It feels like the very first time. . .
So I know you reader, you came here for the catastrophic failure of yet another component on me or my bike that will entail an epic Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race report (PMBARR). If epic involves carefully placing my foot for every hike-a-bike step, extreme cramping and an overall 19th place finish, then sure, read on.
As though on cue, I woke up Saturday morning and immediately the bottom of my foot cramped, YIKES, maybe beer isn’t the best hydrator for the human form. By now, Joe and I have our pre-game down, we ate our breakfast, had a little coffee and were off down the road carless toward the start.
I said to those standing around me, what are we going to look at the maps for? Will it say Black is off limits?
I pretty much knew the way we were going due to my ankle’s circumstance. I wasn’t going to egg my ankle on with more hike-a-bike up to Turkey Pen when I knew the top was not yet clear, stepping through deadfall would equal death for an already injured foot.
The start of this race is always the most entertaining part of the race for me. I love watching everyone’s ‘technique’ for climbing to Pressley Gap.
Joe and I made quick work of Pressley and headed down Maxwell and up Clawhammer. At the bottom of Clawhammer, I took a peek at the checkpoints and for the climb up Clawhammer, I went over routes in my head.
I have been talking about my ankle, but how bad was it you ask? I am not sure but I can tell you that when I sat out Cohutta the week before, I had a huge cankle and it was a pretty color of purple and green.
Now, climbing Clawhammer, my ankle was still different colors in small spots but most of the bruising was gone and all the swelling had receded. So even though Joe and I had been talking a big game all year, I was route finding for four checkpoints rather than five.
With this in mind, I knew we were skipping 225, it was only a question of Pilot first or dropping down South Mills for a counter-clockwise route. As much as anyone wants there to be a “secret” route that will give you an advantage, there isn’t. I was leaning toward Pilot for numerous reasons but I thought I would ask Joe. He seemed to confirm that Pilot early sounded like a decent idea. So after a quick map check to make sure that 476 by the gauging station wasn’t closed as in past years, it wasn’t so off we went.
We made quick work again on Pilot hiking all the switchbacks with every rock looking like a swollen ankle but it was holding up fine. Joe was obviously stronger than me as he was leading all the climbs.
A quick conversation with Shane at our first Mandatory checkpoint, and we were off. We hadn’t seen anyone hiking up Pilot and now we were headed down Laurel Mountain. Descending Laurel was the greatest fun of the day, I laughed out loud as we flew past some of the gaps. Its hard to beat giddy mountain biking on a hot spring day. Well except for maybe, a cool spring day.
As we rode over Yellow Gap toward FS 5000, we started seeing teams again and I knew most had made the alternate decision to head counter-clockwise. We stopped for water at the campground and worked our way to Spencer up 5000. This is where I started to feel bad, it was hot and I was turning the cranks slowly.
Nabbing Spencer, a COLD PBR, YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!! I drank a mini red bull and started to feel a little better. Joe started questioning our route choice when he found out most teams had 3 checkpoints as we only had two. I said “yeah but now they have to climb Laurel or ride 1206 all the way over to Pilot.” I kept up with Joe finally climbing back to Yellow Gap, it was still hot.
Down 5015, Joe commented “I thought this road was down to Bradley?” I said “it is.” It just goes to show that perception changes when you are out there for hours on end.
I chatted with Allan quickly at Bradley and Laurel. He confirmed our unusual choice by saying that we were a rare breed heading clockwise.
I started leading the climb to the switchbacks up Laurel Creek and it took the wind out of my sails. When I got to the hike-a-bike I started falling behind and feeling like crap.
On Squirrel I had the first twinge of cramps, I thought to myself “great cramps on squirrel, now is not the time to flail.” I realized I had dug a hole, so I did my best to fill that hole up eating and drinking but it was obvious I was slowing way down. I had hoped that if we could keep a decent clip on Squirrel, our route would work out just fine.
Eventually we made it to the Sermon (literally 20+ guys with overnight packs speaking the gospel) at Squirrel and Cantrell. I filled a bottle at the creek and heard clapping as I took off continuing on Squirrel.
The rest of the day, climbing S. Mills River and Buckhorn, I was fighting cramps bad, punching my inner thigh with every pedal stroke to stave off the debilitating cramps.
Besides passing out and backers on 1206/5000, we hadn’t seen any teams all day and finally climbing Maxwell, it felt like a race again. We were passing teams and being passed. Once we were back on Black, we railed the descent as fast as our cramping hands would allow us, ultimately being the 5th four check point team into the finish but ultimately we were pushed to 19th.
A huge thanks to Pisgah Productions and all the volunteers!!! No swelling on the ankle today means one hell of a fast recovery, thank you ice and Advil, you do wonders.