Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pisgah 111K Race Report

Pretty much sums up my day.

In case you have never ridden Pisgh, 1kilometer = 1 mile.  This was the third year and my third go at it.  Each year the course has been different.  After last year's epic weekend I told myself I would not do it again.  Well, time seems to erase all memories of pain.  At least this year, I did not have to start out in my shower cap.  There was, however, a 30% chance of afternoon showers.  I was hopeful to outrun Mother Nature, but I did place a shower cap and kitchen sized garbage bag at the third aid station.

It was a cold, but dry start.  90 toed the line; I wondered how many the forest would devour throughout the day.  This race is as much about attrition as fitness.  The start was slow, even by my standards.  Although my legs appreciated it, I anxiously awaited the pace to increase so I could try to put some distance on my competition.  The legs had some spark and I wanted to take advantage of that.  Once we turned off 477, the rabbit was let loose and the greyhounds gave chase ... only to come to a complete stop at the gate.  We all scurried around it and were off again.  Greg was just ahead of me and knowing how strong he is on gravel, I let him pace me up Clawhammer.

Right on Black and so began the numerous HAB's (hike a bikes).  On this section there are several rideable sections.  I pick and chose some to ride and just pushed the rest.  Over the years, experience has taught me that just continuing to push takes less effort than mounting/dismounting and if the pace is the same, it just makes sense.  After 5 years of riding Pisgah, my body knows the trail, what is around each corner, the rock or the stump where I can easily step up and mount my bike, where to quickly dismount before it is too late, etc.

Kip, my Double Dare partner joined me here.  His usual jovial self was music to my ears.  Amazing how that man can ride a single speed and talk comfortably while grinding upwards.  I look forward to our weekend of adventure this fall.

For this race, I made a couple adjustments to my Niner Jet9 RDO.  Off came the bar ends, despite my hands' best efforts to dissuade me.  I swapped from a 2 x 10 to a 1 x 11 with a 30T chain ring.  I also invested in a Rock Shox Reverb 100mm dropper post.

Left on Turkey Pen and the hour of heinous downhills followed by steep pushes upwards toward the heavens.  The descents were definitely easier.  It was amazing how much better control I had by being able to lower my center of gravity 4 inches.  I felt so confident, I tried the sharp rooty left hander before the hardest downhill.  Would have cleaned it, too, had it not been for the large tree that grabbed my bar and slammed me down.  Having hurt nothing more than my pride, I motored on down the remainder.

The rhododendrons were thick through Turkey Pen and were all grabby-feely.  Being of small stature and with no bar ends to get tangled, those sections were easier, too.  I felt like I was riding a speeder bike on Endor!

I motored on through the first aid station, down South Mills, up Mullinax and Squirrel to Laurel.  It had been a couple years since I had been on Laurel.  The top section was a flowing river over multiple water bars.  A little puckering went on here.  After crossing the creek several times and working my way through sticks and roots, the last half was probably the second best descent of the day for me.  Fast and flowy with no deadfall!

Going into the third hour on the climb up 5015, I felt the first signs of fatigue.  Knowing my body, I knew this would pass.  Drinking and eating helped my engine to get back on track.  I stopped at the second aid station long enough to swap CamelBaks, gel flasks, and get a good whiff of bacon!!!  I chose to pass on that delicacy as bacon + L4 HR + arduous climb = rock in the gut.  Kip had different thoughts and pulled up a chair to enjoy brunch!  Eventually he caught back up as I was riding Mark's wheel and following his lines.

I was eager to get to Pilot to see what I could do and how fast I could descend on my rocket ship.  The additonal weight penalty of the dropper post is well worth it.  I am not a Sue Haywood nor a Rich Dillen by any means, but today I felt like I had conjured my inner Sue and Dicky on this downhill.  A lot of firsts happened for me.  The biggest was cleaning the Humvee section, even though by that time my forarms and triceps were so pumped my hand/bar connection was not the best.

With that little boost of self confidence, I got my second wind for the Pilot Cove-Slate Rock section.  Little did I know that I would definitely need that energy boost.  (Thanks, Rich, for suggesting this loop.)  A new to me trail, it starts out lulling you into a false sense of security with its peaceful flat ribbon of trail through the cove.  And then you turn to the left and up up up the trail goes.  Rideable if you are fresh or have a 22-34!  It has enough waterbars, roots, and loose rock to make it energy sapping to put forth an effort pedaling it.  So I pushed for 20 minutes.  Looking forward to the downhill, when I come to it, some expletives also came to my mind.  Tight, steep side cut with enough roots and mud to make me think twice about negotiating some of the more difficult sections on the bike.  Mistake = broken bike and/or body.  Let's just say there was alot of CX practice going on.

Popping out onto 1206, I ground some gravel to the third aid station.  Here I caught up to team mate Van Mixon, who was having some bike issues:  broken water bottle mount and broken tension spring in the right pedal.  He was still in good spirits, though, and motored off while I chugged my Red Bull.  Last year, I could not pop the top on the can with my gloves on.  This year I had transferred it to a water bottle, thereby buying precious seconds and having it go down the hatch easier with less fizz.

I made short work of South Mills and Buckhorn, catching back up to Van.  At the intersection, Josh of Threshold Provisions pointed us to take a right.  Huh?  What?  I am supposed to go left, like last year or so I thought.  In my oxygen deprived state of mind (and that's the story I am sticking with), I actually questioned Josh after seeing the 3 strips of tape leading up to the right.  He nicely replied, "Yes, you are going up that way."  Once I began to climb the stairs, I came to my senses, laughed out loud at myself, and apologized to him.  And then I continued to laugh at myself for probably the next 10 minutes. (So that is why Eric mentioned Avery Creek this morning at the pre race meeting.)  After the HAB on this section of Black, I was thankful of this course change as I don't ride this section of Black very often and Avery Creek is just so friggin' fun ... well, at least until you get down in the hole and have to claw your way back up.  Mean, Eric, just mean, when you could have directed us onto Buckhorn!

Once I saw the horse stables for the second time today, I began to smell the barn.  Up Clawhammer to Maxwell to Black.  A short HAB up, where Kip caught up to me once again, and then we let it rip down the Black descent.  We rolled under the finish line together in 7:56 after 61 miles and 11,000 feet of climbing. 

1 tallboy = 1/2 kitchen pass. Have my eye on a 2nd one come Sunday.

Knowing what lay ahead for Sunday, I did not partake in any post-race shenanigans.  A walk over to Davidson River to soak the pistons while recovering with my chocolate almond milk concoction.  Then off to the Sunset for more fuel and some leg squeezing courtesy of Elevated Legs.  A big shout out to Zeke for tending to Faith, my trusty Niner steed.

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