I could list a number of reasons why I haven't, suffice it to say I've just been lazy! I have had a pretty good mountain biking season; I won the Super Sport category at the Charlotte Winter Short Track, managed a controversial 7th at the less than organized USA Cycling Mountain Bike Marathon National Championships, and have had a couple podium finishes in the Charlotte Mountain Bike Series. Not long after MTB Marathon Nationals I decided to throw in for one of the more Epic endurance mountain bike races in the Southeast ORAMM. In its 16th year The Off-Road Assault on Mt Mitchell or better known as ORAMM has challenged Pro's, Elite, and everyday amateurs with one of the toughest one day challenges on a mountain bike. The event has been hosted by Blue Ridge Adventures who put on some great events and ORAMM doesn't disappoint. Here are the basic stats: 60 miles, 10500 ft of cumulative climbing. The race takes place the last weekend in July and the weather is generally hot. The Total Cyclist Mountain Bike Team was well represented. Mike Schafer, Jim Heckman, Andy Hilling and Myself where in the Masters 40+ Division. Mike Tam in the Open Division andKevin Brown in Single Speed Division. Kevin was taking on the Jerdon Mountain Challenge a shorter but still very difficult race put on by the same promoter the day before ORAMM. The Jerdon/ORAMM double is insane! Kevin had a great race at Jerdon taking the win in single speed.
The main reason I had never considered ORAMM was it took place the same weekend as 24 Hours of Booty. I lost my mom to brain cancer and my aunt to throat cancer, so needless to say its an important ride to me. I'm committed to 24HOB so I knew this would be a big weekend for me. I geared up friday night July 24 for my 8th 24HOB ride. I had to make the decision to cut my usual 300mile goal a bit short. 24HOB is an amazing experience. it begins at 7pm Friday and goes to 7PM Saturday. I was lucky to ride the loop with some amazing people. My friend Kaitlyn Cofty Walton and I rode into the night and then I met up with teammate Mike Tam until we decided we had to eat.
Saturday July 25. I packed up the Sprinter van in the a.m. and headed up to Old Fort, NC the host town for ORAMM and Jerdon. Mike Schafer his wife Kim, and friends Garret Hyer and Keith Lechleidner had set up camp at a local campground close to the race start. Saturday afternoon was spent getting the race packet and getting my Giant XTC Advanced SL 27.5 ready for the next day. We had most everything done by early afternoon and settled into relaxing with a few adult beverages and talking race strategy before we headed to bed.
Now, I have a Sportsmobile Sprinter Van Conversion that is an ideal way to travel and stay for bike races. We had a light rain as I headed off to bed..not strong enough to worry about changing tire choice but would make race day a bit more interesting.
Sunday July 26 Race day. I could say I woke up at 5:30 am to prep for the 8a.m start but that would be true considering I really don't think I slept more than 2 hours. Not the best way to start a big race. I had my customary coffee, oatmeal, 1st breakfast and then my frosted mini wheat's, beat juice and Skratch Labs Hyper Hydration Mix 2nd breakfast. Mike, Keith and I headed out at 7:15 and rode the 2.5miles over to the race start. Garrett, Kim and Keith's wife would be handling race day support for us(essential for fast times and ease or reloading). There are 4 supported rest stops but you have to organize your nutrition/hydration, leave it at race start and the promotors shuttle it to the rest stops..the volunteers(who are awesome!)at the rest stops help you get your bags but its time consuming with 500racers. Having your own support makes a world of difference.
The Race: So I had a reach goal to cover the 60 miles in 5hours. You might ask, having never done the race how I cam up with that number. Mike Schafer is a vet of the race and a strong rider, we are pretty close in ability and he finished last year in 5hr:12min. Seemed like a legitimate goal to shoot for. We where able to line up pretty much in the front row which would make the start less stressful and easier to keep up wit the super fast guys. There is a neutral start out of town and the pace picks up after that. My plan was to stay in the top 10-20 riders up the first climb..old U.S. 70 which is paved and leads you up to the first single track climb Kitsuma. As we entered old 70 there where about 40 riders joking for position..this pretty much stayed the same all the way up. The pace was incredibly hard and I was wondering how many of these guys could hold the pace. At the top of old 70 there is a gate that everyone has to go around single file...knowing this the pace got crazy fast 500meters before the gate..I made the decision to sprint it out and reached the gate about 11th. This ended up being the right move as a group of about 15 separated form the rest.
1st Kitsuma climb and decent: This section was mostly a blur..my heart rate was pegged from the effort on 70 and I just wanted to hang on. Kitsuma climb is not long its the short steep peak on the first climb above but it does hurt after a hard effort. Garrett and support where at the bottom of Kitusama and the transition to Star gap. I took a bottle and kept going. At this point I was Josh Whitmoore (Green life/Organic Valley), Bob McCarty(Stradalli)multi-time national champion)), Nick Bragg (Piney Flats) and Ross Bowden (Champion Systems), There where about 5 racers a couple min up the road. We all worked together on the road until the entrance to Star Gap. I lost contact with all on Star Gap...it has a couple technical switchbacks and I did not navigate them well. I knew I could make some time up in the section between Star gap and rest area 2 called Jacobs creek. This section is gravel forest service road and features rolling climbs and fast lose gravel descents. I made good progress was able to first catch Ross on the decent and caught Josh as we approached rest area 2(Garrett was set up just after that at the beginning of Curtis Creek. I took 2 more bottles of NUUN and an ice pack Garret had prepared (he stuffed it down my jersey...so nice!). I soon caught Wes Richards (last years Single Speed Winner) and not long after that Josh and Ross bridged up to us. Curtis creek takes you from about mile 29-36 and its all climbing the steepest is the middle third and is bout 13%. The four of us took turns setting pace on the climb till mile 32 where Wes was able to accelerate at a pace we couldn't match. At some point Josh and I dropped Ross but we where caught by a super fast Jacob McGahey (Industry Nine) about 1.5 miles form the BRP) Josh and Jacob dropped me but i was able to catch back up as they entered the BRP) the three of us worked together on the 5 mile stretch of the BRP to the Hike-ABike section up to Heartbreak-ridge. We where caught by Brad Cooper(Motor Mile Racing last years 40+winner) during that hike.
Heartbreak-Star-Gap-Mill Creek 2nd Kitsuma
Jacob and Josh got a head start on the decent of heartbreak and separated quickly..I was able to get around Brad in short order. I was taking chances and eventually it caught up and I crashed and fell down the side of HBR about ten feet. I lost a bottle but was otherwise ok. I remounted as quick as I could but Brad had passed me. I descended solo for a while and caught Josh just before the Star Gap decent. Near the bottom of Star Gap I caught back up to Brad...Jacob was out of sight. At the transition from Star Gap to Mill Creek I took two more bottles, 1 water 1 NUUN some beet juice and the best surprise of the day, another unexpected ice pack on down the jersey(OMG that was heaven!). My time at this point was about 4hrs15min ( knew that the rest of the course would take about an hour give or take (the 5hr goal would be very tough). Brad didn't stop and was able to get a gap that he never relinquished. I climbed Mill Creek and the 2nd Kitsuma climb solo and everything started falling apart..i started to cramp and I felt like legs full of concrete. I just wanted to get to the bottom of Kitsuma...it was down hill on nice pavement to the finish. "The mind is the enemy" one of my favorite quotes from The Princess Bride. The decent down Kitsuma the 2nd time seemed forever! Its not actually all decent, there are three pitchy climbs and they absolutely where soul crushing when you are just looking to get to the bottom. I got to the bottom of Kitsuma at bout 5hr52min. I gave the last few miles to the finish everything I had left in the tank. It was close but I finished in 5hr 6min. Never disappointed and super happy with the effort.
5th place Masters 40+
Mike Schafer finished 6th! in 5hr12min (2 Top tens for TC athletes)
16th place Overall
10500 ft of climbing
6 bottles of NUUN
2 bottles water
2 pantyhose stuffed with ice
4500 calories burned
1 very tired dude