Not really hungry, but shoveling food in hopes of staving off the fatigue monster, I make my way over to the RV. Kip is still in his bag, moaning and whimpering ... not a morning person, I gather. The pot of coffee is percolating ... ever ... so .... slowly. I begin to wonder if it will finish before the 6am start. It does, and I have my grande salted caramel latte, courtesy of a Gu gel pack.
The running shoes I had purposefully purchased just for this event and had carried around ALL DAY yesterday and not used were still attached to my pack. I had high hopes of a hiking CP today, so I kept that extra 9 ounces strapped down. Once again, we were treated to a TT to get our passports. Eric said the passports were at the top of Farlow Gap. Cool, a nice warm up on the road. But, no! I swear I saw horns come out of Eric's head as he told us we would be going up Daniel Ridge and Farlow Gap Trail. 2000+ feet of gain in 6 miles!
Kip was worried his tiny commuter light would not be enough. I quickly told him that at a 3mph pace, it would suffice. It was much warmer than last year, 48 degrees, and we both had to stop along Daniel Ridge to shed a layer. Once we got to Farlow, the shit hit the fan for me. I had tweaked my right wrist the day before. Pushing and hoisting the bike over boulders that were shoulder high caused a sharp pain in my wrist. My bike and gear together weighed 32 pounds; doing the math, I was having to carry 31% of my body weight up that friggin' trail. I am not ashamed to admit, I was a hurtin' buckaroo. I likened myself to Sisyphus, with my bike being the stone that kept rolling backwards. Curses you, Zeus, aka Eric Wever!
Kip helped when he could, lifting my bike up to me on a couple ledges, giving me a push every now and then to keep my momentum moving forward as opposed to "turtling backwards." Several teams passed us which frustrated me because I knew I was faster than them, if I could only ride.
|Farlow Gap Trail. Photo Credit: Rebecca Bubp|
The sun began to rise as we reached the top. This did wonders for my morale. Two hours into the day, we hit the top. Mind you, yesterday we rode 25 miles in 2 hours to get our passports. I think I have a love/hate relationship with Pisgah.
Grabbing our passport, we plotted a course.
|Trying to crush our souls by putting the mandatory CP lightyears away from Farlow Gap.|
There were 3 CP's near Farlow. We decided against 140A/5003 (a mistake we realized too late). Our first one would be 215/Indian Creek Road. We put our jackets back on for the fireroad descent, and even though I had 2 layers on my hands, I lost feeling in them within 5 minutes. With an air temp of 30 degrees and speed of 15mph, I estimated a wind chill of 10 degrees coming off of Farlow Gap. As we approached Hwy 215, the sun was shining brightly and felt absolutely wonderful.
|Hwy 215/Indian Creek Road|
Riding back up to Gloucester Gap, we saw several teams coming down to go get that same CP. These teams had beat us up to Farlow Gap, so at that moment we knew that we made a mistake in not obtaining 140A/5003 CP. In amongst those teams was Sam and Trish. We thought that after the first day we were "tied" with them; therefore, we had a fighting chance in the Coed Division to climb aboard the top step. But once we saw them motoring down Indian Gap with grit and determination written all over their faces, we would need "Lady Luck" on our side.
Our next CP would be Butter Gap/Art Loeb Trail. Climbing back up to the gap, the feeling in our appendages quickly returned. The pace up to the CP quickened as the day progressed and my legs slowly came back to life after the grueling HAB.
|The reward for getting here is a rippin' descent!|
Butter was in great shape and we arrived at the Fish Hatchery in no time. Funny, completely unscathed coming down Butter, but EVERY STINKING TIME I forget that thin almost invisible chain stretched out across the road to the parking lot. Damn, that was close!
By now, I realized there would be no bonus hikes, so Kip and I hid our shoes at the hatchery. Our next CP was Pink Beds. I was NOT looking forward to climbing 276 AGAIN! But the other option was just as evil ... climbing Clawhammer.
I was faster today on 276 than yesterday ... go figure! We arrived at the parking lot and went over to the faucet to refill our hydration packs. When we arrived, there was a little group of Double Darer's doing the same. Barnabus was there and he made a statement that this was the first time he was wearing more layers than I! Sure enough, every body part of his was covered save for his face and ankles.
|The rookies to the right thought this was the Pink Beds CP. Fortunately for them, we told them it wasn't.|
On our way to Pink Beds/Barnett Branch Trail, Kip noticed his rear tire was really low. We stopped and aired it back up, hoping that perhaps he had just burped it coming down Butter.
|No, I did not sucker punch him in the cheek. That is 2-3 dill pickles he was working on when this was taken.|
We then rode out to the end of Pink Beds. After doing a bit of math, we decided to ride up 5018 to grab our fourth CP at the top of Horse Cove. The last time I had ridden this road was during P36. It was cold and deep in snow. And it seemed to take forever. Today was not so bad. But, Kip's tire was losing air again. At the CP, he made the decision to tube it while I enjoyed a Red Bull. As we were changing the tire, David and Dan arrived shortly thereafter. David pulled out a small bag of crushed potato chips that looked divine! I had an immediate Pavlovian response and so had to get out a few salty tiny potatos to munch on while Kip finished up.
After about a 15 minute stop, we hurried down Horse Cove Trail to Squirrel Gap Trail. Our 5th CP would be Wolf Ford. I love riding Squirrel this way since it is mostly downhill. And only one vertigo moment when my eyes wandered over to one of the steep drop offs in a tight turn.
Then began the long, but flowy gradual climb up South Mills and Buckhorn. Once again, we saw Sam and Trish; they were headed down. Funny how we saw our main competition multiple times during this race that encompasses thousands of acres. They were absolutely on fire today! At this point, if we could finish only 1 CP down to them, I would be completely satisfied.
We were headed up to get the mandatory at the Buckhorn Gap shelter on Black. Oh, how I love the Buckhorn Gap Trail this way with its 6-8 right hand turns that all look the same. It's one of those evil little trails where you think you are finished but then there is more, more, and more.
At the mandatory, we could get a 1/2 bonus CP by playing hackey sack or each eating a jalapeno pepper. We chose the pepper. Two bites, two chews, and two swallows later, it was down the hatch, along with a chocolate gel for a cooling effect. Easy peasy! Katie, Patrick's partner, begged to differ.
|Like a kid trying to swallow a pill for the first time.|
|I am sure her belly sloshed around for some time after downing that bottle.|
It was now about 2:30 pm. That would give us 3 1/2 hours to get 3 more CP's. Next up was Pressley Gap. That was pretty easy: just bomb down Clawhammer for a few miles (the 1st warm fire road descent of the weekend). Then cruise on up 5099 and grab CP #7. I use the term "bomb" and "cruise" lightly as about now we were 140 miles in and close to 18,000 feet of climbing. Still yet, we managed to pass a few weekend warriors. One I almost caught with his pants down as he was about to butter his chamois. Hehe ... he was more than a little embarassed. Once at the top, I myself needed a reapplication of Chamois Butt'r to my nethers as it felt like I was sitting on two jalapenos. The cooling effect of some new Butt'r lasted a good 30 minutes.
After descending back down to the stables, we were going to climb up Bennett to get the CP at Coontree Gap. I let Kip go first, to be fodder for the Enduro demons. Luckily it was late enough in the day that they had probably finished their runs. We once again met up with Rebecca and her team mate and rode/HAB'd with them up to Coontree Gap.
|Another crazy fun descent.|
Kip rocked it on this descent. He made me look like a rookie, despite his hardtail with no dropper. I was tired and when I get that way, my brain begins to battle my body. This leads to all sorts of confusion and you don't need that when trying to ride some steep shit with all its tangled roots and drops. Needless to say, I had to walk one section. A little frustrated but glad that I had left my ego at home this weekend, for it would have gotten me into trouble.
Popping out on 276, we had plenty of time to do an out and back on Daniel Ridge to get our final and 9th CP. We decided to leave our bikes at the point in the trail when it was unrideable and run up to the intersection of Daniel Ridge and Farlow. I was done pushing my bike uphill. My wrist and ankle were o.k. on the bike, but screamed like banshees anytime I had to get off and push: overuse tendonitis.
|Guess who we ran into for the umpteenth time?|
It was about a 25 minute out and back from where we had stashed our bikes. Once back on them, I could smell the barn. We flew back down Daniel Ridge to 475 and then pedaled back into camp. With 72 miles today and another 10,000 feet of climbing, that put us with a total of 160 miles and 20,000 feet of climbing for the weekend. 16.5 CP's netted us 5th overall and 2nd Coed. We were both stoked. I defended my QOP and Kip cracked the top 10 with a solid 9th!
|Put a fork in us, we are done!|
I have been very fortunate to have great partners for this event: Lisa last year and Kip this year. The memories we created will live with me forever. Even the suffery ones will be welcomed as it makes the victory and accomplishment that much more rewarding. Thanks Kip for one helluva weekend!
|Arguably the HARDEST endurance mountain bike series in the U.S.|