I'm going to start at the end when at the first pitch up on Maxwell Cove my left quad finally relented and started cramping along with my right quad, hip and calf all of which had plaguing me for the past three hours. I screamed in agony with every pedal stroke. "Try not to yell", Yuri said calmly, "I don't want to give anyone a carrot to chase." "I'm gonna yell if I want to fucking yell", I yelled back. I managed to fight through the cramps for the fourth time of the day and we made it to Hickory Knob without seeing another team but just after the seep and switchback on the final downhill Wes D. and Geoff B. caught us and we let them right by. We had no idea where we stood in the race but being right behind Wes and Geoff could only be a good thing. A little further down the trail with just a half mile to go Jason M. and Russell H. came up behind us and we held them off until the final double track stretch to the finish. Jason jumped around me in a fast sprint but Yuri responded harder and faster and crossed the line just in front of Jason with me in the third spot and Russell behind me. Good enough for fourth place!
The Tenth Anniversary Edition of the Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race started with an unexpected surprise: the passports were waiting for us at Pressley Gap. This meant we would be starting with essentially a 35 minute time trial. Everyone lined up and away we went. I ride Black Mtn. a lot and when we were at the top of Hickory Knob in less than 30 minutes I was concerned that our pace was too fast. We hit the gap and got our passports in somewhere around 10th place. We took the time to read every word and consider every possible route option and decided to take the most direct and least mileage route and after five idle minutes headed on up Black towards Turkey Pen Gap. We should have rolled right through the intersection but like a fool I stopped to let some air out of my front tire and saw a line of five teams just yards below us which meant traffic on Turkey Pen. As we dropped up and down through the gaps we all spread out and Yuri and I settled in with Cook and Broussard, two good friends who I enjoyed chatting with as we pushed our bikes across a couple of mountains.
Our first checkpoint of the day - South Mills River/Bradley Creek Intersection - was reached in under two hours and we headed all the way up Bradley Creek. We had discussed the routes in this area and knew we had picked the fastest way through the maze so as I ran across the first creek crossing and saw three other teams right on our heels I had a hunch there might actually be a race at hand. The next few hours were a fast blur: out and back on Yellow Gap trail to the North Mills River Checkpoint, then a fast climb back up to Yellow Gap and a fast pit stop for Coke and water and then on up Laurel Mtn.
It was a mile or so up Laurel that the cramps started moving in. I shoved a packet of salt peanuts in my mouth, and kept moving forward. A short time later my water was already running dangerously low and the cramps started moving back in. We devised a plan to get water either at Turkey Spring or the bottom of Pilot Rock and rolled right through the checkpoint. There was water at Turkey Spring, but it was a mud puddle and without a filter was a lost cause so getting down Pilot Rock and to the water as fast as possible became the name of the game. I was moving very slow down the trail and at any moment expected a dozen teams to come flying by us but none did.
After a quick stop to dip our bottles at the bottom of the trail it was out onto the gravel for the long spin out to the 225 checkpoint. Adam P. and Ian B. passed us right away on 1206 and then on 475B Sam Koerber and Jacob M. went by us as well. A little later out on 225 they appeared right in front of us and we couldn't resist the rare opportunity to pass Sam and did just that!
We turned and burned at the 225 checkpoint and saw a dozen or so fast teams coming on their way in. We had no idea who had been where or where we stood in relation to everyone else and just focused to getting to Avery Creek and then back to the finish as fast as possible. 475B and 276 were painless enough but Club Gap was an expected bitch. I'm certain I crawled every inch of it. If that wasn't bad enough once we started down Avery Creek to our fifth and final checkpoint I was still going ridiculously slow over the very technical terrain. Luckily it didn't even occur to me that there were a whole bunch of teams right behind us. We focused to getting to Maxwell Cove and then the beer.
I really didn't care who heard me yelling out on Maxwell Cove Rd. All I wanted was to be done with it all. I'm still amazed that we got fourth place and am very happy with my effort. Best day of the year!