|The Brahma bull of seat bags ... required sleeping bag for the night stages.|
I've had my eye on this race for several years now, trying to work up some courage and insanity to give it a go. The format was pretty simple, for the promoter anyways. Complete 6 stages in 36 hours to be considered a finisher. Each stage had 6 checkpoints, with at least two being mandatory. The winner would be the one with the most CP's in the least amount of time. Proof of acquiring the CP was in the form of a "selfie" with a trail marker or some other distinguishing feature. Some stages had set "routes," while others were yours to create. There were no course markings so you had to be really familiar with the forest or be a good map reader. Other than a bonfire and a light charging station, there ... was ... NO ... support!
At midnight, 12 fools, er, I mean 12 brave souls lined up at the start. The temperature was 29 degrees. Eric had each stage in an old Army ammo box. At the word, "Go," each of us reached into the first box and pulled out the passport. What came to mind was the Food Network show, Chopped, where competing chefs would open their baskets to an array of weird foods, from which they had 20 minutes to make a meal that would be analyzed by a panel of judges. Instead of creating a meal out of near impossible ingredients, I would have to create a doable course out of 2-6 near impossible CP's.
With my heart rate already at twice my resting rate, I opened my passport with trepidation. Whew! This stage was a set route where I would have to grab all 6 CP's. I recognized most of the roads and trails. It was just a game of "connect the dots." But in between the "dots" would be miles of pedaling and pushing.
I started out riding with some familiar faces. Nothing like building some confidence than by having friends around you, assuring you that you are headed in the right direction. The joint venture soon ended, though, as our paces were different. I knew that in order to have a feasible chance of finishing, I would have to forge ahead.
The first challenge (I doubt Eric got any sleep that first night because of the intense burning in his ears) was going UP Farlow Gap Trail. In this direction, perhaps 15% is rideable. The remainder is some ungodly pushing, carrying, and hoisting of one's bike. Not to mention the 4-5 creek crossings which took some doing so as to keep the feet dry. I was o.k. with it, as the very first time I had seen Farlow was in this direction. And the 2-3" of snow in the latter half was surreal. Crunch, crunch, crunch, I just followed the 3-4 sets of tracks in front of me.
|Fatih, my trusty Pisgah steed.|
Headed off the backside, I was going into less than familiar territory. I was thankful for those ahead of me as they laid out breadcrumbs (tire tracks). It also made it easier to pedal downhill in the snow. At one point the tracks split; I had to pull the map out and pray for my sense of direction, as the roads were not marked. Through their misfortune, Kip and Neal confirmed my location when I rolled up to them at an unmarked intersection, as they missed a turn and a CP.
After popping back out at Gloucester Gap, the remainder of the course was straightforward. As dawn approached, I was finishing up Cat Gap Trail. Coming out into the fish hatcery parking lot, I forgot about the thin chain that was across the entrance to 475C. At the first break of light, it is always a bit difficult to see. Well, I saw the chain, locked up my brakes, and flew over the bars. Luckily, I was so bundled up, I had a cushy landing on the pavement. The only injury was to my pride. It was 6:20 am at this point, and thankfully the parking lot was empty, so I did not have an audience to my spectacle.
I arrived back at camp at 6:40 am for a semi-quick gear change and refuel. I had pre-made a sandwich. After 3 years of trying to come up with a suitable substitute, I had my first Paleo PB&J!
|It's the little things that are morale boosters!|
One stage down, 5 to go!
Distance: 37 miles
Elevation gain: 5600ft
Average temp: 26 degrees