Mitchell Readiness Check

mitchell highest peak

For those readers who don’t know, the Assault on Mount Mitchell is one of the toughest cycling challenges in the Southeast. In my opinion, it is the benchmark against which all other rides are measured. It is our local rite of passage. It is my A event, the one I want to complete every year. Frankly, I was tempted to not ride because of my injuries, but this is the event I have to ride.

The ride begins in downtown Spartanburg. It ends 102 miles away at the top of Mount Mitchell, the highest point in the eastern United States. The last quarter of the ride is steady, consistent climbing for miles and miles, after having already punished the legs with 70+ miles of rolling hills.

Here is a visual PDF map of the route.

Here’s where I am:


Somehow I have managed to ride 699 miles this year, most of which have been over the last two months. I also squeezed in maybe a few hundred towards the end of last year before shutting down to recuperate. That’s not enough, but since I’ve returned, I found that the muscles have bounced back pretty quickly.

The last two weekend rides proved to be good tests. I rode with people who have trained a lot harder than I have. While I had trouble keeping up at their level of fitness, I was at least able to mostly hang on. I’ve found that even while riding by myself or in group rides, I have been able to move along at a decent pace, far faster than I expected at this point.

The lack of cardio training, however, is easily apparent. I have not done a single interval or anything like it all year. When I push too hard, I get winded. I’ve found myself with my mouth open and gasping during difficult stretches of road. This will catch up with me on Monday.


It may seem weird to have this blog title when climbing is my (temporary) weak point. Because of my lack of cardio and the injury, I simply don’t have the legs and heart for serious climbing. When the road turns steep, my pace slows dramatically. Gravity hurts right now.

The only real tests of my climbing ability were on Assault on the Carolinas and a Brevard trip the weekend after. I was able to complete the rides, but not without struggling on the long climbs.

Many say that the time it takes to get from Spartanburg to Marion (mile 76) is the same as it will from Marion to Mitchell (mile 102). For me, that probably won’t be true. I could see myself getting to Marion in 4 hours if I find a good group. It could then take me 5 or longer to get the rest of the way. Climbing will not come easy.


The injuries this year have been severe. I’m still nursing the broken hip, which is probably around 65-70% right now. Occasionally it will get sore during rides. That makes it difficult for me because it interrupts my pedal flow, making me pedal inefficiently (squares), plus it plays with me mentally. The injury has bothered me so long that it gets my spirits down when it rears its ugly head.

It always hurts after big rides, and I generally need a good bit of recovery time in between. The harder the ride, the more time I need. After a few days, it calms down and feels better.

That means that this week I will need an extra long taper period. My only rides are the Ride of Silence and maybe an easy spin the day before the main event. I’ll have to be careful not to cause any excess soreness, while still keeping the muscles loose and warm.

I also have a broken rib, but it has healed enough that it is not really a factor. The only time it bothers me while riding is on long descents. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I won’t have to deal with those on the Assault.


My lowest weight during offseason training was 148. With the injury layoff, the weight came back fast. I reached 161 before I was able to resume training again. Since then I’ve been teetering between 156-158, which is close to the same weight for my first Assault, and a little heavier than last year. All in all, I’m not in terrible shape here.

My Projection:

There is a chance I will not finish the ride this year. I’ll be smart about it. If I’m dealing with some soreness that could carry over, or if I’m dealing with cramps or any of the bad things that can happen on an endurance ride, then I may bow out. Knowing me, it would have to be a pretty big problem before I call it quits.

If I am able to ride the way I want, then I am predicting a finish in 9 hours. That said, I will not be thinking about time in the slightest. If I need a break, I will not hesitate to stop. This year, just finishing is the goal no matter how long it takes.

Hopefully this will be me again.

Hopefully this will be me again.

22 responses to “Mitchell Readiness Check

  • Brian Lube

    I’ve heard some folks recommend taking a NASID (Advil/Alieve) during the event to help with known soreness issues. Personally I’m not sure I’m convinced it would be an overall boon of an idea.

    • aaronwest

      I’ll have my own anti-inflammatory drugs, which I can still barely function without off the bike, so it’ll be necessary on the bike. I wouldn’t otherwise recommend taking anything for soreness during the ride.

    • exmaschine

      Taking NASID ‘s (except low-dose aspirin perhaps- for thinning the blood, not so much for inflammation ) during exercise will not do much, except maybe upset your stomach. Save those for post-ride, when muscle inflammation/soreness might begin. The best thing is proper nutrition and hydration. It’s so vital and it is overlooked by so many. Days leading up to the event, hydrate very well. Make sure your are limber, stretch morning and evening. Make sure your glycogen supply is topped up as well. A big ride requires advance care and preparation for your body. During an event, again, food and drink are key. For me, a just bit of caffeine at the halfway point goes a long way too. Eat, even if you’re not hungry. Small meals/snacks all through the event. Same goes fro drinking fluids.

      • aaronwest

        Hey Geo, thanks for the advice. Normally I would agree with you about the NSAIDs, but with this injury, I have no choice. I even spoke with the doctor on Friday and they said I can take more of them to keep the soreness at bay. Completely agreed on the food and drink. It is key. I’ve worked with a nutritionist for a few years now, and fueling my rides is where I rarely have a problem. Mitchell requires even more pre-fueling, and I have already started.

  • aregularcupofjo

    Good luck and I hope you get to the top of that bike trail. I heard biking is a great experience and I hope in the future to try it out. Good luck with everything and it’s great you’re doing so much for your fitness.

  • Wade Otey

    I wish you good legs, wind, & speed, and hope for your sake we are not together except at the start and grabbing our bikes off the truck at Tom Johnson’s. ride well, ride firm, ride smart,…listen to your hip, don’t toss the whole season for one ride.

    • aaronwest

      Thanks, Wade. Don’t sell yourself too short. You’re a trooper out there, and I’d be proud to ride with you.

      I checked with my doctor on Friday to make sure this would not hurt me later in the season. He was pretty confident that there will be no problems, but I might have to deal with some pain.

  • fizzhogg

    You = my hero.

    Now, I have no idea how you eat/drink on the bike. Obviously, pre-injury you were a beast and will be again. But here is my 2 cents coming straight from Allen Lim’s mouth — the guru of cycling nutrition and someone I was lucky enough to speak with about these very things…

    “Most riders, even some professionals, do not hydrate nor eat nearly well enough on the bike to perform at their best.

    There is a saying inside the peloton – ‘It’s not a bike race, it’s an eating contest.’ The riders who continually feed their body the proper fuel at the proper time always outlast and outride those who don’t.

    Even at the highest level of competition, we still recommend the riders eating every 30-40 minutes when possible. And drinking constantly, a combo of plain water and mix. For particularly long or brutal days in the saddle I will always have my riders hydrating 2-3 days before the ride. Pre-hydration is the most ignored factor in riding, and one of the most important.”

    So there you go, Aaron. I’m not sure any of us know as much as this guy does about what we do.

    Best of luck and can’t wait to hear your tale of cresting the summit!

    • aaronwest

      Thanks, Paul. Usually I would carry some gels and shots to eat while on the bike. I’ll probably bring a few, not decided how many yet, but I’m carrying less this year to force myself to stop occasionally. Don’t worry, for me it’ll be both a buffet and a bike ride. During a ride like this, the challenge is to eat as much as you need.

  • exmaschine

    Yup, all good advice, as I had also said, eat and drink on the bike, at the rest stops…best way to avoid the bonk and dehydration and keep your fitness through the day. Aaron knows the drill, he is very experienced and a solid rider. Good luck AA! Full and interesting post-ride report with excellent photos are all expected! LOL 🙂


  • exmaschine

    Oh yea, it will interesting! You’ll hang tough I have no doubt.
    I also forgot about your injuries, the nsaids are a good idea for sure.
    I was remarking for someone that may be sore afterwards, but not during. Yours is a different story, you need as much preventive measures as possible. Go get ’em! Aaron

    • aaronwest

      Thanks for the encouragement, Geo. I’m usually not a proponent of NSAIDs unless absolutely necessary. Previously in big events, I would never take them on that day, but might the following day to help with soreness. I try to stay away because they can be bad for your liver. This time I have no choice, as the alternative is not very comfortable.

  • Jeff Dilcher

    quit sandbagging us… we know you will finish in under 7 hours!

    • aaronwest

      Heh, 7 hours was not happening this year. I was ecstatic on how well I finished. Seriously thought I could be in the SAG wagon.

      • Jeff Dilcher

        I don’t think I would have risked exacerbating that injury, so soon, if it were me.

      • aaronwest

        If I thought there was a serious risk to my health, I wouldn’t have gone or would have shut down early. Even though I dealt with some pain, I knew I was within my limits.

  • Matt

    You crushed it!! Great, great job. What great fortitude!

  • Matt P

    I did ride. I was pleased with the day. I took about 1hr and some change off my time. I was blessed to survive a flat, a torn front tire, and a donated used front tire to finish the ride. I was solo from mi 30 on… so it was a long day. I am sure you were uncomfortable… that is a long day climbing when healthy, even more so with a sore thorax and hip! Great job on the finish. Can’t wait to read about it!

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