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.
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.