Thursday, November 4, 2010

miracles

So Saturday started innocently enough at Cove Creek with the drinking club doing what we do best: hanging out and shwilling on some Faygo.

Photobucket

Photobucket

In a race like this every second counts. Sure it is a little more than a sprint but seconds wasted compound rapidly and can make a difference when it counts. I was the first racer to grab a passport and had Zach read the check point locations while I marked them on the map. As I did so I processed the route and then showed Zach what we had to do. In two minutes we knew our entire route for the day (though we would later have to omit a section). Zach said he was impressed and I said lets go and just took off without Zach and in the wrong direction. And we're off!

Checkpoint 1 came easy enough. A short little push up Club Gap and there we were.

Photobucket

The second one was just as easy. Up Buckwheat, down Bennett and we were at #2. Saddle Gap.

Photobucket

From there it was on down Bennett, up Clawhammer, up Maxwell Cove, up Black. On the way up Black it started to get really hot and I was dripping in sweat and my make up started bothering me. The Dark Carnival was closing in. I hadn't noticed the Koerbers at the start of the race but they made their presence known with some impressive climbing on the steep stuff at the top of Black where Checkpoint 3 was looming.

Photobucket

On the initial Turkey Pen downhill we passed Kee and Fusco on the side of the trail sorting out a broken derailleur. Tough break. Turkey Pen Gap kicks ass and there is nothing more fun that smoking across it. But on Saturday when I started up the steep climb on McCall Mountain a brick wall was waiting for me. My right quad started cramping and I had to slow to a crawl. I tried to eat and drink and keep moving forward. In the middle of it all was #4, Wagon Rd. Gap.

Photobucket

I eventually caught up with Zach on the way up Sharpy and told him what was going on and we slowed even more while I ate and ate. Dave Simpson and teammate passed us and we just let them go but in the end we crossed Turkey Pen Gap in 47 minutes, which is fast. I was feeling a little better and another cp help lighten the mood even more. Mullinax.

Photobucket

Checkpoint 6 was Laurel Gap on Squirrel Gap trail. This required an out and back past the intersection with Laurel Creek and although some teams were taking pictures of Laurel Creek because they misread the passport we went all the way there but it was frustrating to know others shaved 45 minutes off by not quite going there.

Photobucket

I was feeling good on the technical downhills so I lead the trip down Squirrel and Laurel Creek and tried to make up for lost time. As soon as we made the turn onto 5015 the wall was there again and this time both quads and a calf cramped and I had to fall off the bike. Not good. I never cramp and asked Zach what to do but he never cramps either. I pulled some peanuts out and started walking up the road. Keep moving forward. Work it out. Eventually I got back on the bike and we were rolling again. It was getting late and we still had a long way to go and on the climb up I tried to add up the times and figure out if we could reach all 10 cps and what time we needed to be climbing up out of the campground. By my calculations we had to be leaving the campground no later than 8:30. Any later and we wouldn't have time to hit Slate Rock and make it back in time.

When we started up 5001 it was 7pm and I knew 10 cps would mean a dnf. The Bear Branch cp was bitter sweet as I told Zach we had to pick between Middle Fork and Trace Ridge.

Photobucket

We picked Middle Fork because it required less climbing but it didn't come fast or easy. We went out and back on Spencer Branch and Middle Fork to get it which was slow and technical but we still got it. The Dark Carnival was still at work in my head so I turned up my music to drown out the demons as we worked our way back out of the darkness.

Photobucket

Fisherman's was just right there and would have meant saving a lot of precious time but it isn't a trail and isn't on the map and we play by the rules so all the way out 142 > 5000 we went. And then the long slog up to Yellow Gap. When I'm fresh I can hammer out that climb in 20 minutes flat but I wasn't fresh and it took almost twice that long and on the way up we discussed the high probability of not making the midnight cutoff. We had left the campground at 8:35. Not early enough.

It was forever down 1206 to the turn for Slate Rock and a dnf seemed the likely result. We were fine with that but still made the turn to the mandatory cp of the day. If I was alone I would have left the bike at the bottom and ran up and down but there were two of us and Zach doesn't run well downhill so we pushed our bikes slowly up. The wall still in front of me. On the top of the rock we ran into amigos, Cook and Cissy and I was relieved to see some good friends out there in the middle of the madness. Cissy asked if we were going to make it and I told her no. She looked devastated but that was my honest assessment of the situation. Down we go.

Photobucket

We passed Kee and Fusco near the bottom on their way up. Brad was moving slow on the flats with his unexpected single speed and it was good to see them still hitting the mandatory cp with a dnf being definite.

Out on Yellow Gap Rd. a couple of other teams joined us and Cissy set a blistering pace with us all trying to chase her blinkie and make it in before midnight. I knew it was going to be very close and staying up all night drinking with Brad and Matt didn't sound too bad at all. Plus we could party all day Sunday as well. If it wasn't for Cissy I would have just completely resigned to it but there she was, hammering away. So I dug in and gave it all I had. We made it in with only seconds to spare and nothing left inside.

I wandered around in a daze trying to get my beer opened and kept hearing something about a slow bike race and a half a checkpoint. Half a cp is huge so I found my bike and lined up. I wasn't exactly sure what the idea was, or how to do it, and wasn't too interested anyway so when I pedaled twice and rode across the line first I was just glad to be out of the way and off to bed.

5:30 am Sunday and it was a whole other beautiful day. Although a crusty layer of frost fell into my tent like snow as I unzipped it the wall was gone and I felt great and knew it would be a day of rainbows and unicorns, all types of miracles I can't begin to understand.

A late start and time trial to 471D with me taking it easy but still passing all but one team. We got the passport and right away decided to drop the Summey cp. It seemed too far away and too much of a gamble but in hindsight we could have gotten it without a problem. Once again I knew the route immediately and we took off for our first cp of the day - Butter Gap.

Photobucket

Number 2, Butter and Longbranch was just as easy. I was glad to be riding single track in the early morning darkness. It isn't often you get to indulge in such gluttony.

Photobucket

We took 5095 down to 475. I thought up Longbranch would have been fastest but Zach disagreed and I didn't care. Pilot Mtn. Rd. wasn't bad. It was already hot out and I took it nice and easy not wanting to risk a cramp. Nice and easy I suspect was actually still quite fast as we hit the gap in no time at all. I took one look at the eggs and told Zach to do what he though best. He grabbed the slingshot and hit the pumpkin first thing without hesitation and we drank some beers as we watched other riders other riders take interesting trails to the gap.

Photobucket

The way I look at it is if you are at Farlow Gap you should ride down Farlow so that is what we did though backtracking back out down the roads might have been just as fast and easier. It doesn't get any better than Farlow though and cp 4 was there at the bottom.

Photobucket

Up Daniel and out the 225 connector. We stopped for water and to shed layers at one of the streams and Dave Simpson passed us. We just let them go knowing we could catch them later in the day. Once out on 276 we saw them coming out of the Forest Discovery Center and wondered what was going on with that? Perhaps they didn't know how to get to the Pink Beds? We caught them as we turned onto the single track and then as they stopped to walk across the first bridge I yelled at Zach to go straight through and we both blew through the creek and past them. Click, click, click. If they stopped fore every bridge they weren't going to catch us on this trail. A quick pause for cp 6.

Photobucket

And on across the Pink Beds at a blistering pace. Zach needed water but there were no stop signs on this day so we swapped his empty bottle for my full one and went on to Wolf Ford. We passed Wes and Geoff coming the other way and wondered what was going on with that. Had they gotten all the cps around Avery and were doing Farlow and Summey last? Had they skipped at cp? No time to wonder too much. Time to go!

Photobucket

We got stuck behind a big group of horses just before the river and had to stop for a few minutes while we waited for them. Tick, tock. Climbing back up to Buckhorn Gap there were several teams headed down and then Dave Simpson caught me just before the gap after Zach and I had stopped for a few minutes to get water. We chatted for a few minutes and he asked me if we were going to get Pressley Gap. I lied and told him I wasn't sure and didn't really care. He agreed that it sounded far away. Hmmn, really? Okay!

#7, Buckhorn Gap Shelter:

Photobucket

I made the call that we would go down Clawhammer and out and back on Maxwell Cove for checkpoint 8. It was probably just as fast to go over Black but Maxwell sounded like a safer call. It wasn't bad at all.

Photobucket

We pushed up Bennett which seemed longer than it should have and I was glad we skipped the top of Black. Coontree Gap was number nine and meant that it was all downhill from there. I love Coontree and am actually able to ride it really fast and couldn't think of a better way to end the weekend!

Photobucket

4 comments:

  1. Great write up ! It almost made me feel as if I was there !

    ReplyDelete
  2. F*ck Yeah! Nice Work! great read!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Kevin in B'hamNovember 5, 2010 at 3:15 PM

    I really enjoyed the write up and the pics. Thanks for taking the time to put it together.

    You guys are F'ing Beasts!

    ReplyDelete