I’ve been planning a trip out to North Carolina for work that involved some meetings with some of our bigger accounts. Of course, being the cram everything possible into a trip type of person, I did some advance planning. I’m racing before and after my week in NC. The before was this past weekend in Pisgah. The after will be the Transylvania Epic Stage Race next week! The in betweens were work and doing 3 clinic/rides during the week.
I had never ridden my bike in Pisgah before (Western North Carolina), but I knew it was legendary. To make things even more demented, it poured rain the entire time I was there. I was originally signed up to race the 111k on Saturday. I got to Pisgah late Friday afternoon after trying to get my NEW BIKE sorted and ready to go. I did a 6 mile ride up and down the first climb of the race. I was very surprised with how steep Black Mountain was. I was also trying to get my rear suspension where I wanted it – no easy task after not being on an FS bike for 2 years. I have to say that it was sunny Friday evening.
I checked into my hotel at the Rodeway Inn. I wanted to stay at the Sunset Motel – I had heard great things, but it was all full (go figure!) First word of advice about Brevard, NC. DO NOT stay at the Rodeway Inn! It was dingy, the lock on my door was broken, loud, and there were holes in the wall where people had punched it. Sunset or Hampton is the way to go.
Saturday morning around 3 AM, the rain began to fall…and it didn’t drizzle, it poured. My cheerful alarm went off at 5:45 AM. I looked outside and the parking lot was a lake with more rain pouring down. The Pisgah 111k was supposed to be a fun training race for me – a chance to spend some decent time on my bike, and I wasn’t supposed to bury myself with the TSE coming up. I laid there debating whether I was going to use my number plate that day. I have never not started a race. After about 30 minutes, I came to the conclusion that the best decision would be to skip the race so I wouldn’t destroy my body or new bike. I was mentally so taxed from all the travel and fatigue. I knew I’d mentally burn out if I went. I also knew I didn’t have 8-9 hours of slogging in me with my tapped out, spread too thin energy level and I did not want to start something I wouldn’t finish. So, I went back to sleep…and got 12 hours of much needed rest. I tried not to beat myself up about it.
It was still raining when I got out of bed at almost 10 AM. I thought of the poor bastards out in the rain doing the race – braver and more determined souls than I that day. I had breakfast with a couple of my friends from Niner who happened to be in town and commiserated over the lack of good coffee and “western” breakfast. I have to say though – I did enjoy my pepper buttermlik biscuit – immensely.
I got out for a 2 hour ride in the rain. The trail was a river.
It was a good chance to see the Pisgah terrain and get used to the mud. After 2 hours of easy riding, I had done some hiking, some riding, and only went 10 miles. “That’s odd,” I thought to myself.
After that, I went straight to registration and signed up for the 55k thinking it’d be a better option. In my mind, it’d be 4 hours and easier. Boy, was I dead wrong.
It was still raining when I got up Sunday morning, but was starting to subside. I wouldn’t allow myself to bail again on the race, so I packed up in the rain and went to the race. I heard horror stories in the parking lot from the 111k. Yes, some people were doing BOTH races for the Pisgah series. One guy’s story almost dissuaded me from lining up!
But line up I did…and there were other smiling faces around that made me feel better. I loved meeting Shanna from Endless Bike Company. She was all set to go with a beard, dress, and my favorite socks.
The start went straight uphill and settled into a long, steep hike-a-bike. It quickly became the theme of the day.
Instead of going section by section, I’ll do a free association of words about the course:
muddy, wet, TONS of hike-a-bike, almost all the singletrack climbs were hiking, very steep, technical, roots, big rocks, waist deep “creek” crossings, epic, super lush, are my brake pads ok?, Jurassic Park, where are the raptors?, technical, steep downhills, 2-3inch deep peanut butter mud, slippery as hell, should have put cleats in my shoes so my feet didn’t slide out from under me while pushing my bike uphill, slow going, determination, try not to think about how slow I’m going, fast locals, great volunteers, improvement, good experience, La Ruta, stay away from the red mud, I hope my drivetrain survives, fun, pruny fingers, muddy smile, adventure.
At 2.5 hours, I had only gone maybe 12 miles. “This is going to be a LONG day” I thought to myself. I didn’t really push hard because I simply couldn’t. I just moved forward and it was fun most of the time. In the end, it took me just over 6 hours. I threw a quiet hissy fit in my head on the last hike-a-bike because I didn’t want to push my bike uphill anymore. I wanted to ride it.
I was extremely happy with the improvement in my technical riding and comfort on my new bike. It was a dramatic improvement – the first time I didn’t feel skiddish on sketchy trail since I broke my wrist at BC Bike Race.
I had no idea, but Carey Lowery was chasing behind me. She came in only a couple minutes back (AND had done the 111k the day before I might add). She said they kept telling her she was a couple minutes back at each checkpoint. I’m glad my hissy fit happened while I was walking. If I had stopped and thrown my bike like I wanted to do, I definitely would have been caught and passed! Good lesson to keep pressing on because you don’t know what’s going on behind you! Strong work, Carey!
Fun adventure mountain bike ride, unexpected difficulty! I have to admit I’m a bit cracked and maybe a little worried about Transylvania! I’m still tired from the race. It was a much bigger day than I had bargained for right before a 7 day race! I’m glad I showed up – that is an experience I will not be forgetting any time soon and I will be back to Pisgah. The word was that the course Sunday for the 55k was in worse shape than Saturday, and the 111k was consistently 2 hours longer. I was impressed with the energy sapping mud.
Congrats to everyone that attempted this beast, especially the people who did both days. I honestly don’t know if I could go back for more a second day in a row knowing what was in front of me!
In the end, we had ridden/hiked 37 miles, 8100′ of elevation gain…and 6 hours. I’m happy to say Pisgah did not defeat me, but it tried and almost won!
I booked it back to Charlotte Sunday night to get ready for the work week.