Friday, April 20, 2018

Pisgah Stage Race: Stage 2, Sunset Motel's Promised Land Route

Distance:  30 miles
Elevation:  4000 feet
Temperature:  36-63 degrees F
Time:  3:16:07

The sun does indeed shine in The Pis-gaaaaa!

Today's stage started out with a 6 mile "controlled" road start along Highways 276 and 280.  While I absolutely love my mountain biking family, when you mix coffee, asphalt, and 180 non road biking souls, you get chaos!  I was more worried getting taken out here than getting "squirreled" later in the course.  Although I managed to stay in the front 1/3, the accordion effect was still there.  I almost wished the police car would have pulled off and let the "real" race begin sooner than at the foot of TurkeyPen Gap gravel road.  I focused on staying far to the right so I would only have to deal with insanity on my left. 

Turning onto the gravel climb up to TurkeyPen Gap, I rolled by carnage that included Emily and another racer.  I said a brief prayer that she was ok and that Gordon would show mercy upon the other.  That 30 minute warm up was exactly what my legs needed.  The descent down South Mills was fast and fun.  The bike was dialed and soaking up the hits.  Hitting Mullinax, my last memories were of a slickety slidy muddy uphill, but today it was hero dirt.  The legs were happy, I was in my own little bubble, and my heart was full. 

Eager to hit Squirrel, one of my favorite trails, I managed to stand and hammer up the last bit of Mullinax before dropping in to the trail I give the utmost respect to.  Squirrel is half-track, with roots looming in the most inopportune places and bouldery sections to negotiate.  Being side cut, the price for failure is high, and I have the scars to prove it.

Fortunately it was dry and with the trail work that has been done in the past two years, it was easy ... with easy being relative.  As much as I wanted to attempt to clean the gnarlier sections, I had to make the smart decision and HAB more than I normally do.  Cleaning a good portion of the flattish or uphill sections requires a lot of bike handling and upper body/back work.  While my back was good on the descents, any time I tried to use force to work through an uphill rocky or rooty section, I would have pain eminate from my L5 area.  What kept me from pushing through the pain was that I envisioned my disc as a Cadbury egg.  I imagined the ooey gooey center exploding through the chocolate candy shell.  And that is what allowed me to hop off the bike, dance through the dicey sections, and remount with no pain at all.

On the right, what my disc looked like 3 weeks ago ... did not want a repeat event.

On Squirrel I passed John Lewer, from New Jersey, that I met on Day 0's opening ceremonies.  He hung with me for awhile, but towards the end of Squirrel I got a gap on him.  What is unique about this stage race is that although the stages are tough, you are not so blown at the end of the stage that all you want to do is go back to your room/house/motel and crash.  There is enough time to recover as well as enjoy the camaraderie of your fellow racers at dinner later in the evening.

Stephen "the squirrel tamer" Janes blew by me in a fit of sheer awesomeness.  He was ragin' on his single speed.  I tried to stay with him, but was not in his league.  Talk about a man on fire!

The climb up South Mills and Buckhorn was smooth like a highway and not too steep.  I was still feeling great at this time and chatted with several on the climb, including David Noletti, who was vying for a spot on the SS podium. 

The gravel descent down Clawhammer was sketchy!  Dry and loose and I could not seem to find my drifting skills.  Somehow I managed to catch up to Stephen Janes on the gravel.  We rode together down to the aid station, where he stopped and I motored on up Maxwell Cove.

After a 20 minute grind, I hit the Black HAB up to the enduro of the day ... middle/lower Black.  The last time I had cleaned this section was on a ride many moons ago.  Today was the day I would have justice.  Unfortunately, I got caught behind a racer whose reptile brain took over at the sharp short uphill with a quick turn to the right before hitting the wet rocky/rooty descent.  I clung desperately to a track stand but just could not hold it long enough to make a clean go at it.  😡😡😡

I had to dab down, but then quickly got by him and made short work of the steep rooty switchback to the right.  The rest of the descent was so ... much ... fun!  Only wish I had the cahoneys to go faster.  By the time I hit the bottom, my calves and forearms were dying. 

I won the stage and put a little more time into second place.  My bike was amazing.  Someone (who shall remain nameless) out in podcast land was poo-poo'ing putting a Fox 32 120mm on a Top Fuel.  While it probably wouldn't make sense for a 140+ racer to run this, for this buck ten, it has been a game changer!

Salmon, rice, carrots, and a salad

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