Monday, May 21

2012 Pisgah 111K Race Report

Obviously the decision to care about my result at the Pisgah Eleventy-One started with the choice to stay in a hotel the night before the race. That was probably the only good decision I made in the weeks leading up to this past Saturday. "Training" was sporadic, my diet was poor, beers drank were numerous. I still really wanted to win this thing, so a proper night's sleep was the least I could do.

Up and at it Friday morning with a quick ride over from the hotel.

photo cred: Brado

I planned to be there early and prepared. I was halfway there. Let's just say I was early, and at the front of the line.

photo cred: Kris Kjellquist

Off the start and rolling neutral behind a police car, I stayed in the second row back. Once we turned onto the gravel, the race went live and the big boys went to town.

photo cred: Brado

I slid back into the field and watched as something like five or six single speeders slipped past me. My only slick move from the early moments of the race was speeding up towards the gate at the bottom of Clawhammer, and instead of waiting in line to squeeze around the gate, I dismounted and ducked under passing a lot of riders back... temporarily.

Climb up Clawhammer, get to the gradual descent of Buckhorn/South Mills, and hit the steep singletrack climb up Squirrel. I didn't have the punch I had weeks ago when I rode this same section, so I slowed down and even more riders made their way past me.

It's early, don't worry.

Once we started going down Squirrel, I started to make my way back up through the field. That is until I clipped a pedal, flew off the side of the trail and down the hill, smashed my left ankle into my crank, lost one of my bottles, and contused my right thigh. The wind was out of the sails. I could no longer pedal while standing without pain, and if you can't stand on a single speed in Pisgah, it's game over.

photo cred: Brado

Another single speeder gets by me. I can't figure out where his strengths lie. He's all over the place and ahead of me all the same. I blew through the first aid station twenty miles in knowing that my race was over. At the sharp turn at the intersection of Bradley and South Mills, I stopped to lay some branches and a big rock across the trail to make sure no one blew through the turn. And then Watts Dixon came along.

I rode with Watts all the way through Bradley and together we passed the random single speeder with unknown strengths and weaknesses. We climbed some of 5015 together, but part ways up, I told Watts about my inability to stand and he continued on without me. At the top, I was in no hurry to get out of the aid station. Clay Faine was volunteering, and he told me to hurry up, stop re-packing my drop bag with my empty bottles, and get back out there.

"He's only a minute ahead of you."

No idea who "he" is, but I assume it's Watts... that is until Watts catches me on the downhill outta the aid station minutes later and tells me it's Zac that's a minute ahead.


So I spend the next long while going up Wash Creek Road telling Watts what I know, who's ahead, what I think their game plan is, the climbs, the descents... I need to have some kind of impact on the race. When the going gets tough after the turn onto Spencer Branch, he left me behind, racing towards glory.

Once I started heading down Spencer Branch, things started turning around for me. My leg started doing leg stuff without hurting. I planned on catching Watts and his rigid fork on the rough descent, but when I do, he's standing in the woods fixing a flat. A free five minute head start at minimum. Nice.

Onto the Never Ending Grassy Road of Death, I thought I saw a rider ahead. No, it's just a tree. Or is it a rider? Down Fletcher I go.

As Fletcher started to rise up towards Reservoir Road, I saw that the blur ahead was in fact a rider, a single speed rider. When I catch up to him, I see that it's one of the local single speed favorites, Marshall Hance. He said he was cramping up and probably dropping out. I hated to hear about his cramps, and I woulda offered him some mustard... had I remembered to put it in my jersey pockets. Cramps had been weighing heavily on my mind ever since I realized I had forgotten my remedy back at the car.

I leave Marshall behind and go on looking for others. When I passed through the Trace Ridge parking lot, the course marshal told me I was just a minute behind the next guy.

"Is he short with long hair?"


"Good, I hate him."

I don't hate Zac, but at this moment he is the object of my hate. I was not ready to begin what I considered my move, but move I must. I started up Yellow Gap at full steam and quickly caught up to Zac. We had a brief conversation, and then I stuck it hard. He knew I was just trying to look strong, because that's what you do. I knew I had to keep doing it, since looking strong means nothing if you can't back it up.

I hit 1206, and I started my planned "attack." As far as I know, Geoffrey "The FBI is watching you masturbate" Bergmark is the only one ahead of me. We've raced against each other before, and when I manage to beat him, it's on a big climb later in the race. I mashed my way up 1206 and tried to keep up the pace all the way to the top of Laurel. I passed a mess of geared riders but no Geoffrey. My fifteen kilometer all-out effort only managed to put my hamstrings into a pre-cramp quiver. There was no Geoffrey to be found.

I was confused. Was Geoffrey even in front of me? Other racers said he was ahead. Spectators and volunteers didn't know if they saw him or not. In my opinion, my attack was brutal. No way he was still out ahead, and Zac, who knows I hate climbing Laurel, will have no idea that I just sprinted to the top. I guess just getting on the podium would be nice.

Down Pilot Rock (my favorite decent in Pisgah), I was a mess. I could go fast, but in the slow technical sections, it was a different story. My shit was coming apart with more than 20K to go. I descended carefully, looking over my shoulder for Zac, Watts, or whoever might be able to take advantage of my inability to ride with flair.

Once I got to the bottom of Pilot, I rummaged through my pockets. No mustard, no gels with caffeine, only regular gels and a pack of Honey Stinger Energy Chews meant to be eaten before the start. Better late than never.

At the end of 476, the final aid station had Coke. I hemmed and hawed about the idea of wasting a whole can since I only wanted half a can. Mike Rischitelli of Suspension Experts assured me he would give the other half to another racer. I was okay with that. I told him that I wasn't having issues with going fast, just steering around things that were in the way. His delicious Coke was a life saver.

Up the Wheelchair Ramp climb, over the heinous hike-a-bike over Black Mountain, only to see my former Double Dare partner from years past Captain Morgan hitting the final descent less than a minute ahead of me. It was all downhill (almost) from there.

I was a mess coming down upper-upper Black. My brain was fried, my emotions were all over the place, and so was I. The By:Stickle bounced down the mountain as I made my way to the lower section where I sped down it's Hot Wheels track smooth surface and crossed the line having no idea how I finished.

Eric "Pisgah 111K" Honcho came over and asked me how it went.

"Meh. Where's Bergmark?"

"He went off course and dropped out."

A Pasty White Bearded Hill Person got off course? I wonder how I did...

Eric went over to the timing tent to verify what was becoming apparent.

I won.

Neat. Not as emotional as crossing the line triumphantly, but I'll take it.

Don't worry, I'll drag this one out for a few days.


Rob said...

Big congrats on pulling thru mustard-less and all, especially after that tumble.

I can't imagine coming down pilot very fast at all even at my best, that is some scary crap at points.

Anonymous said...

Killer! Congrats!

Chris said...

Mike is a man-god. Or a crack dealer.

Chris said...

Congrats man ... you actually passed me and a couple of buddies while climbing the upper part of Spencer Gap, looked like it was smooth sailing for you.

After riding about 20 miles (spencer, laurel, pilot ) of the race course on friday/saturday morning i'm super impressed that A) anyone can do 70 miles in pisgah in a day, B) while on a single speed, C) in ~7 hours ... awesome riding.

Chris Baker said...

Nice ride, congrats

AdamB said...

Sweet! Way to go (mostly because it enable you to write a ride report like the good ol' days)!
How is your ankle feeling today? Ouch...