Monday, July 26, 2010


ORAMM - The Off Road Assault on Mount Mitchell - 63 miles, 11,000 feet of climbing. Or is it 15,000? Both have been claimed for the same route. My take is when you're climbing that much, it doesn't really matter. It's just climbing all day.

I almost didn't get to go this year. They capped registration at 400 riders and 400 riders signed up before I did. Fortunately there were drop-outs and through an unexpectedly simple and inexpensive process, I managed to get in.

Saturday morning, I got my stuff together, took Isabel to a birthday party for one of her friends, and replaced the battery in my truck. It's been hot this summer, and if there's one thing car batteries don't like, it's heat.

Eddie O met me at Hamilton Mill and we carpooled it up to Old Fort.

It was warm.


About half way up I realized that I didn't have the AC on "max". Click. Ahhh.

We camped at the Curtis Creek Campground...


...which had apparently been a CCC camp way back.

 CCC Plaque

Last time I was up there I'd seen this weird little building. I guess it was a CCC shed.

 CCC Building

Dinner was pizza in Black Mountain.


Good pizza.

I'd forgotten my stove and cup so we rigged up an alcohol stove out of pineapple cans and fueled it with that stuff you put in your gas to get water out. Alcohol stoves are supposedly awesome because they're lightweight, easy to make and fuel is prevalent. I'm not so sure about the "fuel is prevalent" part though. It took 3 gas stations and 2 grocery stores to find fuel. Though I did realize later that at the first grocery store, instead of insisting on Heet, I could have just gotten a bottle of actual isopropyl alcohol and forgone the search. So, maybe fuel is prevalent. It was odd that I couldn't get it at 3 different gas stations though.

The stove worked well in our test.

 Stove Test

We ate a lot of pineapple. It was a little warm and the full moon was a searchlight so I didn't get a ton of sleep. But I'd slept really well on Friday night so hopefully it wouldn't matter.

The next day, we got up and ate. Eddie made coffee. I had to pile rocks up around the stove to keep it from going out when I set the can down on it. Guess I should have poked more holes in it.


Camping's great and all, but it was just the means. The ends were ahead.

We got to the ORAMM at about 7. Eddie sprayed himself down with Axe so that the throng of chasing ladies would block his competitors.


Seriously though, that's bug spray or something. Awesome photo though.

The line at the bathroom was so long I was legitimately worried about missing the start.

At the last minute I saw SGC boys Steve Julian and Josh Fix drive up. I have no idea how they managed to make it to the start on time, but apparently they did and even rolled out ahead of me.


The next 7 hours and 35 minutes would provide me with many opportunities to confront and manage Adversity. I have argued before that Adversity is a gift, and I stand by that, but seriously, it must have been Christmas.

The start was lazy. I bridged and bridged and bridged until I was in the lead group, which was a group of like 100 people. I felt good on the climb up Old 70. I can usually tell there if it's going to be a bad day or not. It didn't seem like it would be. I'd kind of just gotten over a cold. That didn't seem to have any effect. Nor did the heat, nor lack of sleep. Awesome.

Kitsuma was easier than usual. An unprecedented number of riders were actually riding and cleaning the switchbacks. I popped my chain on top of Kitsuma, and got that terrible sinking feeling when I realized "that's what I forgot..." A powerlink. Mark Johnson stopped for me, thinking he might have one, but he didn't. At Yargo, I'd believed that it was the oldness of my chain tool that made it impossible for me to fix the chain without a link, but as it turns out, actually, an old chain has wallowed out plates, allowing the pin to wander around, but the plates on a new(er) chain has solid, straight holes which guide the pin properly back into place. Score.

My chain was fixed, but my front derailleur had apparently slipped. In middle-big, the chain would drag. I couldn't drop to the little ring without unclipping and pushing the chain over with my foot. In the big ring, the chain kept flopping off to the outside if it was too bumpy. Adversity. Bring it on.

I rolled past SAG 1, climbed Star Gap. Fewer people were riding those switchbacks. Steve was hanging out on top. He jumped on and rode with me for about 100 yards before giving up and walking. Somewhere in there, I passed Mark Johnson again. He was on the side of the trail, I think just getting food out or something. He said he was good though and I kept going.

The doubletrack descent off the back of Star Gap was ludicrous. Loosest gravel ever. I really struggled to hold a lines. ORAMM is funny. You have to run fairly high tire pressure to keep from flatting on the hundred million roots and rocks, but that high pressure does you no favors on the gravel or on the hundred million steep, technical climbs. "Choose the form of your Destructor!" In each right hand turn, I'd start hard left, sweep through the apex and end up hard left again. I'd done this for the entire descent, not considering that somebody would try to pass me on the inside, which somebody did. All I could do was stay left and hope the gravel would hold, which it didn't. The crash hurt, really bad, but it didn't knock much energy out of me. I jumped up and was back on the wheel of the guy that passed me in 20 seconds. My right knee and left forearm were bleeding like they were connected directly to my heart, but I could see that it was stopping. My left hand was torn up, but not bleeding. My right ribs really hurt. My right shoulder had popped out and back in. No problem, I've ridden through much worse.

At SAG 2 I refueled and replaced a bottle I'd lost in the crash. Curtis Creek was not an easy climb, but I had it. It was long and steep, but not murderous. I was on top of nutrition and hydration, I wasn't bleeding any more, I actually felt good, and I passed people all the way up, including several riders who'd cracked and headed back down.

The next long climb I felt even better on. Middle ring spinning all the way back to the parkway.

No cramps hiking up to Heartbreak Ridge. I did end up tipping over and falling off the side of the mountain in a goofy, rooty, off camber section with a tree leaning out into the trail. It looked like I wasn't the only one though.

I used to descend like mad, but three different riders passed me on that descent. I think mainly, the issue is my rear brake, which vibrates and groans horribly. There's no feather in that brake. It's either off or on hard. I can make it grab even harder, but I can't control it precisely. We'll see. I managed to down almost two bottles while descending. It was getting hot.

Coming around one switchback, I got clotheslined by a vine, covered in thorns. It shredded my left arm and my face. I even got a thorn stuck inside my mouth. If you've ever been scratched by thorns, you know how those cuts bleed. It was horrific. I was disappointed later with how minor the scratches on my face were compared to how much they bled. If it's going to bleed that much, it should look awesome later too.

At SAG 5 the guy asked "Are you still having fun?" At first I said no, but then changed it to "It comes and goes." I still felt good, but the hand-slamming downhill wasn't much fun. Another guy dumped ice cold water down my back. I realize most people like that when it's hot, but I can't stand it. I'd rather be hot. Speaking of hot...

The climb up Mill Creek Road was hot. 6 miles. Lots of sunshine. On that climb, I'm usually just surviving. My knees and back usually hurt. This time, I'd done enough pre-ride stretching, and used enough different climbing techniques all day to conserve my back. I spun up that climb too.

Kitsuma was another story. I walked three of the switchbacks, one of the little kickers and one of the long kickers. It was now almost unbearably hot. On the long kicker, I was exposed to the sun and about 20 yards from the top I realized that if didn't get going again and get that breeze to cool me down, I was going to pass out. Tunnel vision... Ringing in my ears... No good. I made it though.

On the way back into town, I caught up with a guy that got past me earlier. We worked together all the way back. At first, we kind of half-heartedly tried to crack each other but it wasn't going to happen. Turned out we were in different classes anyway.

Done. 7:35. Is that good? You tell me. It's 30 minutes faster than last year, which was 30 minutes faster than the year before, but lots of people ride it much faster than that, including Eddie who did it in like 6 hours or something.

I cooled off in the little creek that runs by the start/finish area, grabbed a coke and we bailed out just before a massive storm hit. I hung out with Josh Fix a bit right after I came in, and I wanted to hang out with Steve for a while, but we really needed to get on the road and I didn't know how far back he was. Sorry bro. Next time.

We ate at the Outback in Hendersonville. Their AC went out and our waiter said she hoped we didn't mind if it got a little warm. Eddie laughed. "You have no idea what we just did today."

I ate again at Parma near the Mall of Georgia. I've taken two photos of the mac and cheese there already, so refer to them. It's really good.

Back home, I showered and scrubbed my wounds but there's still dirt in some of them. Hope that works out.

The carnage:





Man, it looks so much worse in real life. I'm looking at my hand right now and it looks so much worse than the pic. Maybe I can get Kathryn to photoshop them into looking really bad.

My goal for ORAMM was to "ride it without suffering." In retrospect, I'm not sure that's actually possible. But, I did manage to ride it without bonking, cramping, suffering through back and knee pain and without going insane, all of which I've dealt with before at ORAMM. I guess I accomplished my goal, maybe?

Goals aside, I had the opportunity to manage a great deal of Adversity: chains, derailleurs, crashing, thorny clotheslines and heat. A day like that is always good.

I think I'm going to skip ORAMM next year. Maybe do the PMBAR or something else. While I was ORAMM'ing some guys down in Florida rode their new TransFloridA route. THAT would be awesome. Maybe I can do that next year.


  1. we did, we did ride the TransFlorida. Hot as all get out. that one will be better appreciated in the winter!!

    nice write up... you could keep better company than EO, though..... :)


  2. Yeah Dave!! Excellent job. PMBAR..for sure. It's definitely up your alley.

  3. Hey Dave,

    I am "that guy" who rode in with you at the end and other parts thought the day. Thanks for the motivation on mill creek and the fast descent into town. It was fun... Are you doing Fool's Gold? If so maybe I will see you there...


  4. Cool man! Yeah, I'll be at fools gold. See you there.