Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I'm home and feeling relaxed, a little tired and happy. That is one thing that I love about stage races and 24 hour races, is that after a couple of days, I forget just how hard they are and remember the fun parts. I had fun at the Pisgah race. It is a beautiful area with really fun trails. The weather and the gravel roads were the hard parts. But , I would do the race again and recommend it to others who are looking for an adventure. Its not expensive compared to other stage races, but you don't get housed or fed like the other ones. And I would say they are missing a little group atmosphere stuff. Everyone just goes back to where they are staying to wash bikes and eat. At Trans Rockies and Cape Epic they make a big deal out of dinner and then the slide show of the days riding and then a big course desciption and fly over of the next day's riding. But those races don't have singletrack either.
The last day was cold and fast. There was a lot of fireroad, but with views of looking glass rock and waterfalls and so many leaves on the road. I was feeling tired, but motivated to win the overall. I had a great lead of over 30 minutes so I just had to watch the other ladies. I rode with Churtle most of the day. She was killing the fireroads on her light bike and racing tires. Plus, she was racing into second place and that always gives you better legs. I passed her just 3 miles from the finish for the stage win and pushed my winnings up to $1150!
I love the trophy. Over the years, it has been rare to get a nice homemade trophy from a race. It was nice hanging out with the other racers in the sun eating a burger. Also the race provides each racer with 30 minutes of free massage, so I took advantage of that and the sponsor beer and all was good. There was a great after party a Square Root in Brevard complete with jaegerbombs and an old dude serenading Todd with an original version of Freebird.
I want to thank Shenandoah Bicycle Company and Tim for getting my bike in great shape for the race. Also, Turner Bikes for a sweet Flux that is a great endurance bike and made me smile flying down Pilot Rock . Also, local Asheville company, Industry Nine Wheels for fast, light and stiff race wheels. My Uvex helemt, Syntace bar and stem worked great. As well as my Ibex clothing, which was perfect for the Pisgah conditions. Thanks go out to Park for letting us have his house for the weekend and to Churtle and Harlan for being fun racing companions. And to Todd for putting the race on.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Greetings from the land of waterfalls, white squirrels, barbeque and retirees. I'm here in Brevard, North Carolina at the first annual Pisgah Mountain of Stage Race. This is the East Coast's only stage race(right now, not ever). It is put on by Blueridgeadventures.net main man Todd Brahnam. Todd has been an adventure mountainbiker for a while now and knows these Pisgah trails really well. He is a great rider, too, winning a Super D National Champion title a couple of years ago. I don't know how long this race has been in his brain, but kudos for making dreams into a reality. The race is pretty small with about 70 racers. It has a laid back vibe and kegs New Belgium after the stages. But the main draw is the trail system here in Pisgah National Forest.
The first stage Thursday at 6:15pm on the campus of Brevard College. The format was a short track. It wasn't your typical start to a stage race. The recent rains had made the 1- mile course muddy and slippery. I hated getting my bike so dirty! I love my Turner Flux so much that I feel so bad when I get it really dirty. And living in Virginia, I've gotten used to a clean bike after rides. But dirty bike aside, it was way more fun than I expected. There was a switchback climb with baby roots that was just tricky enough to get us primed for the next days. Plus, since things were running late we only had to do 4 laps! And very dirty bike aside, I beat the other 4 women and got the leaders jersey. Churtle was second, Carey third, Janel fourth and Brenda fifth. Its a cool pink leaders jersey! Jeremiah Bishop won the men's pro. With Harlan in second!
The first "real" stage was a doosey. Some were saying it was going to be the hardest stage. Others said it was the most singletrack. Todd's beta said that it was 22 miles of singletrack with a total mileage of 37 and 9500ft. It was extreme. Or what it just hard? Or was it just Pisgah? Classic Pisgah. It was a mass start with the three leaders jerseys on the front. It wasn't a fast start, but I got dropped pretty quick. Starts hurt. The seven mile soft gravel climb hurt , too. But the singletrack was nice, nice. Buckhorn was smooth and fast and just a good way to start to get in the mood for skinny wet singletrack. Carey was hammering on this section. Maybe she was in the big ring. Then we turned and rode squirrel gap trail and welcome to off camber roots! It was a half track in spots and lightly undulating. There were a few small creek crossings. I liked this trail. It was challenging, but not scary. It was tricky and rideable(not all of it for me!). It was picky. Then a sweet downhill off of Laurel Mountain where I got a small gap on Carey. She said she saw me on the soul crushing second gravel road climb up to check point two at the twenty two mile mark, but then lost me. There was an out of character gravel downhill, and then a climb to a sweet trail along the South Mills River. This river is gorgeous!
At one point a dude marshall said, "Its all downhill from here!" I said "No, really? He said, "Well there are a few little climbs and then its all downhill!" This is a recurring scenario in my racing career. Sometimes marshals lie. They don't mean too. They just don't know. He didn't know. Mile 32 was the start of the hike a bike up Black Mountain. It was a pretty long one with roots, rocks, switchbacks, skinny singletrack and lots of wet leaves. It was a bit brutal. Then finally a little sketchy downhill with wet logs. Then another hike a bike and another fun, sketchy downhill and then a sweet ride back on Black Mt. complete with hugh banked turns. So ending with a fun feel good trail made me feel good. But I still stand by initial claim that it was a bit extreme. Of was it just hard? Like Jeff from I-9 Wheels said," Finally the drought is over here and classic Pisgah is back". And maybe that is why the logo for the race is 'The Lion has Risen'. The Lion likes it slippery and wet.
So I have another leaders jersey! But the women's race is tight, as is the mens. Its raining as I write this and the third stage on paper looks like a 22 mile uphill. Sam Koerber who was 35 seconds back of JB today and who knows every root out here, warned us about the cold water creek crossings tomorrow. We cross Mills River again like 6 or 7 times. Regardless its going to be an adventure!
Apparently it rained all night, but I didn't hear it. I slept well after an incredible meal of lentil soup with an organic ham hock. It was so nourishing. Eating often and eating healthy is a big part of stage racing and here at Chez Park we were eating great.
It was hard deciding what to wear on a day like today. The rain subsided by the start, but it wasn't balmy. It was in the 40's. We started at 2200ft and would be climbing up to 5200ft. I wore the leaders jersey with an ibex wool bra and wool undershirt and ibex wool arm warmers, knee warmers, wool socks, and a plastic rain cape with the sleeves cut off. At first it seemed like a lot, but it ended up being perfect.
What a crazy day! We had to ride highway 191 for about 3 miles with serious water spray from eveyone's tires. But it wasn't too bad because all but a few stayed in the pack. My tires were craving the dirt and my legs felt like blocks but I was warm. There was some awesome singletrack in a laurel tunnel that led to the first of 7 creek crossings. The water was so cold! It almost took my breathe away, and the numb toes began. One of the crossings I dipped my front wheel into the current and tipped to the side. Yeeha...cold chamois! But the good part was that we got to warm up with the soul crushing gravel climb that we did yesterday, but today was a bit softer. I made it to check point one and then to Laurel Mt. trail. I glanced back after a while and saw that Churtle was not far behind. She was having a great day probably after eating all that lentil soup. I felt so slow and was having trouble getting on top of the gear. But the all the getting off and on the bike was helping the numb digits. And then thank god there was a hike a bike to warm up even more.
The amazing thing was that it started to sleet and then closer to the top there was snow! It did look amazing, especially on the ferns and with all the colored leaves. My core was never cold, so I just kept going. Its funny, at times I felt hardcore and then other times I felt soft as jello, thinking that I'm not getting paid to do this crazy shit anymore...so why am I doing it? But I can do it and I do like challenging myself and look at all of the other people out here doing it with a lot less ability or experience than me and how much fun they are having. So I just kept riding.
And I was rewarded with an awesome downhill...Pilot Rock trail. It was so fun and energized me so much. Maybe it was a little more of a Virginia downhill or maybe it was just fun. Maybe the Lion was giving some love out. Then at check point 2, I got some more drink and food and dumond lube and was good to go. Club gap and Avery creek were both really fun. Talking about the tenacity of mountain bikers, Tennessee Brad broke his nose yesterday and was still out there today. I was thinking he was crazy, and all he said is that it hurts a little and he couldn't breathe out of his nose. Geez, that is tough.
I now know why the last check point is so close to the finish. I'm sensing a pattern. The last several miles of the race are pretty hard. There was a bunch of never ending climbing on a gravel road. And then we did the last couple miles of Black Mountain again. There was some hiking involved again. But I did nail some of the things that I didn't from yesterday. But the fun feel good feeling was only there because it was the end of the race.
I won the day by ten minutes over Churtle who is locked in a tight battle with sweet Carey. Carey has her by about 4 minutes. Well, bikes are washed, we have had our lunch and are going over to Sam and Trish and Lucy's for dinner. Sam had some bad luck with a broken chain and a flat tire and got third. His dad, Bob had a bike incident and fell on the corner of his eye.
We are all whooped. I have some serious deep gluteal soreness and need to keep it together to win the race. Tomorrow sounds burly. There is some talk of taking out some of the singletrack that is at the very top of the mountain and there is talk of ice on the rocks. I want singletrack because the gravel roads are killing me, but I also know that as we all get tired, wrecks can happen.
Monday, October 12, 2009
We got another attempt at the orange loop up on Massanutten north. This isn't a long distance ride, but very technical and picky terrain that makes the going rather slow. It was Tim's and my birthday week, so we psyched that Pat Miller, Kyle, Nate, Jeremy and Capraro could join us in the fun.
After a fitful night sleep and realizing that I forgot the waffles that I spent hours making, we somehow crammed 6 people and 6 bikes in Pat's Forester. We parked at Steven's trail and commenced climbing up to the ridge. Stevens was very dry and churned up from the horses. The weather was perfect and we continued north on the ridge passing all the side trails. We went through Veech Gap and back up to the ridge. This section to Shawl is pretty tough, but some of the most fun as well. I was in awe watching Tim and the rest of these guys try impossible moves that became possible. Nate and Tim did the big switchback move on Shawl!
Our Lunch stop was Elizabeth Furnance. The orange soda, doritos, and reeses left our stomachs angry as we climbed up the uber technical Signal Knob. It was tough going, but dry as a bone. We cut the ride a little short, cutting out bear wallow and instead hitting the mine road out to Little Fort. We had pesto pasta and Tim had a homemade German chocolate cake for his birthday. We were all pretty dehydrated, but Tim's birthday case of Miller Lite helped.
We were moving a little slow on day two, but we could ride right out of camp up to Woodstock Tower and then south. This was fun, easy riding compared to some of the stuff from the day before. The wild thing was seeing Capraro ride with a chainsaw on his back for cutting out trees. Its not just the weight but the awkwardness of the blade. He is super committed to maintaining trails in that area. And what a strong and capable guy to be able to ride that shit with a chainsaw.
We had a Samazon stop at an overlook and could see short mountain, our next part of the ring. Short Mountain is by far the most difficult riding that I have ever done. It is relentlessly technical with rocks, big moves, and lung busting climbs. I cleared some tough stuff, but had to walk a ton, too. Again, everyone made some incredible moves and kept trying things even when exhausted. We opted out of Jawbone this time...this kind of riding really takes it out of me, but is so satisfying to me right now. I can't imagine passing up on rides like this to ride around in circles somewhere.
Hopefully this was okay preparation for the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage race that I'm doing this weekend! Probably not, but its going to be good.