It is hard to believe that PMBAR has come and gone already. It has been a long weekend so it took a little bit to get this down. I left last year thinking that I could do better and this year I leave in shock as to what I could do with the little training that I did this year. I had big hopes for doing well this year after teaming up with Bryon, but things happened and I was no where near what I need to be for this event. Pisgah is never easy and make it a big day and it is even more then epic.
After doing a quick shake down ride around Sycamore, I was feeling better about the new bike in Pisgah. It rolled just fine over the rocky and rooty stuff. We went out for some grub and then made sure all of our required gear was present. Saturday morning came earlier then I wanted, but that is normal. I actually got out of bed before the alarm went off because I was tossing and turning and not really sleeping. We hurried up and gathered our things, ate breakfast and loaded up. It was just around the corner to the start/finish area and we were there quickly. I wanted to get there with enough time to get signed in, get the stuff ready and take care of any other business that needed to be handled.
We already made a plan to take a quick look at the map and think about the options as we rode up to pressley gap. So after all the pre-race to do’s were done and Eric said the magic words, we opened up the map and took a peak. Instead of taking a quick look and then thinking about it, we basically just set the plan for the day and had at it. I was complaining about how my legs felt climbing to Pressley Gap, so it was read between the lines that we were going to stop hiking and start biking. So, down Maxwell we went and then up Claw hammer.
We took a short break at the trail intersection to make sure just how we want to continue. This was the last time we could make a huge change to our direction of travel for the day. We grabbed a quick bite and continued on our way. Next thing I knew we were headed down Squirrel and on our way to the first check point. Things were moving a little on the slow side, but I was just trying to pace myself. The last thing I wanted was to go too hard and bonk way too early in the day. This pacing added to our time in the woods, but I will never know if I would have pushed it harder how would I have felt then.
On the way to the first check point, we discussed the fact that it was taking several hours to get our first check point. That did not help moral, but we told ourselves that it was fine because the second check point would come up quick. We made it out to our second check point with out too much trouble. It did take longer then I hoped, but we were still rolling and going for number 3. The long road climb up 5015 was brutal. I have heard that going that direction was a pain and now I know for sure. I felt fairly good after we went through yellow gap and was headed down hill for a long ride. This fun section did not last too long as we found our self on 5000 and headed for our next check point. This road seemed to be even crazier then 5015, but eventually we rolled in to our 3rd check point.
After this check point I was feeling good about where we were. We had 3 check points in, a good road down hill in front of us and then Laurel>Pilot and back to the car. At this point spirits were running high as we figured we would be finishers. As we headed back down 5000 I guess I started asking about where our turn would be. At this point I had a big lump in my stomach as I remembered back to where we turned on to this road and that is where we had to return to before we could change directions. I remember seeing the O’Dea’s climbing up as we went down beside them thinking I was glad that I picked the route direction that we did. The problem with that thought was I didn’t realize that it didn’t matter what rotation you went, you had to go all the way out and back on this section to get the check point.
We made a short stop at the camp ground to refill our water supply and happened to run in to Ryan Bell as they were done with 3 check points too and headed back the way we just came. They were going to get all 5. The rest of the road climb up to Yellow gap was very hard on me. I was starting to feel it, but was still rolling, but the climb would not let up and let me coast or anything much at all. After we finally made it back up to the gap intersection, we headed down to Laurel and was back on the singletrack with hopes and dreams flying of maybe even making the white board.
It did not take too long before those dreams started to turn in to nightmares. I did not remember how hard Laurel was or how long and I just rode it in November. My legs started to cramp in this section and then they full on locked up. I could not even push my bike at times. I would work it out and try and stretch everything out. I could ride a little on and off, but it seemed like some big efforts would get my legs to cramp in one place or another. We seemed to hit hike a bike after hike a bike sections. I never did see good enough gap. This left me wondering if we had even made it to the hiking section yet. Laurel was burning a ton of time and was wearing us very thin. We finally made it to the check point and I thought we were ready for some down hill. But, I guess not since there was more up after the check point before we actually made it to the down hill section. I stopped and took a picture of the great view or well what is normally a great view but this time it was all foggy and trying to rain.
Being very tired I walked the first few switch backs going down Pilot. I knew they were tough and a crash was the last thing I needed at that point. I finally started riding some sections and then started cramping again when I tried to go over big roots, rocks or logs. This was our absolute low point. Laural was part of the journey south, but Pilot was where rock bottom was. This is where it got a little intense for a short time. It was being decided that we wasted so much time on Laurel and Pilot that we are now looking at a possible DNF. That was the last thing that I wanted to do. We had some discussions about it. I don’t know if Bryon was getting mad at me at that point or just getting frustrated with the possibility of not making it. I pleaded my case that I was busting my ass to go as fast as I could. I kept fighting cramps on and off and could not do much at all when I would cramp. We seemed to work out some stress and took a quick break to do another map check.
Being that we both were fighting some cramping and it seemed that the singletrack caused more issues then the road did, it was noted that there was another route we could take. It was all legal, might add some miles, time or even both, but we decided to take it to try and minimize the cramps so we could keep moving. There was a small section of 1206 that was not off limits and it would lead us down to 477 and toward the car. The road was going better and we kept moving forward. It started to rain and was starting to get cold. We finally made the turn on to 477 and we didn’t think there would be that much climbing, but after the climb there was plenty of down hill to rest. This down hill was freezing cold and we made a quick stop to put on the rain jackets. I knew it might be too much once we hit claw hammer, but we were cold enough that it didn’t matter.
I kept looking at my clock and counting down how much time we had left. I was pushing it as much as I could in this section. Bryon was having hub issues all day and the fast coasting did not help it at all, so he was watching his speed some. I ended up making the turn up claw hammer first and there were two guys sitting there. I asked if everything was ok and they thought they missed a turn. They came down claw hammer and missed the turn on Maxwell. I told them that the next right was the one they wanted to take to Pressley.
I had put my light on my helmet when I put the jacket on, but I was not using it trying to save my batteries. For some reason I decided to just pack my back up light and only one of the batteries I brought. I knew that I had not much more then 1.5 hours of light, so I didn’t want to turn it on and have it run out going down black. I was just following the night light of the road for a long time and saved my light for when I needed it most. Not too far before Pressley Gap I had to turn it on. I could no longer see good enough to even ride the road. I could see the lights heading up Maxwell behind us, but I still thought we might not make it and figured how far back they were, that they were out. I was actually starting to feel better at this point and we really put the hammer down on Maxwell compared to most of the climbing we did all day.
I turned a corner and could see a fire blazing with a few people standing around. I don’t think I could have been happier finally getting to that point. I knew that we only had one more hike and then a fun down hill to the car. The hike a bike did not seem too long and before I knew it we were pedaling again. My stress level was running high at this point still worried about making the time cut off. The lighting was not working out very well for me on black, but I really don’t think that my HID would have made any difference. The top of black had tons of fog and a misty rain that caught all of our light. I could look down and see maybe 2 foot in front of my wheel. Some where in that first section, I looked down to check the clock. I would have sworn that it said :57 and that would have left us this 3 min. to get down black with a poor lighting conditions. Emotions were running strong at this point. I thought for sure that I had cost us a DNF. I am not sure I could have rode down black any faster in day light. I for sure could not see everything and maybe this was a good thing. I just hoped I didn’t find something I should have seen. We actually rode all of that clean and after I went around the gate at the bottom I sprinted for the line. I didn’t really have anything left, but I figured we didn’t have enough time. As I rolled up to the tent, I asked if we made it. That was followed by a funny look and I was told that we had 18 min. to spare! WHAT!! How in the heck did we have that much time? Then a lot of stress turned in to excitement to have actually finished in the required time limit with 4 check points.
Bryon said that he knew we had it when we made the gap. I was in the groove and not too aware of such things and then when I did glance at my computer, it apparently was changed to mileage and not time. I am not sure if I would have done anything different in that last part if I knew we were going to make it, but maybe I would have rode a little safer. As we were at the car downing our burrito’s and trying to get a grip on getting dry, we heard the crowd cheer as another group crossed the line. Turns out that the group that missed their turn made it to the finish line before the time cut off. This made them the last finishing team and at only 5 min. behind us. This designation apparently is not that bad of a place to be, well if you plan on riding your bike that long, as they won a free entry in to next years race. I was torn between being stoked that we made it in time and a little upset that we were only 5 min. off of winning the free entry. I am not sure I would have done anything different even if I knew about the last place award. One funny thing about the team that did take those honors. We found out on the way home that the team was another team from Indiana. I did not really know them, but Bryon knew the one guy and had no idea who they were as we went by. Funny how your mind works or does not work after a long journey like that.
Most of my expectations were reached in my second attempt at this race. I already knew that it would be a long day in the wood riding in my favorite area, that alone would be enough to make me happy. Then throw in actually finishing and it is way above the bar. I never imagined that with the little training that I did this year I would be able to ride my bike in Pisgah for 13 1/2 hours. We finished 54th and ended up riding around 68.5 miles and climbed a little over 9,300 feet of elevation gain. Those figures might not be complete since I am not sure the computer worked all the time I was pushing my bike and if you have ever rode in Pisgah, you know that is a lot more then one would think.
I would like to thank Eric and crew for all the hard work making this race possible and run as smooth as it does. If I was only allowed to do one event a year, this would be it. I would also like to thank Bryon for putting up with me all weekend. I know I was a pain at times and much slower then I wanted to be. Thank you for being part of my biggest day on a bike so far. I know there are lots of things that I forgot, but this is basically everything I can think of. 🙂
See you again next year!