Tuesday, February 10, 2009

TMHTE 2009 – Stage 2 & 3

(Picture taken by Mike R.: Farlow during stage 1)

Stage two started as the sun was just coming up and I knew one thing, I had to get the hell out of the campground. Cove Creek had its own micro climate and it was freezing in that camp, a great motivator for going back out to ride.

As you can see in the post below for stage two, the mandatory was Cantrell and S. Mills River. That’s a pretty hefty task from Cove Creek.

Clay and I had decided to ride together for this stage so we discussed routes after Eric told us that there were still some closures due to the “whatever it is that is in the forest that might harm us but a prescribed burn will save us” thing in the woods. Sorry if you don’t know that story but it is a fiasco.

Our ultimate route for the day:

475 -> Davidson River -> 276 -> Pink Beds (Hike) -> Gauging Station -> S. Mills River -> Squirrel -> Horse Cove Gap -> from here we broke up. . .

All the crap before the mandatory is suffering that we worked through together. We had discussed the idea of going back via S. Mills River as Joe and I had done during the Double Dare this past October. I was up for it until I saw it. . .

I said “No way.” Clay said “Come on I will take your picture.” I said “no way, you first.”

TMHTE 2009 Clay Faine Crossing S. Mills River from pisgahproductions on Vimeo.
Clay gets the official “He is crazier than the Tomato award for 2009 on this one”. He steps into the water that is almost completely frozen over with four inch thick melting ice covering the fast moving river. Steps gingerly up onto the ice and gets about ¾ of the way across when he broke through, now he had huge 15 foot chunks of ice moving around him in the water so he had to break through it to get across. Now imagine having to do this 10 times. . .OH GOD I THOUGHT. (Picture by Clay: Me "testing the waters")

I tried to negotiate the water but it was obvious that I was not going to make it and the thought of falling in water colder than the Colorado made me realize I wanted to stay warm no matter how much climbing was involved.

Clay and I proceeded to do the, “You come over here, NO, you come over here” for a few minutes and then we bid adieu.

After that it was a hike-a-bike back up Horse Cove to Squirrel -> S. Mills -> Buckhorn -> Clawhammer -> 477 -> 276 -> 475 -> Davidson River Trail.

I made it back to camp and I was feeling pretty good. I hung around waiting for Kristin to show up and when she did I took off on Stage 3. Mandatory check point being the top of Farlow, sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet, Clay had called it earlier in the day.

I left at 6:00 with no idea how long it would take me. I found out pretty quickly that most of the teams were hitting the checkpoint and coming straight back down the road. That’s not my style.

The climb up Pilot Mountain Road was exactly what I had expected. A slog fest and I rode much more than I figured I could. It was quickly approaching 20 hours into the race and I felt good but the legs were losing power on the SS.

As I got closer to the top of the road, the moon came up and the Coyotes went wild. I was semi-hallucinating from sleep deprivation but the Coyotes were real and making wicked sounds that I hadn’t heard in a very long time since riding Dupont at night by myself.

When I made it to the checkpoint, I gathered my wits and went crazy riding down Farlow. I made it to the tree where 20 hours previously I had made the harrowing pass going up the beast that I was now descending. I rode a lot more than I would have expected including the log ride that starts flat and turns round. After coming off the log I realized I better pull it in a notch. I nabbed my second checkpoint for stage 3 and then had a blast coming down Daniel knowing all I had to do was climb the road back to camp and I could call it a night.

Back at camp, Eric informed me that I would take the “lead” if I were to head out on Stage 4. Even though I felt good I knew Stage 4 would take a long time and it was now 9:00 pm on the second night. I called it a night knowing my race was over. A great excuse being no vacation time left at work and a heavy Monday workload.

Great Race Eric and thanks so much to all the volunteers that helped!! I will finish this beast someday and then I might never do it again or. . .

Just as a side note, I was able to get in a hike and a ride on Sunday after freezing in my bag all night at camp.

Ride on Sunday with David George, Valerie and myself:

475 -> ????? -> Butter Gap -> Cat Gap -> Davidson River

Good times!!

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Most Horrible Thing Ever 2009, Official Halfway’er

(Picture - Clay before the start)

Two years in a row I have made it halfway in this horrible race. Last year Dennis and I accomplished the halfway mark and this year I did it solo.

Its Two O-clock AM Saturday morning and while most humans on the East Coast are vast asleep in a dream world, I am pushing my rigid single speed Karate Monkey up Farlow Gap. As it is rare to push up Farlow (this was my third time) its even more rare to have company. So being the sort of person I am, I was trying to start a party. I talked most everyone up, about where they were from, why they decided to do “The Most Horrible Thing Ever” so on and so forth. However, no one was in the partying mood, I took the hint and pressed on with my mouth halfway shut.

Just then, as we headed to the true hike-a-bike section on Farlow I saw the lights of our documentation crew which consists of Mike N’ team. I had been chatty with the two fellows in front of me but NOW IT WAS ON! I was three hours into a 36 hour race and time was precious so I yelled “ON YOUR RIGHT” and stormed off the trail and around the team in front of me for a valiant pass. The craziest thing about being somewhere in the middle of the night/morning is that no one really laughed at the time but I knew that memory would stick. It just so happened that I would remember this moment 20 hours later when I would descend the same trail I was ascending now.

Let’s back up a couple hours to right before the start of the race. I wake up in my tent, and thoughts of the Grand Canyon flood my mind as I slept in that same tent 90% of the time during my trip down the Colorado in January. Then I heard the same wicked sound I had heard this past October at 5:30 am at White Pines “ding-ding. . . ding-ding” it was Eric’s dainty warning that the racer meeting was about to begin. “Holy Cow” I thought, I am not at all ready. I had fallen asleep at 9:00 and now it was 11:45. The race starts in 15 minutes.
Needless to say, I was a little late starting. Clay and I had discussed riding together the weekend before but when he realized I wasn’t really ready, he took off. If I wasn’t the last racer to leave camp, I was very close.

Here were the stages and we were on Stage 1:

I really wanted to go slow for obvious reasons but I was also motivated to catch Clay as I knew he could be caught because of a pending injury. You gotta kick a guy where it hurts ya know.
So it is with this mission that I trudged up 475B. I saw many, talked to everyone and then at Cove Creek I saw Peter. I commented that it was good to see him healthy this year as he was sick the year before and pressed on.

(Picture - Peter's bike on Cove Creek's entrance)
Nothing like coming down the paint shaker (cove creek) first thing in the middle of the night to wake you up, I cussed Mr. Pisgah Productions for bringing us back to camp so quickly so I made my amends by stopping and having some pizza and a beer.
I chatted with Erinna about how far everyone was ahead. Not that it mattered, its just fun to be in the know.

Next up was Daniel Ridge and ultimately Farlow from Daniel. I started passing some more folks and just generally having a good time riding the SS way too much but its so fun.
After the fiasco on Farlow with no one wanting to party with me, I quickly went down 140A. I was taking it slow bouncing around in the rocks thanking myself for rocking tubeless again (not one flat in 21 hours for me) when I came across Clay with a flat. SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEETTTTTTT SOMEONE TO PARTY WITH!!!!!!!!!!!

I stopped and bragged about how fast I was while Clay fumbled with the flat. We partied and then I helped him stuff all of his crap back into his useless saddle bag. If you want a real damn bag, order one from Epic Designs! I haven’t broke the thing yet so it just might be indestructible.
Clay and I pushed on, we talked about whether or not there was a trail from Courthouse falls to the Devil’s Courthouse and then railed the steep descent on Sumney Cove. We both cleaned that wicked descent and I was stoked beyond belief. I really love that trail and I rarely force myself to go out there, thanks Eric.

Nothing exciting until Butter when clay and I discussed new to us single track, butter was golden as always and really cool because it was frozen. The entire night was very other-worldly because of the deep frost that coated the ground in crystals. It was extremely weird seeing what looked like huge wet mud ruts and then magically your tires would just roll over them due to their frozen nature. (Picture - sleeping bag frozen before the start of the race)

The sun started to show its rays just as I pedaled the road back to camp.

The rest of the race will come tomorrow along with The Most Horrible Video Ever, you won’t believe what you see!!