Headed up to Pisgah with Gordon for the Off-Road Assault on Mt. Mitchell (ORAMM). We had pre-ridden the course last month, mostly for me to see how tough the technical singletracks were. Tough and gnarly but with with the right lines, good balance, and proper body positioning (butt back!), doable. The course is 60 miles with 10k+ of climbing.
It starts with a paved climb to Kitsuma, down Kitsuma, one of the sweetest single track on the east coast, some hike-a-bike and single/double track across to Curtis Creek Road , a long climb up Curtis + Blue Ridge Parkway (paved and gravel), a total of 18 miles with lots of elevation gain, down Heartbreak ridge (single and “half-track”, filled with lots of roots, rocks and sketchy switchback, some you had to walk down), back up to Kitsuma, down and finish. Here is great video of the race.
I had come off a good BSG ride 4 weeks earlier so the basic fitness was there but I was a little achy and tired from some odd flu-like illness. No matter, the race must go on. On the nutrition front, had about 1000 cal of CarboPro and a banana, taking on ~200 cal every 45 minutes. Had a hydration pack for drinking on the trails and a bottle for drinking on the road climbs.
Started about 1/3 back (500 riders) and had a steady climb to the head of Kitsuma, reminiscent of Shoal’s Mill. Kitsuma was a lot of hike-a-bike (HAB), pushing your bike up the hill for all you non-MTBers. Got to the top, felt ok but not great and had good decent. Hit a slick mud spot and went down. Noticed there were three guys taking photos. That should have been my first clue. They said I was number 14 of the day. Here are some of pics of the other suckers.
Heading over to Curtis was more HAB (calves starting to hurt, body starting to feel not so good). Gordon caught up with me and I could see the dude was hardly breathing. I was exhausted and out of breath the whole time. Overtraining? Flu? MTB vs Road muscles? Stayed with Gordon to Curtis (mi 26). The climb up Curtis + BRP was brutal (Gordon, feeling strong, took off). Got to the top of Heartbreak, stopped and nearly passed out. Felt like scratching but thought I should at least take the Heartbreak decent. Made it about 1/3 down and came to a large drop with a rock before the drop. Did not get my weight back in time, hit the rock, endoed, and slid about 10′ down the hill. A couple of guys stopped and asked if I was ok (I’ve come to realize the “Are you ok” questions isn’t really about are you ok but is a question of consciousness. If no response, then things are serious.). I was so exhausted, i could hardly move. It took every ounce of strength to get the bike up on the trail, keep from hitting others coming through, and get the rear wheel back on. During the next section, I had some massive cramps. Worst I’ve ever had and with MTB, it’s hard to work them out on the bike. Had to stop several times because my leg was completely locked up.
Made it about another third of the way down, feeling a little skittish because of the crash and the cramps, when I came to this super rooty section with a right turn. Slowed, made the turn but did not get my weight back, hit a root, did a huge endo, and came down on my shoulder, hearing a crunching noise on impact (not good). Luckily the marshall directing traffic at the turn was an EMT. He checked me out. Got back on the bike, went about 20′, hit a bump and heard something go crunch again in my shoulder along with a sharp pain (really not good).
Walked the bike down to the next rest area, declared a DNF, and rode the short-cut back to the start, holding my right arm against my chest. I remembered reading this on the ORAMM website:
Injuries: Have no illusions you can escape some type of injury on 60 miles of rough terrain. Whether in be an abrasion or a mental breakdown, everyone suffers in one way or another.
I had both.
At the car was another marshall who was a police officer. He was able to call a medic, which brought out an ambulance + 5 EMT’s (good grief, all I wanted was some ice!). Conclusion was no dislocation but based on the way my clavicle moved back and forth, they suspected a fracture. Got an ice pack and a sling and was on my way back home. Felt like crap but was glad be done.
Meanwhile, back on the course. Gordon was crushing it. He finished in 7:15, an hour and change faster than last year. Good enough for a top 15 finish in the 50+ AG. . Way to go, Gordon! He had one minor crash but felt great. His secret weapon was his new Thomson dropper post (plus about 25 years of MTB experience).
Decided to not waste hours in the ER and went to see an ortho guy the next day. Results: NO FRACTURE. Whew!
Turns out I had a major displacement and strain of the acromioclavicular tendon along with some other tendons in the shoulder region
- Don’t race if you don’t feel well, especially a race as grueling as ORAMM. Quick decision-making, body positioning, and balance are hard to achieve when hypoxic and exhausted.
- MTB endurance racers are bad ass. I thought BSG was a big deal but you’ve really got to have it all together to race these gnarly courses. HAB can take a ton out of you and having the MTB skills on top of endurance requires something special.
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew: This was only my third MTB race and I’ve only been riding MTB for less than two years. Maybe ORAMM was a bit much for my skill level. Ya think?
- I was lucky not to be left with a crushed shoulder. Counting my blessings!