Wednesday, May 23, 2012

We Had The Piss-gah Taken Out Of Us.

For two nights following the Pisgah 111k, I anxiously dreamed myself a modern day Sisyphus.... hiking my bike up impossibly steep trails, only to lose my tenuous grip just before the summit and watch helplessly as my bike tumbled to the bottom.
Sometimes dreams can have a fantastical bent, but in this case it was pretty close to the truth.
On Friday, REVOLTING COGS Eric (Lovemuffin) Sauer, Morgan (the Redneck Swede) Olsson, Ben Barnyard. Greg Quispus Maximus, Mike Conan Albert and myself headed up to Brevard for the 1st annual Pisgah 111k. I don't often feel apprehension when I "race." But as the day approached, I found myself pondering the many and varied aspects of the event at hand. Perhaps this was exacerbated by the apprehension that everyone else seemed to feel. And them telling me that I was mad to ride a rigid fork, and that to choose any gear stouter than a 32x20 was folly in the extreme..... and to hear them talk of the pending climbs, steep descents and drop bag strategies... things I rarely find myself considering.... I began to sweat. (and subsequently to stink.)
Mayhaps most of my apprehension came from the fact that I might actually stand to place top 3 in this thing.
And so I felt my stomach gurgle with the nerves of losing a completely theoretical podium spot... either because of a botched start, poor nutrition, cramping, little to no training, a flat tire, a schizoid embolism.... the usual suspects.
Actually... let me change that to a hypothetical podium spot, as I can reference no experiments or evidence of any sort to support any such claims of potential success.
The point is... THE POINT IS.......
Uhhh...... Oh yeah. The point is....
After a dinner at Papas and Beer in Asheville, recommended by Jimbo Malta as a "one of the best burritos he's ever eaten" (he's damn close... I'll say that much) and some giant Dos Equis (of which Quisp did NOT partake, for reasons that are not readily apparent)... we met up with Eric and Morgan and his landbound equivalent of the Millenium Falcon (the Shasta.... a horrible name for a roving bike racer's mobile base. Suffice to say that s*** would have been modified into something either completely inappropriate or unbelievably clever (another hypothetical claim at best) were it my own RV.)

It's a well known fact that the Shasta did NOT make the Kestle run in less than 12 parsecs.

Officer Quispy... you have a right to remain sexy.
Conan... taming the beast. 
 The start was uneventful save for the number of trips to the bathroom previous to it. (Perhaps burritos the night before weren't the wisest choice. Who knew? Oh... What's that? Everyone knew, you say? Well I'll be damned.)

Dashing bastards.
I spotted my rabbit, Dickybutt, lined up front row and noted his pink striped Revolting Cogs knee warmer. (No... I don't mean knee-warmerS. I mean warmer. Singular. We had a yelled conversation about it over the pre-race announcements, of which I understood nothing. So I'll ask now.... Why Dicky? Why?)

Knee warmer numero dos?

It's been a long time since I rode in Pisgah. Once upon a time, I spent alot of time there. I've even written articles for Bike Magazine about it. But that's been over 10 years ago...another life in some ways. And for whatever reason, events have conspired to prevent my riding trailswhenever I'm near. Thus, my memory has purged that map. (FYI... Blogger is misbehaving right now... thus the center spacing.)
In fact, when the starting horn went off, it occurred to me that I had no idea which trails this race was going to hit, and whether ten years later I would even recognize them.
There was alot of chatter about how hard this race would be. And don't get me wrong... it was. And yet.... it wasn't. Without question, moderately advanced (or at least competent and fearless) riders had an advantage. There were alot of rocks. Alot of steepish technical sections. Alot of the kind of riding that would chew some people up. For whatever reason.....I LOVED this event. LOVED IT. Not like a brother... but like a hard, hard crush that makes my head swim and my loins swell.
I LOVED the gnarly. Make no mistake... I got chewed up and spit out. (Isn't that love?) I crashed no less than six times. Hard. But nonetheless felt like this event really suited me. I had a blast. And if not for mechanicals.... as stupid a thing as it is to say.... this race could have been mine. (maybe?). And I feel a minor pang at the loss. But it's nothing compared to the pang I feel currently when I accidentally bump my right ankle into something. (the result of crash number 4)

But I get ahead of myself. Let's go with the blow by blow.
The start was led out by a police car and was "neutral" until we hit the fire road. At which point it was open season.
I tried to ride conservatively, moving up toward Dicky and toward any other Single Speeds who were in front of us. I passed the Redneck Swede, knowing that on the first descent he would disappear forever. Then Dicky, a fellow named Zac and I played grab ass for a while until we settled into a little cadence and I got some distance on them.
Descent number one was a little rocky, but awesome. Despite this awesomeness, I managed to pick a very bad line across some rocks and went down (hard). Ow. 1st person to crash that day? Probably. As expected, Morgan blew past me, toward his 4th place overall finish.

The Redneck Swede
As I stopped to tighten my headset, which had been knocked loose, Zac passed by. As we were in for a long day and were only one hour in, I wasn't too concerned. And according to Dicky, who came up right after I got the headset up and running... Zac might blow? (I might blow too, as my MO is often to go and blow. (Uhhhh....) It made me feel better to hear, regardless.) That left two other riders... one of whom I'd seen sidelined by cramps very early on and the other walking away from me up the climb, pushing what looked like a very stout gear.
I had a reunion with my old friend Jeremy (from my Hendersonville days) whom I hadn't seen in over ten years, and we rode for a while.

Jeremy and moi.

Immediately following this picture, for no reason I can recall, I decided to ride off the trail and crash my bike. Yard sale! I managed to lose my Perpetuem bottle, and hence my nutrition for the next two hours, but gathered the former contents of my pockets and set off. Luckily, I had at least one GU squirreled away, and I reckoned that worst case scenario... I could make it to the aid station with minimal bonking.
Eventually, we hit the climb and I bid Jeremy and his gears adieu. Catching Dicky, we talked about the weaknesses and strengths of the riders ahead of us... About the course ahead... About meltdowns and dark moments... About the crashes we had both just had... And about the beavers we'd recently spotted in the area.
I was feeling pretty good, so on the next climb, I stepped on it a little and put some distance on Dickybutt and started reeling in the 3 folks in front.... starting to feel pretty confident that top 3 (or better) was in the cards.
As we came down a very rocky descent I felt the tell-tale slop in my rear wheel, indicating a flat. Damn!
I found the culprit... a decent slash in the sidewall of my Maxxis Ikon.. and for reasons that remain a mystery, decided to see if I could seal it with the Stan's inside the tire. ("Huh... maybe I should have re-Stan's this thing before the race," I mused.) After about five minutes, I managed to get the Stan's to take and I started off down the trail... now having lost my 4th place status to Dicky, some dude, and another dude. About ten minutes down the trail I realized what a dumbass I was and how I should have just thrown a damn tube in the rear tire, as the seal was not holding. So... once again, I dismounted, took the rear tire off and started to work. Barnyard pulled up and we lamented my luck. He gave me some C02 and set off with my blessing to reel in the two riders ahead. Ben's pretty good at that. I was a little bummed to be passed by a team-mate, as it was understood among Barnyard, Quispy and myself that the real race was between the three of US... regardless of our places in the whole melee.

Sauer Puss

Once I was up and running I started the chase, knowing it would be tough, but that I could probably move my way back up to top 3.
And then I noticed the knocking sound coming from my bottom bracket. I could feel it. Last month, at the Cohutta 100, I came damn close to losing my front chainring completely, as all the chainring bolts had come loose.... multiple times (a sob story in and of itself, as I was gunning for top five in that event and managed a 7th place instead.) 
Quick inspection showed that it wasn't my chainring, but that I was now in danger of losing my non-drive crank arm. Stopping to tighten it up I could feel the seconds slipping away and did mental math of how hard I'd have to ride to close the gaps.
Riding for a few minutes I was surprised to come across Ben and Mark Sacket, standing in the trail talking.
"uhhhhh... what are you guys doing?"
Ben pointed to the obstacle ahead and for the first time I registered an extremely high pitched buzzing.
It turned out to be a rattle. Sitting stubbornly on the trail despite being pelted with rocks and sticks was a very large rattle snake, it's body as thick as Ben's legendary triceps.

It had no interest in moving.
Finally Mark grabbed a ten foot long limb, and pushed the angry beastie off the trail (likely onto the lower tier of the trail and thus an unsuspecting rider) and we were on our way.
As we climbed, I was forced to stop at least twice to tighten the crank arm back on.... and starting to be a little peaved.

Here's another picture of me, because it's my f***king blog.
Thus it begins....
At a point the trail became completely unrideable and we shouldered our bikes for a decent hike. This was probably the most difficult section for me.
My mojo was gone... I wasn't in the top 3 anymore... I was having mechanicals... I was pretty tired... and I was feeling petulent.
The feeling wasn't abated as we descended Pilot. Whether because I was so tired or because I'm a spaz (or both) I wasn't faring well on the switchbacks. I'd clean 3 of them neatly, only to crash hard in the next one. I'd hop right back up and get moving.... but could feel the motivation slipping with each tumble. After three falls, one of which injured my ankle such that I couldn't feel my leg for a minute or two, I finally made it to the bottom, pulling onto a gravel road.
Only to find that my crank arm was loose.
I tightened it resignedly and started moving. As I very slowly started to make an immediate left, my front tire washed out and I faceplanted into the gravel. No time to even catch myself. Crash number 6. I lay there for a moment, arms pinned awkwardly beneath me... licking the gravel dust off my lips.
Well damn.
I got up and soldiered on.
The final climb up Black Mountain was pretty horrendous. It was hike a bike for miles. I did my "brisk walking" and put some distance on Barnyard, only to have another singlespeeder walk brisker than me and disappear up the hill.
Well damn.
The descent on the other side was pretty tough... lots of pretty steep drops and ruts to either ride or avoid. I was moving fast enough that I began to feel physically sick... shaken up so badly on the rigid that my stomach started saying "oog."
And then.... we were on fast singletrack... and then... I came into a clearing and we were done.
I hadn't expected that quick a finish.
First thought? Well damn... that wasn't bad at all!
I still had no idea of my place, but didn't really care. It wasn't top 3... top five? Maybe. But I kind of doubted it. Instead my head was filled with the "man... I could have owned this thing...maybe"
I know... such declarations are useless... and often flat out wrong. It's one of the reasons I like this kind of race. Anything can happen. And would I have hypothetically owned said event if two of the ss leaders hadn't cramped or gotten lost? Or even placed 6th, as I did? Who knows.
What I DO know is that I'm gunning for next year. Hard. You never know.... I might even train.... like... for real train! With science and whatnot!
They had a trashcan full of cheap beer along with some pretty kick ass burritos at the finish and I quickly inhaled a few of each.
Morgan the Redneck Swede had done awesome, coming in 4th overall and 2nd place masters... literally seconds behind Garth Prosser.

Poor Mike had taken a spill and tweaked his wrist.  He was pretty pissed. It was one of those "no good reason" falls where you just land wrong. Alas. Next year, man. Next year. 
Eric Sauer did awesome, riding his brand new One 9 (rigid!!!) and finishing soon after myself and Ben. I'd expected to have Quispy pass me at some point on the course, but was seemingly able to hold him off for the duration. As I sat at the finish, waiting for him to come across the line (and immensely enjoying being able to drink alot of cheap beer) I started getting the "oh no" feeling. Ben returned from a shower with the news that Greg was stuck at aid station 4 with a mechanical. Apparently after hiking up one of the unrideable sections, he went to remount and clip in, only to find that he no longer had a pedal.... Only a pedal spindle jutting out into space. Ain't no descending Pilot on that.
"Hmm...," I said. "Are those the pedals you bought from somewhere that wasn't my shop? Huh. I guess you should have gotten something from me instead."
Have you learnt yer lessen, Greg?! Have you?! HAVE YOU????!!!!!!
He spoke thusly about his race. "F*** this motherf***ing bulls***."
The farging iceholes what beated me.


Magnum... or is it blue steel?
  I smoozed and hobnobbed for a while with the various folks... then hauled my by that time quite drunkety self into the back of Ben's Family Van for the haul back to Greensboro. There's no telling what came out of my mouth on the return trip.
Bottom line? Hell yes. I'll be back next year. Rigid.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I learnt my lesson alright. Wait, what was the lesson? Oh right. Pedals, damn it.