By Madyson Coggins

May 16, 2016 marked the 41st anniversary of the Assault on Mt. Mitchell, which also happened to be the first for me.

Heading for the hills in silhouette. Credit: Assaults on Mt. Mitchell & Marion
The idea of completing this well-known ride started two years ago when my dad, sister and I completed the Assault on Marion. The desire grew even greater when I rode to Marion for the second time last year and watched my dad, David Coggins, crush his time goal to the summit.

It was extremely special and inspiring for me last year because while I was riding to Marion, my father was on the pursuit to the top of Mitchell to accomplish a goal of breaking seven hours. Once I finished in Marion, my sister and I hopped on the bus in order to watch my dad finish at the top.

(The ride to the top of Mount Marion is 75 miles 7,500 feet of climbing, while the route to the top of Mount Mitchell is 102.7 miles and just the 10,357 feet! The field of 1,000 riders starts in Spartanburg, SC.)

Dad and daughter ready to go. Credit: Madyson Coggins
As soon as we came to the park entrance, the bus passed right by my dad. Everyone on the bus rallied together to cheer on each other's loved ones riding. While we were hanging out the windows, my sister and I realized we were going to be cutting it close to get off the bus in time to watch my dad cross the finish line. We ran to the front of the bus eager to jump off and raced to the finish, phones in hand, to capture this moment for my dad.  
David Coggins finishes in 2015. Credit: Assaults on Mt. Mitchell & Marion
What made last year so special wasn't the fact that my dad achieved his PR, but what has led up to that point.

About three and a half years ago my dad was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and after gaining control of the cancer, he was able to achieve this goal of his. Seeing all that my dad had gone through and then watching him defeat Mt. Mitchell in 6 hours and 49 minutes truly inspired me to tackle the mountain with him in 2016.

(Read an account of the 2015 ride here.)

Once May rolled around this year, I wasn't sure I was in good enough climbing shape to make it to the top. As usual, my dad was there encouraging me and squashed every fear I had in not completing the ride.

The start on that Monday morning was early and the temperature was perfect, which foreshadowed the weather for the rest of the day. My dad and I started out in what was a very large front group.

After trucking along for a while, Dad got a flat right before Bill's Hill. It was a little more difficult finding a group to work together with than we had imagined, so once we got to Marion, I was feeling a little spent. We refueled and hit the road ready for the fun to begin.

A bird's eye view of climbers. Credit: Assaults on Mt. Mitchell & Marion
For the last 28 miles, the objective was to just keep spinning. Only 6,684 feet of climbing stood between us and the finish. Lucky for me, I had a Mitchell expert on my hand with lots of useful tips when the tough sections popped up. We made a few checkpoints along the way and slowly made our way one mile at a time. A lot of those 28 miles were a blur, but I do remember that once the wooden fence was in sight, the pain was soon to end.

With a few pit stops and some stretching along the way, 8 hours and 4 minutes later we were crossing the finish line.

Hard work in or out of the saddle. Credit: Assaults on Mt. Mitchell & Marion
Mt. Mitchell lived up to its infamous reputation. From the beautiful mountain views, to the physical accomplishment, and to sharing every memory made that day with my dad, I can honestly say it was all beyond any expectation I had.

Madyson Coggins is a student at Clemson University studying bioengineering who participates on the triathlon team there.