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“You can’t be serious,” the man said disdainfully as he straddled his bike on the starting line. He shot me a quick disapproving look before turning his one raised eyebrow on Moriah. “This little girl is going to try and do the double century?” His condescending tone made it clear he had already chalked her up as a DNF. At 4’ 7” and 65 pounds, 12 year old Moriah did look a little on the frail side to be lining up for 200 miles and 9,000 feet of climbing. That said, his comments were uncalled-for and my fatherly instincts were to immediately strike back verbally. Instead, I swallowed my pride and remained silent, giving the guy a simple smile. I knew Moriah was confident enough to handle the situation and not let this guy shake her resolve. It was not the first time she had been judged by someone who was not cognizant of her skill set on the bike. She looked him in the eye, gave him a big smile, and then confidently responded, “Yes, I’m doing the double. It’s gonna be fun.” He just shook his head and clipped in.

Throughout her life, Moriah’s size has resulted in many unmerited, and at times, unkind comments. However, over the years those character building interactions have fashioned a high level of determination, enabling her to accomplish some pretty amazing feats. Riding for the Strive Racing Team in 2011, Moriah had already tallied up 6 victories, including two State Championships (TT and Road). Her exceptional season also included 23 podiums, two of which were at the Road Nationals in Augusta, GA. By the end of the year she was ranked in the top 5 in the nation for all three Road disciplines (Road, TT, & Crit) including a number one ranking for Road. That said, USA Cycling Junior Women races are relatively short in distance and Moriah was an endurance cyclist long before she ever raced. She topped 5,000 feet of climbing at age 9 and completed her first century at age 10. She finished multiple centuries the following year at age 11, including the Mt. Laguna Bicycle Classic, which had 11,000 feet of climbing and 20% grades. At age 12 her long ride was up to 150 miles with 12,000 feet of climbing. A double century was inevitably in her future. So now, on October 29th, 2011, she stood over her bike on the starting line, ready to tackle AdventureCORPS’ Death Valley Double Century.

Knowing that if we were able to finish the 197 mile ride, we would most likely not want to continue on to get to 200 miles, we made the decision to do a quick 4 mile pre-ride before heading to the starting line. When we crossed the finish line thirteen and a half hours later, we were glad we had done so. The “whistle blew” and we were off on our adventure. Moriah and I were accompanied on the ride by Hannah, Moriah’s 15 year old sister, who one month earlier had become the youngest female to ever complete the Everest Challenge, the hardest two day stage race in America with 29,000 feet of climbing and multiple trips above 10,000 feet. See StriveRacing.com for that race report, photos and video.

The opening 68 mile climb up to Scotty’s Castle was incredible. The sun rose on our backs and Death Valley came to life in a glorious display of spectacular beauty. Riding through the heart of Death Valley at sunrise and sunset is an incredible experience that every cyclist should share. In this out and back event, the sun is at your back for both the sunrise and the sunset, providing exceptional lighting and panoramic views of the powerful Death Valley desert landscape. In addition, no one puts on an event better than AdventureCORPS, which is why over 300 cyclists from 23 states and 4 countries came to do this event. The crux of the ride came at mile 170. The sun was now long gone and we were confronted with having to climb with headlights up a 2,000 foot gain in 6.8 miles via long sections of 9%. The climb is appropriately named Hell’s Gate, and there was some serious gnashing of teeth (and knees) required to get up this final climb. That said, both girls remained strong and assertive all the way to the top, and then on to the finish. The three of us fueled on Hammer Nutrition’s Heed, Sustained Energy, Hammer Bars, Endurolytes, and Endurance Aminos. Hammer products were in abundance at every aid station, which worked out perfectly with our fueling plan. The only non-Hammer food we consumed were some PB&Js, chips and bananas at mile 125, and a little sip of caffeinated soda at mile 177 to stay alert for the fast, dark descent down to the finish.

There were over 200 cyclists that started this double century. Only 150 finished. Of the 150 that finished, only 25 were women. We took our time that day, enjoying almost 1.75 hours of off the bike rest time at the 10 rest stops. Despite those breaks, Moriah’s total time of 13:30 was fast enough to put her 42nd out of the 150 finishers and 4th out of the 25 women finishers. Moriah is very humble about this incredible achievement. As her father, I am as proud of her humble character as I am her accomplishment. That said, Moriah certainly earned the respect of every cyclist in the event that day, including the guy on the starting line. Hammer On! Strive On!

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