Ford conquers Assault on Mt. Mitchell with family support

Published 11:09 am Friday, June 22, 2012

Front, left to right: Sarah Hendrix and Debbie Rowe Ford. Back, left to right: Michael Owens, Jonathan Rowe, Curtis Rowe, Tony Ledbetter and Davy Rowe. (photo submitted)

by Joey Millwood
Debbie Ford got a Christmas present in 2010 that added a new dimension to her life. Ford is a stay-at-home mom, who before last Christmas, didn’t exercise all that much.
Santa, however, left her a bicycle under the Christmas tree and she immediately set a lofty goal. It became her intention to ride that bike on the Assault on Mt. Mitchell.
“My three brothers did it last year,” Ford said. “They inspired me to get up and start moving.”
Her brothers – Curtis, Davey and Jonathan Rowe – all competed in the event. She also enlisted some of her friends to attempt the goal with her. Those friends, Sarah Hendrix, Michael Owens and Tony Ledbetter, all completed the Assault this year as well.
A little over a year later, Ford not only attempted the feat, but accomplished it. The 33-year-old finished the race in just under nine hours.
The Saluda resident began riding everywhere once she got the bike. She sought out hills and long distance rides during the summer. In the winter, she took spinning classes and did everything necessary to prepare herself.
“As I got father into it, I knew I was going to make it to the top,” she said. “It was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. All the hours of training definitely paid off.”
Her three brothers pushed her through the process, but Curtis Rowe might have been the instigator of all the activity. Rowe has run five marathons and three ultra marathons.
With that on his resume, he will still admit that the Assault is a daunting task.
“It’s super tough,” he said. “You’re cranking, cranking the whole time. It’s much harder than a marathon in my opinion.”
Rowe said he never doubted his sister.
“She kept asking if she could do it,” he said. “I knew she could do it. She’s really headstrong. I knew she’d keep pushing.”
And what was it like when Ford finally crossed the finish line?
“As soon as I crossed the finish line, I burst into tears,” she said. “It was emotional.”
In a year’s time, Ford went from no exercise to riding in one of the toughest cycling events in the southeast and now she’s addicted.
“I love it,” she said. “I’m so glad I discovered it. I’m definitely going to keep it up.”

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