Elevation: 5400 feet
Temperature: 41-73 degrees F
|Might I add that Zeke|
Hump day! Walking up the stairs at my hosts' house this morning, the legs felt way better than I expected. The massage after yesterday's stage was well worth the money. After coffee, eggs, and a sweet potato, I headed to the start a bit earlier than usual. I needed an adequate warm up, as right out of the gate, some intense double track climbing along Black and Sycamore Cove would begin the day's stage.
When the gun went off, I expected mayhem as people jockeyed for position. Everyone must have gotten the "restless leg syndrome" out of them in the first two stages, as the pace was tame. The legs were happy and I was excited to see "new to me" trail. I had never ridden Sycamore Cove and since it was dry, I can say that it was fun. Lots of roots along this side cut trail, with some ups/downs before you were able to send it a 1/2 mile back down to Highway 276.
Then back up Black again, this time on Thrift Cove Trail. My new friend John from Jersey, decided that he liked my consistency (I had caught up to him and dropped him the first two stages) and rode with me most of the day. We had some great conversation and he was super polite, making sure that he was not bothering me with his talking and riding my wheel.
The HAB up Middle Black went by quickly. More than any other race I have done in Pisgah, the HAB this week was super enjoyable. It was a combination of talking with my fellow racers and allowing my back some recovery time. Descending off the backside of Black, I got a bit of a gap on John, but he caught back up to me on the descent down Maxwell. More gravel climbing up Clawhammer and then a super fun descent down Buckhorn Gap. There were a couple tricky creek crossings and I was glad I had pre ridden this trail the month prior.
As I popped out on FS 477, John stopped at the aid station. I kept going, thinking that John was gonna catch right back up to me. This was the first time since the beginning of the race that I felt some sparkle. I took it and ran with it! I got into a rhythm of both standing and seated climbing. I caught up to Gordon and Emily first. Told Emily that I smelled a beast and that beast was her. Just trying to send some positive vibes after her spill on TurkeyPen road yesterday.
Then I rode up to Meghan and David. Meghan and I had talked quite a bit after yesterday's stage. It seems that the ideal prep work leading up to this stage race had not occurred as we envisioned. But that we were just gonna train through and have fun. As I slowly rode away from her on the climb, I told her that her race (Avery Creek enduro) lay just ahead.
I met Kim from Vermont on the climb up Club Gap. Having never ridden here before, she had crushed the first two enduros. I told her that if I did not get out of her way on the Avery descent to just use me for traction.
Avery Creek is a huge chunky descent at more than 2 miles long. Huge drops, ruts, and bouldery sections made it feel like I bull riding (for 10+ minutes). I wish I had the confidence to just let my bike's suspension eat up the gnar, but the "I gotta work on Monday" mentality had me using way too much brake.
My goal was to not get caught by Meghan, David, and Kim. They must have had a picnic at the top because I was within a 1/4 mile of the finish when I heard the buzz of their I 9's. I had plenty of time to yield to their mad skills. Despite getting caught, I still had fun. I can say that my descending skills have improved since the last time I rode Avery, but my fore arms and calves let me know that I still have more to learn.
Hitting the aid station the second time, I stopped and swapped bottles. Then a quick blast down FS 477 and up Maxwell to Clawhammer. On the way, I saw James and Beth for the second time that day. They are my favorite fans!
I found myself riding with Kim again. We HAB'd it to the top of Black. She wanted me to proceed, as she was just gonna chill down Black. I knew better and let her on by. I saw her for about 20 seconds before she vanished around a corner. I was hoping I would have a clear shot with no dabs today. I came upon a poor racer dude, who probably had to yield to Kim rushing up on his wheel and now me. I tried to chat it up a bit as I made the pass; he was silent. Finally, a clean run (during a race) on Black.
I rolled through the finish line, first master's. Putting more time into second, I now had a comfortable lead. But Pisgah takes no prisoners and tomorrow was the Queen Stage. I headed over to the massage tent to begin my recovery race. Today I opted for 30 minutes of bliss, where I melted into the table.
After 3 days of racing, I definitely felt the hunger demons. No worries as the farm to table food was a cornucopia of pulled chicken, black-eyed peas, corn pudding, and a salad. No GF version of the corn pudding so I piled on the chicken and peas. I did try a slice of tempeh, which was the vegan alternative to the meat every night. Needless to say, glad I am a omnivore.
No sooner than my head hit the pillow was I fast asleep, dreaming of plummeting down a mountain of rock.