Mountain Range

DEATH MARCH REVIVAL

Sheena Sheffield

12/11/20

I am very new to mountain biking, and this was my first official course. I chose the Death March Revival because I had been riding the Georgia parts of the course all summer, so it just felt right. And also because I had to know what 12,000 feet of climbing in a single day would be like. When Nani asked if I’d ever thought about doing the DMR, I jumped at the chance to ride it with her and we immediately registered with plans to ride it about a week later.

We took off from Mulberry Gap at 6:28 a.m. We were both surprised by how much easier that first major climb was, knowing we had so much left ahead of us. We paused to take a picture of the sunrise from Bear Creek Overlook, and I’m glad we did because we didn’t stop to take many pictures after that, despite how beautiful it all was. We celebrated every little victory, such as crossing off the first 2,000 ft of gain and reaching the quarter distance mark.

My plan was just to finish, and I had no idea how long it would take, so I estimated based on my average training pace with breaks and packed food for 15-16 hours. My biggest fear was bonking too early, so I planned to start slow and then assess my condition at the halfway point to determine if I could push the pace. When the halfway point came, I realized that I was not only surviving, I was thriving! So I decided to push.

By this point, Nani and I had both found a pace we felt good about, and they were different. So we decided to sink into our own paces and ride separately. But first we filtered water, ate lunch, and bitched about all those damn Tennessee rocks!

During the first half, I had started to notice a drivetrain issue that seemed minor, but it became worse and more frequent and I began to picture what would happen if something broke while I was alone in the dark. So I made the difficult decision to avoid my granny gear on the second half.

Around mile 50, I realized that my Wahoo had been showing the same mileage since we stopped at the halfway point. I tried not to panic, and reminded myself that I had RWGPS and had made myself a detailed cue sheet. But when the Wahoo picked back up, it didn’t seem to be showing the right mileage, and not knowing which mile I was on became a giant pain point for the rest of the ride. Right at sunset, I reached an intersection that caused my Wahoo to reroute me, and without knowing what mile I was on, my cue sheet was no help. So I took the wrong road and wahoo didn’t reroute until I had climbed quite a ways. I had to double back, but I eventually got back on course just as the sun went down completely.

I had plenty of energy left and stayed in good spirits until that last stretch of never ending gentle climbs that sucked way more than their elevation profiles looked like they should. From everyone else’s ride reports, I knew better than to underestimate this section—but I still wasn’t prepared for those last 6-8 miles before the descent to take so long and suck so much life out of me. Things got a little weird up there—let’s just say I would not have passed a field sobriety test! I started singing (yelling?) “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” once I passed the Mountaintown Overlook, and that gave me the boost I needed to get to the descent.

I feel good about my nutrition and hydration plan, and I think I would do it mostly the same way again. My plan was to eat about 30g of carbs and at least half a bottle of water every hour, and then a more substantial “meal” containing a combination of carbs and fats at every third hour. I started with low sugar electrolytes and switched to Skratch as my appetite waned. I am so glad I did that, because in the last few hours food became repulsive and I couldn’t bring myself to chew. I had tucked my favorite candy into my bag just in case something like this should happen, and I ended up taking a bite and just sort of hoping my mouth would absorb the sugar before eventually having to spit it out. Like I said, things got a little weird.

When I finally saw the Mulberry Gap sign ahead of me, it was an unbelievable feeling. I thought I was imagining it. I knew my family was at the top, and I didn’t want to wait to see them—so I rode up that awful hill and laid down on the road in front of the office and cried in total shock and disbelief.

This ride changed me, and now I can’t wait for the next opportunity to push my limits!