I don’t know where to start. There are lots of should haves and could haves, but the only did have is the fact that I did not get 4 check points and I still had a great day in the woods. This was my first attempt as this race. Since I had only rode in Pisgah 3 other weekends before this, I knew that it could be difficult for me to figure out where to go. I did ask a lot of questions leading up to this and I tried to remember what I have seen in these crazy woods. One big problem that I have is the fact that 2 of the 3 times I had been there I was with Scott and he does not need a map. This weekend I did not have that on my side.
After check in and the riders meeting. I decided to look at the map. This being my teammates first time ever in Pisgah, he was not much help with deciding what to do. This left that job up to me and me alone. When I first opened the map I felt a bit overwhelmed. It took me a little bit to figure out that we would be goig up Black even though that was a requirement to start the race. So, after the eyes stopped being completely glazed over, I started to actually see the trails and tried to make some what of a plan of attack. After looking at the check points I didn’t think 4 was going to be possible, but you never know. I decided to head toward Turkey Pen first since I knew that I didn’t want to be there last.
Not sure why I spent so much time trying to figure out what I was going to be doing for the day when I could have just been doing what I was going to be doing most of the day and that would be walking. Black tore me up! My calf’s were screaming at me. I was not used to doing that much walking and for sure not climbing black right out of the gate. Being a rookie, I had to make a map check before we even got to the Turkey Pen turn off. I was just second guessing where the turn was.
Boy was I glad to be on Turkey Pen. It was good to get some pedaling in. At this point I think my teammate was wondering what the hell he got himself in to. We took our time up black and were passed by way too many people to even imagine. Part of the way on Turkey Pen I was thinking to myself that we were probably that last two riders.
When it took us a little over 3 hours to get to the check point, after another map check because I thought the check point was the end of Turkey Pen, I knew that 4 cp’s were out of the question. I was still kind of hoping for 3, but Bob was not looking too good. I looked at the map again and decided that heading to the Squirrel check point would be our best bet.
I thought that maybe he would feel a little better by the next check point and we could look at heading up to Pilot for a 3rd cp. I am not sure if we headed out of that cp the correct way or not since it was very grown up. I am sure if we would have went right it would have been just around the corner from where we came crawling out of the woods to hit the road.
After making it to our second check point, I could tell that Bob did not recover much on that section and I should look for options to head back toward Black and toward the beer. With a little help from one of the volunteers I was reminded about the 3 mile hike-a-bike at the start of Black from Buckhorn. So I decided to take Clawhammer-Maxwell back to Black. It was longer and Maxwell was not an easy climb, but it was good to actually see other riders and they were going the same direction. The problem with that is they all had 4 check points in already and were still going faster then we were. After getting back on Black we thought it was all down hill from there. NOT! I had never been on Maxwell, so I was not sure exactly where it came out. Lucky for us we had one more hike-a-bike section before the good stuff. Black is always fun on the way down.
Overall it was a good day in the woods. We had somewhere between 35-40 miles since my computer was not working all the time and we climbed 5700 ft or so. We came in to the finish line in just over 9 hours of goodness. I headed straight to the car to get my glass and meal ticket. The beer was great and the burrito hit the spot. It was fun to see other riders rolling in as we all stood there re-hashing the ride and what ways we went.
Apparently I was on the right track on the start. Or at least what some others did. After looking at the map again I thought that maybe there were two other options that I could have done to increase our chances to get more then 2 cp’s. But, after all it really does not matter if we were not going to get four check points. One guy at Squirrel pointed out a bail out option to 276, but I said that is not an option at all! I was not going to take 276. Black was the only way back to the car.
Turns out we did almost the exact same loop that I did in November with Scott. Some intersections started to look familiar and the map was making more sense to me. I hope to make a few more trips down there this fall to learn even more about the different trails and where to go so maybe next year I will be ready to make some good decisions. But, time will tell if those decisions will even be needed. Next year, the year after that or several years after that I do plan on attending this great event again with a little better chance at reaching 4 or even 5 of the check points no matter how long it takes.