Do not underestimate the extreme difficulty and danger of this event. The course is extremely demanding and travels over rugged terrain with extreme elevation changes.
Those words have not, in the three years I have done this race, proved to be anything other than genuine. Mile for mile, this is one of the toughest races you can do. My build-up for ORAMM 08 included: 12 Hours of Tsali, The Burn 24, Mohican 100, and the Cowbell Challenge. The wrench in the whole thing was the decision in late June to sell our house and move closer to my mom and dad to help them out. That found me off my bike with exception of 5 or 6 rides of less than 2 hours from the Cowbell to ORAMM. Still, I found myself sitting on the start line in Old Fort Sunday with 350+ like-minded people waiting for Minister of Pain, Todd Branham, to give us the word.
We were off and I was off the back immediately. It's hard to keep up with geared bikes on flat roads and I have learned to not even try. My time would come soon and it did as soon as the road angled up on Old 70 where I passed about 100 people. I rode with Vassago Teamate Chris Davis for awhile and by the time we hit the second climb of the day - Kitsuma, I felt remarkably well and was in the top third of the field, give or take 50 or so. Already though, it was getting hot and that would become a major factor later. After climbing and descending Kitsuma, I hit Aid #1 for bottle fills. My goal was to empty both bottles between checks and to spend less than a minute at them filling up. So far, so good. Out of Aid #1 and on to the third climb of the day, up the 1000 mile grassy road to hell and Star Gap. This year, the 1kGRTH wasn't that bad and I passed more people. I was riding within myself and thought, like the idiot that I am, that maybe that month off the bike didn't hurt me. Just then, I felt a cramp beginning to form in my left hamstring. Oops. What have I done.
At Aid #2 I filled again, chatted with Stephen for a moment and was out in under a minute. My computer told me I was doing good but the heat was starting to bother me. It was the beginning of the end and I was starting the ascent of Curtis Creek Rd. If we were in France, Curtis Creek Rd would have some elegant sounding name like Col de' Sonofabitch or Le Alpe'De Mother F****r. It is a beast that takes you 9.5 miles up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and close to the race namesake - Mount Mitchell. I stuck with the plan to ride within myself but unfortunately on CCR, that's damn near impossible. By now the heat was killing me and I eventually had to walk some to alleviate the cramps. It was funny though, not many people were passing me and I looked back once to see why, everybody was walking. Good thing I wasn't the only one dying. I didn't have my Ipod (it has become priceless for endurance races) since the battery didn't charge up for some reason so I had to make do with whatever mental bones I could find for my mind to chew on. I was singing to myself, talking to butterflies, and eventually got around to thinking about what in the hell made me think I could do this race and this is what I came up with:
12% Lack of good decision making skills
14% Lack of intelligence
43% High tolerance of pain
I reached the top of CCR 1:50 after I started and I filled both bottles, shotgunned a soda and slammed a couple of Advil and was gone. My elapsed time so far was 4:50 and I only had 25 miles or so to go and it was conceivable that I could still do pretty well since most of the climbing was behind me now.
Um.... It didn't quite work that way. Across the Parkway was a gradual climb after a fairly long descent and my legs felt like two tree stumps. I made it back to the Parkway and cramped really bad on the mile of BRP to Heartbreak Ridge. Down Heartbreak, I cramped more from the static position of descending for 30 minutes and my forearms hadn't hurt that much since the TV debut of Charlies Angels when I was a teenager.... Um... Nevermind. I was getting in a bad place and when I hit the penultimate climb on Mill Creek road, I was almost done. There was very little shade (I was weaving from one side of the road to the other to ride in what little shade there was. From the tire tracks, I saw that I wasn't the only one doing that) and I was feeling bad and riding slow.
Topping out I had about a mile of pavement and then Kitsuma #2 and I was done. Unfortunately, I was done physically before then. At the base of Kitsuma, I had nothing in my legs at all. I had to walk all of it. I was a sad sack for sure. There was a Church group hiking up Kitsuma and although they were encouraging and all that, I needed to be alone and they were walking faster than I could go. I got on my bike and managed to find one more burst to get away from them and I thought I was gonna die. I began to see chrome gnats and get dizzy so I'd stop and lay down in the trail until I heard voices and I'd get up and go. I was finding it hard to be happy about anything so I began to think about things that I am happy about like a great wife and adorable kid, a good family and good friends. I knew that I was not only in a bad place, I was in a dangerous place and I did what I had to do to make sure I would make it off the mountain and be able to ride again another day.
Bonking, dizzy and shaky, I was real careful on the descent but am happy to say I rode all of it (for those that know Kitsuma know that that's doing pretty good when you feel like crap) and I was so happy to see the road that led back to town that I almost cried with joy. The final descent on the road made my tires sing as I hit 40mph in full TT tuck. I crossed the line in 9 hours and 11 minutes and immediately headed to the creek and layed down in it for about 15 minutes. It felt goooood!
If I counted the scoreboard right, I got 24th in singlespeed. I'll take it.
I feel like I dodged a bullet yesterday. It wasn't the worst day I have had on a bike and not the best day either but it was tough. No crashes (except for falling over in a switchback once) and no mechanicals, I had plenty to celebrate.
Next year, I will train.
EDIT: Damn! Rich killed it. Nice job buddy.