Four Union County men — Jay Allen, Mike McGee, Taylor Gibbs, and Dan Berry — tackled the 104 mile Assault on Mount Mitchell bike ride on Monday, crossing the finish line together after 9 hours and 55 minutes of grueling bike riding.
The group made the trip without training partner John Kingsmore, who had to stay behind for his son’s 4K graduation.
“Even though he wanted badly to participate in the event with us, he had to be there for his son,” said McGee. “We all said early on that we would not neglect or forget about our families during all the events and training we had ahead of us.”
The ride up Mount Mitchell was just one step closer to the goal that the men set two years ago. The group was at Bojangles after a training ride, talking and joking when Allen commented, “You know what, I want to do an Ironman before I turn 45, to which Kingsmore said, “Let’s all do an Ironman before we are 45.”
The others agreed and thus began a series of marathons, two half Ironman competitions and intense training including 5 a.m. swims at the Spartanburg YMCA, all in preparation for the Panama City Florida Ironman that will take place on Nov. 3, 2012.
The Assault on Mount Mitchell is an annual bicycling endurance contest that dates back to 1974.
Approximately 3,000 riders compete in the event that starts at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium and continues through Marion, NC. which is around the 74 mile marker. After reaching Marion, 750 qualifying cyclists are allowed to make the 28 mile assent to the top of Mitchell, which is the highest point east of the Mississippi River with a total elevation of nearly 11,000 feet.
Each of the four men admitted to having considered quitting at one point or another during the tedious competition.
However, they soldiered on, together, and were rewarded with an experience they’ll never forget.
“It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” said Allen.
McGee agreed and added that the pain was relentless. Temperatures on Monday reached over 80 degrees and the men climbed the last several miles in a downpour of rain.
So why do they do it?
“We’re crazy,” said McGee with a laugh. “We’re not in it to win, even though that competitive edge is always there with athletes. We just hope to inspire people to be healthy, and it helps us get closer to our Ironman goal.”