His response: That he'd already told his wife (and himself) that he was out and had changed all of his weekend plans. "Sorry."
While I'm glad he told himself, I would have appreciated it if he'd confirmed with me, as I was the one left scrambling to figure something out last minute.
PMBAR requires a partner and without one, I wouldn't be allowed to race. In addition, one DNF in any of the King of Pisgah Series puts me out of the running. (Admittedly, the running for what? ....11th 35+ Singlespeed Ambidextrous Hirsute Male category? But whatever.)
So... instead of accomplishing the many, many, many things that I needed to before heading out of town, I got to spend it trying to rework the entire weekend from the ground up.
I was so pissed that "You're watching my dogs" was about the only thing I could manage to say.
Honestly, I should have known this would happen, as Ben is, (outside of Greg "Bail") the God-Emperor of bailing on shit.
But f***, dude. Really?
|I'm pretty much a wizard with this "Paint" accessory.|
Turned out I was moments too late. "Shit!" Garth texted me. "Sorry man. Have a partner en route."
(This was both a disappointment and a relief, as Garth is, unlike me, podium potential. I think we could have done pretty well, but I guarantee I'd have been on the rivet the whole time trying to keep up.)
Turtle and Caton volunteered, but I don't think they quite understood what I was really asking or what they were volunteering for.
I met a number of dead ends, was feeling super-bummed and starting to mentally check out when I got a call from Jana Morris.
"I really am a good luck charm. I found you the best partner ever."
I'd be riding with Sam Salman, who along with his wife Jordan, runs The Hub and Pisgah Tavern in Brevard.
This was excellent news.
For one thing, Sam knows the trails like the back of his hand.
For another, his goals were similar to mine.
Having no familiarity with the PMBAR format, and only a rough familiarity with the area (despite having lived there (As I've explained before, I have no internal compass.... on a number of levels), I was looking at this as a long training ride in the Pisgah Forest followed by beer, food and camaraderie.
Sam didn't feel like he had the fitness to race, so a long day on the bike puncuated by beer and laughter seemed perfect.
I arrived in Brevard that Friday night around 8:30pm and met Rich, Zach, Jana, Jordan and Sam at the Jordan Street Cafe.
|Rich was being camera shy.|
Apparently Zach hacked up sputum all night, but I honestly didn't hear it. Maybe it was the beers, or maybe just the relief that the day was over, but I slept soundly on the hard wood floor.
The next morning woke up to eggs and croissants (and real coffee) and made our way to the start.
I was, you'll be shocked to hear, woefully scattered, and had my gear in a million different places.
They finally managed to corral me into the Hub Sprinter van and we were off.
Approaching this race with a very relaxed and experimental mind, I'd decided to do something different.
Instead of a singlespeed, I'd brought one of the shop's Salsa Spearfish 2 demos.
Full squish.... SRAM 2x10.... I was actually pretty excited.
True to form, literally moments before I headed out the door to drive to Brevard, we decided to set up the wheels tubeless. It wasn't quite holding.
"Oh well," I thought. "Maybe I'll throw a tube in before the race starts."
In the moments before the race started I was wondering where the hell my cold weather gloves had hidden themselves in the pile of stuff I called "gear." I finally found them, shoved the most random smattering of food in my camelback, grabbed the margaritas (give me a sec), barely managed to pump up my now totally flat tires.....and we were off.
A brief rundown on PMBAR:
There is a set number of checkpoints scattered about Pisgah Forest. You do not know where they will be until the start gun fires, at which point you get to pour over the map and create a connect the dots strategy.
|Yeah.... that looks like a pretty horrible plan. Let's go for it.|
We kind of had one. I was leaving navigation completely up to Sam. He was second guessing a few moves, but I would just shrug and say, "Whatever you think, man."
We'd decided we'd go for 5 of the 7.
There were 3 mandatory checkpoints. The others were optional and could be linked together however you saw fit.
The most solid part of our strategy was that we implemented a Mandatory Margarita Rule, wherein we had to drink the bagged, pre-made margaritas we were hauling around at each mandatory checkpoint.
This both served to lighten and complicate the day.
I'm not a very strong descender.
While I've ridden mountain bikes for a long time, my focus has always been non-technical endurance sports... Ironman, Ultra-Running.
Sam came from a downhill and Super D background.
He very much had to wait at the bottom of every descent as I came creeping down (to my mind I was barreling out of control at speeds never before witnessed.)
The Spearfish was a total boon on these descents. I could open the Fox CTD shock all the way and just go.
What was going through my mind for most of the trail riding was "how the f*** did I ride this on a rigid singlespeed? And how did I love it so much?"
Because I did.
We rode a good bit of last years Pisgah 111k course, a race I absolutely loved on my rigid ss.
It was a trade off, honestly.
There were times that I loved the gears. I could sit down and just continue to spin.
And as the conditions worsened and the trails turned to slick rocky slop, the full suspension kept me sane. The wheelbase was a little long for some of the tighter switchbacks, but as my nerve was starting to get shot anyway, that didn't matter much.
We managed to pick the course that had the most hike-a-bike, and the Spearfish is probably a solid 29 pounds as it was set up.
Versus my 18 pound Cysco.
Pushing that bike up some of those sections was soul-crushing.
Luckily we had margaritas to take the edge off.
In the beginning, Sam and I were jabbering all about the industry, bike lines, reps, shop gossip, the woes of small business ownership, the perks... good stuff.
After about 8 hours we were communicating in grunts. And we still had a ways to go.
Stopping at our last aid station, we warmed ourselves by the fire, trying to get some feeling into our feet and hands. Sam's lips were purple.
One more major hike-a-bike.... 2 more sketchy descents... and we were done.
Sam's brake pads were gone. The Salsa's pads seemed to be holding up and I didn't want to jinx that by acknowledging it.
Climbing up a gravel road to the last descent, we heard some riders coming up behind us. Well.... we heard one rider. He was jabbering away and singing to his silent partner.
As Rich and Zach pulled up next to us, we told them we had 7 checkpoints.
"Really? That's... awesome," Rich said, wondering if we were now going to have to all sprint for 19th overall.
When we admitted to 5, he relaxed and we all rode together, Rich still singing and jabbering away. We hit the last hike a bike and Rich chicken-walked away from us. Once at the top of Black, they all disappeared down the hill and I focused on not dying as I tried (to no avail) to keep them in sight. Near the bottom of Black Mountain, we caught up to a whole train of riders. It was a blast coming down that slop with a bunch of folks.... it felt like we were all part of an awesome bike riding party.
And as easy as it was to forget that throughout the day as we rode along in the pouring rain... we were.
We rolled across the line. High fived. Grabbed our beers and burritos and joined the melee.
|11.5 hours later.|
Rich and Zach snagged 7.
Eric and Morgan kicked some serious ass and mis-represented the Cogs well.
Everyone looked pretty shell-shocked coming across the line.
But I think the smile on Katie Miller's face says it all.
We cleaned up and headed over to the Trailblazers tavern for the afterparty.
Free Pisgah Brewing IPA's, some foot massages, Rich's multiple requests to be held... then back to the Salman's house for more beer and sleepytime.
This time I got to share the sofa with Sam and Jordan's sweet little mutt Maggie while Zach hacked and coughed on the floor.
Then I woke up at 4:30am and drove back to Greensboro for Yoga Teacher Training all day Sunday.
By the end of the day, I was wiped.
Pisgah 111k and 55.5k are back to back next weekend.
Not much time to ride between now and then.
We'll see what happens.
I'm out for blood this time. Hopefully not my own.
Speaking of blood...