Marion with half a Subway sandwich and a Coke. That will probably be my longest stop. There I will scarf down the sandwich and guzzle the Coke before hitting the road again.

I will carry only one full bottle up to Mitchell. Why carry extra weight when there are rest stops every few miles? If I need to top it off, I’ll stop for a refill without lingering. I remember that most of the volunteers are helpful and will refill bottles for the riders.

So far the weather looks to be gorgeous, with a low in the 60s and high in the 80s and little chance of rain. Sounds like a perfect day to ride. Hopefully I’ll make it a good one.

8 responses to “The Mitchell Plan

  • Steve

    Best of luck! I find myself doing the same thing this year on rides I have already done. The goal is no longer just to finish but to do better than last year.

  • fizzhogg

    You are an inspiration, Aaron. When I think about my whiny little 6-mile climbs, then I see the stuff you do… it makes me want to quit riding and take up Words with Friends full-time.

    But then I stop crying and think – if I continue to drop weight, someday I can climb something like Mitchell.

    Good luck, sir!

    • aaronwest

      Thanks for the kind words, but don’t sell yourself short. If you can ride up a 6-mile climb, then you can handle a ride of this caliber with the proper fueling.

  • Jeff Dilcher

    How did you ride match up with your game plan? I too made some changes this year, and discovered more I will make next year.

    • aaronwest

      Hey Jeff. Some things worked and some didn’t. I had a decent time, but with a couple different decisions, think I could have finished 20-30 minutes faster. Biggest problem was running out of water on Hwy 80. Will be posting my recap this evening. Congrats on your assault.

  • Janet Cardenas

    Hi Aaron,

    Maybe an odd question….but…did you or did you not eat a subway sandwich and drink a coke at the Marion stop? Just wondering…that’s what I would have to do….

    Janet Cardenas

    • aaronwest

      Janet, I did stop for the subway sandwich and Coke. I couldn’t quite finish it all. I probably ate a quarter of the sub and guzzled half of the Coke. I think it is good to eat whole foods out on the ride, but in hindsight I should have brought something that I could eat in smaller bites and take it with me. I’ll try to think of something else for next time.

      I’m sure you could handle Mitchell. Hope you give it a try next year.

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