This is my first update message concerning preparation for Mountains of Misery – affectionately known as MoM. David says that my writing style can be heavy on facts and light on fun so I am planning to pepper a little fun in between the hard facts…you can let me know how I am doing.
Are you ready to climb? The Mountains of Misery Century offers total elevation gain of over 10,000 feet. There are two climbs that you will remember distinctly – John’s Creek and Salt Pond Mountain. The second of which is more commonly referred to as “Mountain Lake Backside” in honor of the Mountain Lake resort that sits at the summit (and Finish) of this ride. Yes, this ride ends on a climb. A serious climb…
But back to the facts: the first of the two notable climbs, John’s Creek, comes at approximately mile 59 and is preceded by rolling terrain with one big, crazy fast descent into the town of New Castle. After New Castle, you will pass through the stunning and agricultural Maggie Valley (VA not NC) perhaps pausing at rest stop #3 before beginning the John’s Creek climb out of the valley.
In this image, riders are transitioning out of beautiful Maggie Valley and up the climb… which gets much steeper than this. The climb is about 2.5 miles long with just over 1,000 feet of elevation gain to the top, a small notch on John’s Creek Mountain (and location of another rest stop).
One of the hairpin turns headed up John’s Creek… note the riders on both the lower and upper parts of this turn to get a sense of the scale (and the % grade).
Fun Fact – The first time I climbed John’s Creek Mountain, I wept tears at the summit… of joy, of course.
After John’s Creek Mountain you descend (careful… holes and gravel!) and then enjoy a number of short, steep climbs that will serve to wear you down just as the day is heating up. Down to the river, and then back up for the final push.
The Mountain Lake Backside climb begins at about mile 97.5 and gains over 1,600 feet of elevation gain in 3.3 miles. Along that quiet country road (intermittent shade and exposure) there are two driveways often used as brief resting spots — most riders stop at one or both to lower their heart rate. Yep, it’s that kind of climb. And each spot offers a little bit of flat driveway for remounting your steed, and getting the pedals turning, since that is pretty hard to do out on the road due to the grade.
There is one mini-rest nearly half way up that offers water, gels, cold wet towels and tons of encouragement — staffed by my bike club from the Blacksburg area. The volunteers will hold your bike and give you a push to get you started if you stop at their spot. Yep, it’s that steep.
Fun fact – An apple orchard marks the beginning of the final climb. When the Tour du Pont included the Mountain Lake Backside climb, it is rumored that Lance Armstrong stood on his pedals from the apple orchard to the summit.
The first time I participated in MoM (2003), I had been riding for only two years. I had not yet volunteered for this event and did not know the full extent of the fallout on the final climb. Later, when I served as a SAG Driver, I saw many of the best and strongest riders walking some portion of the final climb. It’s all about the training and the gearing of your bike. The training schedule that I will design for my group will include long miles and steep climbs…aka My Comfort Zone.
At the finish line, a big party awaits. You will know you are close when you can hear the cow bell ringing and the crowd cheering. You earned it.
Mountains of Misery is the most difficult century that I have completed. I have finished it three times (2003, 2007 & 2012). In 2007, I completed both Assault on Mount Mitchell and MoM within 10 days of one another. Although its a tough call, because both rides are difficult, MoM edges out as just a fraction more challenging than AOMM.
I am so excited to have the company of Jeff, Wendy, Eric, Kristy, Susan, Bonni and PJ for my fourth attempt. And we will all ride easier knowing that David will have our backs – he will be riding as EMT SAG on his motorcycle.
Presenting…Team Misery Loves Company. Stay tuned for tales of our training adventures.