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Mountain Range


Chris Joice (7)


well... after two months entirely off the bike, and just six weeks back in the saddle, i guess i'm back to my old tricks!?!

friends helped keep me motivated, and Travis Jolly had discussed hitting up DMR together... why not?! we decided that we would be doing our own ITT efforts, but if we started together we'd at least know the other was out there.. safety, third.

as it turned out, i was actually early to start, and no travis... well, he shows up on the bike and ready to roll as i'm slowly gathering my things. no need in him just waiting for me, so he heads on while i spend another 10min getting my act together. welp... now i got a "rabbit" to chase!

before i get into the day's events, here's short bike/gear/planning overview.... i LOVE this nearly all gravel route and i did it twice last year. in preparation for this go, i reviewed my notes, and i clearly "told" myself that MTB was better than my adventure rig. of course, i second-guessed this a bunch, but decided to trust my note-to-self and took the rigid dropbar MTB. i also lightened up my gear to match what i ran back at the OG DMR grand-depart (which was my fastest). also in planning, i lighted up my load of food and gear, called ahead for lunch at Mulberry Gap, and i made up several doses of Superfuel Skratch.

onto the ride itself... gosh the MTB was a Fan-freaking-tastic choice! the "gravel" is rowdy as ever, and the 2.3/2.2 combo let me rip a bit without beating me up [too bad]. the easier gear nagged at me a bit.. it sure did seem spinny, but we things turned up, it sure was nice. but would i catch TJ or be able to PR???

the opening hours went by nicely and the weather was about perfect.. a little sunny, dry conditions, and not too hot. i made it to the pipe above Jack's CG around 10min ahead of my best time... no sight of TJ, but i'm feeling good and trying to keep my stops short. i spend a minute to adjust my shoes, but otherwise, i fill bottles and get moving pretty fast.

next up i see day-riders out, and even see a few friends! Thomas Turner and Bert Harrison exchange quick hellos with me and give a little extra "pep" in my step heading up to Potato Patch... awesome to be in the middle of nowhere (or very far from civilization or pavement, at least), and get some cheers!

dropping off Potato Patch to Mulberry is always a fast and bumpy scoot, and today is no exception... it's dusty and loose, so i'm right on the edge of danger/fun. oh, and how's my arm gonna handle this??? ....all is good and well, and i'm having a ball... even dusted a few vehicles that were just creeping down the chunk!!

quick stop at MG to chomp down a sandwich, and i see Travis has definitely been by, as his sandwich is not in the cooler. he's not way ahead because i didn't see him on my descent... so there's still a chance to catch him?! i don't doddle, and shove my second sandwich in my pocket and get back to the business at hand.

the climb back up to Potato Patch is the longest of the day, and it's quite memorable.... at nearly an hour, there's time to process way too many thoughts! but unlike my last time where a horse-fly accompanied me at least half the way as questioned life-choices, this go-around was steady and happy. sure, it was still damn hard, but i was able to get into a groove and the legs didn't protest too much... yet.

in the next miles up to cow pen and down to the rangers station, i started to feel the climbs adding up on my legs... they weren't revolting, but they weren't thrilled. i knew i was likely short on calories, so i tried to force down what i could (out of what i had)... oh, and that Skratch i made up to have extra cals??? yep, i promptly left it in the car! best laid plans...

i finally get to the rolling chill section before Big Frog and get a chance to eat my sandwich and i know i just have this last booger left. Big Frog gets back into some seriously chunky and slow climbing where i've seriously fallen apart before, so i knew this was a make-or-break section. i filled up bottles at the pipe and downed the last of my 5hr energy (FTW), i tuned up some WSP and set the cruise control to steady-grind.

maybe it was the easier gearing, the stoke of being out on a favorite course, and maybe just chasing Travis, but the miles ticked by pretty quick! sure, it was anything but easy, but after an hour or so, start to see the end of the route on my wahoo [when zoomed out enough, you can see it anytime - ha!]

by this point, it's obvious i'm not going to catch Randy Kerr's SS FKT of 8:30, but i stand a good chance of setting a PR. and there's still a chance of catching TJ.... LET'S GO!! i'm eating everything i have and i'm down to just a gel left with maybe an hour to go.... better make it count...

i dig as hard as i can (woohoo, zone3 max), and focus on powering the rollers and descending fast. the MTB is now really proving to be the right choice as i'm not terribly fatigued and i can really let it hang-out a bit on the rowdy downs. and there's the last intersection..... WHOOSH down to the finish!!

i never caught Travis, but there he is at the finish... he'd just gotten out of the shower, and had been back for around 20min. he came in at just 9min behind Randy's time! my time is 8:44, so i've knocked off over 15min off of my best time... i'm defintely happy with that, especially after my "forced haitus"!

guess i'm back?!!

***as always, thanks for TN Gravel for putting these ITTs on, and also for Kim Murrell for starting this up in the first place***

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