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Dirty Content - The Mud Tastes Better in Pisgah

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Dirty Content - The Mud Tastes Better in Pisgah

Old 05-05-08, 09:53 AM
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Dirty Content - The Mud Tastes Better in Pisgah

So it's slightly OT, but the MTB racing forum is dead. This is my bikeforums home anyway


The mud tastes better in Pisgah. Out here the locals call it “trail spice” and it’s truly a great, well rounded blend of earthy undertones and well aged ripe flavor. The 2008 Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race provided your intrepid author and team-mate of questionable sanity, Jimmy with ample opportunity to sample some of the finest trail spice the forest had to offer. The Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure or PMBAR is, for the uninitiated, a free form race with seven possible checkpoints, any four of which must be completed (along with one of two mandatory checkpoints, on opposite ends of the forest) in order to officially complete the race. For the most part, paved roads, and well used fire roads are off limits, along with hiking and equestrian trails. With that loose set of rules, racers are free to use their imagination to set the course.

The madness began on Wednesday night, April 30th – “Hey Noah, it’s Jimmy, remember that mountain bike race in Pisgah we talked about?” “Yeah.” “Well, do you still wanna do it? It’s this weekend.” Thoughts of how unprepared I was for a ride greater than six hours began to enter my head. “Can we still register?” “Yeah, I think so.” “Okay, sounds like fun.” So it was on, we were committed to the cause. Just to set the scene, Jimmy and I haven’t had a lot of time to train together, and in fact have ridden together no more than a handful of times in the last year. He’s been training for and racing 12-24 hour endurance mountain bike events, like the one we’d signed up to do in Pisgah, on a fully rigid, single speed mountain bike. I’ve been training for and racing 45-60 minute criteriums, on a geared road bike. We were essentially going to flesh out the finer points of racing as a team on the course.

The never ending road trip that is my life during racing season (which in case you were wondering, is in fact all year, encompassing the disciplines of road, cyclocross and mountain) was on once again as we left Fayettenam for the mountains of Western North Carolina. After a seven hour drive and bit of hunting for an open roadside camp site in the Pisgah National Forest we set up and quickly tried to steal a few hours of sleep before the pain began in earnest early the next morning. We were up at 5:45 and at the race site by 6:30. A few last minute bike, gear and map checks, and we were ready to go. At 8:00 the race was off and 75 teams of two shot into the forest like lemmings happily scampering towards the void. We’d decided that in order to cut down on early race traffic we would summit the first climb on the way to Black Mountain before plotting our points on the map and making our navigation decisions. The first climb was fast and furious as people excitedly went to burning all of their matches in the first 15 minutes of the race. At the top of the climb and the first decision point, we saw a flow of racers heading straight up a single track section. At this point where paths diverged in the woods, we took the one less traveled by – and that made all the difference.

As we were generally unfamiliar with the trails in the forest, we wagered that taking longer routes over more established fire roads and old logging roads would be a better bet than setting forth on shorter single track routes of unknown condition. Off we went on the fire roads, we were the third team of seventy five logged in our first checkpoint at Club Gap, and the first team to our second checkpoint at Daniel Ridge. It was when we were the first team through the second checkpoint that we began to question the logic of our decision. We were riding well, but clearly not as well as locals who knew the best routes through the forest. At that point we were already in the western section of the forest, and were committed to getting the next two checkpoints there, before turning back to continue the race. I began to feel the lack of long endurance miles, and excess mass that have come with the racing I’ve been doing this year, and suffered slowly up the longer climbs while Jimmy was flying up them like a man possessed on his single speed rig. On top of serving me a big slice of humble pie, this reinforced the fact that perhaps I need to step away from big servings of any sort of pie in the future should I wish to actually compete in any sort of racing that goes up a hill. I had ample time to contemplate this fact up many 20-45 minute climbs, and concluded several things: 1. I hate food. 2. I’m hungry right now. 3. Please make it stop. 4. The fish in “Finding Nemo” is my climbing muse. I’m like an autistic fish. “just keep swimming, just keep swimming…” was cycling through my head for far longer than I’d like to admit.

The race was begging to take shape as a true epic, we’d hit all four of our required checkpoints, but still had many miles left to go before we could think about a fifth. We’d need to go from the west side of the forest to the east. To even return back to the race start/finish was a multi-hour ride. The trails were amazing, with some wet, technical descents that tested the endurance of our forearms and fingers trying to maintain control of the bikes. I at least had a suspension fork. Jimmy’s bike was fully rigid. No suspension at all, I meant it when I said he’s of questionable sanity. When I thought I was going to lose feeling in my hands, I knew he was hurting much worse than I. At around eight hours into the race my legs began to cramp, and after a brief few minutes of stretching we continued on our slog through the forest. My body was beginning to protest, and demanded an explanation for this sort of never ending cycling torture. I’d never previously ridden longer than seven or eight hours, and cracking this ceiling was a foray into the unknown. I kept going, despite further protests being lodged by my legs. After a few more miles we stopped to filter water by a road side, and between the generally filthy mud and blood condition in which we and our bikes were, more than a few passers by stared wonder just exactly what kind of nonsense these spandex clad, filth coated men were up to. I wondered myself, but in the haze of delirium beginning to set in, I could best describe our activities to them as “good times.”

As we drew nearer to the finish of the race, it was clear that we wouldn’t have enough time to hit any further checkpoints before the 10pm cutoff, and we made the hard, yet ever so easy decision to turn towards the race finish. We rolled over the finish line at 7:15pm with 78 miles and nearly 11,000 feet of elevation gain, done in 11 hours and 15 minutes. While not the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it was certainly the most taxing mountain bike ride and one of the top three or four all time bike rides in terms of sheer endless suffering. It was great. I feel bad for holding back Jimmy with my snail-esque climbing pace, and question the prudence of our excessively long trek to our four points, but all told it was an epic race that I don’t imagine I’ll ever forget. After a post ride burrito, beer, and bull session with fellow racers we hit the road to return to the confines of Fayettenam once more. We’ll be back for more of that delicious Pisgah trail spice soon…our official finish qualified us for entry into the “Double Dare” race in October, two days of racing with each one potentially the equal of the one day of PMBAR. In the mean time, I’ll be not eating and falling asleep on my bike in preparation for what’s to come.
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Old 05-05-08, 10:37 AM
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Yeah, I'll be doing some XC and marathon XC this summer.

They're making me start in Beginner.

It's going to be awesome.
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Old 05-05-08, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Duke of Kent View Post
Yeah, I'll be doing some XC and marathon XC this summer.

They're making me start in Beginner.

It's going to be awesome.
Sandbagger!
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Old 05-05-08, 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Snuffleupagus View Post
Sandbagger!
I might be doing a relay race this summer, in which I'd have to race at the level of the highest cat. team member.

The friend I'm going to race with is Semi-Pro.

So, kind of.
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Old 05-05-08, 02:43 PM
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Nice report, sounds like hell. Good times.

BTW: My MTB is single speed too (but I recently added a suspension fork -- too many pinch flats). I really should try to find a race for it (old steel Stumpjumper). I've had friends go out with me who haven't ridden with a single before -- and they all want to give me some sort of handicap. Cracks me up -- I'm always pulling over to wait for them.
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Old 05-05-08, 04:35 PM
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Epic
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Old 05-05-08, 06:00 PM
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WR: Do it, the SS category in the southeast is pretty stacked, there are some serious guys around. I have an old steel GT that's going to get an ENO hub laced to a DT rim to turn it into a SS one of these days.

Q: Yes it was
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Old 05-05-08, 08:29 PM
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Yeah, I've built up a couple ENO Eccentric hubs into wheels. VERY nice hubs.
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