Monday, May 4

PMBAR 2009 in the books

When Eric "PMBAR Honcho" Wever says "GO!" you have two options.

Option One: You open up your map, identify the checkpoints, and head up the Black Mountain Trail with your partner to begin your day.

Option Two: You head up the Black Mountain Trail with your partner for about twenty minutes, get to Pressley Gap, and then pull out your map and formulate a plan.

Since I never trust that Eric won't throw in a special test at the start to keep everybody in check I tend to insist on opening the map first. I watched as probably 25 of the 70 plus teams chose to start up the trail, including local race favorites Grandpa Bob Koerber (yes, Willow and Sam's dad) and Crazy Dennis Helton (GB and CD from here on out). This being Thad's first PMBAR he was pretty much along for the ride and at the mercy of my decisions, so I made the executive decision to pull out the map first. I thought I identified all the checkpoints and came up with a route to snag all five (four are necessary for a finish, and the fifth one was worth a two hour time bonus). We started our climb up to Pressley Gap, and headed out for a day in the woods.

Once we arrived at Pressley Gap we didn't hesitate on our route, and we left some of the early starters standing in the field as they pored over their maps. I felt confident we were on a good route, and I couldn't imagine a more logical choice. Down an old road to another that needed climbing we moved forward with our eyes on the prize.

Thad was looking strong on the second climb of the day, and as I followed along I went over the route in my head over and over... snag Cantrell/Squirrel, get over to Bradley, then knock out Laurel/Pilot, and finish up with 225.... I started thinking about the ramifications of reversing the route when I finally realized I had not taken one of the most remote check points into consideration. After some quick brain shuffling I included it in my virtual route in my head, and we were back on track. Actually we were never off track, but such is the way of PMBAR.

Our first PMBAR mindF**k was when GB and CD (who had a head start on us) passed us on our way to the first checkpoint. This meant three things:

We figured out an easier/faster way to get where we were when they passed us.

They passed us proving they were stronger than us at that point.

They might be on a similar route plan, which meant we might be doing something right.

After the chance meeting in the woods I started thinking that second place for a second straight year would be acceptable. Somehow we ended up getting to our first checkpoint in time to see GB and CD take off towards their second.

L-R Grandpa Bob, MOOTSDicky, three volunteers, and Crazy Dennis (Thad behind the camera).

My plan was to shoot down Cantrell, but I got swept up into the action and we ended up following the favorites down Squirrel Gap. I knew they were gonna put more time on us going down this technical stretch, but there was still a lot riding to go before the day would be over. Going down Squirell we ran into a shit ton of teams going the other way providing plenty more opportunites for PMBAR mindf**king.

"Where did they come from?"
"Where are they going?"
"Are they going for four or five?"
"Did I leave the oven on at home?"

Thad and I ended up pulling into CP2 as GB and CD were rolling out proving that the gap was still minimal. They headed off in a direction I was unfamiliar with, so we stuck to the plan this time to get our third checkpoint.

After a l-o-n-g climb out the Turkey Pen area Thad and I were in for a long out and back. The cool thing was CD and GB would be doing the same out and back, so we would see how large the gap was when they were on their return trip. When we arrived we had never crossed paths with them and they were not at the checkpoint which meant:

They went a different way that was longer or had a mechanical.


They weren't headed to this checkpoint at all.

I hurried the volunteer along, and we turned our asses around as fast as possible. Within minutes we saw GB and CD headed right towards us. I shouted "Bumble Bee tuna!!" to them as we passed knowing that we had the advantage now... but not for long.

After the painful grind back up 1206 we were in for the long singletrack climb up Laurel Mountain. This trail favors the even pace of a geared squishy, so in the back of my mind I knew GB and CD were gonna close the gap down on us here for sure. When we hit the steepest pitch towards the end Thad let me know he wasn't quite feeling it, and by the time we topped out GB and CD were right there to make the pass. We all rolled into CP4 together.

They got outta the CP first, and when the volunteer asked them where they were going next (it's a safety requirement so Eric knows where to look for your body if it doesn't make it to the finish line) they said either CP5 or the finish line. The volunteer was still standing there with a stumped look when I begged for a quick stamp, and I told her we were going for the fifth check point way the hell away from where we were right now.

Thad mentioned in his version of the story that "I hated being an anchor to Dicky, this should have been his year for top step", but I beg to differ. Thad slowed down a tick, but we were probably six hours into the race, and Pisgah ain't no joke. The trip out to the gate on service road 225 was a long ride, and since it had the same out and back feel we would once again be able to gauge the gap to GB and CD. As we approached the check point we crossed paths with Wes "King of Pisgah" Dickson and his partner Chris Bennett. Where did they come from and how many CP's had they bagged? Surely not five???

When we got to the checkpoint the volunteer told us that he was pretty sure that Wes and Chris had snagged five and were heading home. GB and CD had never been there, so they musta felt the extra riding might have been too much to justify the two hour bonus. Now it was a race to catch the local tyrant Wes and his partner.

I started to put a little something into the climb outta CP5, but at that point it was apparent that I had broke my Thad. We had probably rode over seventy miles at this point, so it was understandable. It was pretty easy to face the facts:

Wes and Chris had a gap on us, and even if we caught them it was going to be a knock down drag out fight to the finish against guys with squish and gears.

GB and CD had opted outta the bonus CP, so we just needed to finish no less than two hours behind them to snag second.

I'd love to say that the last hour and a half flew by, but it was just painful. We were in a no-man's land where we wouldn't be able to move fast enough to take the top spot, but we had to keep moving to hold onto second (this is all theoretical till we crossed the line since anybody coulda nailed the CP's in some other order and beat us, but I was sticking with this idea of coming in second for motivation). When we finally crossed the line after nine and a half hours of effort it was official, second place to none other than the King himself and his squire.

Thad's version of the story is filled with happiness and regret. Don't listen to him (about the regret part). When a team of two riders can cover somewhere around 80+ miles in Pisgah with zero accidents, zero mechanicals, and zero total collapses you can't ask for anything more. I'm quite proud of what we did out there, and proud of him for just putting his head down even though he had no idea where we were or what was ahead 95% of the time.

We did good... like Superman.

Thad's got more photo's, and when I get a chance to steal some from Brado I'll get them up tomorrow... and of course there will be a re-cap re-cap.


Anonymous said...

Good job! Heller riding. I was not so good for my first PMBAR.

I also had a partner that had never been there and was not ready for what he got. Oh well, great day in the woods and good beer!

Blair said...

PMBAR was quite a bit harder than recent years. Congrats to you and Thad. Second is most definitely a worthwhile achievement.

I enjoyed meeting Thad. I especially appreciate him providing evidence as to how the top of the motorhome got damaged.

Big Bikes said...

Was the shouting of "Bumble Bee Tuna!" some sort of psychological warfare technique meant to confuse your competitors?

Because it confused me, I re-read the first part of the post three times looking for some reference that would make it make sense. Now I'm going to plow straight into a bus on the way to work pondering it. Thanks a lot.


brado1 said...

nice work on 2nd !

Photos posted:

Anonymous said...

Great report! I started following your blog 'cuz of your Ruta report a couple years ago. Race more so you can blog that instead of all the other stuff. Or maybe an annual blogcott to refresh your creativity.

jim m