DEATH MARCH REVIVAL
John Switow (2)
Due to my bad memory, ended up driving down Saturday morning. Forecast was good; middle 50’s to start, low 70’s for the high. There was some rain Friday, spotty in the mountains, some places dry, some were messy.
Started a little after 7:00 am, was cloudy, but clearing as the day went on. With the cooler temps, I decided to carry just two bottles. Water refill points at 28 (spring pipe-on the right), 42 (Mulberry Gap- can’t miss it) and 73 or so miles- Spring Pipe shortly after the turn onto Big Frog rd, on the right. Two bottles were enough for those distances, even with the climbing. On a warmer day, I’d take three. The ride starts immediately with a 2.5 mile climb 750’, so wore summer kit and packed a shell. It was warm enough on the climbs, cold on the descents. The roads were muddy, but not too bad.
About three miles or so it gets steep and chunky, there was an old short bus turned camper stuck on the steep rutted section of FS 22, waiting on someone to help get him out of his predicament. On I went. I rode Pirelli Gravel M’s in a 650 x 45. They have good tread and protection. The 650’s are good for climbing in that they lower my gearing. Chicken legs like that! It was cloudy and foggy early, but the sun started burning through by 8:30 and by 10:30 I was out of the fog or clouds.
There were spots of good gravel and mud and puddles mixed into the steeeep climbs and descents. I lose time on pictures, but kept moving pretty well, it was still clear and chilly. I had my Wahoo with the course, and my phone running RWGPS offline for a backup and redundancy. Still had an issue at about 11 miles, Tumbling Creek Rd. There are three options, stay left and keep moving. For the next 22 miles you’ll climb a bit, descend a little and climb some more. The views are getting better and better and I’m just chugging along, feeling good still!
At 36 miles I made the left onto Potato Patch and began the big descent. It was hard, dry and marbly. I took it easy on the 5 mile 1900’ descent. Stunning views along the way. Mulberry Gap (beautiful place!) came up about 42 miles. Found a spigot, filled bottles, took a picture for verification, then rolled on. Just past 5 hours at this point…onward. Mulberry Gap to Stillhouse is new gravel, slogged through it, cursed Kim and Shannon. Started wondering at this point whether the legs and the mind had enough juice to finish?!
Shake Rag was marginally better, but I knew what was coming, time to grind it out, this is the worst of it, isn’t it? Wilderness to Potato Patch. Lord please take me now! But damn, the views are stunning! Get through the saddle up there, then descend Conasauga to W. Cowpen. Brutal, but passed a Bronco and Jeep while going down it. They said they didn’t know how I could ride it! “Carefully”, and beginning to see a little light at the far end of the tunnel!
The route gets wacky at mile 73 or so. The route says turn right on Big Frog, but you’re required to go a little further, turn right on Peavine Sneed Creek rd, then left on Big Frog…embrace the suck, oh and refill bottles for the last time. It’s a spring pipe on the right, don’t miss it. FS22 comes about mile 85 and I started smelling the barn! The climbs weren’t so long and the road not too bad, the last climb about 4 miles and 600’. Then the smokin descent to the finish! I’ll never do that SOB again…until the next time!!😜
Bike is a Lynskey GR300 with 2x10. 46/30 cranks and an 11-40 cassette. I used all those gears! 650b wheels with the Pirellis as mentioned. Stopped at about 75 miles and oiled my chain, other than that it was trouble free. I put new brake pads on it prior, added some fresh Stan’s to the tires.
Food: Carried (2) 26 ox bottles with Hammer Fizz tablets for electrolytes. Fueled with Perpetuem in (2) 18 oz Nathan Flasks. That was 2200 calories, had one gel with caffeine at 79 miles. Didn't use all of the Perpetuem, should have, might’ve had more energy later…Was a decent result for me.😊