Buckle in folks. This one is going to be long. Some quick background first: Kim Murrell is a well respected mastermind behind a number of bikepacking routes all over the southeast. She coordinates the grand depart for the Three Rivers Way bikepacking race each May. A lot of times this conflicts with the Cheaha Challenge, but this year she bumped up the starting time to Thursday at 6:30am. With the Cheaha Challenge not starting until Sunday at 7:30am, I calculated I could do both!
The Cheaha Challenge is a steadfast pillar of cycling in Alabama. Brooke Nelson and her husband Tom do a phenomenal job putting on this event every year. As long as I’m physically able to ride a bike, I will be doing the Cheaha Challenge. This year, since it was going to be on the back-end of a long bikepacking trip, I didn’t have any high expectations for the race other than to finish. Instead, I felt amazing and ended up in 10th place in the ultra!
Here is the map of my 928 mile route with 85,000 feet of climbing!
- Day 1 – GREEN – Tuesday @ 9:42pm – Wednesday @ 7:30pm
Hoover, AL to Delano, TN (Fireside Outpost) – 225 miles
- Days 2 and 3 – YELLOW – Thursday @ 6:30am – Friday @ 7:00pm
Three Rivers Way – Vista 320 – 1st place, Fastest Known Time (FKT) 36:30, 325 miles
- Day 4 – ORANGE – Saturday @ 7:30am – Saturday @ 8:00pm
Delano, TN to Jacksonville, AL – 168 miles
- Day 5 – RED – Sunday @ 7:30am – Sunday @ 9:45pm
Jacksonville, AL to Hoover, AL via the Cheaha Challenge Ultra (10th place!) 208 miles
DAY 1 – GREEN – I FOUGHT THE RAIN AND THE RAIN WON
I had planned to leave Wednesday morning around midnight after a good 4-6 hours of sleep early Tuesday evening. BUT, it was absolutely beautiful weather Tuesday evening with the radar showing a veritable wall of rain approaching from Mississippi. It just seemed dumb to me to sleep through beautiful weather to wake up and ride in the rain. Still, with nearly 1000 miles ahead of me, I thought I should probably not start the whole thing on zero sleep. So I slept for an hour, woke up, and enjoyed a good solid 3 hours of riding until the rain hit. And it was a wall of rain. It wasn’t very hard, but it was the dense small sized rain drops that just completely soaks you. I rode in this for 2 hours as the temperature also plummeted down into the lower 50s.
I stopped outside of Gadsden for coffee and to try to purchase some sort of clothing at a truck stop. But the stuff they had was very expensive and settled on a $3 bandana to add an extra layer to my head under my helmet. I was also going to slowly sip hot coffee to try to warm up on the inside before heading back out into the rain. But when I went to leave I noticed there was a booth I could sit in to enjoy my coffee. And as I sipped, I looked at the radar and noticed the trailing edge of the storm was already halfway through Alabama … moving slowly … but still not very far away. So I decided to just sleep/doze/rest in the booth and wait it out.Continue reading