Saturday, May 25, 2013

Wrapping up the 2013 Assaults

Congratulations to everyone who completed the 2013 Assault on Mount Mitchell. It was a terrific day of riding with ideal weather conditions and a lot of fun.

A special thanks go out to all the volunteers. They went the extra mile on every occasion. Sometimes we are too exhausted to give them proper thanks during the ride, but I hope they realize how much they are appreciated.

Of the Mitchell rides in which I’ve participated, this one seemed to go the smoothest. Hats off to Angela and Keenan for all their efforts. Of course with a ride as logistically challenging as AOMM, there are going to be occasional inconveniences. Nobody likes the the long bus rides or waiting for their bikes, for instance, but to my knowledge there were not any major issues. Thanks to the riders for being patient with the organizers and letting them do their thing.


Unofficial Results are posted here:


You can still purchase apparel until June 3rd here:

Event Photos

You can find Finish Line and Bill’s Hill photos here:

You can find photos from Highway 80 here:

Blog Entries

Aaron West / SteepClimbs

Brian Lube / Wunschreiten

Newspaper Coverage

Spartanburg Herald Journal

Asheville Citizen Times

Friday, May 17, 2013

AOMM Forecast: Warm with a chance of rain

Weather is always a challenge to predict for an event like Mitchell. Since we start in Spartanburg at a low elevation, and finish 100 miles away at the highest point in the eastern US, there are a lot of factors to consider.

I reached out to NOAA employee and admitted weather fanatic William Schmitz to get an idea of what we’re looking at on Monday. All of this can change, so be sure to click the links as we get closer to the event.


It looks to be a warmish and humid morning when we leave Spartanburg. There is a slight chance of rain, roughly 20% throughout the morning. The temperature should be rising to the low 70s after a couple hours, and will be around 80 at noon, although most of us will be out of Spartanburg by that time. It should be partly cloudy, but there will be ample sun. The wind should be relatively calm. It looks to be good riding weather. 

Detailed Spartanburg Forecast  (choose 48-hours beginning Monday)


Expect more of the same by the time we reach Marion. It’ll be just a couple degrees cooler, but very well could be pretty warm by the time most people arrive. The wind will still be relatively calm, increasing slightly in the afternoon, but nothing that will give us too much trouble. The chance of rain increases slightly to 30-40% as the day progresses. As of right now, there is a little spike in the mid-afternoon where the chance of rain is higher.

Detailed Marion Forecast (choose 48-hours beginning Monday)


As we get into elevation, the weather becomes less and less predictable. Most of this can and will change. For example, last year those who finished from 5-9 hours enjoyed some sunny, warm weather on their way up the parkway. Those who arrived later had to deal with an intense storm with hail and all sorts of nastiness. Be prepared for everything. The forecast as of right now looks pretty good. The chance of rain is still in the 30-40% range in the late afternoon. Wind will be a little higher, around 7 mph, but that can often not be a factor when you get into the mountains. The temperature should still be warm, somewhere around the 70s assuming the rain holds off.

Detailed Mitchell Forecast (choose 48-hours beginning Monday)

I recommend you check this link sometime on Sunday. This gives you the forecast for the summit. It only shows two days in advance, so if you read this today, it will not be very worthwhile. As we get closer, it should be relatively accurate, although keep in mind that weather is chaotic in the mountains and you should be prepared for anything. 

Another reminder: this is the weather as of Friday at noon. It could and likely will change in the coming days, so be sure to click on the links for updates. I would also check the online radar early in the morning.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Game Plans

Here are a number tips, perspectives and strategies on how some riders will prepare to assault the big mountain. I tried to choose people with different skill levels and from different cities. This is a long read. Take your time with it, and feel free to share your own game plan in the comments.

Karl Johnson - Spartanburg SC

I haven't been able to ride a lot of climbing rides due to weather and scheduling.  Realizing this, I have to temper my goals to make sure I don't bonk anywhere.  

My strategy is to look for certain people I ride with locally, who I know will help me get to Marion in a time that will let me conserve as much energy as possible. After Marion, I am on my own, and will climb at my own pace.  I look at the climb as first Green River Cove, then Caesar's Head, and last the Saluda Grade (second half).

To fuel my strategy:  this is what works for me, it may not work for others: 3 bottles with an electrolyte-carbo mix, homemade rice bars, and energy chews.  I have to remember to drink and eat early and often.  Ideally I want to stop in Marion or top of Hwy 80 to refill 2 bottles.  Once on the parkway I don't plan to stop. If more stops are required, then so be it.

Everyone needs to stay calm at the beginning, don't get caught up in a group outside your ability level, as you may pay for it later.  

I am impressed with all who come to this ride.  Make sure you thank all the volunteers along the way (even if you don't stop), especially the volunteers at Marion and at the top.  

Everyone have a safe ride!

Brian Curran - Columbia, SC

I did my first Mt. Mitchell in 1992.  I swore I would never, ever do it again.  I think this year will be my 13th or 14th time. I love it and I hate it.  In the years I didn't participate, I was filled with relief and regret.  It's just that kind of experience.  The one thing I know for certain is that the sight of the finish line as I round the final bend is always a transcendent moment.   As a bike shop owner, I have given lots of advice about Mitchell over the years and what follows is what I feel is the most relevant.

The week leading up to the ride is not the time to double your weekly mileage or go on a crash diet.  You are as skinny and as fit as you are going to get.  Two or three short rides with a few hard efforts is plenty.  Eat lots of good food and get as much sleep as you can.

The day before the ride make sure you eat more than usual.  I like a Dano's Sicilian pizza with mushrooms.  No new foods or supplements. Drink water, but not to the point that you have to get up every hour.  You will probably have enough trouble sleeping.   DO NOT do any major work on your bike.  Inspect the tires and Inflate them, make sure you chain is lubricated.  Wipe it down and leave it alone.

The night before,  have everything laid out, your numbers attached (not around your rear brake cable) your food in your pockets, chamois cream and sun screen at the ready.  Think happy thoughts.  Tens of thousand of riders have done the ride and they survived.  

The morning of the ride eat a breakfast that is easy to digest.  I like oatmeal and some yogurt. Don't stuff yourself.  Riding with the bloat is never good.  Do not be one of the people riding their bike around at 4:30 am.  Sit down, think happy thoughts and relax.  If you are on your bike and at the start 20 min before they say go, you're good.  

During the ride pay attention. It can a bit chaotic at the start.  Avoid anyone that is using aero bars.  Seriously, they are bad news, they can't turn and can't stop.  Eat, drink, repeat often. Don't over exert yourself at the beginning.  You will be full of adrenaline and your perceived exertion will be way off.  In other words, it won't feel like you are working as hard as you are and you'll regret it later.  If you have been training with a heart rate monitor or power meter, trust it.  When you get to Marion, figure you are halfway time wise.  Once the climb starts,  be prepared to run the gamut of emotions from "this isn't so bad" to "why did I spend money to do this to myself?"  Keep eating and drinking all the way to the top.  Enjoy the view. You earned it!  Stay calm and pedal.

At the top enjoy the tomato soup and white bread. It will be one of the best meals you ever had. Bask in the glory of being done with the ride but know that the day isn't even half over.  Be patient, it is a monumental logistical task to get everybody and their bikes back to Marion safely.  I usually pack a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a gatorade with my clothes.

Good luck and remember to have fun.

Gregg Jowers - Chapin, SC

This will be my fourth AOMM attempt  The first year I was not prepared for what was coming and suffered greatly to a 7:26 finish. My second attempt ended at the short descent on the Parkway as my rear wheel broke somewhere around mile 94. My pace was probably in the 7:00 range. Last year I trained a little harder and worked on my climbing.  I came up with a better fueling/stopping strategy, and I finished in 6:36.    This year I have put in more miles, but not had the time to train in the mountains with the exception of a rainy Tour de Cashiers.

This year I worked over the offseason to drop weight, and am now approximately 10 lbs lighter than last year.  That should help with my climbing, and I plan to put forth more effort on the Parkway 

The rest of my plan is to try and repeat my strategy from last year.   I will start the ride toward the front, although not with the front group. I will carry four bottles and various gels/chews. Hopefully there will be a nice group to take me to Bill’s Hill with an average speed in the low 20's.   As I finish my first two bottles, I will carefully throw them to the volunteers at a rest stop along the way.  The food and drink that I carry should allow me to get to the Parkway without stopping. I will stop at the rest stop at the top of 80 to fill my two bottles, use the bathroom, and cram some food.  I am not real good at the steeper sections so I will "rest' on them, and try to go harder when the grade is closer to 6%. Depending on the temperature on the parkway, I may need to stop around the entrance to Mount Mitchell State Park, which will be just for a top off. I hope to have enough left in the tank to improve on my time from last year. The goal is somewhere between 6:15-6:25.

Kevin Meechan - Asheville, NC

This will be my third Assault on Mt. Mitchell. It is a very challenging but rewarding event, as all finishers can take pride in completing one of the hardest centuries anywhere in the world. My goal time this year is 6:45, which would be a slightly under last year's time and a full hour faster than my first.

I'll start with two full bottles of Cytomax, a flask of gel, and five sleeves of Shot Bloks, and refill at Bill's Hill, Marion, and top of Hwy 80 rest stops as necessary.

I think of AOMM as three main parts: 1) start to the top of Bill's Hill, 2) Bill's Hill to Marion, 3) Marion to the top of Mitchell, which is further broken down into three additional sections.

Part one...

I will try to limit my effort to Bill's Hill while staying in one of the lead groups. The first ten or so miles can be quite sketchy with all the riders finding their spots in groups. Dodging at least one dropped water bottle is a given. Remember to hydrate early and often which can be easily forgotten with all the excitement, and a bit difficult with all wheels close by. Last year I barely drank on the first half to Bill's Hill and paid dearly for it with leg cramps going up Hwy 80 and the Parkway. 

Part two...

I'll most likely be dropped by the group I'm in by stopping at the top of Bill's Hill, but I know nature will be calling and my bottles will need filling. This second part is mostly rollers with a few short climbs to loosen up the legs for the fun to come. New groups will form and I should be able to get a bit of a draft on the flatter sections.

Part three...

As we roll through Tom Johnson's Camping Center and The Assault on Marion riders peel off (their day being over), ours is about to kick it up a notch ...literally. I break part three down into three more individual sections ...Hwy 80, the Parkway, and the final climb up 128 to the finish. I find the 12-mile Parkway section to be the most challenging psychologically. You've just finished a hard climb up 80 and you might be thinking you're just a short spin from Mitchell ...don't think that way or the uphill grind of the Parkway will seem to never end. There's about 2,500' of climbing on the Parkway section and you're pretty tired at this point. I find it helps to look at the Parkway mile markers knowing that the base of Mitchell is at Mile Marker 355. It keeps me from thinking (hoping) that the end of the Parkway is just around the next bend. Once off the Parkway and on the final climb up 128 to the finish, I think it's best to build up the effort over the 4-1/2 miles. I see a lot of riders hit it too hard at the beginning of 128 only to fade a mile or so in, well before it levels off near the ranger station half way up. Building my effort throughout the climb helps me to have something for the final kick at the top. At least that's my plan ...we shall see :)

Aaron West - Columbia, SC

This is my third and most challenging Assault yet. Last year I had a solid plan and finished with a respectable 7:07. Since then I’ve endured a number of injuries, most notably a hip stress fracture that kept me off the bike for 4 months during the winter. It has improved, and I have managed to get a little bit of training in, but I’m not nearly as prepared for the ride as I was the last two years. The healing process is still ongoing. Thankfully I’ve been able to ride with it, but I would guess it is at 65-70% right now.

The plan for me will be a lot different this year. I’m not concerned about the time it takes. All I care about is finishing. I’ll still try to get in tight with a good group on the way to Marion, but I will be careful not to be in company that is above my fitness level. I’d rather back off then burn out. 

Last year I didn’t stop until Marion. This year I’ll probably stop at least once, maybe twice. I’ll carry a little less food on me just to give me incentive to get off the bike some. When the climbing begins is when I’ll struggle the most. I simply haven’t put in the miles to get my climbing legs back. I’ll climb slow and will stop often, but I should still have the means to make it to the top. I will not be ashamed to pack it in and take the wagon, but knowing my personality, things will have to be pretty rough for me to end the day early.

 Kevin Pearl - Louisville, KY

My game plan for AOMM is a bit of a guessing game since it is my first attempt. I will start with a healthy meal the night before, followed by rest and an early breakfast of protein, whole grain carbs, fruit, and caffeine about 2-3 hours before ride time. Then I will stretch thoroughly, and continue to hydrate. Once rolling on the bike, I will rotate my snacks between bananas, trail mix, energy gels, and energy chews, trying to eat once every hour. 

I will stop at rest stops as needed, hopefully primarily to use the restroom and refill water bottles. I do plan to conserve energy by pack riding as much as possible to Marion, where I will stop for about thirty minutes to rest and eat a light meal. On the climb to summit Mt. Mitchell, I plan to stop at each rest stop, and continue the snack rotation and beverage consumption. I will rest as needed, and push on when I feel strong. This is my first attempt at Assault On Mt. Mitchell, so I may find myself looking to go to plan B or plan C as the ride or weather dictates, but both of those plans also include stopping nowhere short of the highest point in eastern United States. 

Wade Otey - Charlotte, NC

After 3 times riding the Marion event, I decided that if Mitchell was to happen for me, I had to get to the task. Last year, at age 56 and weighing 240, my goal was just to make the NC80/BRP rest stop cutoff time. Even though NC80 was like an oven, I made the cutoff point with 90 mins to spare. With that incentive, I soldiered on. At the rest stop atop the big BRP descent, it began to rain. On the turn to NC128, the deluge began with Noah looking for trees for another boat! After short session of lightning at the ranger station, where the sign says "2 Miles to Summit", the hail was covering the ground and stinging everyone dumb enough to stay on the road, which of course included this idiot. 

These factors only served to tick me off, which gave an intense adrenaline/energy rush that propelled me the last 2 miles. The other factor that "inspired" me to no end was the Young's bus driver that would not pass me though I was waving him past,...dude, sorry about the single finger salute. There was a tiny bit of the traditional tomato soup left in the crock pot for me with the event timer in the photo reading 11:09:00. 

This year, with one additional year, and 10 additional lbs. (57/250+,...ooppps!) my goal is to finish in single digit hours, 9:59:59 or better. We'll see,...for some of us, those that are the antithesis of the usual image of cycling, AOMM is the acronym for "ATTEMPT on Mt. Mitchell".

See you at the top, by bike or by SAG.....and a quick P.S.: if you see an old fat man grinding along with his head down, don't yell out, "GOOD WORK MAN!,'s WAY too patronizing."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Too Late to Lose Weight - Peter Kay

Though we've all grown up with the cliché "it's never too late to [whatever]," we all know that in some cases... it is. With one week to go to the Assault on Mt. Mitchell and the Assault on Marion, there is a lot of worry, stress, and even anxiety in the air.

We tend to ask ourselves, "Am I prepared?" For some reason, the vast majority will answer "Not yet."
We forget that this is not a test we can cram for. Most of us are aware of how tapering works, and most of us will taper properly. Yet - perhaps from panic - so many of us attempt to shed a few pounds before The Big Day, whether from our bodies or from our bicycles. But...

It's too late to lose weight. Don't even try. Any attempt to lose body weight in the last days leading up to these events will only have adverse effects. Kelli covered nutrition on Sunday, and it's important to read it thoroughly. Remember: all this week, maintain the body's expectations regarding eating and drinking habits.

It's like trying to save weight by not carrying water bottles. You can probably make it pretty far into the ride before needing to drink. But then you'll have to stop to drink at a rest stop... or several... and any time gains you may have made by shaving weight on the hills will be long gone.

But it's also a bad idea to try to lose weight off of your bike by using new or untested equipment. The new stuff may fail, but even if it doesn't, it can serious effect your handling and/or comfort throughout the day causing added fatigue and stress.

Avoid temptation...

This Week

  • do NOT drastically change your regular eating habits by changing what/when you eat
  • do NOT lower your caloric intake; biggest reward = bonking. If cutting out something, be sure that there's a replacement of the same/similar caloric value; for example, no alcohol this week? - drink Gatorade instead. Maintain the body's expectations.
  • carb-loading the night before the event with giant helpings of pasta, does NOT generally work. As a social event, getting to meet other riders, the traditional Pasta Dinner or pre-ride gathering is a good thing. As a preparation for the ride, it's most often unhelpful or even harmful.
An effective carbohydrate loading phase takes 3-4 days, so relying on one large bowl of pasta the night before is not going to cut it. The fact that you are tapering your training before the race automatically contributes to loading, assuming you keep eating your usual intake of carbohydrates. ... Many athletes opt for a low-fibre diet on the final day of loading, which can help prevent abdominal gas and bloating in the race. Stick with white bread/rice/pasta, and avoid eating large quantities of beans and pulses (unless you know you get on well with them), and go easy on the vegetables and salads.

  • do NOT try over-haul your bike this week; tearing it all down and rebuilding it often backfires. Yes, it is very important that you do an all points inspection, cleaning thoroughly, lubing, and making sure all the bolts are tightened adequately, etc. But a rebuild is risky and can lead to equipment failures.
  • do NOT try out new, untested equipment (or foods on event day). Now is not the time to put on new wheels, chains, cables, or even bartape. Half-way up the climb is not the time to try out some new, exotic gels. Stick to what you have and what you can stomach. (I can't tell you how many years I've seen dozens of flats in the first 2-3 miles due to participants mistakenly riding new tubes/tires in an attempt to avoid such mishaps.)
  • do NOT drastically change your riding habits. Tapering is good. Big changes take time for the body to adapt. Be smart about how much, how little, or how intensely you ride.

  • rest more; take a little extra time each day to relax - body and mind
  • plan ahead; packing your bags early and slowly using a check list
  • eat your usual breakfast the Day Of
...and remember: this is supposed to be FUN!

Peter Kay

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Nutrition for One Week Out - Kelli Jennings

The Assault on Mount Mitchell is coming up, and many of you may be in a cold sweat about what you should eat and drink leading up to it.  More times than I can count, before a major event or race is the moment an athlete contacts me.  They’ve bonked in previous races.  Now, they want to prepare so they don’t do it again.  What to eat?

There are many different ideas of how to eat the week before an important competition.  Many trainers tell their athletes to Carbohydrate Load (the practice of trying to optimally load your glycogen stores before a big race).  Historically, athletes practiced depriving themselves of carbohydrates 3-7 days before a race to deplete their glycogen stores, then bombarding their bodies with high amounts of carbohydrates later in the week to saturate them.  Although it has worked in some cases, it also causes significant issues during the deprivation stage…and, it’s not necessary.

There is a finite amount of glycogen your body can store – this will not change with diet adjustment the week of a competition.  On the other hand, there is an indefinite amount of fat your body can store, and overeating compared to how much you are training during your taper can cause you to store fat and feel “heavy” during your competition.  While you can saturate your glycogen stores (still, it’s a finite amount) with extra carbs, you must “load” carefully in order to not overdo it.  More is not always better. 

I like to think of “One Week Out” as an extended time of “Recovery Nutrition.” This means the focus should be an adequate, but not too many carbs, extra protein, extra anti-inflammatory foods and fats, loads of antioxidants, and optimal hydration.  While you taper, you have the opportunity to heal your body and promote the best possible health state. The week of your big competition, I recommend:

1)            Continue to follow your normal eating  plan, with FULL training nutrition for any training sessions. This is not the time to skimp.  You are no longer trying to lose weight (if you were previously). Also, be extra-diligent with staying hydrated.

2)            Continue to consume protein at every meal and snack.  Also consume healthy fats including organic coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, fish, nuts, etc.  Healthy fats promote good hormone balance and can alleviate some of the blood sugar and hormone swings caused by carbohydrates.

3)            If there ever was a “best time” to remember daily supplements, this is it.  Every day: multivitamin, fish oil, probiotics, and any other supplements you’re taking.  If inflammation, soreness, or injury is an issue, try adding ginger and garlic in foods and/or supplement.  If you need iron to keep your serum ferritin at adequate levels, make sure to take it.  Lastly, if you’re using l-glutamine to reduce soreness and improve recovery, as I suggest you do, take an extra 5 grams every night of the week before the race in addition to any used before, during, and/or after training.

4)            As you taper your training, eliminate training fuel while not training. 

5)            If you’re suffered cramps in previous races or training, or feel that you are at high risk, you can begin to load some electrolytes 3-5 days out.  Try supplementing ~500 mg calcium, 200-300 mg magnesium, 100 mg potassium after training or every evening leading up to a race. Or, as a perfect whole food option, try a pre-bed shake, in place of any dessert:  ½ cup organic plain yogurt + 1 cup berries + 1/12 tsp. salt (estimate using a 1/3 of a ¼ tsp.) + water/ice as needed =  Alternatively, drink 12 oz. coconut water per night and supplement the calcium.

6)            If you’re competing in a “major” endurance event (like Mitchell), begin adding extra carbs 2 days out by adding 30 grams of additional carbs to breakfast, lunch and dinner (see examples below).

7)            The day before your competition, only eat foods/drinks that you know do not cause stomach upset, bloating, or extra gas.  Avoid any greasy foods and consume carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats with which you know you digest well.  You can eat vegetables with dinner if you’d like, but avoid gas-producing veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, and beans.  Instead, try a salad with spinach, tomatoes, & bell peppers. 

8)             For “major” competitions (like Mitchell), add an extra 30 grams of whole-food carbohydrates at every meal starting at dinner 2 days before the event.   For “minor” ones, add the extra 30 grams of carbs at dinner only the night before the event.  Don’t overdo carbohydrate loading or you’ll go into your competition feeling heavy rather than fueled.  Some examples of 30-grams-carb-additions are:

•             8 oz. honey milk (made w/ 8 oz. milk + 1.5 tbsp. honey) = 35 gm. carbs
•             1 large piece fruit or 1 medium banana = 30 gm. carbs
•             1 cup unsweetened applesauce
•             1 100% whole wheat English muffin or bagel = 30 gm. carbs
•             ½ medium bagel + low-fat cream cheese = 30 gm. carbs
•             2 slices 100% whole grain toast = 36 gm. carbs
•             1 slice toast + 1 tbsp. honey or jelly = 33 gm. carbs
•             8 oz. yogurt = 30 gm. carbs
•             1 large yam/sweet potato = 30 gm. carbs
•             2/3 cup cooked wild or brown rice = 30 gm. carbs
•             2/3 cup cooked quinoa = 27-30 gm. carbs

It’s important to think about the timeline of digestion in this scenario.  It only takes refined carbohydrates ~15 minutes to be digested and hit the bloodstream.  Then, they are stored.  If your glycogen stores are not fully replenished, they can be stored there.  But, for most athletes who haven’t just ended a training session, glycogen stores will likely be filled to their limit.  So, any extra carbs will be stored in the cells as fats – which can be used in long endurance workouts, but do not give the athlete any advantage with energy, and negatively add weight.  So, instead of  “quick-energy” carbs the night before a race, go for lower-glycemic, whole-food, healthy ones.  For example, choose a yam over pasta.  Their slow digestion and evenly-released-energy will give you usable, efficient fuel the next day.

9)            The morning of the race, use pre-training fuel, just like you’ve practiced.  Usually, this means a meal 3-4 hours out and/or a snack 1-2 hours out.  Or, if you’ve used it in training, you can use my recipe for a Pre-Training Smoothie to provide a variety of carb sources, concentrated nutrition, and a sodium load in a liquid form the digests easily and quickly to provide optimal energy without stomach distress and gassiness; just 1-2 hours out.  This shorter digestion time will save you from waking up extra early to consume a meal (sleep is important and I find it unacceptable to wake up early to eat, then try to go back to be on race day).  What’s more, if you freeze it ahead of time, it even works well camping as you allow it to thaw for 12-24 hours.  Lastly, to give your body just a bit more, you can add  a “light” pre-training fuel option such as a gel, sports drink or organic honey just 10-15 minutes before staring.   This just gives you a leg-up on refueling during the event.  If it adds stress to your pre-race routine, though, you can skip it as long as you follow your scheduled fuel plan during the race.  For any race greater than 60 minutes, fueling should begin around 30 minutes in during the race. 

10)          Remember, race day is not the time for new foods, experiments, or “pushing” yourself with inadequate fuel.  The goal is NOT to go as far as you can with the least amount of fuel.  There’s simply no point in this…just plenty of dehydration, hyponatremia, bonking, and regrets after all that training.  On the other hand, optimal fueling can help you meet the real race goal, crossing the finish line in your personal best time and effort.

Since you have a few days to recover and prepare before a big event, flood your body with good nutrients to help it heal, replenish glycogen stores, and rest.  Then, load it up and saturate your glycogen stores without going overboard.  Assault the mountain while feeling strong, “light,” and ready.

Kelli Jennings
Apex Nutrition

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Route

When I was preparing for my first Mitchell, I found myself getting psyched out about the route. At that point, despite having some decent fitness, I was not confident I would be able to complete the event. Since the challenge with Mitchell is as much psychological as it is physical, it is a great benefit to have an idea what to expect. 

This visual map gives a lot of terrific details about the route, rest stops, landmarks, and so on.    

I found Paul Thomas' section-by-section summary of the route to be invaluable. If you have not ridden before, I highly recommend you read each section and prepare accordingly.

Part One - Intro and the start

Part Two - Pea Ridge Hill
Part Three - Dangerous Curve
Part Four - Bill's Mountain
Part Five - Tom Johnson Campground/Marion
Part Six - Highway 80
Part Seven - Blue Ridge Parkway
Part Eight - Mount Mitchell State Park and The End

In a nutshell, the riding will begin easily, with fast and smooth highways. The further the route takes you, the more challenging it gets. Bill's Mountain is a tough climb, and a good test of how you are doing that day. As you approach Marion, you will experience more and more rolling hills, many of which will be steep. 

After leaving Marion, you'll have a few more miles of easy riding before the real climbing begins. Many consider the climb up Highway 80 to the Parkway to be the toughest part of the day. The Parkway is more manageable, with a consistent grade and even a short downhill section, but it goes on a long while. The State Park is no cakewalk, with some steep sections that especially hurt after all the miles you've put on your legs.

The general rule of thumb is that it will take you just about as long to get from Spartanburg to Marion, as it will from Marion to Mitchell. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Mitchell Countdown Begins ..

Believe it or not, The Assaults on Marion and Mount Mitchell are just around the corner. Most of you have been riding, climbing, and riding some more over the last couple of months, in the hopes that you’ll be able to dominate on May 20th. 

Most of you are probably done with the toughest riding by this point. Hopefully the rough weather over the weekend did not prevent you from getting some last-minute training. 

With 15 days to go, the time to start tapering is almost here. I recommend you read Peter Kay’s article about the 10-day taper. I followed it the last two years and it helped immensely. In the interest of tapering, I will ride a light metric (or maybe a full) century next weekend, and then wind down during the week.

There are a few things that’ll be coming in the blog to help prepare you for the ride. We’ll talk about the course so first-time riders will know what to expect. We’ll talk about preparing for the weather once we get a good forecast. We’ll talk about game planning for the ride, and hopefully we can say a few more words about fueling for such a large event.

Congratulations to all of those who have put in the effort to prepare for the Assaults. As long as you have done some training and prepare wisely, I have no doubt that you'll be successful.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Training Update - Kevin Pearl

Each year I commit to buying only one cycling event jersey. Last year, my annual jersey came from the Hincapie Gran Fondo. This year, I chose another South Carolina event. The awesome looking red and black jersey for Assault On Mt. Mitchell arrived in the mail at the end of last week. I can't wait to wear it with pride, but I made a promise to myself that I would wait until I earn it. 

My training plan is entering the final exam phase rapidly. It seemed like just yesterday I was signing up for this event, and now I'm nearly panicked realizing I have less than a month left to be ready. 

Early on, I mentioned my keys to success at Mt. Mitchell would be to lose excess weight, strengthen my core, ride often, and game plan for success! I'm happy to report I have made significant strides in all of these categories. Still, I'm somewhat nervous as we get closer and closer. The guys and gals I ride with in Bluegrass Cycling Club (my local), help coach me up every week about staying focused and climbing as much as possible. They have been inspirational, telling me they can't wait to hear about the ride as we host our big annual event, the Horsey Hundred the weekend following AOMM. 

I have completed multiple fifty plus mile rides, incorporating the toughest climbing I can find in this area, but I wish I had completed some tougher rides. Unfortunately, this winter has been harsher and longer than recent past years, so I've had to spin on my exercise bike more than I prefer. All necessary suffering, I continue to remind myself. 

My biggest test came two weeks ago when I completed the century route at Redbud Ride in London, KY. I was satisfied with my finish as we averaged 17+ mph for the total ride, which included some challenging hills. These may not compare to the Mitchell route, but they still required plenty of effort. 

I had the luxury of riding the Redbud Ride with an experienced Carolina climber, Jim Simes, a very strong cyclist and good friend of mine from Anderson, SC. He assured me that no matter what I thought leading up to the big day, there is no true way to be mentally and physically prepared for the torture we will go through on the bike. Gee, thanks Jim! 

His advice to me was to find the pack that fits my pace early on. Stick tight with them as they pull me as fast and effortlessly as possible to Marion, hydrating and fueling properly along the way. I shouldn’t attempt to start fueling at the Marion stop. By then it is too late. From Marion, set out for a battle, but go at my own pace. In terms of saddle time, I will be almost halfway home.

Hopefully this advice will help me develop my game plan for success. 

Kevin Pearl
Ram Cycling

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tentative Training Ride Schedule

Time is running short, with just a few weeks remaining until the big ride. The last few training rides, organized by Richard White, should have plenty of climbing and some interesting locations.

This Saturday, April 20th at 9:00am.

Meet at the Great Escape (Franklin Ave. near the intersection of I-26 and Hwy 29).

The route will head up the Greenville Watershed, down the Saluda Grade, through Tryon, and back New Cut Road to the start. It is about 88 miles and should take 5.5 to 6 hours total for the group. The average speed should be in the 18 mph range , which includes the Watershed climb. Regroups will occur at all turns, stop sights, mechanicals, and at the top of climbs.

Tentative Ride Schedule:

4/27 - AOMM Training Ride #5: This ride will cover the actual Mitchell route for 50 miles beyond Bill's Hill, and then back to the start.

5/4 - Table Rock Ride: This is a great ride, with some nice climbs including the infamous Highway 215 climb to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It will be 97 miles with 8,500 feet, and will definitely let you know where you stand for AOMM. It starts in Table Rock State Park, heads through Rosman, up 215, to Brevard, back up through Caesar's Head (easy side), then back to the start.

5/11 - Possibly Marion to Mitchell. This could also be a makeup date if the Table Rock ride gets rained out.

Observing the following will help ensure a safe ride for everyone:

1.      By coming to a posted ride you are in fact agreeing to abide by all guidelines either posted with the ride, communicated to you at the pre-ride meeting or referenced by the ride leader(s) during the ride. Ignoring these guidelines is not an option. Those who lead our rides deserve our support as otherwise they may decide it’s not worth the effort to organize , post and lead rides.

2.      If you  have a problem with someone or some behavior for any reason during a ride, please let the ride leader know and they will deal with the problem. Please do not verbally or physically threaten anyone as we believe all cyclists should feel safe. 

3.      We will designate multiple ride leaders (can be done just before the ride) who will deal with any major disagreements as a leadership group.

4.      Safety includes obeying all traffic laws, most notably riding two abreast and not crossing the yellow / white line into oncoming traffic.

5.      All cyclists on a ride are responsible for themselves and all other cyclists in the group. Everyone has a duty and right to speak to safety concerns and we would ask that this be done in the spirit of civility even when attempting to address dangerous or disruptive behavior.

In Addition:

1) When we stop for any reason please move to the far right side of the road or off the road if possible . This is especially true at stop signs as we need to let cars by and they are often reluctant to go by if we're milling around in the road.

2) Please try to move to the right as soon as possible and 2 wide whenever someone says " car back.". The car may still have a tough time getting around but at least we tried.

3) Please pass information forwards and backwards through the group for turns, holes, etc.

4) If you plan to leave the group, please move to the back of the group before your turn so as not to create confusion about the correct route for others.

5) Please be careful when moving around in the pack. We all count on each other to make predictable moves as the group rolls down the road and it's the quick, unpredictable moves that often cause accidents.

6) If you do experience mechanical issues or difficulty in maintaining the groups pace, please let us know ASAP so we can help you determine your best option .

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Finally a Climb - Aaron West

With a little more than a month of training before the big event, I imagine that most people are out climbing as much as possible. I was witness to a large group of Freewheelers out this weekend. My guess is there were about 30 of them, who swiftly passed us as we prepared to climb Caesar’s Head Mountain. 

My challenges are a little different. Having spent a few months off the bike due to injury, I have only been back a little over a month. Most of that has been easy riding, and I’ve been careful not to overextend myself and possibly force a setback. It is hard to believe, but until this past weekend, I had not ridden up a significant climb of even a mile.

I chose the Assault on the Carolinas for my first climb, partly because I’ve done it the last two years and it’s one of my favorite rides. I also knew I could go at my own pace, and that the event is organized well enough that I would be safe. If the injury prevented me from finishing, a wagon would come around to take me to my car.

The first climb is Walnut Hollow -- a beast that peaks at around a 15-16% grade. It was a struggle, but I made it to the top. After getting through some mini-climbs on Highway 178, the route planted me at the base of Caesar’s Head, with 6.5 miles of climbing until I reached the top.

I wasn’t out there for speed. I knew this would be a weak attempt, as my muscles have not healed and developed enough to climb efficiently. This was about enduring and succeeding, just reaching the top under my own power without stopping. I was careful not to go too hard (not that I had a choice), and it took me 1:15 to finish. My Strava report shows that I was stopped for over 6 minutes. Not so. That was just from my Garmin auto-pausing when I was below 3 mph. Last year I would have been embarrassed by this type of showing. This year I felt pride for finishing.

Even though this was a challenge both mentally and physically, it gave me some assurance and confidence. I’m convinced that despite these obstacles, I can still complete Mitchell. I’ve found that if I pace myself and ride with a good group, I can get through the rollers. Marion is no cakewalk, but I can get through it with some help. After I leave from Marion, I’ll be on my own. Even though I’ll probably climb slower than I’ve ever climbed, I can get there.

It will not be easy. Fortunately this ride isn’t easy for anyone. As they say, it doesn’t get easier, you just ride harder. This time I’ll be inverting that phrase. Even though I’ll be riding slower, that doesn’t mean it will get that much harder.

Assault on the Carolinas - ride report

Aaron West

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Nutrition Needs During Training - Kelli Jennings

There are 3 main things to be concerned about during the ride (any ride that’s moderate to high intensity and >90 minutes):

1) Fluids: Aim for 16-24 oz. per hour (up to 32 oz. in summer heat). Or for an individualized fluid goal, weigh yourself immediately before and after training to estimate fluid losses (take into consideration the amount of fluid consumed during the ride). My preference is to use a sports drink (or my homebrew that can be found here that provides fluid, carbs, and lytes. You can get more specific with types of carbs when buying or making a drink…look for maltodextrin as your first carb ingredient, then glucose and fructose. If you’re an athlete that prefers to drink water, at least some of the time, you’ll have to add more carbs and lytes through foods and supplements as described below.

2) Carbs: Your body can use 60+ grams of carbs per hour. Again, I like to use a fluid that provides some of these carbohydrates. The specific carbs can come down to personal preference – maltodextrin, sucrose, some fructose, dextrose, glucose all work.  I like a combination, but what’s most important is that you like the taste.  You will bonk time and time again if you try to force yourself to drink something you don’t actually like.  If drinking 20 oz. per hour of a fluid that contains ~12-15 grams carbs per 8 oz., you’ll get ~30 grams per hour just from the fluids. Then, to get the rest of the carbs you need, add 1 small carb option such as 1 gel, 3 Shot Bloks, ½ most sports bars (or a Clif Bar Mini), 1 Honey Stinger Waffle, etc (look for ~20-30 grams carbs on the label) each hour.

3) Electrolytes: Most athletes need 400-700 mg sodium, 100-300 mg potassium, 80-120 mg calcium, and 40-60 mg magnesium PER HOUR of training. Usually, you can get some of the sodium and potassium in your sports drink and in your foods. So, begin by calculating the amount you’ll get per hour based on your fliud and food plan. Then, make up the difference with supplements such as Endurolytes, SCaps!, or another supplement. You’ll find a breakdown of many commercial electrolyte options here.

In summary, each hour of riding:
  • Drink 16-24 oz. sports drink with electrolytes and carbohydrates
  • Eat 1 carb option (20-30 grams carbs)
  • Added electrolytes with supplements as needed
If riding >5 hours: Stick with the same nutrient goals as above every hour. Then, every 3rd hour, you can add a small portion of “real food” if you’d like. A half peanut butter and jelly sandwich, ½ rice burrito, ½ deli meat sandwich, ½ Snickers bar, etc. – these foods are used to add some fat, protein, and extra calories for long rides. They can also serve to add a salty food option to what often becomes an overload in sweet-tasting sports foods and drinks. What’s more, if you choose foods you’ll look forward to, they are a big morale booster!

Schedule: I’m a big believer in eating/drinking to a schedule rather than to thirst/hunger when riding – in fact, if I’m hungry or thirsty on a long ride, I know I’m in trouble. There’s too many variables and things to distract me to let anything other than my plan and schedule determine my fuel intake. So, determine what you need per hour based on the information above, pack it, and drink/eat it!

Recovery: Your recovery snack needs to contain 30-60 grams carbohydrates, 10-30 grams protein, and fluid. I also strongly recommend adding Medium Chain Triglycerides, from organic extra-virgin coconut oil, as they are an efficient energy source that’s used directly by the mitochondria (energy powerhouses) of the cells. As a bonus, antioxidants and probiotics are helpful in recovery – the probiotics increase the absorption of the antioxidants which fight the extra free radicals created by exercise. For a recipe, try my Almond Butter Smoothie and use plain yogurt in place of milk. In my opinion, it’s a perfect recovery. Or, use a bar or another snack that meets these criteria. Try to consume your recovery snack within 30 minutes of finishing your ride.

Kelli Jennings

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Fueling Choices for a Big Ride - Aaron West

On one of my early centuries, I mistakenly thought I could get away with having a big lunch midway through the ride, and nothing else. That was a learning experience. When I hit mile 95, I lost every last bit of energy. It was a major bonk. Those last few miles felt like another 100, with every hill feeling like a mountain.

Since that day, I have been determined to never let it happen again. On the other hand, the last thing I want to do is eat too much, and not benefit from all the calories burned on the bike. Through a lot of experimentation, I have developed a routine that allows me to stay properly fueled and fits with my tastes and preferences.

This post is about the stuff I like to eat before, during, and after a big ride. Like with anything, your mileage will vary (pun intended). My tastes may not be the same as yours, so I welcome feedback from others.

Breakfast Before the Ride

I like a good-sized breakfast that is high in carbs and protein, preferably at least two hours before I ride.

Eggs – I’ll usually go out of my way to eat an egg-based meal. It can be either a small omelette, or even a boiled egg or two. Eggs are great sources of protein.

Yogurt – I prefer yogurt to fruits, probably more because of the acidity content. I’ll usually have a container of a light yogurt.

Bagel – I love bagels, but pretty much the only time I’ll eat them is the breakfast before a ride. They are pure carbs and I’ve noticed a difference on the bike. A little bit of cream cheese is a must, but not something to overdo.

Coffee – This is a given. It probably doesn’t help with my fueling, but the caffeine is a must. My preference is a latte or cappuccino with almond milk.

I try to avoid heavy sugar-heavy dessert items. That means no donuts or muffins.

(Update: Some high-level riders have suggested a light breakfast since most riders will be pretty heavily carbloaded by the morning of the event.)

Immediately Before the Ride

I like to eat a little something light within an hour of the ride. I should have plenty of fuel in my body from the breakfast, but this seems to hold me over just a little further.

Bananas – I love me some bananas. I’ll have one or two before the ride. The carbs help with fuel, and the potassium can help prevent muscle cramps.

Clif Mini Bar – I’ll only eat this if bananas are not available. It is small enough (100 calories) to not weigh me down, tastes good, and has some helpful ingredients.

During the Ride

This is the area where I have experimented the most. I prefer my food to be portable, tasty, that is easy on the stomach. Fuels I have used in the past that I no longer use are Power Bars, regular Clif bars, energy gels, Honey Stingers, and countless more. I have moved on from these because they are either tough to eat while riding, messy, or both.

Clif Shot Bloks – This is the perfect bike fuel for me. For the last year, it is pretty much only thing I will carry on a long ride. The best part is I can eat it while on the bike. A pack of six bloks sits comfortably in my jersey pocket. I can open it with my teeth, and will squeeze out 2-3 bloks at a time. They taste good, can be digested easily, and are easy to measure. Since a full pack is 200 calories, I know that I need to eat at least one pack every two hours for minimum fueling.

Sports Drink – I know there are lots of options for this. I most commonly use Gatorade because it is easily accessible, but I can also use Skratch Labs, Powerade, or a home brew. On a long, difficult ride, I like to fill one bottle with ‘high test’ sports drink, or full Gatorade. The other bottle will have a diluted, light version, usually some Gatorade Low mixed with water. The full Gatorade can take a toll on my stomach, but I will rely on it for difficult riding (like climbs), and the lighter stuff for hydration and electrolytes.

A Meal – This is the tough part. I like to eat something substantial midway through a difficult, long ride. Last year on the Assault on Mount Mitchell, I tried having a Subway sandwich before the climbing began. That didn’t work too well because it took too long to eat, especially when my stomach was not settled. Usually I will try to eat some sort of substantial lunch-like whole food. I am still experimenting with this.

(Update: Some top riders suggest that you have solid foods early in the ride, then get to the gels and such toward the end.)

After the Ride

This is the tough part. If it is an organized ride, I don’t always have a choice. I have to eat what they feed me. Below are my ideal food types.

Protein drink – This is for immediately after the ride. Since usually I am mobile and cannot store my own, the drink varies by what is available. Ideally I will have some sort of drink that has between 15-25g of protein. A Muscle Milk or something like that will do the trick. Chocolate milk works too.

Something Mexican – I’m a sucker for Mexican food. Not only does it taste awesome, but it has a healthy mixture of different types of ingredients. This is my post-ride meal of choice if available because it usually has some grain, carbs, animal protein, and calcium (cheese!). I try to avoid anything fried.

Sub Sandwich – A whole wheat sub with veggies and meat is a good option. It is substantial enough to fill the hunger hole, while not being too heavy or unhealthy.

A lot of rides will serve stuff that is tasty, but not the best post-ride meal for me. I’m looking at you, pizza. Sometimes I’ll ‘suffer’ through it and eat what they offer, especially if I have raging hunger after an exhausting ride. On a few occasions, I have bailed on the post-ride meal and picked up a Subway or Chipotle on the road.

So what type of foods do you prefer?

Monday, March 25, 2013

8 Steps for an 8 Week Training Plan - Peter Kay

1.) Have an objective in mind; try to be specific in identifying your Focus. A certain finishing time is good, but a better way to approach the final leg of training is to concentrate on one or two aspects of the ride that may become an obstacle on event day. 

What is it that you need to work on most between now and the event? The Assaults are a rare blend of distance, climbing, and flat-out intensity. Though you can’t improve everything in two months, you can hone essential skills and improve a specific weakness or two. 

  2.) Count backwards from your goal date; starting with the Taper. How long does it take you to taper for a big event like the Assault on Mt. Mitchell? This can be anywhere between 4-10 days depending on your body, so you’ll have to plan accordingly. And remember, tapering IS NOT the same as “time off the bike” or a “recovery week.” Tapering is a lowering of duration and some intensity in order to be recovered and “fresh,” but includes enough of these to keep from becoming “wooden” or “stale.” 

 Read more: The Taper and One Week to Go... 

  3.) Plan a Recovery Week in the middle. Divide the time between now and the beginning of the taper in half, and place the middle of the recovery week at that point. You’ll need at least 6-7 days of easy rides/rest days to rebuild muscle and rejuvenate your determination. Include part or all of a weekend; don’t limit it to Mon-Fri. 

4.) For the remaining, undesignated days, create a Realistic & Achievable Weekly Schedule based on Time (rather than distance). Use your current pattern of rides, making only a few changes and additions. Most of your gains in the coming weeks should be made through focus rather than a sudden increase in volume (which can easily lead to burn-out and over-training). 

How many days can you expect to ride per week? How many hours on each of those days? Remember, regularity and frequency are key when preparing for an event like AoMM; riding every day a week for one hour is better than only riding one day a week for seven hours. Make any adjustments you may need with this in mind. 

5.) Give every ride a Purpose. Whether it’s a long endurance ride, a short easy spin, or an all-out intervalfest, before you click-in to the pedals, you should have a clear objective in mind for that day. This can help alleviate questions/doubts/stress about a ride, freeing your mind to enjoy the day. 

6.) Allow plenty of time to Recover between difficult rides and hard efforts. Muscles are stronger after they’ve built back up. A monotonously heavy workload will make no gains. Riding for an hour as hard as you can is less effective (in the long run) than doing three 20 minute intervals with 10-15 minutes of easy spinning in between each. After you catch your breath, or after a day of rest, you’ll be able to go faster and work harder when it’s time to do so again.

Dig a hole; climb back out.
Dig a hole; climb back out.
Dig a hole; climb back out,and when you’re done,
you’ll be on top.

Dig a hole within a hole,
and then keep digging. . .
and you’ll never get out.

7.) Be Flexible. Good training plans combine focus and flexibility. The majority of cyclists – we “mere humans” – are not able to adhere to an idealistic structure. These best laid schemes often go awry as weather, family life, and work obligations change. For that reason, it’s important to plan alternatives, and be mentally prepared to miss a few days here and there. 

As tempting as it is, one of the worst things cyclists do is try to “make up for” missing a ride by adding intensity or volume to their next ride. If it’s an important ride (intervals or intensity), then some adjustment to the plan may be needed. However, in most cases, missing a single day will not be detrimental, whereas doubling or intensifying rides in an attempt to “make up for” a day can tear down the muscles too much; burying you in the hole you’ve dug. 

Reevaluate your plan once or twice as you go along, and you’ll be able to make intelligent and more objective adjustments, but avoid revamping your schedule too often or attempting to adhere to the original plan at all costs. 

8.) Be Creative and Have Fun! When making your schedule, use an assortment of techniques to achieve your objective. There are many ways to target certain muscles or improve certain techniques. Use multiple recourses to create an assortment of interesting and fun workouts for the next several weeks. 

Remember, riding a bike is enjoyable. Achieving your goals is rewarding. The moment you begin to dread the bike is the moment your training plan is off-track. Sure, there are days that are physically challenging or mentally tough, but these should not be a source of anxiety. In keeping with the seventh step above, if you find yourself truly dreading the next ride regardless of its purpose, then either rest or. . . just go out and pedal around for fun. Explore a new neighborhood or ride up to the coffee shop or something like that. 

For me, building variety in workouts and exploring new routes help to keep my rides fresh, interesting, and enjoyable!

Peter Kay