Monday, May 05, 2008

What’s That Creaking? PMBAR 2008

This year’s Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race would be Team Trippin’ On Lactic Acid’s third attempt and completion at the race.

The rules are simple and go as follows. There are seven checkpoints strewn in and around Pisgah’s Ranger District. You must make it to four of the seven checkpoints to finish and most likely all seven if you want to vie for first place. There are two mandatory checkpoints that you can choose from. You must either choose Farlow Gap or Turkey Pen, two polar opposites when it comes to riding in this vast National Forest.

After head honcho Eric’s speech on how not to die in the woods, we had our passports in hand and were told to go. The passport is your guide to knowing where all the checkpoints are as you get it stamped along the way to provide proof of visitation to each of the checkpoints. After quickly glancing at the passport, I realized that most of the checkpoints were the same as 2007. This made our job of choosing Turkey Pen as our mandatory very easy as we had gone for Farlow last year.

Off we go up Black Mountain to get a quick 1,000 feet of climbing out of the way in the form of a warm-up. At the first sharp turn, there was a sign that read “Where am I?” and it had a Gnome with a blue jacket and red hat on. Why do I know all of this? I figured it was a “special test” and at the end of the race Eric was going to ask “Where was the Gnome with the X jacket and Y colored hat. Soon I saw more and more signs and I realized they were just placed there for no particular reason other than to befuddle the teams.

Joe and I stopped at Pressley for a quick once over of the passport and then I realized it was exactly the same as last year. That meant I already knew our route as long as nothing un-expected happened.

Black -> Turkey Pen -> S. Mills River -> Mullinax -> Laurel Creek (out and back) Squirrel Gap -> S. Mills River, -> Buckhorn -> Black Mountain (out and back from the gap) -> Clawhammer -> Maxwell Cove -> Black Mountain

I asked Jody and Cook if they thought it looked the same as last year and they confirmed my thoughts. So we took off with the masses headed further up Black to Turkey Pen. As we were pushing I started up a conversation with Jody about their route choice. He said something about him and Cook headed to Farlow. I said “Your going to Farlow over Black Mountain?” They would eventually change their minds on this one.

The single track was just awesome this day. The dirt was perfect and my new tire set up was really sticking nicely and sucking up most of the bumps. I had some creaking on really steep sections of trail but I chose to ignore it. I did however, inspect my downtube at every possible moment for potential cracks.

After snagging Turkey Pen we started up Mullinax to see Toby and Kenny headed back down. They had made the same mistake Joe and I made three years ago by miss-reading the passport. This wouldn’t be their only mistake of the day. Pisgah can confuse.

Up Mullinax to Laurel Creek and we had a blast once again on Laurel. This year’s PMBAR should have been called “An awesome day of single track.” It felt great to have the strength to ride the single track at a decent clip.

After nabbing our second checkpoint we took off back up Laurel. For the most part, it was obvious who was in what position in the race. I knew that if we didn’t go for five checkpoints it was going to be impossible to get in the top ten. At this point in the race, I secretly wanted to go for five but that was easy to talk about in my mind at that point.

Onto Squirrel and all I could think about was how easy this trail seems after hiking/riding it in February during TMHTE. We were 18 hours into the race at that point in February and I only wanted to die. Saturday was much different, I felt strong and Squirrel didn’t let me down, that trail is bad ass. Past Cantrell and another checkpoint is bagged. The feeling I had at TMHTE almost caused me to take Cantrell instead of Squirrel but I knew this was a mistake and talked myself out of it. While Joe ate a sandwich, I spied the map for the last time of the day. Confident with the rest of our route, Joe and I started talking “how much longer” and I knew it was going to be four and out for us.

Onto Buckhorn’s climb and I saw a yellow and black team that I wanted to pass, we passed them but got passed back just before the gap. We were off chasing them over black to Club Gap. After Club, we were headed back over the way we came toward the Buckhorn shelter. I knew the road from Avery was quicker but I thought it was off-limits for some reason.

When we got to the staircase, I saw Cook and Jody and just had to ride the staircase. It felt great and I got some compliments from Jody on our aggressive pace. I said a quick thanks and then we were off down Clawhammer as fast as we could. This was the first gravel road we had been on all day as the rest had been fine singletrack. After three or four hair raising turns down Clawhammer, I felt something weird and realized I was holding my Ergon grip in my hand but it wasn’t attached to the handlebars. HOLY SHIT, I AM GOING TO DIE, was the first thought that crossed my mind, then I realized I should probably drop the grip and grab onto something but nothing was there. My handle bars had sheared off about a half inch past the grip. With the grip and handlebar gone, I used my left hand to steady what was left of the handlebars then grabbed two fingers worth of back brake as I clenched the seat with all my butt power (go on laugh at me, this was no laughing matter at that moment).

Miraculously, I pulled it out without going down. I quickly jogged back up to retrieve my grip and went to work getting the handle-bar out of the grip, I thought maybe I could slide the grip back onto the rest of the bar but quickly realized that I was just wasting time. Time to man up and ride this race home.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be going down Clawhammer but I was worried about the descent down Black. I thought I might have to run the entire downhill. I got it in my mind that if I pedaled as hard as possible up Maxwell, I could get enough of a lead on Joe as to not hinder our progress too much on the downhill. I only had to walk once going up Maxwell due to the fact that standing and climbing is tough without a fully functional bar.

I crested the climb and took off up the hike-a-bike. Not too long into the descent and Joe was there. I was having a slow go at it but was able to ride all but the most technical parts. We had managed to ward off anyone from passing us until the turn back toward the finish. Ben and Drew went flying by and beat us by less than a minute. We ultimately ended up 17th out of 70 + teams.

A huge thanks to Eric and all the volunteers! Thanks to SMOKE BIKES for making my new CANINE frame that I won in the raffle. I will get some pictures up soon.


cornfed said...

HOLY CRAP!!! Glad you didn't die! I depend on your witty blib write ups to get me through the day.

Congrats on the new frame!

allan said...

I woulda crapped my pants. Good job finishing like that man.

Anonymous said...

OK, 2 downtubes and a handlebar. Dude,you seriously need to start shopping for a suspension fork...

The Ghost of Jerry Reed said...

Thats some serious skill to rock a downhill with only 50 percent of your handlebar. Jedi skill my friend!... Congrats on the high finish as well. Ya'll going for 5 next year???