1st at AMLX (Allegheny Mountains Loop Extreme)

Extreme…a bit of an understatement. I was supposed to compete in the 12 Hours of Lodi but it was cancelled. It was going to be my sayonara to racing in Virginia. There I was twiddling my thumbs and pondering my options…I knew about an inaugural event that was going to take place the same weekend. A little hop and skip from Blacksburg, VA up to Maryland and then you turn around and follow the course all the way back to Blacksburg. A course that traverses back and forth across the Virginia and West Virginia borders along the Allegheny Mountains. 520 miles of mostly (80%) dirt (single track, double track, dirt, gravel) and pavement while accumulating over 50,000 feet of climbing. You might say…what??? At the time I was like no problem, let’s do it! 20150501_060020 There I was on Friday morning with a group of intrepid adventurers standing in the rain at 6am on the steps of the war memorial at Virginia Tech awaiting the go. The rain was an omen I believe for the pain that was about to come as it rained all day off and on. We take off and set a steady brisk pace with some small talk. We made our way out of Blacksburg along some rolling roads eventually coming to our first big climb up to Mountain Lake Lodge (Dirty Dancing movie location). I was leading the way with a few guys not far behind. As the day progressed I seemed to be maintaining the lead so I was happy even though the rain was making descents quite sketchy. 20150501_130300 I was covered in mud after the descent down from the lodge and made my way on to Paint Bank, VA. As you make your way along the course you see some amazing things. One of my favorites without a doubt are the buffalo that you pass by on your way to Paint Bank. I gave them the rock on sign and jammed on my way. The rest of the day would be up and down and up and down. In and out and in out of rain. On the Switzerland Trail a thunderstorm passed over and rocked the mountain as I was turning the cranks over on its 20% plus grade. Once I was around Lake Moomaw and had re-provisioned at the marina. I was off to begin the arduous climb up from Mountain Grove, VA. Feeling good still…alright this is going to be cake. Dark starts to set in as I descend down from the ridge. The rain is starting to abate. I’m thinking I will go through the night without sleep. Hahaha. Eventually, later in the night as I’m reaching the 20,000 feet of climbing for the day and 200 miles of riding I found myself in Zombie World. Zombie World is this special little place where one enters when one has pushed themselves too hard for too long…you start to weave and jerk…you see things that aren’t really there…you don’t realize how slow you are moving. Somehow realizing this alteration that was overtaking me, I find a place off the dirt road and bed down for a few hours. Of course I didn’t bring a sleeping bag, I brought an emergency bivy bag. It got down in the 30s and being dehydrated from my effort complicated temperature retention to say the least. The bivy bag doesn’t compensate much, so I put on all of my layers and make do. I’m up and going again at 5am. Not realizing that I had been passed in the night by Kevin Greten. I knew I was in first when I laid down and I figured that hadn’t changed. I start seeing tire tracks and I’m like what??? I put it in go mode and begin a tiring push towards the Maryland border. Climb after climb and I finally reach the final section that leads up to Thomas, WV. This little stretch is a 10 mile single track trail that climbs all the way up to it, yeah. It passes by numerous waterfalls and cascades. I get to Thomas in need of sustenance but first I needed to go to the Maryland border. I make the border and come back to Thomas and as I do I run into Kevin. He is on his way to the border turn around. I’m back in front…sweet. 20150502_130713 I stop off in Thomas at the Flying Pig for some food. I take some food away with me as well. This course has very few resupply towns so when you have the chance one must do it. Feeling recharged and amped up, I set off and begin the long and grueling push to the finish. Knowing exactly what lies in front of me now, I realize that this isn’t going to be easy. I have completed 260 miles and 25,000 feet of climbing at this point in 30 hours. It will take a lot more than 30 hours on the return. 20150502_170347 As dark sets in on the second night, I begin to realize that I’m in pain. My chamois area we shall call it has started chaffing and due to my negligence has started to show its evil in retaliation. I deal with it by applying some chamois butter and popping Advil. Knowing that I’m in the lead, I decide to push on and try to create some distance between myself and Kevin. I make it through Bartow, WV and begin the climb up to the border of WV and VA where HWY 250 crosses. I make it about 3/4 of the way up and Zombie World starts creeping back into my being. I decide that I will sleep on the side of the dirt road, so that I will be able to hear Kevin if he slips up on me. After about 3 hours, here comes Kevin. I’m like what??? I unravel myself out of my bivy and pack up. Off after Kevin I go. I catch up on the stretch along Back Creek Road. We ride along with each other in the wee morning with some banter about how brutal the course is and such. We make our way to a big climb up Mill Gap Rd. I decide that I will put the hammer down here and make my final push to the finish. I do and I don’t see Kevin. I make my way to the top and traverse the 20 mile ridge line that leads you back down to Mountain Grove, VA. I enjoy the descent letting it fly by like I have no other care in the world. I make my way through the day trying to focus on steady effort with limited stops. I eventually make it to Covington, VA for resupply and I’m about 85 miles from the finish. The night was cold dropping to 32 degrees and now it is 85. My body hates me and it is letting me know as I feel pains and fatigue setting in all over. I eat some snacks and stock up as I know the 2 climbs that I’m about to face will be daunting. The climb up Castille Rd. is no joke as it has some 30% grade in places. I trudge along and top out and make my way over the next climb up HWY 311 that leads down to Paint Bank, VA. I stop off there and it is 5pm. I have a buffalo burger and restock again on supplies. I figure I will make it all the way now. 56 miles left but first I have one more big climb that really punches you in the gut and that is the one back up to Mountain Lake Lodge. A solid 2000 ft climb from Paint Bank. I’m hurting something fierce in the chamois region. The best way to describe this would be to imagine yourself sitting down on a bike saddle that has nails coming up through it. I have to force myself to pull myself down on to my saddle. For relief I pedal standing. When I am on the saddle, my pedal gait is disrupted because it is trying to compensate to relieve pain. This has caused my knees to start tweaking out. It becomes a test of grit to push on in a way I have rarely experienced. My negligence has cost me dearly. I make my way one stroke at a time and top off at Mountain Lake Lodge right at dark. I turn my lights on and descend down knowing that I’m almost there. Once you make your way to the bottom you have about 25 miles to the finish. However, it is a constant grade of never-ending rollers all the way back to the war memorial at Virginia Tech. Adrenaline starts to set in and numbness delivers it self to my pain receptors and I pedal on and pedal on. The rollers keep on coming and keep on coming and I’m like really I mean really…enough already. Just about that time I start to realize that I’m going through subdivisions. I’m getting close….ahhh. Oh yeah, I see more lights. Low and behold I come out into Blacksburg. It is around 11:30 pm. I navigate through the streets and roll on to Virginia Techs campus and approach the war memorial. I collapse against one of the memorial pillars. After 65 hours it is done! 520 miles and 52,000 feet of climbing on some of the most rugged and unforgiving terrain you could wish for that has thrown rain, thunderstorms, freezing and 90 degree temperatures at me…I had survived. 20150503_233823-2 I was able to hold off Kevin for the victory and the battle with him was a worthy one. I had to earn it and I take my hat off to him. Great job and thank you sir! I want to thank Chris Tompkins, curator of the AML and AML X. He goes above and beyond gathering data and helping the racers, thank you brother.  I want to thank all of my family and friends for their support and following along on the satellite feed. It means a lot knowing that you are watching me. I want to thank my sweet lady, Jess, for all of the loving care she gives me. The course is beautiful and wildlife is abundant. Waterfalls and big views galore. This is not a course to be taken lightly.Truly a rugged and remote wilderness experience. It is very tough and you need to be prepared as the services are far and few, especially on the northern section. The temperatures can range all over. Storms come and go as they do in the mountains. The climbing is no joke and to put that in perspective, the AMLX has 520 miles and 52,000 feet of climbing compared to the Tour Divides 2800 miles and 200,000 feet of climbing. That is a 100,000 additional feet of climbing if the Tour was on the same scale as the AMLX. The climbs are by far steeper on the AMLX. For more info on the course and race. I used Trucker Co. brake pads and tire sealant for the AMLX and I was very impressed. The pads held up amazingly well providing incredible stopping control on the steep descents. They were quiet on the noise factor and nicely bedded into my rotors. The sealant did its job 100% as I had no leak down. My tire pressure maintained over the entire 520 miles of ruggedness. Sayonara Virginia! Its been fun and lots of memories to last a lifetime. The AMLX gave me a going out kick in the ***…I wouldn’t want it any other way. Cheers

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One comment on “1st at AMLX (Allegheny Mountains Loop Extreme)

  1. Sounds epic. Congratulations again.

    I’ve spend every weekend since I moved to Phoenix in the mountains and am so happy that I also put Virginia in my rear view mirror.

    Where is your next stop along the adventure?

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