Well Laura and I got up bright and early Saturday morning and were on the road by 6am. We both tried really hard to convince the belly's that it was time to eat breakfast which was not an easy task that early. We both managed to throw some food of sorts and some Mtn. Air coffee in the tank before the race. This day was going to be sooooo good.
We had spent the last few months since the snow melted, on the trails hitting major confusing intersections in Pisgah and making them not so confusing in our minds. We also spent a day in the pouring rain climbing and descending Black Mountain trail. PMBAR was going to be Laura's second race after she began riding bikes in March of 2009.
I had been checking the weather for the whole week now and it was looking like cloudy until 3pm then chances of thunder storms in Pisgah Forest. Well, it was raining in Mills River when we passed through... not raining at Turkey Pen road...sprinkling at the start... wow, a whole day of rain ahead of us? You never know in Pisgah...
The buzz started as soon as Laura and I got dressed. It's amazing the things you can see in Pisgah...
We went to gear check, checked in and finished getting our shit together for the day. So many things we could take... so many things...
When the rider meeting started we were just finishing up and I think we missed the first 30 seconds of Eric's instructions... I hate that... we hustled on over and I threw the bag of Mtn. Air coffee and Endless Cogcertificates under the prize tent and pulled Laura to the front-ish of the group of racers. I like to start in the front. Then I can talk to everyone who passes us and see more buddies.
When Eric said "GO" we hustled up Black Mountain trail. So far PMBAR has started and ended on Black Mountain trail as 276 is usually off limits... I like that... I HATE riding on 276, it's terrifying. So I saved the map reading till after the first hike a bike. We hustled it on up to Pressley Gap and we decided to keep going up and cruise down Turkey Pen. We took a little pee break at Turkey Pen Gap and I watched a team head down Turkey Pen and right back up... that's it... we're going over Black Mountain! After thinking about Turkey Pen trail several times during the day, I realized it wouldn't have been the ideal route anyway for the chosen checkpoints. I discussed the route options with Jeremy... it was nice to have someone very knowledgeable to discuss the route options with. I was stoked that he and Katie Miller (her first race) had chosen the same route that we did as we leap frogged with them and their great attitudes for most of the day. We also leaped frogged with Karlos and Luis a bunch. Karlos was rockin' out to some neat tunes. Up and over Black Mountain we all went. Black Mountain trail had no view today but Laura and I stopped for a photo shoot anyway cause that's how we do. Racing for fun and the best photos?
After the descent from Black Mountain to Buckhorn gap, I was stoked! That shit is soooo fun. Someone even commented on how that must have been so much better than Clawhammer Rd. That early in the day he was so right. Down Buckhorn Trail to S Mills river to the first checkpoint at Squirrel Gap and Cantrell Creek. Laura was so relieved to get Squirrel out of the way early in the day but she also noticed how much her skills are improving and how much more of Squirrel she rode this time than the last time she was on it. YES! WIN!
From here we headed on out Squirrel and down Laurel Creek. I love that... we got to go down Laurel Creek and not push up it! We hit the next checkpoint at the intersection of Bradley Creek and Laurel Creek where volunteer Allan Atkinson stamped our passport and posed for a photo in the SUN! We reapplied and shared sunscreen. Thanks again for being out there Allan and posing for our Shannanigans.
From here we headed on up 5015 which is Bradley Creek Road. We cruised along chatting for a while and then we just kept our own pace. We saw Jeremy and Katie again, we saw Karlos and Luis again, we saw some other folks just grinding it on up to Yellow Gap.
Jeremy and I chatted away about bringing new racers into Pisgah through PMBAR and how important it is to show them a good time. Through this one day each year, none of us will ever be the same again. The new racers will solidly become just that if our attitudes remain positive. For these two teams, they did and Laura and Katie can't wait until next year!
From Yellow Gap we had a ripping gravel descent into Mills River woo hooing to every team that went passed in the opposite direction. What can I say? I love being everyone's personal cheerleader whether I know them or not. Who doesn't need a little extra cheering sometimes?
We stopped at the campground to fill waters from the pump (no iodine needed here) and I got to use a real toilet! Score! Then we headed on up 5000/wash creek road to checkpoint 3. With a group of about 4 teams with us we approached a group of horses heading up 5000. We asked them what we should do... got off our bikes... walked around... then back to the gravel grind. Not such a good day to have a horse adventure with all of those bikes out there.
I thought a lot about geared bikes riding up this ascent with some and realized that if I had a granny... i'd be in it too! Glad I didn't and never once did I wish I had gears. NEVER! More woo hoo's to the teams coming down. When we got to the checkpoint that Kris Kjellquist was manning at Spencer Gap Trail we decided that since we had reached 3 checkpoints we were going to have a good break with good snacks. We even forgot to take a picture. I ate some turkey sandwich and chips. We reapplied sunscreen. We saw Jeremy and Katie again, Rich Dillen and Thad Hoffman, Emily Brock and Amanda Wisell.
We goofed off most of the way back down 5000 while woo hooing to folks climbing on up. That's just how we roll. Nothing but comedy. We stopped and got another refill on water at the campground and I got to see my good friend Buffy. My friends Kelly and Joel were playing in the campground that day and gave us a good shout out as we rolled on out 1206. I love that!
1206 had the potential to break us, but we did it right with sandwiches at checkpoint 3 and a little goofiness. We just kept moving forward and telling ourselves "we got this." When we came around a bend and saw 2 folks dressed exactly alike, looking huge, on dirtbikes, rolling side by side, for a minute my brain couldn't compute and I thought I might be losing it. I really did! It was freakin' wierd. At yellow gap (the top) we came up on Mandy and Emily then they were gone. We filled water on 1206 before Pilot cause it was hot and we were afraid the sun would scorch and shrivel us all the way up Pilot. That fear would slowly dissolve and in it's place came the fear that we might be stuck on Pilot as the storm clouds were rolling in. We passed Emily and Amanda as well as a few other teams as we slowly pushed our bikes up Pilot Rock trail.
This 2.5 mile push is brutal but it's not so bad if you remember to look out at the amazing views that we would miss on the ripping descent back down. At least that's my story. We killed that hike a bike! We made it to the top. Karlos and Luis would be just leaving as we arrived. Emily and Amanda would be arriving just as we left-ish. We took the opportunity to get another photo with Shane? our lovely Mandatory checkpoint #2 final checkpoint #4 of the day volunteer. I also ate the rest of my turkey sandwich and some chips.
Back down Pilot we went. I loved riding back down Pilot! I got to take the time to turn around and watch Laura ride more of this trail than she had ever ridden in the past and this was almost 45 miles and 9 hours into the race. The time is now 5:20. The first time we checked it all day. We knew where we were so we didn't need to stop and check the map. We bombed back down Pilot, right on 1206, left on 476 which basically becomes South Mills River trail, right onto Buckhorn Gap trail to Buckhorn Gap. I ate a nutty bar.
We saw Paul and Kip, wondering if they should take Clawhammer/Maxwell or push up Black Mountain... Nate H. and his partner convinced them Clawhammer/Maxwell. Nate also announced that he was not going to be beaten in the race by a tutu! Funny!
We saw Curtis and Rob (my partner from last year) they opted to hit the hike a bike of Black Mountain rather than the climb up Maxwell. Guess it depends at this point whether the gravel grind or the hike a bike is more likely to crush your soul 11 hours into the race. I guess that depends on the previous events of the day.
Laura and I opted to descend Clawhammer and climb Maxwell. When we reached Pressley Gap, there were lots of folks setting up camp there and one fellow was nice enough to point us in the right direction. I hope it didn't sound mean when I said, "yeah, we know. Thanks."
We knew we were on the home stretch so we put our heads down and pushed up the hike-a-bike section. No energy left to even try riding. When we hit the top Woooo Hoooooooo! Down we went. It had begun to sprinkle and was beginning to get very dark like. You know the dark I mean... it's almost time to turn the lights on but the daylight is just bright enough that it would just be harder to see with them. We made it back to the parking lot at 8:20 with still a few moments of light to spare (from the photo you can't tell) and 1hour and 40 minutes before the cutoff. YES!!!! SUCCESS!!!
As usual, it was really great riding with all of you especially Laura and I can't wait to do it again soon. Until then. Don't forget to smile!