While Mountains of Misery wasn’t an official race, it is a very challenging ride, for which you get a number and a finish time, so for those of us who have the mentality of bike racers, it’s a race against the clock, against the course and against yourself. In the early hours of this past Sunday, VeloWorks-Spokes, Etc. team members, Mike Wojtczak, Matt McDonald, Jason Luttrell and myself (Emily) headed out to Newport, VA to take on the “challenge” century. There are two rides that make up Mountains of Misery – the Double Metric and the Challenge Century. Mike headed out for the double, which was about 128 miles and 14,000 feet of climbing, while Matt, Jason and I all took on the century with 104 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing. Both the Double Metric and the Century end on a 3-mile Category 1 climb. Ouch.
The day started out cool, but soon the heat and humidity came on fast. Mountains of Misery isn’t your typical century – the fastest finishing times are in the 5:30s. On the century (or century +4) there are two major climbs, not to mention lots of little rollers and kickers, and the first major climb doesn’t even occur until you’ve already got 60 miles on your legs, and the final and hardest climb doesn’t even start until you have close to 100 miles on your legs. Tough? Definitely.
They started us in somewhat-random waves separated by 5 minutes, so while Mike and Jason started in the first wave, I was in the 3rd and Matt was in the 4th. Mike headed out strong with determination to finish the double. Jason had a great start, but had to turn around a few miles in after he realized he forgot his sunglasses. He made it back and grabbed his shades with enough time to start with Matt. As for me, I started out with a grin on my face and just hoping to finish as this was my first major ride since being off the bike for about 3-weeks due to a work trip. It took Matt and Jason about 40 miles to catch up to me, and while I waited for them at a rest stop and enjoyed riding in their draft for a bit, I pulled back and let them go to keep myself from blowing up. The little rollers were making my legs ache, and I knew I still had the hardest part of the ride to go. Mike was long gone, tackling the challenging double-metric and extra 4,000ft of climbing.
By the time I finally reached the last climb, I was all but spent, and the great folks at the last rest stop dumped cool water on me and stuck a few cool rags in my jersey to keep me from overheating those last few painful miles. I somehow managed to finish in 7:05, a personal best and smiled to see Matt and Jason hanging out just past the finish. Matt had a great day on the bike, rode incredibly strong and finished in 6:39, 35th overall for the day, Jason was just behind him, finishing just behind Matt in 6:41 (after racing Tour of Tucker County the previous day!) and 39th overall. My 7:05 finish had me 80th overall and the 9th woman, a pleasant surprise considering how crumby I felt the last 20 or so miles. Mike came through finishing the double metric in 8:50, finishing 18th among the double metric riders, and even ahead of some century riders.
Em, Jason and Matt at the finish of the 2011 Mountains of Misery Century (Mike was still out on the double metric!!)
Overall, a fun and challenging day, but at the finish line, we could all manage a smile! And hopefully next year we’ll be back out for the adventure!