2015 Miracle Hill 100 – Putting it all together

Not long after the “agony” of the 2015 Assault on Mount Mitchell, I started to think about another ride to put to work all that I had learned.

Then I convinced myself that another century ride was the only way to do it, and I better find one with significant climbing.  Enter the Miracle Hill 100 – a ride for a great cause, and in case you missed it, lots of climbing (8000ft give or take)!  Does Caesar’s Head mean anything to anyone?

Thankfully, this day went much better than AOMM!

In the weeks after AOMM, I put some thinking into my nutrition mistakes and strategy for having enough energy through the end.  This time I was determined to ride strong all the way.  I replaced my hydration with Skratch, decided to be open to variety at the rest stops for food, and finally – hold my exertion to reasonable limits so I would not blow up anywhere, with no unscheduled stops.  Did I succeed?

Once again, an early start to the day.  Bike ready to go, sun rising:

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Ready!

Still relatively cool out…

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Sun rising

The Century group lines up at the start.

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The Century group is ready

The start was almost anti-AOMM.  That beginning was a frenzy of riders taking off … this was more subdued and made it much easier for me to stay “calm.”  Still, it didn’t take long for me to get dropped off the “lead” pack and lagging behind.

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Dropping off from the peloton

Noting where each rest stop is located…

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Notes for rest stops

I was determined to save energy on this ride, and if I were to err either way, it was going to be starting out too slow.  I got with two guys who were riding the metric century and worked with them all the way to the base of the first climb (Caesar’s Head).

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Working with a couple guys

What was nice about this ride was the multiple chase vehicles keeping an eye on riders.  Nice to know we weren’t out “alone”

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Chase vehicle

Soon enough we see hints of what is to come:

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Mountains rise ahead

as the sun continues to rise.

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Sun is up

One more easy section before we get to the hard stuff.

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Still some shade

This was just after the second rest stop, where I was able to meet Doug Guth, one of the originators of this charity ride.

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Meeting Doug

And there he goes up the first hill … too fast for me!

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Doug is gone

Seeing the peaks ahead…

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Mountains ahead

And now about to turn onto 276 north

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Left turn for climbing!

This ride brought back lots of memories.  I think the last time I had been on Caesar’s head was on a motorcycle, at least 10 years ago.  All the turns came back to me – which was a good memory to have, as there were some switchbacks I recalled being rather steep.

I remembered soon after this rise was where the fun started:

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Passing Ashbury Hills

A short descent, right hander and up we go.

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Climbing after this turn

The rocks remind you that you’re climbing out of red-clay country,

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Remembering the rocks

which you can see “below”

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View down below

I had never ridden a bicycle up Caesar’s Head – in fact most of this route I had never seen on a bicycle.  But I had seen a good portion from my motorized two-wheel days, and knew that I could manage the climbs.  I was glad to be able to find a good pace all the way to the top.

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Managing the climb

This sign is deceiving – you think you’re getting there, which is true – but there’s plenty left!

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Getting there…

Couldn’t help but laugh at this sign!

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I’m slow

The first switchback is a sign of things to come.  These pictures do not do justice to show the grade:

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The first switchback

Looking back down the switchback:

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Looking back at the grade

A few more “straights” here and there with lots of sharp turns and climbs

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More switchbacks

Finally, just ahead!

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Almost there!

Made it to “the top.”  I was happy to see later in Strava that I got the climb done in just under an hour, which was one of my goals for the day.

At this point, I saw a group of riders leave the rest stop.  I wondered if I would have anyone to group up with for the rest of the day…

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Second rest stop

However I needed to take some time to enjoy this place.  About 17 years ago I proposed to my beautiful wife at the top of this mountain…

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At the top

Since then they’ve added this accessible walkway to see the view

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Taking a few moments to enjoy

Still a fairly clear day.

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View of Table Rock

Here is the original observation point from years ago

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Observation point

And the very spot where she said yes!.

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Memories

What better way to remember the exact location!

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Where it all started

After a few moments of reflection … my bike beckoned to continue on – 70 more miles to go!

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Let’s go!

A big thank you to all the great folks working at the rest stops.  Here I helped myself to a homemade brownie and chocolate chip cookie.  Nothing like “real” food instead of processed bars.  Bottle refill and Skratch and ready to go…

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Wonderful folks at the rest stop

On the way out, I met another rider, Dave, who was doing the century as well.  We had a blast descending the north side of the mountain and working the flats all the way to Brevard.  I was worried about doing the remaining 70 miles alone and it was great to have the company.

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The flat to Brevard

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Riding with Dave

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Fast traffic

Finally we get into town and I was feeling the day getting warm as we stopped at a light or two.

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Into town

thankfully we were out into the country again and it wasn’t too hot just yet.

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Countryside

We were able to find shade here and there

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Following Dave

and another rider caught up with us as well.  This lady was strong on the climbs!

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Another rider catches us

After a few miles it seemed that we dropped into a valley west of Brevard.  The views were amazing.

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Other riders out for the day

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The valley opens up

We turned onto a flat road with excellent pavement and the other two riders started talking about Walnut Hollow.  What’s that?

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The flat before more climbing

Oh nothing – just another small climb…

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Walnut Hollow starts

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The turn for Walnut Hollow

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More mountains

Small on the map maybe.  I think Dave was being kind here and waited up for me…

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This is steep!

There was “no place to hide” on this climb.  Sit, stand – whatever – your heart rate will go up.  I don’t know how I managed this picture, but it tells the story.  What I did notice was that this many miles in I was still able to dig down and put in a strong effort.  Thankfully – although it was steep, it wasn’t too terribly long.

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Really steep!

Finally at “the top”

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The “top”

After Walnut Hollow, I had a treat of riding along a mountain trout fishing destination.  The water was beautiful and plenty of folks out fly fishing.

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Trout fishing road

At about 63 miles, we made it to the third rest stop just south of Rosman, NC.  I was happy to get to this point in about 4.5hrs of ride time.

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Third rest stop

I really appreciated the fresh fruit at the stops as well!

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More goodies!

After a short break, back out on to the road

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Thank you!

From this point I was mostly “alone” – the lady we were with, I could never catch.  Dave stayed back to work with one of the last riders, but in the end I think that guy “SAG”ed out and then Dave caught and passed me.

Not a big deal though – once I saw this sign, my memories of 178 started to rise out of hibernation.  I recall a climb after this sign…

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More climbing ahead

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up to the divide

Up to the Eastern divide.  From here it was a fun descent for quite a few miles.  I was grinning the whole way!  Just like back in the day with the motorcycle … except going uphill was a little slower…

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Another climb done

Plenty of fun turns ahead

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Lots of descending

Even more after dropping into SC

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Back into SC

and then into Rocky Bottom

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to Rocky Bottom

After Rocky Bottom I had a few climbs to take on before the last descent and back into the foothills.  I really appreciated the folks in the chase vehicle.  At this point I was the last rider and they followed me all the way back to Furman, checking from time to time if I was ok.

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Chase vehicle

Here is Dave ahead, pulling away from me

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Losing the “group”

I managed to get a picture of this old house – it’s still there even after I saw it last 10 years ago.

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Old house

A few more miles of exhilarating gravity, and past Bob’s place on the right, across Highway 11 and into the foothills.

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Bob’s place

At 178 and 11 I did “catch” the other two riders, but at this point in the day it was hot, I had a headache and needed a boost.  So I took advantage of the convenience store and pulled an AOMM trick – a bottle of coke.

I never drink that stuff normally – c’mon what self respecting foodie would ingest high fructose corn syrup on a regular basis?  But I’ll say it’s just the ticket when you need a boost!  That caffeine and “sugar” is what got me through the next section of 288.

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Stopped for a Coke

After the store were some rollers and very little shade…

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Tough rollers ahead

Followed by some flatter sections and still very little shade.  It was getting very warm, but I took to dousing myself with water for the evaporative effect and along with the Coke “boost” I was able to put my head down and do 20mph+ on some sections.  By now I was happy that I could make some speed and I wasn’t bonking!

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Flattens out a bit

Finally the turn for the next rest stop, the Children’s Home, around 86 miles in.

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Turn for the Children’s Home

More excellent goodies, yes I’ll take a brownie and a cookie!

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Goodies!

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More goodies!

These folks were so encouraging, and it was a real boost to see all the kids cheering me on, even though I was Mr. Last!

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Great people helping out!

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Saying goodbye

The next 20 miles was not easy.  There were some significant climbs between the Children’s Home and Furman…

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A few more tough climbs

And I had to stop at the last stop at 95 miles just to collect myself.  It was very tempting on all of the remaining climbs to take a break, but I wanted to be able to say I stuck with my plan this time and had no unscheduled stops.  Kudos to the guys at mile 95 for all the encouragement!

Now I had two vehicles with me…

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Lead vehicle

Once I was at the stoplight at 25 I started to feel relieved that I was almost done.

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Almost back

The gate and the fountains were welcome sights..

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Through the gates

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That would be nice

And I made it!  A tough day, but a completion nonetheless.

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Finished!

Now – “lunch”

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Let’s eat!

Wow – what can I say – it all came together this time and I stayed strong through the end.  My no-cramp formula continues to work, and I’m figuring out a good distance strategy for myself concerning energy and nutrition.  When can we do this again?  I must be crazy…

Miracle Hill does a great event.  You can tell they put a lot of thought into details….  for example:

  • Plenty of varied foods at the rest stops (not just bananas, water, gatorade and bars) – I especially liked the fresh fruit, brownies and cookies
  • Chase vehicles on the route making sure the last rider makes it back
  • Overwhelming amount of encouraging volunteers
  • Food even for the last people in….  and bringing in boxed lunches for the last group.  This is really smart – knowing that “lunch” will be sitting out too long for those of us rolling in around 3pm, they ordered fresh boxed lunches so there isn’t a worry about food spoiling.  That last detail really impressed me.

After this experience, I will definitely plan to be back for the event next year – and next time I’ll register early and put effort into fundraising.  I entered at the last minute this year and didn’t have the time to raise money, but Miracle Hill does great work – I want to help more next year.

Matthew 25:36 New King James Version (NKJV)

36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

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