There were a lot of new faces and clean bikes at the start. I gave way to them, as I knew it would take a while for my engine to get up to speed. With shower cap on, and a rain jacket at the start, I was ready for whatever. At 10 am, I was off on my adventure. As Black Mountain loomed ahead and the trail went up, my legs barked and I felt like I was going backwards. Soon enough, I was off my bike for the push up to Turkey Pen. Dang, my butt was sore! My glutes were CrossFit fried from the previous day's HABs. I was soon passed by Nina and Trish as I struggled up the steeper pitches.
Turkey Pen was a Slip 'N Slide. I was just happy the trail was grooved which kept me from falling off the mountain. I gave my left ACL a good test on the last descent run down. Far above my skills level today, I wisely (or so I thought) chose to dismount just before the tricky, rooty left hander. I cleaned that section but when my left foot landed on a rock covered in mud, it did not stop. I felt a twinge of pain within my knee ... that was my ACL screaming. Luckily I recovered before it gave way. Close one!
The Bradley Creek crossings felt twice as cold today. I lost all feeling in my feet after the second one and did not regain it until I hit the Davidson River campground shower at the finish, 4 1/2 hours later. Try pedaling and hiking when your feet feel like blocks of concrete. Not having that sensory connection with the bottoms of your feet makes it alot tougher negotiating the rugged Pisgah terrain.
With about 2 1/2 hours in my legs, I finally felt good and the climb up to Yellow Gap went fairly quickly. Once again, I stopped at the second aid station to refuel. I was in my own little happy bubble climbing up Laurel. As I hit the $1000 climb, my little bubble burst! I was a hurtin' buckaroo. As I was sherpa-ing my bike up the mountain, I tried to figure out why. I was definitely off the bike more today than yesterday. I think Eric had gone out the night before and added a few more HAB's.
Pilot was nowhere near as fun the second time around. My upper body was so fatigued, it was all I could do to hang on. I had lost that "connection" with my bike, both at the pedals and bars. Finally, almost to the creek crossing, I was home-free! And then something snagged my front wheel and slammed me to the ground. I lay there a few seconds while the stars cleared my head. My right quad and knee were not too happy as they took the brunt of the fall, but nothing was broken. I walked through the creek crossing, as my head was still a little bit "spinny."
Hopping out onto 1206, I went to shift and my thumb hit air. I looked down and both my shifter pod and brake lever were at an odd angle. I about crapped my pants as I immediately thought one or both were broken. After assesssing the situation, I thanked my mechanic for not using gorilla torque ... they had just moved on the bar. A quick fix and I was on my way to the third aid station where a Red Bull awaited. I needed some wings to get me through the final leg.
As I approached the aid station, I saw Trish. She was up to her elbows in fresh pineapple. She had lost her groove, too. She made some sort of ridiculous comment about quitting. This coming from the mouth of a GDR winner, a 2400+ mile mountain bike race. I told her to finish up her picnic and get motoring.
The climb up South Mills and Buckhorn was a little softer and slower than yesterday, but soon enough I was at Black, with its 20 minute HAB. This section is relentless. Cresting the top, I was shrouded in mist. Normally I look forward to the gnar on the other side. But with my forearms still pumped from Pilot, my left ACL being all twingy, and my right quad turning colors already, I wasn't too keen on racing down at breakneck speeds. So I did the smart thing and did not ride above my means ... which unfortunately meant I walked alot. Pisgah has a way of humbling you; and today I was very much so.
I may have lost more time than I wanted to during the last 1/3 of the race, but I did cross the finish line in 2nd place and intact. Just one of the many reasons why I keep this on my bike's top tube. And as many times as Zeke has reminded me, one of his favorite quotes is ingrained in my mind, "You don't get old by being stupid!"
|Mom first, racer second!|
With a time of 6:22, I was "put a fork in me" done. I immediately headed off to thaw my feet out and clean up. Once again, the shower cap thing warded off the rain. While I did not need it to keep me dry, I must say it kept my head warm. I even kept my rain jacket, unzipped, on all day. The only time I got hot was on the initial Black Mountain climb, but I was glad I had it on Pilot, where the temperature got down to 37 degrees.
|Nina "fast kid" Otter in 1st and Brenda "lovin' my cold muddy chamois" Simril in 3rd|
Thanks to Eric and all his amazing volunteers for a crazy insane weekend in the woods.