Monday, May 9

PMBAR 2011: The Nickel Slip

Two hours and thirty-four minutes into the race, Zac and I were killing it. It was just one of those days where it felt like our legs would last forever and knowing that the first 4/5 of our route was totally dialed, our mental game was rocking. Two checkpoints in and not a whole lotta tracks going our way... hell yeah, though the stoke only lasted a little bit longer. We were crossing a stream and up ahead I saw the Extreme Tomato forging through the knee deep water. I asked him how his day was going, and he told me they were just going for a ride since he said they forgot to hand Eric (PMBAR Honcho) Wever the wooden nickel at the start.

"Wooden nickel?" I asked.

"Yeah man, rule number thirteen in the passport," he replied.

Let's flash back about three hours.

Zac and I were kinda having a late start at the campground. By late, I mean by my standards of being early to everything. As we left the campground across the street from the start, Zac said he needed one more stop at the little boy's room, so I headed over to catch the pre-race meeting. As far as I knew we didn't have to be there any earlier as we had done our gear check the night before.

By the time I got there the crowd was already assembled. From the back row I couldn't hear what Eric was saying as he was wrapping up, but I heard some occasional applause . At about 7:47 Eric told everybody to have one teammate come get a passport. Being the one teammate who was not in the crapper and also the "veteran" PMBAR racer, that duty fell to me.

And then things fell apart.

Yes, that says the race starts at 8:00AM. Regardless of that piece of information, once Eric had handed out all the passports he said "Go!"

The time was 7:52AM (it was 7:50 on my watch, but later checking it against my phone my watch was two minutes fast) and my partner was still in the crapper. I panicked. I ran around yelling for Zac in a sea of something like 2-300 people (most of them wearing helmets) while trying to look at my passport. I was told specifically when it was handed to me to read the whole thing, but at the time I was watching riders head out while I was still searching for my partner. I fell into panic mode, and when I do that, I have a hard time digging out.

Let's go farther back in time. This is my 7th PMBAR. For years I've grown tired of seeing racers just start riding out of the parking lot when Eric said "Go" without looking at the passport or map. I've always been the guy who pulls out the map, lays it on the ground, and reviews the information before I head out into the woods. You see, I never trusted that Eric wouldn't change things up, and every year I would tell him that I wished he would. Well, he did this year. Although I heard countless times to "read all the rules," I never absorbed anything while I was shitting my pants while my partner was not shitting his.

I found Zac about 3-5 minutes after the start, but the damage was done to my brain. I did not read the rules, and most importantly I did not read rule #13.

13. Every Team Race Packet contains a Wooden Nickel; that must be given to the Race Director prior to leaving the start!

Failure to adhere to rule #13 = 2 hour penalty

That means we were fucked.

We came to PMBAR to do well, really well, not 10-15th place. We discussed pushing for all five checkpoints and collecting the three hour bonus, but knowing we were at a two hour disadvantage to the other teams going after five, we decided to go four and out. Putting in a 10+ day in search of what would be a mediocre (in comparison to our elevated expectations) finish was not in the cards.

We backed off our pace. We ate toasted cheese sandwiches and talked to everybody we knew out on the course. Wooden nickels were a popular topic for discussions. In the words of Bull Durham's Coach Skip, we were "lollygagging," but we were having a good ride. When we finished up with our fourth checkpoint we headed for the finish, and as we crossed the line we were informed that our "efforts" made us the first official finishers (with only four checkpoints/no time bonus), but with our negative bonus our virtual selves would not cross the line till 6:22PM, two hours later.

I was sad.

And then I was mad.

I went to grab Eric's bigger-than-it-should-be-for-a-guy-his-size head and rip it off, but Zac was not down with my plan.

I was so pissed that I grabbed the giant tent, flipped it over, and started beating the cowering spectators with the tent poles.

All right, I accepted defeat, fought off the tears a couple times, and drank beer the rest of the night. I blame myself here. Not only did I not read the rules, I'm the guy who has been bugging Eric for years to do exactly this kinda thing. I had a strong teammate, I had years of messed up routes to learn from, and I wasted the opportunity because I couldn't calm down for two minutes at the start of a 10+ hour race. Fuck me.

Like every other PMBAR, it was still fun. Good trails, good company, good beer, and good times.

Zac took our fate like a champ. Looking at the results we had a shot at top three (based on who we had put in our rear view on the same route while we were lollygagging around). Beating Sam Koerber and Jacob McGahey (sp)? That wasn't gonna happen unless they had a serious mechanical issue. I felt like I let Zac down, but later he did tell me that he was literate and had the ability to read English "real good," so I guess I can blame him too.

At least I had more time than usual to watch people finish and hang out with some loyal reader folk.

Some were better company than others.

I think Karen was only happy to see me still alive after she almost ran me over in a Ford dualie.

There's always next year, and they say eight is a charm, right?

A big thanks Eric, Erinna, and all the volunteers. Still the best race of the year, hands down. I'm glad Eric did the wooden nickel thing even if it did bite me in the ass, and I feel confident that I won't be the only one scrutinizing the passport next year. It was good seeing friends old and new at what has essentially become the Pisgah Class Reunion.

Am I in next year?



Chris said...

Thanks for stopping at the end of Buckhorn Gap. Tony was having head issues after a concussion two weeks ago and kept taking off his helmet at breaks and talking about burritos. As you rode off, we agreed that you seemed nicer than we would have thought. The glide back to the DNF was one of the smarter things we did that day.

SS29er said...

I made a Dicky Blog!!! I can die now, life's mission complete...Well maybe I'll stick around long enough for one more PMBAR next year. Thank you to my Sweet Heart girlfriend for almost running Rich over and then later introducing me to my hero while I scarfed my burito! See you next year

Anonymous said...

That ain't no spectator..... that's JOE MOTHAF*CKIN T!!!!

wv: bonse

"After drinking 12 Miller Lites and a Double Arrogant, Joe M'F'in T was STILL not bonsed."

Montana said...

A two hour penalty for a nickel? That's a bum deal.

And everybody knows you're too short to flip that tent over.

Anonymous said...

what a dick

Emily said...

I love how you went and got a screencap from Eric's site to prove that he started the racer meeting and race 10 minutes early... hee hee.

Also: "you seemed nicer than we would have thought." You didn't see him kicking puppies and berating Zac back at the camp ground. It was awful! :)