Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The p36 (part 1)

Since I've already covered the ending I guess I might as well start now at the beginning. I pulled into Cove Creek at Noon on Friday, the race wasn't starting for another 12 hours and I was the first rider there which was perfect. I set up my camp and then went over and chatted with Eric and Carlos. It turns out that Eric is a Phish fan so we talked about all the crazy times we had at shows and I couldn't help but make the correlation between those concerts and his events. I used to go to strings of Phish shows and have these crazy adventures that spanned days and states, now I go ride my bike in the woods for the same sort of enlightened enjoyment, but that is another blog.

Anyway, I did my gear check and then while waiting around for Jonathon to show up with the number plates I decided to go walk Duma up Caney Bottom and take a picture of the big waterfall. Caney Bottom is one of the very few Pisgah trails I've never been on and I sort of got lost in the sunshine and ended up at the Cove Creek intersection way before I was expecting to without ever seeing the waterfall. This ended up being a bigger hike than I expected so I just went back down Cove Creek, intentionally missing the waterfall this time, and tried to clear my head and prepare for the craziness that I knew was just hours away and waiting at the end of the trail.

When I got back Jonathon and Broussard were both there and Broussard announced his intentions to win the race. I said he couldn't because I needed him to blow up the front to get my competition out of the way. He said he'd do that as well. Perfect. I went home, mowed the grass and got into bed. I could'nt sleep but did my best to lay for five hours before I headed out to Cove Creek for the midnight start.

When I got there word was out that there would be a prologue start and that was my first inkling that things were going to get a little interesting. Eric had been saying that the race was going to be easier and finishable and I really had no idea what to think. I chatted with Markley Anderson who I'd met and rode with some at the Wild100. We discussed possibly starting the race together but I left it ambiguous and went back to the start. This was going to be his first time riding Pisgah and I knew he was going to be in for a treat.


I was the first one to move when Eric said go but I wasn't interested in going too fast so I let a lead group go without even pretending to try and chase. When we hit Daniel I immediately got off and started walking and settled into a nice brisk 36 hour pace. The moon was rising and brilliant and I felt great. It was a perfect night to be out riding bikes in the woods. When I made it to 225 a couple of riders caught me and I was surprised to see that it was Markley with Brad Kee right behind him. The three of us rode Cove Creek together finished up the prologue in just about an hour. This Prologue gave us our first nine miles and 2000' of vertical gain but not a single checkpoint:


We quickly grabbed the Stage 1 passport and I told Markely I'd show him around the first loop and we took off. The stage was almost exactly what I was expecting and really not that horrible. I told Markley we'd be walking up the trail and then walking back down but I don't think he believed me. Brad Kee caught us and passed us at the 140A intersection and I started the long walk up to Farlow.


Once we dropped down Farlow I started feeling really good and had both lights on high and saw the line really well and somehow manged to stay on my bike through the entire top rock garden. That was a first and really not something I should have attempted. A little later of Daniel I was just cruising along when my front wheel washed out and I fell off the ridge. You know where it has the really big fall? Right there. I went down about 20' but was fine and Markley was right there behind me to help me haul my bike and myself back up. I asked him what he thought of Farlow Gap and he said he wasn't expecting that. But he is a strong rider and had kept up with my no stopping pace without a problem.

Stage 1 was good for another 26 miles and 7500' vertical but also the first six precious checkpoints.


I came in from stage 1 right after 6am took a look at the passport and told Eric I thought it was going to be easier this year! He said it was and everyone laughed. I felt good and it didn't matter. I put my helmet battery on to charge, grabbed one of the six bags of food I'd prepped and a fresh bottle and took off up Cove Creek in less than ten minutes.

I wanted to be riding before the sunrise to get some free and easy miles in the dark. I watched the sun rise as I circled around the Looking Glass Rock on 475B. Brad Kee caught up to me out on 276 and we chatted a little before the turn to 477 came up. I knew I had to get all six cps and knew Brad would be as well so when I made the turn onto 477 and he went straight I was wondering if I had been out navigated and what I was missing. As I started up Club Gap I realized that by hitting Club Gap first and doing the loop counter clockwise I had picked the wrong direction on 1206. I thought about turning around but it was a long race and one mistake couldn't make that much of a difference so I stuck to my original plan. Club Gap came easy enough.


The trip across Black and then down to Wolf Ford was as easy as it gets as well. I was making good time and feeling good. I was eating and drinking a lot and popping electrolytes a few times a hour. My plan was to climb Squirrel and then take Horse Cove to Cantrell but I stopped at the river for a minute and considered taking South Mills. The water was high and the trail an overgrown mess and I told myself to stick with the plan and I'd be at the mandatory cp in less than an hour.

I hadn't been on the lower part of Squirrel but my reconnaissance had me thinking it was the best route. Just like South Mills River, 5018 was quite simply out of the question. There was a lot of deadfall on Squirrel but I was able to walk through it without a problem and then it quickly cleared up as I dropped down Horse Cove as I knew it was.

I passed a hiker on Cantrell who asked which way I came in to which I responded "Good question." And I caught one of the locals getting a suntan.



Brad Kee passed me coming the other way on South Mills and I knew I'd been seriously out navigated and he was hours ahead of me. Once again I told myself it didn't matter and just kept moving forward. I was tempted to drop my bike and run up and down to get the parking lot checkpoint but there were a lot of people about so instead I shouldered it and ran up the trail and then rode down 66 jumps after tagging the cp.


I was headed all the way up Bradley and the Laurel cp was right along the way. I was feeling good and everything was going great.


Bradley was an overgrown mess and I walked almost all of it, especially after this stick jumped up and wrecked havoc on my bike.


I did the bare minimal of trail side repairs and told myself I could fix it better when I dropped my bike at the bottom of Pilot Cove so I rode out onto 1206 with a barely functioning singlespeed. All I really needed to do was tighten my chain but I was fighting for time for some reason in my head. For some reason I was thinking the Slate Rock Creek trail head was to the East of Bradley Creek so when I saw a trail on the right I took it. Almost immediately I recognized that it was Slate Rock Creek but I kept going anyway. There should have been a little bridge right at the start and then the turn should have come up real fast but it didn't and I kept going up anyway. After about ten minutes I came to my senses and turned around and headed back out and up Yellow Gap Rd. a few miles to the correct trail.

I saw no reason to take my bike on the out and back to the checkpoint so I stashed it and ran up and then back down the trail. I passed a few riders who were out there clearing the trail and a few hikers who seemed a little surprised to see some guy in bike clothes running on the trail. The cp came easy enough and I had all six and was feeling good. Other than a few small blunders everything was going smoothly and just as planned though perhaps a bit tougher than anticipated.


Back out on 1206 I realized the first signs of fatigue were setting in so I ate and tried to make mental notes of everything I had to do when I got back to the start. My bike was fucked and was going to need some attention. I had burned through the 1500 calories I packed for the stage and was going to have to carry more. It was hot and my lips were sunburned and causing unnecessary discomfort, I needed more electrolytes and chamois cream. Oh, how I needed chamois cream! I tried to think of what the best way to do it all was and still be back out on the bike asap. My hope was that David Cook would still be hanging out and would be able to tackle my bike while I worked on the food, lights and pack.

And then there was the question of just what stage 3 was going to be. If this year's race really wasn't horrible it would be something easy like Butter Gap, if it was just as hard it would be Farlow, it was harder it would be something like Summey.

I came in from stage 2 at 3:30 with all 6 checkpoints another 45 miles and 9500' and was feeling really good. My route was:

Cove Creek > 225 > 475B > 276 > 477 > Club Gap > Black Mtn. > Buckhorn Gap > South Mills River > Squirrel Gap > Horse Cove Gap > Cantrell Creek > South Mills River > Bradley Creek > 1206 > Pilot Cove > 1206 > 276 > 475B > 225 > Cove Creek


Part 2 tomorrow, hopefully.

1 comment:

  1. South Mills River was actually not that bad. The river was deep but the trail wasn't really very overgrown after the first bit. Don't know if it was faster but I thought it was pretty enjoyable.