Assaulted by a Mountain

Apparently, at 50 years old, I am still naive.  I have planned to climb Mount Mitchell for more than six months.  I trained over the winter.  I trained as much as I could this spring.  I looked at the elevation profiles.  I researched the climb to the top and came up with a (ridiculous) goal. I researched some more.  I was confident that it would be difficult but I would make it with no issues.

Let’s just be honest here.  Arrogance can help in some situations.  I had a lot of arrogance about this ride. I thought “It can’t be that hard” “They only make it seem like it is difficult so that they can feel better or brag when they complete the ride.”  “It’s just a bit of climbing.  I do that all the time around here”.  I was incredibly wrong.

When I reached Marion, approximately 70 miles in, I still had a large amount of arrogance onboard with me. I felt good.  Plenty of energy and I had needed to use the restroom twice during the ride at that point so I knew I was getting enough water despite the record heat. This was going to be a cake walk.  Just rinse and repeat for the next 30 miles.

That is not how it went.  Those 30 miles were the toughest miles I have ever spent on my bike. There were climbs that were nearly impossible for me.  I had to get off the bike and rest before continuing on.  I had to put my head down between my legs so I wouldn’t pass out.  I had to squeeze thick glucose gel into my mouth to continue. In the end, I was one of the last allowed to finish the ride due to the time constraints that the park service places on this ride.  Many times during that relentless 30 mile climb and just shortly after, I swore that I would never do this ride again. EVER.

…and here we are, two days past the event, and I think I may want to do it again.  I can do better.  I can train in such a way that this won’t be as difficult. I will never make it to the top in 5:09 as the first finisher did this year but I can certainly make it in less than 10 hours….right?  Maybe I really am naive but let’s see what the next year brings. Arrogance does help.