Tuesday, February 19, 2008

TMFTE 2008

I dedicate the title to Kristin who had deemed the weekend “The Most Fabulous Thing Ever” since she was off in Hot Springs getting a massage and a bath while I was sufferin’.

Here are the fleeting thoughts from one of the “elite” that decided toeing a 36 hour race line at midnight was a great idea. First off let me say my hat, socks, shoes, gloves, scarf, goggles and baklava are off for those who started this race. For Cook and Kee, you guys are now on my list of deities.

The best decision Dennis and I could have made was to take Friday off. We set up camp, met the Clevelanders and then just hung out and relaxed. I tried several times to get some sleep but really just laid there thinking about pedaling. I un-packed and re-packed my pack about six different times and after what seemed like an eternity, there we were, standing on 477 with our lights burning and everyone laughing and smiling, at midnight with a car (not associated with the race) blocked behind us wondering what the hell all these idiots must be doing.

We were off, individual teams, paired teams and one team of three. I believe all in all, there were around 20 people taking off along with some crazies that started a ride at midnight for fun.

Our first mandatory route was basically the SWANK course starting from white pines at midnight in February instead of Cove Creek at 10:00am in November. At first, I really didn’t even process what we were doing. I just looked at the passport (which gave us directions) and said “ok.”

Fifteen minutes into the race, I started to sweat and knew that was bad. I yelled at Dennis to let him know I was stopping and then I changed clothes. I was now riding in short sleeves in February a little past midnight. We were headed up the road in dead last, just as planned. I don’t really remember passing too many people but I do remember Dennis explaining to another team about how not to miss the turn for 225 and Cove Creek while I just pedaled onward.

As we made the turn onto Cove, I saw BradO’s car and knew he was down there lurking in the dark with his camera. I just didn’t know where. As we came down the rock steps Brad was there, taking pictures and he announced that we were third and fifteen minutes behind Cook and Broussard. Dennis and I just looked at each other and said “No, we are supposed to be in last.” Little did we know that we were already more than an hour behind Brad Kee.

It didn’t affect our plan at all. We stayed safe, warm and just pedaled. We pedaled with Mike and Thomas on our way up to Gloucester. At the gap, we stopped, grabbed a bite and I announced that I would be walking the steep pitches on Pilot Mountain road up to Farlow. I was running 34X23 and knew I would blow up if I tried to stomp on it this early. So in the steep sections I would walk briskly and Dennis would pedal in the granny while we chatted about whatever two guys chat about at 3:00am in Pisgah.

Thomas and Mike took off ahead of us on the climb.

Then we saw it, his menacing head and perfumed aroma, it was a skunk on Pilot Mountain Road. I was walking at the time and Dennis promptly dismounted his bike and we walked as quiet footed as we could around it.

After we were by the skunk, we could smell its lingering effects up Pilot Mountain Road. I said to Dennis “I wonder if Mike got nailed by the skunk?” When we made it to the top of Farlow, we caught back up with Mike and Thomas. Mike had been nailed by the skunk and his black and white IF 29’er was The Most Horrible Smelling Bike Ever.

Somewhere before Courthouse falls road, Dennis was in front of me and Mike and Thomas were riding behind when I saw Dennis go over the handlebars when his front wheel planted into a creek with a log crossing it. I stopped and Mike tried the move which resulted in the same fate for him. Mike stood up and said “God*&^%$#, I smell like a fucking skunk and now I am wet too.” It really was the highlight of my night.

The next thing I remember, we were at Sumney Cove and I really love that trail. I asked Dennis if he wanted to take a dip at Courthouse falls but he declined. The climb/push up the steeps of Sumney had me thinking about the Cognac that Smoke bikes had advertised earlier in the week as I knew the checkpoint at Sumney and 215 was within a mile.

Then there were lights, Mike R furiously snapping pictures, no cognac and so we went on down the road. Rolling down 215 was the first time I was uncomfortable as I was still in my short sleeves but I knew the climb up 140A would warm me so I chose to freeze coming down the road.
(Here is Shade participating in 36 hours of guard-a-tent)

As we turned back onto Kissee Creek Road, we found that it had been bulldozed. Ahhhhhhh fresh tracks in mud/dirt at 4:00 am, a lot of people complained but in all actuality it made my butt feel better, it was almost like having suspension. It took all I could muster not to walk from the rolling resistance.

At the top of Butter I put my sleeves back on, coming down Butter Gap was awesome. I still felt pretty good and we just rolled along. On our way back to camp, the sky started to show signs of dawn and it was uplifting to think the sun would soon cast its rays up over the mountains that were riding on but could not see.

When we got in, I ate a bunch of veggie chili and had a couple beers as I figured we had earned them. We got our next passport that said we had to make it to Cantrell/Squirrel Gap, so after pondering our route and which check points we would hit, we were off up the road. We had left just in front of Cook and BrouSSard.

As soon as we got to the Horse stables (one mile away from white pines) I had to stop and pee. Then Cook and BrouSSard went rolling by commenting on how far we had made it, ha ha. I told myself to take it easy up Clawhammer but I kept seeing Dennis keeping pace with Cook. I wondered how it could be that we were keeping pace. I felt we were going too fast.

After the sharp switchback on Clawhammer I knew we didn’t have far to the top and I could still see Cook. I wondered what it would do to his spirits if I zipped by him as I could see he was struggling. So right at the top I went rolling by and Cook said “Maaaaaaaaaan don’t do that.”

From the buckhorn/clawhammer/black mountain intersection we hiked up to Buckhorn Gap Shelter and snagged that checkpoint. Now we were headed straight to Cantrell and Squirrel as we knew we needed to make the 3:00pm cutoff. We were now ahead of Cook and Zach but were again passed at the bridge over South Mills River.

Getting to Squirrel via buckhorn to South Mills wasn’t bad. Once we were on Squirrel it was a nightmare. The ice storm had taken its toll on Squirrel and we had to do everything but ride our bikes on this trail. We crawled, tossed our bikes, hopped over trees only to crawl under the next branch. It was as though every stick in the forest was out to get us. Even pushing the bike, sticks would get wound up in every component. At one point both Dennis and I were freaking out like 12 year old girls at a Hanna Montana concert from a new disease I will call TMSIOS (Too Many Sticks In Our Spokes). Then all the sudden out of nowhere here comes Cook backtracking from the checkpoint. He had a big wiley grin on his face and was hopping logs on the bike. I wondered what magical potion was at the next checkpoint and hoped I would regain control.

I really struggled on Squirrel, I just wanted to make it back to base camp, I had no intentions of continuing on and I was figuring out how I would announce this to Dennis.

After we made the checkpoint and decided we would rather die than continue on Squirrel, we backtracked and went up Horse Cove and came back to Clawhammer via the gauging station and Buckhorn. I had not climbed Buckhorn since the Fall camping trip and I remembered how hard Brian had pushed the pace. I asked Dennis how much time we had till the cutoff at 3:00pm. He said it was 1:40. I said “we have plenty of time come on.” I don’t know what hit the switch in my head but I hammered as hard as I could up buckhorn with Dennis holding pace about 50 yards back. When we got to the top of Clawhammer we railed it, FLYING down the gravel road.

We came in with a half hour to spare and decided we would take a looooong break and try the next stage.

We all knew it was coming but damn it hurt so bad to see it in writing. The next stage’s mandatory was Shuck Creek on Farlow Gap Trail. After a couple hours of food and rest, Dennis and I decided we would go out as hard as we could to snag two checkpoints and call it quits on the race. We had until 10:00pm for this stage’s cutoff.

Our last route of the race was:

477 -> Bennet Gap Trail -> Coontree (checkpoint 1) -> 276 -> 475 -> Davidson River, Daniel Ridge, Farlow (up to Shuck Creek and mandatory checkpoint 2) -> Daniel Ridge -> 475 -> Davidson River Trail -> 475 -> 276 -> 477

The hike up Bennett hurt and I announced that it was the second hardest part of our route. We manned on and had a hearty debate on whether we should take the newly fashioned asphalt to Daniel or Davidson River. It is amazing how hard and important these decisions seem under such sleep deprivation.

We took Davidson River and were happy with the choice. After our hike up Davidson River and part way up Farlow we saw a light coming down Farlow. Dennis said “Rider up.” As the light was flying. It was Thomas (Mike had bailed on this stage) and he was running! We tossed our bags and bikes into the woods and trekked up to snag the checkpoint. As we were headed back down we saw the team of three (two of them tethered together) headed up without bikes as well.

Dennis led the descent back down the rocky side of Daniel and all I could think about was the sharp rock by the tree that has screwed me so many times. When I saw it, I panicked hit the brakes, tried to dismount and found myself falling off the side of the trail. I tumbled down the slope smacking my good ribs (thanks be to the lords) on a rock. I looked back up and was about 20 feet down from the trail. Luckily my bike had snagged a branch and had not fallen.

From there it was all elation with us pronouncing multiple times out loud “We will not let Eric convince us to go out again, NO MATTER WHAT!”

Seeing Cook struggle so bad to keep up on Clawhammer and then to see the way he switched gears on Squirrel and know that he pushed all the way through was truly inspirational. Thanks to everyone who came out to help and participate. It was a great time and I will be back for more pain!


brado1 said...

good job brotha! nice write up, you guys rock!


btw i told you guys "you were a half hour behind Brad Kee", You must have heard "hour" sorry

Blair said...

Thanks for the write-up.

You looked like you were hurting when you got to Cantrell Creek and Squirrel Gap. Laid down for about 20 seconds and then realized you probably shouldn't. Sucked down a Red Bull and were on your way.

Best quote of the weekend:
"Dog, you touch this pizza and I'LL EAT YOU!"

Good job, man!

1SpeedBrian said...

Great effort, on the ride and the write-up. I don’t possess the motivation to start something like that.

dicky said...

Good on ya.
I have no concept.


The Goat in a Turtle Shell said...

Awesome job brotha! Thats a hell of a effort in a February tempered Pisgah.

Thomas Gaines said...

Great job! great write-up! I laughed my arse off about the skunk.
I am looking forward to PMBAR, but am somewhat daunted by the collective base of TMHTE riders going into it.
I think it would be awesome to get Hank out there to meet Shade, I'll see if I can bring him.

ExtrmTao said...

Thanks for all the comments fellas!

Stephen said...

Nice , is you bike for sale ? cheap? you should probably stick to the SC trails for a while so you can recover. What do you have planned for this weekend?

Palmetto Solo said...

good form mater-guy. I need to get up to the hills for some PMBAR recon session.

cornfed said...

Damn impressive.
Great write up.

You going to make it to Snake in March? I just got a black and blue Walz Cap that might just match your ass and bike. Lemme know if you're interested, I can use the karma points.


ExtrmTao said...


I am going to make it fo sho! I think we got a crew rollin' car pool style for a day trip. So no camping for us but we will be there.

I'd hate to inflict any bad karma so I will wear the Walz with pride. Anything that matches my ass has got to be hot!


cornfed said...

Sweet! See ya in 2 weeks then. I'll stick the cap in with a Yazoo Sampler.

Duckman said...

Great job man. You need your head examined and Eric should be arrested for crimes against humanity.

Damn I wish I could have been there.