Mountain Range

DEATH MARCH REVIVAL

James Dunaway

3/12/21

Full disclosure- this is my first attempt at a race report. I could not have asked for better conditions when setting out for the DMR. Not only was the weather perfect with clear skies and temps in the 70s, but this area had not received any rain in about a week which is crucial for those mountain roads to fully dry out.

I rode a Pivot Vault gravel bike with a gas tank bag and three water bottles. I brought a turkey sandwich, some tools and two tubes, a pound of cooked bacon, some gels and energy bars. My goal was to finish before 7:20. The first few hours flew by and things were going smoothly. I was taking it easy on the downhills as I knew that the chances of flatting were high with narrow tires on this rocky route. I started doing some mental calculations while climbing up Big Frog Mtn and realized I was definitely on schedule to break 7 hours if I could hold my pace.

I stopped for creek water around mile 50 which was fortunately my only stop. The road was a bit loose and technical as you head back into Georgia, which is the part of the route I know the least so it seemed to go on forever. Finally, I arrived at Watson Gap and was back in familiar territory. I figured that holding a 12ish MPH average for the remainder of the route would put me around the 6:30 finish mark, which kept my spirits high enough to get through those awfully steep rollers.

From riding the TNGA, I knew that this section of the route to Potato Patch was no easy ridge traverse, and I was amazed at how even on a lightweight gravel rig with semi-fresh legs (compared to TNGA), this section still took forever. It did not help that the Forest Service had recently graded the final 4-5 miles and dumped patches of chunky new gravel, which they never seem to do conservatively. Fortunately, the final descent down from Potato Patch was enough to make up for slow speed on the ridge, and I ended up finishing with a total time of 6:36. All in all, I was very fortunate as nothing went wrong and the only thing I would do differently is bring chain lube.