DEATH MARCH REVIVAL
Well, the Death March is certainly aptly named! I’m really glad I chose my hard tail over my gravel bike bc some of those descents would have been gnarly in the best of conditions… but I ended up doing a lot of them in the middle of thunderstorms!
But back to the beginning… I ended up staying at Mulberry Gap even though I have a cabin in the area & I highly recommend, especially for the ease of basically rolling out of bed and being at the “start.” I ride in the area a lot so knew the road up Potato Patch was going to be a slog & and it was. It was made slightly more slog-like with the humidity that morning… I basically melted on the way up bc the air was so thick! But riding through the clouds and fog was pretty magical.
I studied the route a ton in the weeks before, but completely underestimated miles 10-40 or so. The descending was slower & more technical than I had expected, and the climb around mile 34-35 was probably my least favorite section of the whole route! It was a washed out, rocky mess and felt like it would never end. I did end up taking a break sometime around here to have a snack, reorganize my hydration and refill some bottles from a stream; it felt early in the ride to get water but I’m glad I did bc I didn’t see too many other good options later on.
Miles 40 to 70 or so were mostly marked by on again, off again thunderstorms & I don’t remember much else during that time. The first rain felt amazing and dropped the temps about 20 degrees. But by the 5th or 6th storm, I was kind of over it bc I couldn’t see much during the rain and the runoff across the roads was dicey in places not to mention muddy. I just tried to focus on making forward progress, no matter how slow! The moments after every rain were gorgeous though… I didn’t risk getting out my phone for pictures, but the misty mountains were pretty spectacular.
I think my legs were about done with climbing by mile 70, so I was really relieved to get to the top of the final descent and know that I was going to make it well before dark!
Overall, I’m really happy with my ride, even if I was hoping to be a bit quicker! Maybe next time? (Jk, I’m not quite there yet). This was the longest ride I’d ever done & first self-supported ride and my nutrition plan was perfect (something I was a little concerned about going in). I carried everything in my Camelback chase vest & even had some leftover; I also had 3 bottles on the frame and two smaller ones in my jersey pockets. The hard tail was definitely the right bike for me on this route, even if there were times I missed my gravel bike, but if I could do it over again I would put narrower tires on it (it’s got 2.8’s yikes!) or even think about borrowing someone’s 29 wheels. I would also wrap more sections of the bars with bar tape bc I definitely missed having the multiple hand positions you get with gravel bike drop bars, as well as the narrower position; I ended up just holding onto the bare bars closer to the stem for most of the climbs.
Going into this I thought I might go back in a few weeks and try it on my gravel bike, but now I’m not so sure lol
Anyway, that’s the end!