Mountains of Misery, Heaps of Fun


The rest period for Mountains of Misery has begun, and I’m scared — not of resting mind you, but of the ride itself. I first did the ride in 2004, and was appropriately humbled. There’s just no way to know what riding 100 miles over unfamiliar territory will do to you after which you have to climb a mountain. In the past, I’ve been accused of understatement, and yes, I’ve summed up the climb to Mountain Lake obliquely, (e.g. it has its moments). Rather than being so circumspect, here are my thoughts on the ride and what one mentally should be ready for. Additionally, I’m writing not as a racer, but as older, fatter, recreational cyclists, who probably over-reaches in his limitations. So why would I subject myself to this sort of punishment? Answer: I deserve it. On the other hand, and somewhat optimistically, you’d be surprised what wouldn’t kill you. You can read previous ride reports here.

The rollers out to New Castle are pretty tedious. It’s hard to get in a groove. The peleton is usually nervous enough that there’s no settling down, and so it’s chew-em-up and spit-em-out the back. Just be patient, there are a lot of opportunities to waste yourself. Don’t do it in the first 25 miles. The descent into New Castle is a gas, and well worth the price of admission. Just be careful and communicate where you are with other riders.

The Loop out and back to John’s Creek isn’t too bad. There’s great scenery, a few grade surprises, chip and seal roads, and usually plenty of company willing to work together. The broad valleys through which the ride passes makes this one of the more scenic parts of the route. If there’s a headwind, don’t forget to look up every now and then, otherwise, you’ll miss it.

The climb up John’s Creek is not gentle, especially on a behemoth like me. It’s plenty doable, just find a groove and ride within yourself. This is the first big challenge to your fitness, gearing, and leg strength. Be patient. That last switchback up to the finish is a kicker, and you’ve got 40 more miles to go. The descent and ride back to Newport is a welcome change, but….

I say this most every year but that loop out 601, well,…. This is the surprise. You know about John’s Creek, you know about Mountain Lake. This little ten mile loop? It can make or break you — I ain’t kidding. There are two steep rollers that surprise you. There’s usually a head wind for some portion of the ride. It feels like it’s mostly uphill. You spend the first 10 minutes watching other cyclists returning to Newport after having done the route, and you have a sneaking suspicion they are either gloating or pitying you. You get these looks which say, “You poor schmuck, you have no idea…” Be mentally ready, this is not a warm up or a way to burn 10 miles. Oh, and watch the road surface, potholes, gravel, cyclists….

Now you’re back at the start line rest stop. You have two rest stops before the top: one at around 90 miles and one at about 98 miles. Climbing out of Newport, you begin to feel the damage. You’re glad that there’s only 18 miles to go, but Wow, what an 18 miles. This section has some climbs and some fun descents. Just after the 90 miles rest stop, there’s a great, bombing descent — watch the curve at the bottom of the hill. Once you make it to the New River, you start your ascent up to Mountain Lake. You’ll have a few respites, but for the most part it’s “Up, Dave, up.”

Technically, your climb up Mountain Lake begins when you cross US 460. It starts out gentle and get’s steeper as the climb continues. Just past the last rest stop, is where the heartache and the leg cramping begins in earnest. Find a groove and make it. Sing songs from the soundtrack of Dirty Dancing. I prefer “Do You Love Me?” Besides, you’ll be asking a lot of questions at about this time. “Work. work.”

Remember, the goal is to finish so you can get that t-shirt. Walk if you have too, plenty of others have done it before you. You’ll know you’re close when you begin to hear the announcer at the finish line.

Of the rides I do, this is one of the most difficult. Either because it’s early in the season or it’s well, difficult — probably both. MoM is also one of the most well coordinated and supported rides I do. My hat is off to organizers for pulling this off — it’s a great ride.

See you around 6:30 am in Newport. The weather looks to be gorgeous. Remember, Saki says,
“Ride together.”

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