DEATH MARCH REVIVAL
As a cyclist, and specifically as an "endurance athlete," sometimes you choose a challenge that places you somewhere between self-loathing and certifiably insane. This is Death March Revival.
Two friends and I drove from Florida to Murphy, NC, for 3 days of riding with the Death March being the main focus. Ride start was about 40mins from Larry's cabin.
Larry had mentioned to me some time ago that he had heard of the Death March route and wanted to ride it. It was on my ITT to-do list anyway so the rest was just working out our schedules. Our friend, Curtis, came along as well. We all regularly ride together in Florida but this was my first time traveling with them to North Carolina.
My rig choices for this ride were my flat bar Salsa Fargo 27.5+ or my Chiru Vagus gravel bike. I chose the Chiru, but I can't say that I chose wisely. 40mm Zipp G40 tires and a 1x Campy Ekar set-up with a max low of 42x44 just didn't cut it for most of the route. The recent addition of a Redshift suspension stem was appreciated and did help to take a little of the edge off through the rougher sections, of which there were many. If I had it to do over again on my gravel bike, I would have a 38t up front and the absolute widest tires I could fit which I believe is 47 or 48mm.
Weather for the ride was overall good. Hot, but not "Florida hot" and it only rained for about an hour or so, during the ride. It was a mixture of sunny to mostly sunny with lots of clouds. The route provides a good amount of shade so that along with the clouds gave decent cover throughout the day.
Going to note two things here: 1. My riding buddies are both faster than me so I really only rode with them the first few miles climbing from the start and then we had a short regroup time at Mulberry Gap before getting separated again on the climb out of there. 2. I totally lost my rear brake within the first few miles of the ride. It started going soft the day before and I did not have the tools to fix. This really was not a ride to do without a rear brake, but there was no way I wasn't riding. This forced me to taper off speed while descending anything too loose or rocky and especially if there was much of a turn or bend at the bottom as the rear of my bike felt like it kept trying to come around on me or the front would push out beyond my capabilities. Fun times!
This route is legitimately the toughest one-day ride I've ever done. The climbs are many and the terrain is, at times, pretty brutal. Add to that that the connector to the lower Mulberry Gap loop was being graded that day. This slowed me down considerably both on the climb and on the descent as the dirt was all loose and turned up without having the time to get packed down.
I utilized two Polar Breakaway 30oz bottles for this ride figuring that Mulberry Gap was close enough to the midpoint of the ride that I would be fine using them as my only restock. With 60oz of fluids on board I was really cutting it close, especially on the second half of the ride, but all worked out okay in the end. I used Honey Stinger hydration mixes for one bottle and plain water in the other. Food was a mixture of Clif Bars, Fig Newtons, and 2 packs of Clif Blocks for quick energy shots during sustained efforts. I took in about 2000 total calories for the day and I never felt hungry but I definitely fought against the bonk monster on and off during my ride.
I was happy with my ride and settled into a good pace to set myself up for a successful finish with 12h44m overall time. I firmly believe I could have taken a good chunk out of that overall time if I had a working rear brake, but I would have been over 12 hours, regardless. The route had several great vistas and I stopped, even if just briefly, at most for a moment of reflection and appreciation.
I was only involuntarily stopped two times during my ride. Once about 4 miles in while searching for traction on some slick-ass jagged rocks during a climb and again about 50ish miles in when a big rock came loose and squirted out from under my tire during a slow techy climb along a badly rutted section of road. Other than those two instances I grunted out continued forward momentum for the rest of the route. This was a win in my book as I've been working on keeping a strong mental focus during my rides and this one could have broken me several times if I allowed.
High points were the amazing views, Old Hwy 2, and getting time off work to travel and explore a new route and doing what I love. Low points were that stupid graded connector section and total loss of my rear brake.
Total ride length was almost 93 miles and well over 14k feet of climbing according to our Strava reports. Also, this route is listed as 83% unpaved but those elusive paved sections never really presented themselves. I say the Death March Revival route is 99.9% unpaved. Epic!