Thursday, October 30, 2014

12 Hour Nite Nationals Race Report

Having raced Double Dare the weekend prior and still carrying quite a bit of fatigue, I was not overly motivated about this one.  But, the weather forecast improved as the week went on; with a low of 52 and 0% chance of rain, I was doomed to race throughout the night.   The equal payout was very enticing:  $1500, $1000, and $500.  So I pretty much did a gut check and headed down to Auburn, Alabama.

All business.

The turnout was disappointingly low.  There were only 3 women and 5 men in the money classes.  Chainbuster Racing does an outstanding job and has quality races.  Perhaps it wasn't promoted enough outside the Southeast.  Maybe college football takes precedence over racing, although I find that hard to believe.  It has been a long season and what with the gazillion races to choose from, it is possible everyone was just as tired as I was.

The day leading up to the 9pm start was the ... longest ... one ... ever.  I did my best to stay off my feet.  I tried to take a nap, but failed.  I ate a big breakfast and lunch and went light for dinner.  The cup of coffee at 7 pm was a perfect fuel additive for my engine.  By race start, I was primed.

No better way to lose a night of sleep.

The course was 11 miles long, 700 feet of gain, and 99% single track.  It was held in Chewacla State Park.  The local SORBA group, CAMP (Central Alabama Mountain Pedalers), worked long and hard to get this course in tip top shape.

Here is a summary of my race by lap.

Lap 1:  Jill Martindale, a Mini-Me of Danielle Musto, had go go gadget legs.  I barely held on to her wheel.  During the more technical second half, I was able to take the lead and get the fastest lap award ($100).

Lap 2:  This was my settle down and maintain lap.  I really had no upper end power, but could crank out a steady aerobic endurance pace.

Lap 3:  Around mile 8-9, I swore I was pedaling through a Bath and Body Works.  And around mile 10, the odor of  cinnamon rolls elicited a Pavlovian response.  Your sense of smell and hearing are much more keen when night racing.  The flowery smell persisted all night long.  This was motivating, as I knew I was close to the finish of each lap.

Lap 4:  The first half of the course was on the aptly named  For Pete's Sake Trail.  It was equivalent to a person's small intestine.  5+ miles of so much twisting and turning that I could not tell if the lights around me were racers in front of or behind me.  This was the "Dr. Hyde" section.  I just kept telling myself that this evil would lead to pleasure ... Falls View and Creek View Trails.  These were "whoo hoo" fun.  Fast flowy descents with a few small rock gardens interspersed.

Lap 5:  Glowing eyes and large crashing sounds through the woods just next to me.  Hoping the deer, Sasquatch, or whatever it is doesn't decide to jump in front of me.

Lap 6:  Finally finding "zen" with the trail.  Knowing when to brake, when to accelerate, when to coast, and which lines were the smoothest.  In a race of this length, it is not just about the power you can generate, but using your engine efficiently.

Lap 7:  I started naming the roots:  Little Focker #1, Little Focker #2, Little Focker #3 ... you get the picture.

Lap 8:  The most painful lap.  Everthing was beginning to hurt:  taint, upper back/neck, feet ... in that order.  I began to daydream ... err, nightdream, to not think about the pain.  I tried to name all of Ursula's 5 dogs and 6 cats.  I designed my dream truck.

Lap 9:  Began to go through some mental calculations to determine how many more laps I would need to secure a win.  Try doing math in your head at 5 am with 95 miles in your legs!  At least it made the lap go by quick enough.

Lap 10:  The sunrise lap ... my favorite lap of these type events.  It is amazingly beautiful  how the trail slowly comes to life and you begin to see the terrain you have been riding through the past 10 hours.

The Jet 9RDO made for a much smoother ride.

Lap 11:  Came through the pits after the 10th.  I was told Jill was about 30 minutes behind me.  What with the time remaining, I had to go out for this 11th one.  Tired of carrying a Camelbak, tired of carrying lights and batteries, I shed all this equipment.  I didn't even want the weight of a full bottle so I drank about 8 ounces at the pits and rode away, "bare bones" style.

I finished at 7:52 ... plenty of time for a 12th lap, but not necessary.  Jeff, my teammate, finished 2nd, and James won the Ultra division.  A great showing for SuperSport!

C.A.M.P.  treated us to a delicious breakfast.  Bacon, sausage, eggs ... had I died and gone to heaven?

$150 per lap 

A special thanks to NiteRider for being the title sponsor.  This race could not have happened without their support.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Double Dare Day 2 Race Report

4:45am.  I am the first one up, as I do not see a single light elsewhere.  I turn my vehicle's engine on and eagerly await the heat.  Only partly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I try to put my clothes on while still retaining the fastly fading warmth of my sleeping bag.  At least I know there will be a pot of hot coffee waiting for me in Cam's RV.

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.

Horse Cove/5018

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.

Wolf Ford

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.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Double Dare Day 1 Race Report

Pisgah Productions' Double Dare race is the fifth and final race in the King/Queen of Pisgah series.  It consists of two segments, the first beginning at noon Saturday and the second beginning at 6am Sunday.  Each team has 12 hours each day to collect up to 10 checkpoints with one CP each day being mandatory.  At the mandatory CP's you can earn addtional points by completing a special test.  You must finish each day by the cut off time or be DQ'd.  At midnight Saturday, there is also another special test where you can earn more bonus points.

I was teamed up with Kip Clyburn (who had been trying to get me to do this race for years, saying what better way to spend a weekend than wandering and wondering hours on end in one of the most difficult National Forests to pedal a bike).  Last year I partnered up with Lisa Randall for DD ... and had the absolute best weekend of my cycling life.

Faith, my trusty steed.

I had a fairly good cushion on second place Brenda Simril.  All I had to do was ride safely, grab the mandatories and a couple others, and finish.  However, Kip wanted a top 10 KOP finish and I was all for going hard to achieve this goal.

At 12pm Eric told us that our passports would be awaiting us at the intersection of South Mills River and Bradley Creek.  THAT was on the other side of the map from the start at Cove Creek Campground!  And the first 3 teams there would get bonus points.  Kip and I contemplated route options:  in the end we settled on 475 --> 276 --> 1206 --> 5015 --> Bradley Creek.  Eric had the teams go off in 30 second increments.  This would keep the tag-a-longs to a minimum.

I hoisted my Camelbak onto my shoulders ... and about  went belly up!  I had not worn a pack since PMBAR.  I swear that pack felt like I had just put a toddler on my back!

13 pounds of mandatory gear + running shoes

As we headed out, my legs were in complete rebellion mode.  They wanted no part of climbing 1000 feet right out the gate.  Kip, on the other hand, was like a squirrel who had just emptied a bag of nuts laced with speed.  As other teams caught up to us and passed us, he was doing his best to start up a conversation on the meaning of life.  I knew he was just being his usual happy self, but I'm sure the other teams thought this was a strategy to slow them down.

Once we hit 1206,  I found a happy place and began to work with Kip to grind out the miles to the passport checkpoint.  Trish and Sam found us here; it was good to see them being able to race together.  Although Trish was very cordial and chatted with me a bit, Kip later said that as Sam passed him, Sam gave him the "I am gonna rip your legs off" look.  I told Kip to not take offense as Zeke is one of the few people I know that can get Sam to crack a smile, especially during a race.

25 miles and 2 hours later, we arrived at our destination.  Two other teams were already there.  We were the third team in, but since we had started off in 30 second intervals, there were 2 other teams that beat us there "time-wise."  So we did not get any bonus points.  However, being in the top 5 at that point gave me many motivational points.

Curses you, Eric, for the "no flow" CP gathering today.

Ever since I started riding in Pisgah, I have been told by the locals to NEVER RIDE TURKEY PEN from east to west.  So when I saw where the mandatory was, I let off a string of expletives (in my mind).  At least I would not be suffering alone, as all 30 teams would be slogging up The Wall.  As we mostly pushed up to the mandatory, we ran into several teams coming down Turkey Pen.  Poor souls!  They chose to get to the passport checkpoint by riding ALL of Turkey Pen.  I wonder what their faces looked like when they saw the mandatory CP at Wagon Gap.

Once at the CP, we could get an additional 1/2 point by hitting a beer can with a slingshot/acorn or write a haiku.  So I wrote:

Pisgah Productions
Suffering on the bike, oi!
Spiritual cleanse

3 hours and 29 miles later and we had our first CP.  Ouch!  That called for a little reward, so I pulled out some bacon from my FeedBag. As the motto goes, "Bacon makes anything better," including hike a bikes of death.  From there we decided to go collect Cantrell Creek Lodge and Saddle Gap via South Mills River.  I got to ride a "new to me" section of South Mills.  It was fast and I consider  anything greater than 6mph fast in Pisgah!  

As we were approaching the Lodge, a team came upon us.  One was on a single speed in crazy greyhound mode. He almost took Kip out just after a river crossing.  As they passed us, Kip informed me that the guy on the SS was Bob.  Bob Moss, I asked?  Kip said yes.  I was in awe that I had been ahead of Bob "The Hammer" Moss, whose thighs are like tree trunks!

Kip getting a pic of the Lodge and I while I was getting proof that I was riding with Bob and Dave.

After attempting to bribe Bob with some salty baby potatoes in exchange for carrying my pack up Cantrell Creek, we saddled up for some riding/some pushing up to Squirrel.  Bob, who had burritos in his pack, could not be persuaded.  Cantrell Creek is loaded with loose baby heads, making pedaling difficult.  But at least you did not have to worry about destroying your derailleur when HAB'ing.  At the top of Cantrell we came upon Trish and Sam who were having a picnic.  Being the superhumans they were and having their map in their heads, they could afford to chill.

I was glad to be on Squirrel Gap.  Following a contour line, it is totally rideable.  But still tricky, as I would call it half-track.  And a mistake here could easily send you tumbling stright down 50-100 feet.  The scaries part of my whole race was right here, where a root grabbed my front wheel and I just about launched off into a ravine.  The only "Oh, shit!" moment of my whole race.

After grabbing our 3rd CP at Laurel Gap, we headed down Laurel Creek and over to 5015.  We were going to grab the 3 CP's in the North Mills area.  Laurel Creek was the dryest I had ever seen it.  I had an enjoyable time cleaning most of it.  At one point I felt something hit my rear wheel ... or so I thought.  A few moments later, Kip catches up and tells me I have a stick in my derailleur.  I stop, dismount, and look in amazement.

Close call!
That stick was jammed so tightly that Kip had to break it in two to dislodge it.  Lady luck was with me today, for sure!  From the bottom of 5015, we retraced our steps back up to 1206.  At the top, we took a moment to eat and put another layer on.  It was now about 5:30 pm, the wind was whipping, and the sun and temperature was dropping.  I downed a Red Bull and some dates. Sam and Trish caught back up to us and headed down to North Mills River.  Knowing that their route was very similar to ours gave us a boost of confidence in CP choices.  

At the campground, we stopped and replenished our water.  It was nice not to not have to resort to purifying creek water; a time saver.

We decided to get Bear Branch first.  This area had been logged over the summer and so looked quite different.  We turned onto 5001 and began climbing.  This road had seen lots of logging.  There were many new roads off 5001 that led us to question if we were headed in the correct direction.  We looked for tire tracks, but with it dry and hardpack, it was difficult.  At one point we thought about turning back and going up the single track to nab the CP.  That decision would have cost us precious time.  Kip convinced me to go just a bit further.  Fortunately I listened and within a 1/4 mile we realized we were on the right track.

We made it to the intersection, snapped a picture, and then put on our lights for the descent down Bear Branch. This was my first night ride of the year, so I was a bit tentative.   I'm sure this trail would be a blast in the daylight, but I took it a bit easy, allowing my eyes to adjust to the setting sun and the 450 lumens my Lupine was casting out.  

From there we headed over to the Hendersonville Reservoir CP, motoring along on 142.  

Henderson Reservoir

We then took Spencer Branch to get to Middle Fork.  This trail had a couple creek crossings.  Although the creek crossings earlier in the day felt quite good, we were both reluctant to get our feet wet now.  The first one we made it across successfully, but the second, Kip took a little plunge trying to maneuver across some rocks.  Nothing hurt but his pride; he laughed it off and kept motoring.  Where Spencer Branch was tight, twisty, and thick with undergrowth, Middle Fork was smooth, straight, and fast.  Once again we exchanged hoots and hollers with Sam and Trish as they came cruising in the opposite direction.  

CP # 6, Middle Fork

We headed back the way we came.  Kip wanted to take Fletcher back to the reservoir.  Even though Spencer was a bit of a pain, with the creek crossings and multiple downed trees, I knew it.  Fletcher was the unknown.  I won; we stayed on Spencer.  

As we were climbing back up to Yellow Gap, we began to do some mental calculations to see if we had the time to try for a seventh CP.  At this point we were 63 miles in and had 2 1/2 hours left to midnight.  A seventh was possible, if all went well and we encountered no mechanicals.  Not willing to take the risk (if we came in after midnight, we would be DQ'd and no QOP for me.)  We both decided to head back to camp.  Right after our decision, the wind began to whip and it started raining lightly.  I was also getting cold, so I tucked in behind Kip and drafted off him.  On 1206, we once again came upon Sam and Trish, who were stopped alongside the road.

In hindsight, we probably would have had plenty of time to snag the CP on Bennett.  But we had both completely forgot about this one.  

The descent back down 276 was bitterly cold.  It seemed to take just as long to go down as it did earlier in the day to climb up.  Towards the end all I wanted to do was climb and get warm again.  Those little kickers on 475 after the fish hatchery were leg killers!

We arrived back at camp at 10:48.  I had enough time to eat and put on some new clothes for the special test at midnight.  This was going to be a short track race through the campground.  10 laps with time bonuses for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.  Each lap took about a minute.  It was all easy save for the 3 foot log you had to lift your bike up and over, unless you were Sam who bunny-hopped it 3 times I believe.  

After 88 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing, and with a 1/2 CP for finishing the short track, we had 7 CP's for the day.  

Afterwards, I treated myself to a nice hot shower in Cam's RV, ate/drank some more, and then curled up in my vehicle for a few hours of restless sleep.  Looking at the stars through my moonroof, I smiled.  Today was a good day.  Beautiful country, new to me trail,and lots of laughs with an awesome partner.  Could Day 2 trump today?  

Nutrition on the bike:  6 dates, 6 energy squares, 2 gels, 1 Red Bull, 1 RX bar, 2 Larabars, 6 baby potatoes, 4 strips bacon, and 110 ounces of Skratch.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Wilson's Creek Revenge Race Report

This was the third and final race of the Blue Ridge Monster Cross Series.  The location was in the Grandfather district of Pisgah National Forest near Lenoir, NC.  This one had the greatest percentage of gravel, with only 4 miles of pavement.  It also was the easiest, with mostly gentle climbing and fast hardpack roads.

I had spent the week prior doing almost absolutely nothing, aside from working.  My body desperately needed to recover from the beat down it took when I did what I would call a Triple Crown:  Pisgah Monster Cross, Black Bear Rampage, and Fools Gold 50.  What the mid-40's has taught me is that recovery is even more crucial than before.

Arriving a bit late to the venue, I did not get my warm up that my body likes and needs.  Fortunately, the race started with a neutral roll out.  As we rolled along Brown Mountain Beach Road with a police escort keeping us at a nice 17 mph pace, I saw three women up front.  I was more mid pack.  I just did not feel like fighting my way up front so early in the race.  After 4 miles the police car pulled off and let us go.

But we didn't.  No one up front seemed interested in upping the pace.  So we cruised along at 17 mph for another 6 miles, With 30+ of us in a tight group on an unknown road, I got a little nervous.  The longer the pack stayed bunched, the greater the risk for some catastrophe.  The first 10 miles was a pleasant 2-3% grade along Wilson's Creek, but I was too focused on those around me to look at the beautiful scenery.

Photo Credit:  Daren Wilz

Finally, the road began to kick up and the pack thinned.  I settled into my happy climbing pace and watched two women in front of me pull away with the front of the pack.  Trying to stay with them would only have been disastrous for me later in the race.

I had not sent a drop bag to the first aid at mile 13, so I blew on by.  Then the fun began.  I turned off the nice fast hardpack gravel road to a double track climb that was a little less CX bike friendly.  It was here that I caught the second place woman.  Exchanging some pleasantries, I motored on by.

Another mile or so of double track and then I was directed onto a fire road that reminded me of some old ATV roads in Tellico:  steep, washed out, with sections of large, off-camber rock.  Oh, and it was wet!  I was able to ride the first half and passed a couple off their bike.  I soon caught up to the first place woman.  She was trying to ride also.  I could tell that it was not advantageous to do so at this point, so I hopped off my bike, and began a long run up.  I passed her on foot, upped the pace to shake her off my tail, never looking back.

After about a half mile of HAB, I was able to remount.  The climbing was still steep but at least rideable.  I saw Brian just ahead and reeled him in.  We have been in close proximity of one another at all three races and have worked well together, keeping the pace high, ensuring that we didn't slip into a slower, "day-dreamy" pace.

Around mile 26, I heard a familiar voice behind me.  It was Kip!  He was single speeding on a mountain bike with fat tires!  He is a beast!  But a very happy and sociable beast.  Nothing but an upbeat attitude.  I welcomed his company.  Along with a couple other racers, I was in a group of 3-5 for the remainder of the course.  It was great.  One was a great descender and so we followed his lines.  I liked to motor on the gentle climbs and so kept the pace high here.  Brian was good on the steeper climbs and forced us out of our comfort zone.

Rolling into the second aid station, a couple of us stopped.  Quickly swapping bottles, we soon regrouped and began the ardous climb up Maple Grove gravel Road.  To most this was a kick in the "u know what!"

18% grade in the final bit to the top. Photo Credit:  Daren Wilz

However, the reward was 19 miles of some of the sweetest gravel I have ever ridden.  Maple Sally Road (FS 187) did not disappoint.  This road gradually fell from 2300 feet to 1300 feet.  Full of rollers and curves, it was all about taking the right lines and keeping the hands off the brakes.  I was also treated to some  spectacular views.  Four of us, including Kip and Brian, took turns up front, and made short work of this section.

With about 3 miles to go, I began to smell the barn.  And, not knowing where 2nd and 3rd were, I needed to pick up the pace.  The legs were feeling great and aside from the one pavement kicker towards the end, I was all smiles.  Coming into the finsh area, the tape routed us through a section of Wilson's Creek.  It was here that I was almost taken out by the inner tubes that had anchors keeping them in place in the flowing waters.  That's what you get for trying to stick close to the tape.

Anne all smiles at the finish

One last punchy climb up to the finishing arch and I was done:  3:40:07.  It wasn't but a few short years ago that I absolutely hated gravel grinding.  Now I cannot get enough of it!

In the company of some super strong young women!

The post race meal was fantabulous.  I had emailed Cam prior to the event and he had the caterer prepare a chicken with no sauce (thereby eliminating any chance of being "glutened").  The best smoked 1/2 chicken I have ever had.  I would highly recommend Blue Mountain Revival events:  beautiful courses, good food (and beer), unique trophies, AND equal payout for the series!

The beginning of the course.