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! 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 took 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. 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 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. I was then 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 found a place off the dirt road and laid down for a few hours. Of course I didn’t bring a sleeping bag, I brought an emergency bivvy bag. It got down in the 30s and being dehydrated from my effort complicated temperature retention to say the least. The bivvy bag didn’t compensate much, so I put on all of my layers and made do. I was 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 started seeing tire tracks and was like what??? I put it in go mode and begin a tiring push towards the Maryland border. Climb after climb, I finally reached the final section that led 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 got to Thomas in need of sustenance but first I needed to go to the Maryland border. I made the border and came back to Thomas and as I did, I ran into Kevin. He was on his way to the border turn around. I’m back in front…sweet. I stopped off in Thomas at the Flying Pig for some food. I took 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 lay in front of me now, I realized that this wasn’t going to be easy. I had completed 260 miles and 25,000 feet of climbing at this point, and it had taken me 30 hours. It will take a lot more than 30 hours on the return. As dark sets in on the second night, I began to realize that I was in pain. My chamois area (we shall call it) had started chaffing and due to my negligence had started to show its evil in retaliation. I dealt with it by applying some chamois butter and popping Advil. Knowing that I was in the lead, I decide to push on and try to create some distance between myself and Kevin. I made it through Bartow, WV and began the climb up to the border of WV and VA, where HWY 250 crosses. I made it about 3/4 of the way up and Zombie World started creeping back into my being. I decided that I would sleep on the side of the dirt road, so that I would be able to hear Kevin if he slipped up on me. After about 3 hours, here comes Kevin. I’m like what??? I unravelled myself out of my bivvy and packed up. I was back on the trail chasing after Kevin. I caught up on the stretch along Back Creek Road. We rode along with each other in the wee morning with some banter about how brutal the course is and such. We made our way to a big climb up Mill Gap Rd. I decided that I would put the hammer down here and make my final push to the finish. I did and I didn’t see Kevin. I made my way to the top and traversed the 20 mile ridge line that led you back down to Mountain Grove, VA. I enjoyed the descent, letting it fly by like I have no other care in the world. I made my way through the day trying to focus on steady effort with limited stops. I eventually made it to Covington, VA for resupply and I was about 85 miles from the finish. The night was cold, dropping to 32 degrees, and it was now 85. My body hated me and it was letting me know as I felt pains and fatigue setting in all over. I ate some snacks and stocked up as I knew the 2 climbs that I was about to face would be daunting. The climb up Castille Rd. is no joke as it has some 30% grade in places. I trudged along and top[ed out as I made my way over the next climb up HWY 311 that led down to Paint Bank, VA. I stopped off there and it was 5pm. I ate a buffalo burger and resupplied again. I figured I would make it all the way now. 56 miles left, but first I had one more big climb that really punches you in the gut – the one back up to Mountain Lake Lodge. A solid 2000 ft climb from Paint Bank. I was 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 had to force myself to pull myself down on to my saddle. For relief I pedaled standing. When I was on the saddle, my pedal gait was disrupted because it is trying to compensate to relieve pain. This has causing my knees to start tweaking out. It became a test of grit to push on in a way I had rarely experienced. My negligence had cost me dearly. I made my way one stroke at a time and topped off at Mountain Lake Lodge right at dark. I turned my lights on and descended down knowing that I was 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 started to set in and numbness delivered itself to my pain receptors and I pedaled on. The rollers kept on coming and was thinking ‘really I mean really…enough already.’ Just about that time I started to realize that I was going through subdivisions. I was getting close….ahhh. Oh yeah, I could see more lights. Low and behold I came out into Blacksburg. It was around 11:30 pm. I navigated through the streets and rolled on to the Virginia Tech campus as I approached the war memorial. I collapsed against one of the memorial pillars. After 65 hours it was done! 520 miles and 52,000 feet of climbing on some of the most rugged and unforgiving terrain you could wish for that had thrown rain, thunderstorms, freezing and 90 degree temperatures at me…I had survived. 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 Divide 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 click here. I used Trucker Co. brake pads and tire sealant for the AMLX and I was very impressed. The pads held up amazingly while 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! It’s 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.