My 4th year of doing Iron Cross didn't disappoint as every year its different and special. This year would be especially challenging, no longs ride in the legs - a potentially fatal error with such an undertaking but heck, whats the worst that could happen - stuck in the middle of nowhere or a drive back in the meat wagon.
Procedure was the same, get up at 4am, meet George at 5am for a 3 hour drive to Michaux State Forrest, the starting point. I think next year I'll go the night before to save having to get up so early.
300+ of us started on a glorious fall day in the Spiral of Death. After getting kicked out of the spiral the ride dumps us out on a smooth gravel trail for about 10 miles with only a sandy beach to that had us dismount. Smooth sailing - till the 1st of many hills. After going up a long hill on the gravel we get dumped out onto the road for some up and down for 7 miles. At 16 it's into the woods for the 1st of a number of knarley mountain bike sections. The 1st starts easy enough, slight uphill single track over rock gardens then it's downhill a steep rocky trail with riders lining the sides. Are they resting or watching the carnage?, I never did figure it out. Happily out of the woods intact onto some smooth pavement for a couple mile long downhill that was tempered by a stinking cross wind, but heck at least it was going down.
Now for the guts of the ride as that was the last easy part. Long fire road climbs, mountain biking takes us to the infamous 'walk ups". The 1st is especially steep and long that gets your heart rate to red line the whole way. Once at the top it's down a sandy trail to another one that has a welcome check point at the top, not as bad but difficult just the same.
At this point the legs are starting to feel the effort and worry sets in - still 35 miles of ball busting terrain to go! Eat, drink, go easy up the hills and maybe you'll have a chance to complete this ordeal says the little man on my shoulder.
The little man was right and hacked through the next 30 miles including the 5 mile never ending gravelly climb. This was the next to the last worst section leading up to the last "walk up".
But wait, there's more. Long zig-zaging single track sections through the woods, cross a couple streams, some more climbs, by this time it's a blur. Yipee, long knarley up hill opens up to the last walk up. When you have to crane your neck to see the top you know you're in trouble. It's different this time, vegitation is growing and looks normal, not like a luner lanscape devoid of any green or growth. At the top is's a long, fast descent on the road with a couple small climbs back to the start that are quite a chore due to limp legs.
Happy to finish this ride again without mis-hap and even enjoyed the scenery at times. Those of you that want a cycling challenge that has it all, check Iron Cross out!