I’ve never been to ORAMM (Offroad Assault on Mt. Mitchell) before, and I didn’t know much about the race other than it’d be a good test of how my legs and blood would agree to some sea-level climbing. Since the race was somewhat of a late addition to my calendar, and not really an “A” race, I figured I’d have nothing to lose and went in to the weekend with the intention of really pushing past my usual comfort zone and seeing what would happen.
I was lucky enough to get some sage advice about what the course was like and how to ride the start of the race. So, with that in mind, I lined up near the front and cleared my head. The next half hour was absolutely awesome- I used my pack skills to stay safely in the top 50 or so until the first climb, then I laid down a really nice, hard tempo on the way up. The goal was to make it to the singletrack in (or near) contact with my competitors.
Of course, Carey Lowery chased me down on the first hill. She sat on my wheel for a bit before popping around on a steep spot and riding off. I didn’t want to go harder than I already was, so I figured I’d hold my pace and see what happened. Just as we reached the singletrack, Paula Burks passed me. I stayed on her wheel and figured she’d be a good person to follow.
Then, something unexpected happened.We started making our way up the switchbacks of the Kitsuma climb, and, even though I’d been feeling like a badass up until that point, I prettyuch imploded. Yeah. At about mile 10, my legs called it a day… Only 52 more miles to go.
About that time, another woman (who later dropped out at Aid 3) passed me. I backed off and tried to recover. The next 10 miles was kind of a blur. I resigned myself to just finishing the race off as a hard training ride. Then, just when I thought that the day was going to be pretty crappy, it got downright ishtty. I was clicking down the final descent before the 9 mile Curtis Creek climb when I got a little sideways in some gravel. I overcorrected and wrecked into the grass on the side of the trail.
Before I finished wrecking, I knew something was horribly wrong with my right hand. As I came to a stop, I realized that my thumb wasn’t exactly where it should be inside my glove, and it was in excruciating pain. Lucky for me, mild dislocations are accompanied by a natural instinct about how to go about fixing them. I grabbed my thumb, felt a pop, and it was back in its usual spot. All I could think about was how much cooler it would be to have a trick shoulder like Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon:
I got back on, and kept making my way down. My hand hurt, but it was manageable. At the aid station, I refilled, had a couple of bites of PB&J, then started up Curtis Creek. I was able to shift by palming my gripshift, so everything was good… aside from my back starting to hurt and the outer two toes on my left foot feeling like they were catching on fire.
Once I was at the top, I got my drop bag, swapped out a gel flask, refilled my wingnut pack, and took the aspirin & electrolytes that I’d stashed. During that time, two other women showed up at the aid station, so I made sure to hurry up & get out before they did. I realized on the next descent that my race was going to be harder than I’d thought… I couldn’t wrap my right thumb around the handlebar without being in a lot of pain, so I was descending with an open grip. It worked OK on the forest road, but would soon prove to be problematic.
The next chunk of miles generally sucked- on the next piece of forest road, I got passed by the woman who eventually won 3rd. I caught her again at the next aid and made a good gap up the next bit of paved climb & hike-a-bike, but then came a long, tech-y descent off of Heartbreak Ridge. As I tried to nurse my hand down the mountain, I had to fully grip my bars. It hurt. A lot. She quickly caught and passed me. At one point, I clipped a stump that was hiding in the brush just off the trail and almost endo-ed. The impact popped my thumb again, sending searing pain up my arm and bringing me to tears. I got pissed off. Really pissed off. I decided that I was going to ignore the pain and catch her.
I was going to catch and pass her or wreck trying.
I caught back up and tried to stay with her. She offered to let me pass, but kept gapping me over the rougher sections of trail. We hit some switchbacks, and I wiped out again. She was immediately out of sight. I kept chasing, and passed a lot of men that had moved to the side of the trail to let her pass. However, I never caught back up.
The remainder of the race was uneventful. The route went back up & over Kitsuma, where, though I was looking forward to riding the switchbacks without the traffic that I’d dealt with before, I was unable to do so because I started to massively cramp.
WTF? Seriously? I was hydrated and had taken plently of electrolytes… it was just exertional. Insult to injury, I guess. I ended up walking most of the last climb because every time I tried to pedal, my legs would turn into a knot. Luckily, I didn’t get caught by any other women, so I ended up 4th.
At least the dogs were impressed.
I’m actually not too disappointed. I felt really good about the start, but I just need the legs to back it up. Working on it. My thumb had been on & off of ice today. It’s still swollen, and I can’t grip anything with it, but it’ll be OK. Next up is Ore to Shore and Fool’s Gold. I need to let my thumb heal, so I don’t want to get out & bounce it around offroad, but hand position on my road bike right now is problematic. I’m thinking of some creative rigging with duct tape and a washcloth. I’ll be sure to post photos.
In the meantime, Matt was beating me by just over an hour. Must have been the burger from the night before…