Joe and I have had a lot of conversations over 6 years at PMBAR never once faltering so badly as not to finish. However this year, one conversation stands out about our dreams the night before the race. I attribute the pre-game dreams as nervous energy. I only wish Confucius would have visited me and said “Jonathon, you needn’t worry about being strong in body it is your mind that will get you through.”
Eric says “Go” and somehow I missed it I just heard Joe saying “People are looking at their passports.” So I triple checked that we were indeed allowed to look as I would hate to DNF before the start and once confirmed I skimmed the passport. Once I found that we were headed up Thrift I said to Joe “Let’s go.” And we did just that.
Once I got to the turn for black the “leaders” were already backtracking as it was obvious some had neglected to read a single word in the passport. Once on Thrift I yanked the passport out of my pocket and read the checkpoints off in my mind but I had yet to read the entire thing thoroughly.
Going up the upper section of Black I had a sinking feeling in my gut that we were headed the wrong way until Sam and his partner passed us on a steep section pedaling up the steep side hill as though there were a tow rope that they were hanging onto.
Once we made it to the intersection of Black and Turkey Pen I pulled out the passport to double check as I was thinking that hitting the Squirrel checkpoint first might be fastest. I read the passport and got the same sinking feeling that thirty some odd other teams did that day. There was a rule 13 that read “There is a wooden nickel in the back of the passport, give the wooden nickel to the race director prior to the start.” Start mind explicative’s as though your Too Short rapping “Mother F…. me damn $hit head bitch…” I told Joe and fully expected an onslaught of hate which never came. I thought about going down to return the nickel but then read on that it was a two hour penalty and not a DNF thank god we could still finish.
That made the rest of the decisions easy, we would have a nice ride and finish our sixth PMBAR together as a team or die trying. We were taking Turkey Pen for fun so to speak. I didn’t have any fun on Turkey Pen because I was loathing in my self-pity. While crossing a huge downed tree a small stick poked me directly in the eye ripping my contact out. I stopped to put my spare in and cussed at myself some more.
Eventually I came out of my state of loathing pity and started to have fun again. I wanted to find out how many other teams made the same mistake as us. I knew it had to be a bunch and I was out to “crush some souls” so to speak.
After nabbing our first checkpoint on Bradley, we started seeing the fast teams come by going up Bradley. No stranger to stream crossings I was really enjoying all of the hyped up teams thrashing through the streams and I dare say I was having fun as I had never ridden the length of Bradley before and it is quite the gem.
We pushed on throughout the day chatting with folks about wooden nickels, pain, heat, cool breezes, nice singletrack, hey do you know Yellow Gap trail?
I chatted with Stephen at his blockade on 5015 and ate some of his food that he so graciously provided. I prayed that a team would come strolling up 5015 while we stood there so I could see the wrath that is PMBAR rain down on yet another set of souls but none came.
Out around N. Mills River and back via Yellow Gap. I thought the climb back to the gap itself was going to suck all my life from me but somehow I gained a second wind climbing Laurel Mountain and started having fun again. The descent down Pilot was grand until I met my friend Brad and he informed me about another friend who’s day hadn’t ended so well. I worried some but the rigors of Pilot Rock had me quickly focused once again.
The out and back via S. Mills River to grab the Squirrel check point wasn’t as bad and I thought it would be and had another laughable moment when I saw my friend Shane working the checkpoint. I had to chat for a second even though it might cost us 43rd place or whatever. As we were chatting about this and that a backpacker came up and had a conversation with Shane that went something like this:
Random Backpacker “Hi, are you camping here tonight for that race going on?”
RB “I am with CRC and the group of kids that are with me are juveniles that are in rehab.”
RB “Do you mind if we find a place to camp close?”
Shane “No that’s fine”
RB “Great thanks, if any of the kids come up and ask you for anything just ignore them.”
Shane “All I have is beer”
RB holding his hand to his ear as he walks away “Shhhhhhhh shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”
Joe and I rolled up to Clawhammer and just as I was thinking that I didn’t want to climb Maxwell I heard Joe say “Let’s go over black.” That’s all I needed to hear. A slog to the top, quick rest at the overlook and one of the best descents I have ever had coming down the upper portion of Black.
Thank you Eric, Erinna, National Forest Service, Carlos, Stephen, Blair, Dicky’s Son, Mike Brown, Shane, David Maida and Son, Dudes at Bradley checkpoint, Dude at Laurel and Pilot, whoever was at Daniel, any other volunteers I missed, Sycamore Cycles etc… All of you rock.