I have been trying to do one of the ITT routes for the past several months, but my work and family schedule just were not cooperating. Since the last century that I did was the Cahutta several years ago, I decided on the Tellico Highlands route. Even though I have not ridden as much as I wanted to this year, I did have one 8hr race in the legs and I have ridden the route segments several times…but never together.
I wanted to do this ride during a weekday so I picked Tuesday 21 June. I did have three slight concerns. First, I had to fast Sunday and Monday morning for Monday afternoon colonoscopy. I was not sure how the “fast” was going to affect me, but I had a nice meal after the procedure and in the end did not feel that I had any adverse effects. Second, I had to convince my wife that I was ok to do this effort. Me: “Honey, the nurse said that I could resume normal activities tomorrow”. Wife: “Since when is spending all day on your bike a normal activity?” Third, I had grandpa duties to babysit my granddaughter at 4pm.
Fortunately, I woke up at about 0245 and snuck out the door before my wife’s wisdom prevailed. It takes me about an hour and ten minutes to drive to the start from our home. The temperature was in the low 60’s with highs to hit the mid-90s. I decided to start out in a light windbreaker and ended up wearing it for the first three hours. Here was my set-up for the day (See picture):
● 2013 Felt F3X 1X Setup 42t x 11-42t, Tubeless: Front Tire Maxxis Ravager 700x40 Rear Tire Kenda Alluvium Pro 700x35
● Three water bottles: 1 24 oz w/ Tailwind. 1 20 oz w/ Tailwind. 1 16 oz w/ Skratch.
● Evo Hip Pack Pro 3L. rescue kit, first aid kit, water filter, baby wipes, spare light, sun glasses, 3x Tailwind packs, 1 Skratch, 2.5 packages of Shot Blocks, 2x Skratch bars, 3x gel packs, 1x maple syrup pack, and a peanut butter sandwich.
● Not pictured are a light jacket and a real map.
I love riding that early in the morning. For the first couple of hours I traded the beauty of the mountains for the beauty of the pre-dawn sky. My overall plan was to enjoy the day, keep my heart rate under control, fuel, and hydrate. I did sacrifice some speed on the downhills in the dark, but the cooler temps were a good trade off.
The first vehicle that I saw was on the Cherohala Skyway. Even though I have ridden the segment to Indian Boundary Lake many times, I had an expectation bias that resulted in me going about 1 mile in the wrong direction before turning around.
At Indian Boundary Lake, I filled up my two larger water bottles. I still had not touched the one in my hip pack. I tried to stick to my game plan of steady riding and enjoying the day. I consumed a bit more water on the Farr Gap climb as the temps began to rise. I do not particularly enjoy the descent off Farr Gap on my CX bike, but at least you are going downhill. After this descent, I essentially had no brakes. So at the bottom I made an adjustment on my TRP Spyrie Mechanical brakes. I see my second vehicle of the day along the Citico River Road.
At Jake Best, I make the mistake of not filling up my water bottles. Even though I have ridden a lot in the Citico area, I still have never noticed nor taken the time to locate the piped springs. I looked a few cursory minutes at Jake Best and decided to move on. I carry a water filter especially for times like this, but carried the dang thing the whole ride and foolishly did not use it. .
I always underestimate Miller’s Ridge! I had about 20 oz of fluid left and decided to go for it. The temps really began heating up on this section. There was a lot of debris, but nothing that I had to get off my bike for. The only time that I felt like I was going to bonk was about halfway through this section. Because I had little fluids, I did not fuel like I should.
I had run out of fluids by the time that I hit Rafter Road. There were plenty of opportunities to stop and filter some water out of the creek, but I pressed on. All was going pretty well until I flatted at the bottom of the final climb about 6 miles from the finish. I could not locate an obvious puncture.So I pressurized the tire and continued up the climb and descent to River Road. Things really fell apart on this final section. It was very hot and I had to stop about ten times to hand pump my tire. I probably should have put an inner tube in it, but my tires are really difficult to seat and unseat on my wheels. I eventually limped back to my truck.
Things That Worked:
1. Years ago, I heard Chris Horner recommend Noxzema with Eucalyptus for chamois cream. It works great and is a lot cheaper than specialized products. I have never had a problem after a long, hard day in the saddle.
2. A couple of years ago, I started using wax lube (Squirt) on all my chains. It has really worked well for me including long rides in very sloppy conditions.
3. Fueling: I consumed 2 Skratch bars, one peanut butter sandwich, 1 maple syrup, 1 honey stinger gel, 4 individual shot blocks, and 1 double expresso gel (before Miller’s Ridge). This roughly totaled about 900 calories. I was aiming for about 100 calories an hour along with about 100 calories from my fluids.
4. Hydration. I consumed 96 oz of fluids that contained almost 1100 calories.
5. I experienced no stomach distress.
6. Once again, my hand pump got me to a finish.
7. Starting early was a game changer for me. It would have been a totally different experience starting even a couple of hours later due to the heat.
Things That Could Have Gone Better:
1. My basic plan for fuel and hydration worked well until about the last 2 hours of the ride where I should have fueled and hydrated more.
2. I should have known where all water sources were along the route. In addition, I should have used my water filter…what the heck I carried it all day!
3. Somehow I lost my cue sheet (and sunglasses) along the way.
4. I should have had my brakes set-up better knowing there are some long, fast descents.
Things That I Would Do Different
1. I would take two water bottles (24oz and 20 oz) and fill up at each marked water source.
2. I would do a better map recon, especially concerning the critical turns.
3. I would check my tire pressure throughout the ride.
4. I would not underestimate Millers Ridge and tackle it with plenty of fluids and fuel.
After a nice soak in the Tellico River, I did make the most important event of the day…babysitting my 11 month old granddaughter.