The location for Mountain Mama is in Highland County, Va, which the locals call "Switzerland of Virginia". It's kind of on a plateau of mountains and valleys and as such, the temperatures are cooler. For our start, the temperature was in the mid 50's with an expected day time high of 76. In other words, perfect for what I and 334 others had signed up to do; ride 100 miles over near perfect roads with little car traffic and climb a promoted 13,000'. As soon as I got out of my car in the parking lot, I spotted this fixed gear bike. The bike's owner rode the 100 mile route.
Lots of Ohioans I recognized including Ted M, Steve O, Mark C, John S, Flyin Tuna, Da Boss, Greg D, Joe G, Mark Waites, Kevin S and Frank S. At least twelve Central Ohioans had made the 6 hour drive to labor on the roads of VA and WV.
Hey, there is a recumbent dude but not The Recumbent Dude. On the first descent, off Jack Mountain, this guy swooped by me going at least 50mph and I never saw him again.
After a ride organizer repeatedly told us this was not a race, we were all sent off with the blare of a horn and an atmosphere that sure looked like a race. Not for me though, my goal was not a time but just to finish. I had prepared for this ride by not preparing and was certain I was going to pay. The descent off the first mountain can be a little dicey (a woman died there a few years ago after going left of center and crashing into a truck. I'll never forget a man standing over her and imploring, "She's still breathing. Mary, hang in there") so at the start I hung with Steve and Mark C up the first 1/2 of this 1.5 mile climb, which starts almost immediately after leaving the parking lot. I parted ways with them with a "See you later" as they pulled away. However, they were not gapping me too much so I caught up, passed and gave Mark a long stare before dropping back again. I arrived at the top in maybe 30th place and began the somewhat technical descent. Soon, people were roaring by me at a pace I could not fathom being able to maintain, safely. Not just coasting but hammering. After a couple of miles and now half the field ahead of me, I began closing on two riders and I'll be....it was Mark and Steve. Steve was using this ride as a training ride prior to "Bridge to Bridge", where he'll put in a good effort on this timed ride. Mama is not a timed ride so without the threat of having your time posted on the web site, some people take a more relaxed pace and enjoy the rest stops, including Mark C.
We began climb #2 of 2.4 miles and I dropped back, then dropped my glasses on the descent, stopped to grab them and caught on to a nice group of 6 and we worked together to the first rest stop at which I stopped at mile 30. Hey, here was Mark, Steve and Flyin Tuna. Word was Da Boss was in one of the first 1-2 lead groups, way, way ahead of us. The rest stops had a great mix of energy drinks, fruit, hard food, energy gels, etc... Cindy left, soon followed by Mark, Steve and I and as the road rose, I faded back with another, "See ya later". This 3rd climb is 1.9 miles but the steepest of the nine. One ramp close to the top is 21% with several others in the 12-16% range. The next rest stop was at mile 50 but there is also a store at mile 60. Climb #4 is 1.6 miles and much of it is just 4-6%. I passed the 50 mile rest stop, hoping instead for a long break at the market where I could enjoy a Monster. Now we were at climb #5, the Snowy Mountain climb of 4.2 miles and an average grade of just 4.9% but still, that long distance of climbing....what's that.....the first twinge of cramping in my right leg....uh ohhhhhhhh. I missed the market but 4 miles later there was another market and I stopped. No Monster there but a Mountain Dew is about the same and hey, here came Mark and Steve again and soon, Tuna rolled in as well.
I was a beaten man and confessed to Steve I was not going to make it. Even pacing myself, coasting whenever I could rather than pedaling, not hammering but the long and sometimes steep climbs were taking their toll. Plus, there was virtually no group riding throughout. Everyone was spread out. Climb #6, Allegheny Mountain and 4 miles of an average grade of 5.6%. My left leg began to cramp and my back began to hurt. God, I was coming apart now with a upper left leg cramp, a cramp to the side of my right knee, a middle back ache and hit the 82 mile rest stop half out of it. Hey, there was the fixed gear guy and Tuna too. I had kidded her earlier in the week that my goal was to beat her and now that was looking even more daunting. I drank a keg full of Heed energy drink, ate a peach, mixed fruit, fig newton and then, while Cindy went into the outhouse, I leapt on the bike and got a head start. He, he, he.
Climb #7, 3.3 miles and average grade of 6.6%. Occasionally, I would stand and stretch and found that as long as I did not push it too much or face any ramps that were too steep, I could keep the pressure off and keep the cramps at bay. Half way up the mountain, I glanced back and here came Tuna!!!! Nooooooo!!!!! I picked up the pace as much as I could risk and held her off and then bombed the descent as fast as an ultra conservative descender could bomb. As soon as thre bottom is reached, you immediately start right back up climb #8 of 1.6 miles but now an average grade of 7.1%. Glancing back, no Tuna, whew. Half way up this climb, again glancing back, here she came again. Woman is relentless. Still, I held her off and at the bottom of the mountain, stopped at the final rest stop at mile 94. More good volunteers, as there were at every rest stop. There is a road that takes you around this final climb but it adds 5 miles so forget that, I'd rather climb another freakin mountain then add an extra 5 miles to the overall. I turned to fill a glass for another drink of Heed and with my back turned, Cindy leapt on her bike and rode away. Sneaky!!! By the time I got everything on and clipped in, she was long gone. I did not panic, setting a higher pace than normal as I began the 9th and final climb, 1.7 miles but an average grade of 7.8%, 16 switchbacks with some steep ramps in there.
Slowly I gained on her. However, I over estimated the distance to the summit and she got there first, about 25 yards in front. She had an advantage now, lower profile and all that mass for the descent. I just refused to brake where normally I would and got within a couple of yards. Speed was too great to pedal so it was just gravity and superior bike handling skill that would settle this "race". Finally, after a couple of miles, I could see the Monterey sign and, folding my body around the bike frame for minimal air resistance, piped her at the line. She was laughing , as was I over the funny end to a long day.
The actual climbing is exactly 10,000' on my Garmin. No way it is 13,000'. My rather pitiful average speed was 14.9mph but not having to flag down the SAG wagon was an accomplishment. My ride time was 6:44, total time well, 7:20. SAD and two hours behind Craig's time. Mark C has checked in with his time in the comments section below which closely mirrored Steve's. Would like to know more about Craig's experience but he's so humble I probably won't be able to drag much out of him. Age is going to catch up to me soon. I may train and see what I can do on this ride next year after finding my results from '03 and '04 when last I did Mama. Slightly faster this year. Go figure.
As I drove out of town, riders were still coming in and I saw the last one descending off climb #7 at 4:20. Long day.