Even though we stayed up even later and had a few more beers, I managed to take great care of myself and was pleasantly surprised to see all my riding gear laid out for yours truly the next morning at 6:00AM. I was a little rough around the edges, but nothing I'm not used to at this point. The 8:00AM start loomed...
photo cred: Drunk CyclistI had a plan (to plan). My eyes don't work well enough that I can read the passport on the first climb anymore, and I need to take my glasses off to even the see print. When the race started, we'd be taking the time to plot our route before getting on our bikes.
photo cred: Drunk CyclistSeven minutes to plan an 8-9 hour ride. Makes sense. Four checkpoints to finish, two of which are mandatory, and getting a fifth will net us a two hour bonus. We're going for five.
Mandatory CPs in red.
I thought I had a good plan. Almost maybe perfect... based on things I think I know from previous experiences. Hopefully it pays off this time. Pretty sure I've got a general idea where all the checkpoints are and how to put them together.
Up Black Mountain, not with the fast people that leave right at the start tho. Zac and I would normally be scooting up to Pressley Gap with the best of the best. Watts and I are stuck in the traffic of the general population. And he's getting through the masses faster, better, and smarter than I am the whole way.
Up to Pressley Gap and right through on what I thought was the best route to South Mills.
Maxwell>Clawhammer>Buckhorn>South Mills>Squirrel>Horse>Cantrell>South Mills>CP
Along the way, we saw a few others who were going sorta the same way. People who know Pisgah. It's reaffirming. We saw Zac and Nick coming from the other way. It made no sense to me, but I reminded myself that's how PMBAR works. Little ever makes sense, and when it does, it's probably bad news.
Speaking of which, we pull into our first checkpoint, and it's crowded. People that we were pretty sure we should be faster than had gotten there much quicker by just taking Turkey Pen.
"Is this your second check point?"
Shit. I forgot one of the reasons to go my way was to pick up any check points that were down in that hole, but this year, there were none. I fucked us.
The rest of our route was pretty set in stone from there, aside from a few on the fly changes. We'd be stomping up Bradley Creek (a trail nobody ever rides because of its millions of time sucking creek crossings, downed trees, and general miserableness). It would be an out an back, so at last we might get to see just how far behind out competitors we are when they come back at us. We saw Forron and Sweeney. Watts asked me how far we were to the turn-around and how bad is this situation. I don't lie, but I mention that it's still a long day. Anything can happen.
Up to the Bradley CP, and the volunteer asks me to pull a ticket to see which piece of mandatory gear I need to present to comply with the rules. It says "RED BUNNY."
I wondered just what did I miss at the rider's meeting.
The volunteer clears up my confusion by telling me that it actually says "RED BLINKY." Good. We have those.
Bradley to Laurel to Squirrel to the hike-a-bike up to Horse Cove Gap. I had originally thought going up and over would be best, but as we made good time on the way up, I made another audible. We'd go right back down from whence we came and hit my favorite part of Squirrel, dip our bottles in Cantrell Creek to get more water, and then make haste to the Wheelchair Ramp. Done.
Up, down, over, across... and now on to Club Gap. Ouch. Watts was still punching up the single track climbs. I walked. We talked about the fact that neither one of us has taken a logical amount of water on board. Needed to do something about that. I hiked and tried to force down more water. Watts hammered ahead.
We got to Club Gap, ran into Captain Morgan and his teammate. We were all headed to the furthest point West sorta together... until they left us.
Out the long gravel slog to the Cove Creek CP, where we might have "found" a can of Coors and then down to the hatchery where we spent some time filling bottles and enjoying the most incredibly tasty, non-treated-with-pills water. We then made quick work of the pavement to the East and pounded out the final lower Clawhammer climb to Maxwell Cove. As we went up, we were passing people. Four check pointers for sure. Not a one of them with all five and the two hour time bonus. Passing them means nothing as we're already a bonus two hours ahead.
Finally on the last descent, I was feeling everything. I even had a strange pain in my abdomen that was telling me to stop hitting obstacles.
photo cred: Mudman
Final trail. Final turn. Final Countdown (sang earlier).
We pull into the finish, eight hours and ten minutes since Eric said go. Shit.
After all that, we missed second place by less than eight minutes. I know my poor routing on the first part of the day costs us at least fifteen minutes but maybe more than a half hour. We might/coulda/woulda been top three overall on the day... had I not made yet another bonehead move. If it's any consolation (to me), there were three single speed teams in the top seven, three male duo and one coed. That means the single speed field was very top heavy this year. Anyways...
More thoughts and stuff later... and if the Togs worked... and whatever else I can think of when I get around to it.
photo cred: Icon Media Asheville