Wednesday, October 22, 2008

TMHTE Training Day # 1 & 2 A.K.A Double Dare

Thoughts of the 2008 Double Dare are pinging around in my head and making smile even though the pain is still very real.

I have a lot of love for Pisgah Production events. There is no doubt in my mind that these are and will be some of the best Mountain Biking events in the world or at least my version of the world.

I would like to explicitly thank Jack, Carlos (hoped I spelled that right), Eric, Erinna, Mike Brown, Janet (I hope I got her name right too it was a long weekend), BradO (too bad you couldn’t be there brother) and any other volunteer I have missed, YOU GUYS and GALS KICK ASS!!

I have tried many formats of writing race reports but I always fall back to chronological. It just makes the most sense as I am not an accomplished enough writer to handle flash forwards or backs. I label each section in case my gibberish gets the best of you.

Ever since being sick and moving houses the day before DD 2007, I wanted revenge on this race and Eric for yelling at me for missing the start time on Sunday 2007. I would NOT let this happen again.

Pre-race Gibberish

Rigid Single Speed or Geared bike with a fork was the question of this race for me. Ultimately I had to go with the Geared bike as I had trained on it and I wasn’t sure if my newly healed wrist would withstand the rigors of rigid.

Nuts seemed to be a theme for this race and fall. I have a Aluminum carport at my Cabin in Travelers Rest and some relentless Oak trees that throw down nuts so hard it sounds like M80’s firing off. I thought this would keep Joe awake all night as he decided to take shelter in our house Friday night but he said he had slept great which was good as I woke every hour or so to the nutcrackers.

I am getting much better at pre-preparing for races and I was comfortable at the start. We were told a time trial to the Gauging Station was in order and immediately new our route. I figured there was a faster way but I HATE riding my bike around trails in Pisgah.

Race Day # 1:

12:09 PM was our start time out of the gate leaving from White Pines North by the Horse Stables.

Our ultimate route for the day would be:

477 -> ClawHammer -> Buckhorn -> S. Mills River (North) -> Pink Beds (checkpoint 1) -> 276 -> BRP -> **HIKE MT. Pisgah Trail (out and back, checkpoint 2) -> BRP -> Pisgah lodge connector trail -> Pilot Rock -> Laurel Mountain Connector (checkpoint 3) -> Laurel Mountain -> 1206 -> Yellow Gap (Checkpoint 4) -> 5015 -> Bradley Creek (Mandatory Checkpoint 5 + ½ checkpoint) -> Laurel Creek -> Squirrel Gap (North) -> Cantrell (Checkpoint 6) -> S. Mills River (Checkpoint 7) -> Buckhorn -> Clawhammer -> 477 -> Finish time 12:08 (< 1 minute to spare) final checkpoint count 7 ½

I have a hard time getting into a “time trial” four minutes into a 24 hour race. So we took our sweet time ascending Clawhammer. I was really taking all the views in and just generally stoked to be riding our bikes in such an awesome place and time.

Riding down Buckhorn and the northern section of S. Mills River was a real treat. It is one of the few places in Pisgah where you ride next to the river instead of through it. I had told Joe there was no way I was bypassing that section of trail for pavement. He was happy to agree.

At the Gauging station we received our passport of where all 10 checkpoints would be for the day. Even though I know my way around Pisgah, I am always overwhelmed by the decisions that need to be made so quickly and I am always terrified I am going to break some rule and DNF my team.

With this in mind I saw a couple groups (who I trust) head off toward Pink Beds and I realized it would be silly to skip that checkpoint since it was only a few miles away. We ran with it and took off down the trail. That Section of Pink Beds is super fun and it is always nice to hit some single track that isn’t straight up or down.

We bagged our first checkpoint and then I stared at the map. I really thought about going back toward 477 but when I saw Dicky and Morgan head that way I knew I didn’t want them slowing us down on the way back so we took Pink Beds the rest of the way to 276.

My original plan was to hit 1206 and hike straight up Pilot to bag the first checkpoint but then I was swayed when Cook and Cissy took off up 276 all the way to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We followed them and I hit my low point of the day trying to keep pace up 276. I hadn’t prepared mentally for the million and one cars combined with the steep grade. It took its toll on my and I had to stop and stretch my back multiple times. It would have been many more had it not been for my Epic Designs bag that everyone ooohed and ahhhed over all weekend. Yeah that bag kicks ass just like the race.

When we reached the intersection of 276 and the parkway I couldn’t believe how cold it was. It was bright, sunny windy and cold.

I lost it mentally for awhile once we got to the Pisgah Inn, I thought we would hike in, nab the Laurel Checkpoint and go head toward Trace Ridge. Well once we started hiking I got it in my head that I was breaking a rule. So I had Joe and I turn around and we hunt and pecked to find the Mt. Pisgah trailhead for a minute. I was completely frustrated with myself because I knew I was fine with the original plan but my mind was doing flip flops.

We found the Mt. Pisgah trailhead and made the short hike up and back. We saw a bunch of other teams including solo Ohio Rob so I chatted him up and he eased my mind about how we were allowed to hike from the BRP to access trails just not internal trails. Crap, he was right and it straightened my head out, thanks Rob! I was so glad we chose to hike when we got to the firetower. The clouds had moved in but there were still rays of sunshine poking through in the valleys. It was stunning, to say the least.

We decided it was too cold to stay on the parkway so we made our way back to the Pilot Laurel connector to nab the third checkpoint of the day. I was excited that we would get to descend Laurel Mountain. What a treat!! The trail was in superb shape and I was feeling strong cleaning most everything while flying through the halls of yellow that nature provided. I would stop every now and then to wait for Joe and pump my front tube back up as I had a slow leak but didn’t want to chance changing it as long as I could pump it and leave it for an hour or so.

We finally started meeting up with teams that were headed in the opposite direction and I was so glad they were headed to the windy parkway instead of us. When we met up with Jut and Bruce we had to sit and have a pow wow and discuss life. We decided life was good and parted ways with larger than life smiles hooting about how we would see each other soon.

Stopping only for a moment at yellow gap (Checkpoint 4) we strapped on our lights for the screaming descent down 5015 to our mandatory checkpoint and special test. Jack asked me if I wanted to shoot a BB gun or shotgun beer. I said “Is that really a question?” and he said he had to ask. Joe shot-gunned one of the mandatory beers while I shot two and then drank another while staring at the map. Jack said that there was no penalty for drinking extra beer, sheeeeeeeew. Now we had 5 ½ checkpoints (1/2 for shot-gunning beer).

I had three more checkpoints on the brain but wasn’t sure how to nab them. So we headed for the Squirrel Gap checkpoint first. Riding Squirrel in the dark with a good beer buzz was awesome and I was feeling really strong.

We nabbed the topside of Cantrell and descended Cantrell to get the bottom checkpoint. Once there I told Joe about the horrors of S. Mills River to Buckhorn and offered an alternate route but it included climbing so Joe insisted on S. Mills River. If you have ever ridden this beast you know, if you haven’t you don’t and until you do you won’t. I just kept whispering to myself to not let it get to me. The harder you pedal the faster you bounce over all of those rocks.

I was at the intersection of S. Mills and Squirrel waiting for Joe so I pumped my front tire again and was staring at the map plotting our 8th checkpoint when Joe rolled up and said “It’s 11:00 we have to hurry.” We had exactly one hour nine minutes to make it from there to White Pines. No 8th checkpoint for us and we would be lucky not to “DNF.”

I hammered way too hard up the end of S. Mills River and waited for Joe just before the turn to Buckhorn. I let him go in front of me so I could encourage him to move along as he looked a little pale. I started giving all the motivational speeches I could after 11 hours on the bike. I said “think about the beer, we don’t want to DNF, we MUST finish, just pedal a little harder” when all of the sudden halfway up Buckhorn I hit the WALL HARD. I lost my beer buzz and it felt as though I were dying. I got off my bike and stood there wondering if I would pass out when I realized I was REALLY HUNGRY. I pulled out my cliff bloks and shoved four of them in my mouth, got on the bike pedaled and chewed simultaneously. Then my stomach GROWLED, so I got off the bike, grabbed the last six bloks I had and shoved them in my cheeks, got back on the bike and repeated the chewing pedaling process. I found some strength left in my legs and rolled up to Clawhammer with Joe telling me we had 15 minutes left. SHIIIIIITTTTTTTT.

KILLING IT in the big ring down Clawhammer drifting the gravel corners praying to mother nature that the wind hadn’t changed circumstances since the morning I had fleeting thoughts about what would happen if we didn’t make the checkpoint, WE WOULD SLEEP IN!!

Down at the bottom we kept it in the big ring, stood up and pedaled with all of our might down 477. We heard cheers when we reached the campground but couldn’t find a way through all of the cars. I was about to climb over a hood when I saw a small opening. I couldn’t feel my hands or feet so I threw down my bike and immediately lay close enough to the fire to catch myself on fire. It was a proud moment as we had arrived at 12:08.

Beth immediately offered some chili and beer, I obliged. Then Jody offered a beer, I obliged. I warmed and then ran to my tent to change into dry clothes. I saw my sleeping bag and loathed for her love. Out like a light.

Day 2, pictures and report will come tomorrow.

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