ORAMM Training with Purpose
Climb, descend, repeat
By: Dean Yobbi – Click here for Blog
With only one previous Off-Road Assault on Mount Mitchell in my legs, perhaps I’m not the most qualified to give advice on surviving/conquering this unique challenge.
However, that event two years ago left such an impression, along with a few deep emotional scars, that I still want to pass along 10 tips to “enjoying” ORAMM on July 22. If you’re racing or riding it, I think they’ll be useful.
1) Our thing doesn’t begin until you reach the nine-mile Curtis Creek climb. Repeat: The starting line might be in Old Fort, but the real beginning is almost 30 miles in. The climb hits you just before the halfway point, and you’ll see riders u-turning and quitting before the summit. I damn near did. So, conserve energy currency early and often. The good news is, when you crest it, there’s a rest stop and the knowledge you’re more than halfway home.
2) That leads me to the official beginning of the race, which is on asphalt for the first seven or so miles. It’s uphill some, nothing extreme, but it’s easy to burn too many matches. I was told of the importance of getting near the front, and there’s some truth to this. But I went above threshold for too long on Old 70, kind of like using your credit card during a last-minute online Christmas shopping craze: It’s painless until the bill comes due.
3) Don’t be afraid to be a coward. Some of the singletrack is … how can I say this delicately … challenging, featuring obstacles seemingly designed to snap your collarbone. And nothing ruins a race quite like hearing the crack of a bone. If it does not fit, you must acquit. Wrong rhyme. I mean, if it looks like it will bust your lip, you must unclip. Especially if you’re from Florida. Like me.
4) When you’re climbing, you’ll wish you were descending. When you’re descending, you’ll wish you were climbing. Boy, oh boy, what a sage warning this was from a local rider I met in 2010. Climb aerobically and descend conservatively, and I guarantee you’ll meet your race goals.
5) Hydrate well, but don’t empty a well. Hyponatremia is a life-threatening condition that occurs when you take in too much fluid. In the process of the body eliminating the excess, dangerous amounts of sodium also are washed away. Find out what works for you in training — flavors, amounts and frequency — and duplicate it at ORAMM. Don’t try anything new July 22. A new finish line salute is OK, though.
6) Carb up on Saturday but don’t gorge yourself. Just eat a sensible and fairly balanced meal, but skip dessert and go easy on the salt. Unless you’ve done a hard pre-ride, and if you did you might as well not even show up the next day, you don’t need extra calories. Do you really want to be carrying even one extra pound throughout 11,000 feet of climbing? And no crash dieting the week before or the week of. Actually, what you weigh right now should be your target race weight. Race day breakfast should be what you normally eat for a hard day in the saddle.
7) If you’re on the verge of quitting but don’t have blood gushing from an open wound or aren’t puking from a concussion, hold on until the next rest stop. Chances are, after a short break, sometimes as short as a few minutes, cola or some food and a pep talk from one of the tremendous volunteers, you’ll feel better and remount. That comes from personal experience at the Curtis Creek rest stop.
8) Handle the rolling gravel fireroads with utmost care. When you reach these wide-open stretches, it’s natural and beneficial to let go of the brakes, catch some easy speed and recover. Stay focused and steer with your body and feather the brakes as necessary. If you go down, you’ll feel like you’ve gotten a massage with a cheese grater. And you won’t get a good night’s sleep, either.
9) Carry only the basic tools and supplies but do take some cash.You don’t need to bring along an auxiliary bike shop in your Camelback and/or seatpack. I guess you could sell extra stuff along the route (at a stiff mark up, of course), but it’s not necessary. Me? I run tubeless with Stan’s, so the seatpack will have a multi-tool that features an 8mm allen for the cranks and chain tool; and spare Powerlink. I’ll also have a Big Air canister. If I need something else to keep me going, it’s probably going to be a major repair and my day’s done. The money can be used to buy water from campers if you’ve lost your bottle or neglected to properly fill up at the last rest stop. Happened to me, but the woman I came across who had water generously gave me a bottle on Curtis Creek.
10) After hugging loved ones, seeking medical treatment and/or counseling and a cold beverage, you’re ordered to go sit in the creek near the finish line. Like the scene from the beginning of Die Hard, when John McClane is told to “make fists with your toes” after getting to your destination as a way to survive air travel, taking a soak will bring you back from the abyss.
I’ll leave you with this: Nobody who finishes our thing will exclaim, “Man, I could’ve gone even harder!” Most, especially the majority who don’t finish, will lament, “Man, I went out way too hard.”