Wednesday, October 26

Pisgah 55.5 "k": 2022

Twenty-seven degrees at the start.  I honestly do everything I can to avoid riding in below freezing temps.  Now I'm standing here in a vest, sleeveless jersey, arm/knee warmers, wool socks, and nitrile gloves under my HandUps.  I take some relief from the the fact that the race starts with a five mile singletrack climb and that I've opted for the bike with crabon brake levers and not aluminum.  I swear metal levers conduct way more heat out of my stopper fingers, to the point that they feel like someone is hitting them repeatedly with a hammer.

Line up towards the front, because single speeding for an hour up Black Mountain is what it is.  I try to keep count how many riders get in front of me, but I do a shitty job.  At least I did notice that none of them were on stupid bikes with one gear.  I feel like I'm in my happy place, and my body must have gained some decent transferable flatlander fitness these past few weeks.

Get to Turkey Pen and things get interesting.  Not many people ride this challenging piece of Pisgah because it's a huge commitment and somehow mostly uphill both ways (this must be the route my parents walked to school in the winter).  Black Mountain had clear, beautiful lines, but Turkey Pen was deep with leaves and forest detritus.  Without being able to see the obstacles, I feel less than comfortable on my bike with not quite modern geometry and a 100mm fork.  

Towards the end of the trail, I hear "GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE WAY!" (we frands)

Dammit.  Nick Bragg, who's doing the 111 route, needs to get by and go be an athlete.  I step off... and into the path of second place who was on his wheel.  Sorry not sorry, but I only respond to profanity-laden demands to yield.

Out to Aid Station One, top off my one bottle because there's only two very far apart aids this year due to road closures.  Shove a 1/4 PB&J in my face, and down the gravel to Bradley Creek.

Bradley just isn't a trail most people ride.  It doesn't connect much of anything in a fun way, it has multiple creek crossings, and it usually has mud bogs and downed trees across it.  Oh, and it's normally overgrown.  I fumble fart my way along, second guessing my skills at every semi-technical challenge.  There's been a negative voice in my head that started back on one of the hike-a-bikes on Turkey Pen, and it's still mumbling away.  

"We don't have to do this anymore.  This could be our last race ever. Shut down the blog.  Stop trying to renew sponsors.  Throw the Wahoo data acquisition device in the trash.  Why did we think it was a good idea to squeeze in four events on three consecutive weekends?  We're old. Stop.  For the love of dog, stop."

Bradley Creek is not the place for such thoughts.  There's no easy way home... and no way that's not much easier than just finishing.  That said...

I come up on a little wet grunt up some roots, go ass over tea kettle, say a few choice words, hop back on my bike, come up to a little ditch descent, grab some brake to slow down...

And find that I don't have a rear brake lever where there normally is one.


Member me being happy about having a bike with crabon levers not metal?  

I member.

If I needed a reason to quit, I have one now.  I'll still have to negotiate the infamous Pilot Rock descent as well as entire rip from the top of Upper Middle Black Mountain (or is it Middle Upper?) with only a nubbin of lever to pull back on when things get sketchballs.  I'll have a few chances to practice my form on Laurel Mountain, and if it sucks all the balls, I'll just hike down Pilot and take theWheelchair Ramp past Black Mountain for a quit.

Laurel is a good test.  I'm learning things as I go along.  I never realized how much I orientate off my cockpit when mounting/dismounting my bike.  I dial out my lever nubbin to get the brake to engage sooner'ish.  I also have to move my right hand more towards the stem by about two or three fingers to be able to reach my nubbin... whilst smashing my thumb into the upside down Spurcycle bell.

The good news being that I don't think I'll die. The bad news being that it's gonna hurt, it's gonna be scary, and with my right hand being more inboard than my left, it feels like my cockpit is crooked.

Up the $250 hike-a-bike, up the $275 hike-a-bike, finally at the $1,000 hike-a-bike... and then the $750 hike-a-bike to Pilot Rock that might not be as bad as the $1,000 one, but it certainly does tend to bankrupt a lot of people.

Going down Pilot Rock on my old school geometry bike with 1.25 functioning brakes was... something.  Last year at the 55.5"k," I was on the Radimus with 140mm of travel and a tire insert.  This time, the better part of valor was certainly discretion.  I make smart decisions where I can, and strangely somehow went faster than last year.  Might have been my inability to slow the bike down.  Who knows?

Safely at the Wheelchair Ramp and I pull up my best Dale Dye inspiration.

I glance down occasionally at my heart rate and make sure I'm close to pegged.  Suck back a few gels and pour out the stupid amount of liquid I just picked up at the final aid station.  I see a rider ahead and put my head down, make a pass like I could go a hundred miles an hour all the way to the finish in an attempt to demoralize him.  Unfortunately, I think I just woke him up, and he sticks my wheel all the way to the hike-a-bike up Black Mountain, and then he comes around me as soon as he can pedal.  I keep him in sight on the final pushes up the Hobbit-looking steeps, but I know I gotta keep things in check on the way down since my emergency brake is busted.  Almost lose it in a turn Panama style a coupla times with a little to much front brake, but survive to...

roll across the line two minutes back from him... but 1st single speed... 

and 4th (DAMMIT AGAIN?) overall.

More about other things tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Awesome write up as always. Please DON'T shut down the blog. Or do, your call.

Anonymous said...

Great re-cap! Need pictures of the nubbin!

dicky said...

I normally DM my nubbin pics, but I'll post it tomorrow.

Mike said...

Congrats on the win, Rich!

Mike B.