Monday, May 7

PMBAR 2012: It's all about meh

For those that don't understand PMBAR: Teams of two riders will race to reach 4 of 5 checkpoints, in any order, and return to the start/finish. Checkpoint locations will remain secret until start-time and there is no suggested route. Routes will vary between 50-80 miles, will include 9,000-15,000 feet of climbing, and should take 6-12 hours to complete... Once you leave the start/finish you are on your own. There will be no drops, sag wagons, or other outside support available.

Usually when the race starts, Eric "PMBAR Honcho" Wever has already handed the racers their passports.  The race begins with people slowly leaving the starting area as they become familiar with the checkpoint locations and off-limits map.   This  year, we started en masse with our passports waiting for us at the top of the first climb.  I rushed Zac to the line after this announcement, but we ended up in the third row back.

Once we hit the climb, I told Zac that we should climb at a reserved pace, but that's easier said than done.  After awhile, we cut loose and started passing people until we caught up to perennial PMBAR winner, Sam Koerber.  Maybe we went a little too fast...

We ended up being the third team to the passports, behind the Pasty White Bearded Hill People and the w√ľnderteam of Koerber and Industry Nine's Jacob McGahey.  From there, we looked at the checkpoints in the passport, came up with a plan, and headed out.  On our way to the first checkpoint, I reviewed the passport while riding looking for surprises or trickery.  None were to be found.  A wooden nickel would not stand between us and success this year.

For our first checkpoint, we decided to push up the entire Avery Creek trail.  There may have been an easier way to get to the checkpoint 2/3 of the way up, but the old road indicated on the passport did not connect with the trail on the map.  I wasn't familiar enough with this unknown, so up we went... slowly.  We got the checkpoint, and four other teams had beat us there, meaning that the other way was probably faster.  The good news was that we were the only team heading to the furthest west checkpoint from there, so score us two points for originality.

On our way to CP2, we saw the local team of Marshall Hance/Adam Winton.  We quickly figured out that they only had one checkpoint so far, and at least that was some consolation seeing them on their way out on our way in.  After we got a stamp, we quickly got turned around and headed for CP3, full of piss and vinegar.  We reloaded out water bottles at the Pink Beds picnic area, and as we approached the bottom of Pilot Rock, we saw the Pasty White Bearded Hill People. They were coming from a most illogical direction, one indicative of only having one CP in the bag thus far.

With their gears, skills, and whatnot, they were off and gone while we hike-a-biked up the gnar.  I figured they would get ten minutes on us before we got to our third CP, but we found out we were only four minutes back when we arrived.  The chase was on, going full speed down Laurel Mountain.  Zac and I were in a groove of hate and lightning.  And then...

Zac asked me if I noticed anything funny looking about his rear wheel.  It was difficult to do a diagnosis while rolling down the mountain with a certain amount of concern for my own safety.  Eventually Zac hopped off to hike a technical section, and he grabbed his rear wheel.  He shook it all about.  He asked me to look.

His axle was sheared off on the disc side side right at the hub shell.  It only took about ten seconds for us to realize that our race was over.

I have never in nine years not finished a PMBAR.  Even the year that my partner Jody broke his frame, I went on to grab one more CP by myself to finish with the minimum amount and cross the line for a DQ.  As Zac and I pondered our fate, Chris Strout rolled up and said that he had co-workers near the end of the trail at the Stephen Janes's grilled cheese stop.  I asked Zac if he cared if I went for the last two CP's without him.  He acquiesced my request.

I rolled on with a vengeance.  I somehow managed to get down 1206, up Yellow Gap, and over to CP 4 before the Pasty White Bearded Hill People.  That meant that I had 4CP's in the bag and they were still at only two.  Holy shit.  I hot-footed it out of there and mashed the climb up Trace and over to Wash Creek Road to grab my final two bottles of water.

After putting the big climb up 1206 behind me, I had to find the top of Bradley Creek trail.  It took me awhile, as it sits behind some campsites and it is not marked.  Once I dropped in and started heading down to the 900 creek crossings and vague trail markings, I figured I would never see another racer since our (now my) route was unique and no one should be down there at this point in the race. Then I bumped into Paul Stahlschmidt and Kip Clyburn coming up.  WTF?

A little chat and then back to the loneliness ahead.

At my final CP, I asked nicely for my pointless passport stamp.  They had beer, but I was determined to do the whole race with only the liquids I got on my own in my two bottles.  Pack-less PMBAR was still something I wanted to do, and free beer would have skewed the experimental pooch.  Once I left the CP, I headed out on the South Mills River Trail and realized a reversal of our route would have made more sense.  The painful push up Cantrell Creek and Horse Cove Gap reaffirmed my beliefs. With no one to keep me company, no glory to hurry home to, and nowhere else to be, my pace fell off and boredom set in.

A fun run down Squirrel offered at least some respite, but then I faced the Wheelchair Ramp climb, the ho-hum descent down Clawhammer, and the climb up Maxwell Cove.  I was hoping to run into someone for company on the return, but it was not to be.  Climbing up Maxwell, not to a podium finish, but a DQ, was not inspiring.  I walked a few very ride-able sections.  Fuck it.  Who cares?

Over the final hike-a-bike and ripped down Black Mountain to the finish.  Eric was there with a smile, and he asked where Zac was.  I explained everything while the timing person listened.  She had heard enough, said I was DQ'ed, and ripped my number plate in half.


Seriously, that hurt.  Five CP's, 9:15 of effort, the last five hours alone, six bottles of Gatorade, and RIP!!!!

photo cred: Eric Wever

It's not like I expected any fanfare or adulation.  PMBAR eats the weak.  It was just an empty moment for me.  I checked the results, and as expected, the usual suspects were on top.  I came in around 7th or 8th and it wasn't to hard too figure out that had I not been alone, sad, pulling out the map for an excuse to stop, chatting with people, walking up ride-able climbs... top five might have been within our grasp.

Top three?  Maybe.

Win?  Not unless Sam and Jacob were mauled by a bear, but even then I think the bear would end up on the short end of the stick in that fight.  Those bears shit in the woods, but only because Sam Koerber allows it.

Tomorrow I'll do a little re-hashing, Pack-less talk, and that's about it.  Our American Classic cookie crumbled.  No fault of ours, so I can't be pissed.

We'll get 'em next year.


Anonymous said...

If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all.

I need to dust off my bike.


TYPLES said...

could have fixed that axle with a stick...