Friday, May 13, 2016

PMBAR: go down or go home

I admit... Rich's enthusiasm was a little infectious. Kind of like a laugh that makes you laugh.
And also kind of like herpes.
But all the right pieces seemed to be falling into place. The weather was going to be amazing... our competition was strong, but not that strong... we had good(ish) fitness... and we were going get to ride bikes in Pisgah all day. People have nocturnal emissions about this kind of thing.
And I was getting swept up in the wet dream.

If it had been raining... like my last PMBAR... I don't know.

Sam and I had much sads about having run out of margarita 4 hours ago.

I mean... It's not that I mind getting wet... because... I mean... I get wet without even trying.
And honestly I tend thrive in adversity. Pull together in shitty conditions that make others fall apart. A bizarre juxtaposition to my tendency to fall apart when the going is decidedly not tough.You know...maybe it's too cloudy. Or my burrito fell apart. Or I accidentally caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror. But I have this bizarre aversion to repeatedly crashing my bike on wet roots. Mud? All day Rocks? Whatever. Rain? I needed water anyway. Climbs that never end? Yawn. A never-ending barrage of soul-rending demons?  I call that Tuesday.
But wet roots? Shiiiiit. I might as well just detach my handlebar from the bike and try to steer with my unwavering faith in god... (But you don't...)
No. You're right...I don't.

But we weren't going to have to worry about that. Because it was going to be beautiful.
I worked the morning at the shop, and when Ben came in at noon, gathered my things and took off. Then... I busted back in to grab the things I forgot. Then took off again. Then busted back in to grab the other things I forgot. Then took off again.
Fast forward to an hour later: and I was on the road. Sort of....

"Well that's not it. Hand me the hydrospanner."

I don't care how DIY you are...Cultivating a good relationship with a great mechanic is key to #vanlife. So that when you're on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, that mechanic will talk you through getting mobile again. Or when you're rolling out of town and your check engine light suddenly comes on, you can swing by and he'll dial your shit right then and there.

Ahem...This applies to bike shit too.

In any case, Paul Pearce is a fucking wizard with the vanagons.

I'd considered stopping in Statesville to have lunch and a beer, and visit MOMBAT again... but I could sense Rich's growing agitation.

And honestly, just getting there so we could begin drinking in earnest seemed wise.
We met at the start/finish... parked the cars... got our numbers...and rode our bikes down to the Hub for some beers.
I felt bad, because I hadn't been to their new spot yet. It was insaneballs. Inspiring and disheartening at the same time. Inspiring, because we should all be so popular. Disheartening because we aren't. And instead of living at the gateway to the Pisgah Forest, we live in places like Greensboro... which I'm convinced is the "hookah-lounge capital of the world." I was excited to give Sam and Jordan both highfives and grief, but they were in Portugal or some shit.

We ran into many a friend...

Abby and Andy of New River Bikes.


Rich and Scott Rusinko... doing...I don't know. 

I was stoked to see that the HUB had local Gboro beer from Gibb's Hundred on tap. And to see that we had at least three more taps than they do. So I'm... winning? Or something? 

When the Hub shut down, we made our way across the street to a mexican restaurant... ordered our novelty sized beers... and ate things covered in cheese, swaddled in tortillas and served on molten lava hot plates. And there was much rejoicing. As we exited the building, I heard a commotion behind me and turned to find Rich flat on his ass, a nonplussed expression on his face in stark contrast to that of the terrified family seated in the booth next to him. "Are you all right?" I asked with the words "Why the fuck are you wearing clippy bike shoes anyway?"
He was. I think. Wearing clippy bike shoes, that is. I don't know if he was alright.
Then we rode back to the start/finish (a jaunt I have NO memory of)... found the finish-line beer...helped ourselves (with Eric Wever's blessing)...and hung out with more friends.

Hello, Devil...
At some point, it seemed prudent to get some rest, so we retired to the van to watch What We Do in Shadows until I finally dropped the Ipad on my face for the 3rd time... signalling sleep time.

photo cred: Dirty Biker
This is what passing out in the van looks like...mostly.
Did someone glue their pubic hair to my chest? Again?
photo: darahands
We slept like babies. That is to say... when we finally awoke, it was fitfully and tearfully. (Why was it so cold? I gotta go pee. Want coffee! My livuh huhts.) At least I did. Rich wakes up like a bounding toddler... talking a mile a minute about god-knows-what while my foggy brain is still trying to process where I am. He's the kid that comes running in and jumps on the parents bed at 5am. I'm the kid that needs to stare at the wall and clutch my blanky for a little bit.
We gathered our things... made our respective coffees...ate our poptarts... I took a nice long swig of Mike Pierce's Woodford Reserve... and we gathered at the start to await the doling out of Passports. Contained within would be the checkpoints we needed to hit, as well as the restrictions placed on getting there. Sure... checkpoint A is just up highway 276... but you can't use that portion of road... so how you gonna get there?

This is where the burden fell to Rich. While I could undoubtedly read the map and navigate us to the various points, my lack of familiarity with the lay of the land didn't lend itself to any kind of race confidence. At some point or other, I've ridden just about every trail Pisgah has to offer. But it's always in a marked fashion... or following someone else's lead.
So I deferred to Rich. And honestly... I didn't really care. If he totally fucked it up chances were he was going to be more disappointed than me.

Rich: "So if we head up blah blah blah  and then blah blah...."
Me: "M'kay. Which way is more beery? Btw... I farted."
photocred: Dirty Biker

Incidentally... he totally fucked it up.

As we were climbing, he was processing out loud, and mentioned multiple times the option of cutting over on Turkey Pen. But Turkey Pen is often a mess... and is a difficult trail in good conditions. Chances were it was a mess. So we went another way, bolstered by seeing people who know their Pisgah head our way. People like Thomas Turner and Jason Morgan. When we intersected the Turkey Pen traffic we realized our mistake. The people in front of us should not have been. But they were. Which meant their way was faster. A LOT faster.
Our fuck up was further confirmed as we began to hit the return traffic on the out and back of Bradley Creek. "Waaaaattttsss!!!" Andy Forron yelled as he and his partner barreled by us the other direction. "Rich... how much of a lead do they have?" I asked.
"Don't ask." was his response.
But I was confident. We were riding strong. We could make this up. We charged through every creek crossing (about a million and a half, by my count) and aggressively took lines on the trail. Then we hammered out a bunch of miles rooty, rocky, gnarly and beautiful miles.

There's often a bit of this in Pisgah.
photocred: Dirty Biker

photocred: Brad-O

What happened next? Fuck if I know. Rich has a blow by blow on his blog. That dude is all about the blows.
Suffice to say... we went up and down hills. Through rhododendron tunnels. Babbling brooks. G-nar g-nar. Fast and flowy amazeland. Deathclimbs. Off-camber benchcuts.

Pisgah is pretty amazing. And wonderfully primitive. That is to say, while it's grown to epic proportions... many of the trails haven't changed that much.They were cut long before mountain bike specific trails were even a glimmer in the eyes of the pioneers who first rode them. Back when suspension was in the tensile strength and curve of steel forks. Long before I wrote this shit for BIKE magazine.

Though I seriously doubt that anyone would call Fletcher Creek "unsung"...
And yes... it's pretty funny that I wrote about Pisgah as if I knew Fletcher Creek from Daniel Ridge from Turkey Pen. (They're all the same, right?)
Anyway, here's a snippet of my florid prose from May of 2000.
"There is a sense of antiquity in the Blue Ridge Mountains that isn't found anywhere else. You can actually feel the geologic time that has worn what were once sharp, bare, Andean-sized peaks into the green, rolling slopes that stand today. And with this sense of the immensity of the past, come an odd comfort in knowing that regardless of how fast you are bombing down a trail, things are proceeding and have proceeded here on a scale and at a rate that puts all of our hammering in shameful perspective."

Whatever you say, loser...

One thing I will say... running a 32x20 was an absolute pleasure in Pisgah. It almost felt like cheating. Spin to win? Maybe there's something to that.
I mean...I spun the motherfucking shit out of a 32x18 the week before at Bootlegger. But if I had geared any harder, I'd have been destroyed on some of those climbs. And in a race like that...the question is: be frustrated on the flats? Or have your soul crushed on the climbs? Frustration is frustrating, sure... but you can recover from that. Your soul is less resilient. That race kicked my ass. Maybe not in all the ways I need my ass kicked...(according to the polls)... but it gave me a sound working. 7hrs 40minutes for 100 miles. Considering Shenandoah doesn't take that much longer, and incorporates some dick-kicking trails... that's a hard day.

But not quite rock-hard tasty abs washerboard style....
glistening in the sun.
But more on Bootlegger another time.
On the final stretch, descending Black, I was dying. I had entirely too much pressure in my front tire... to the point where even the fun parts of the trail sucked. The difference between 17psi and 22psi is HUGE on a rigid. Rolling into the meadow...
And Boom!...we was done!
Crossing the finish line, I saw Forron and Sweeney kicking it under the tent. Ok, so THEY beat us. What about Russinko? Yep. Damn.
Well... 3rd ain't bad.
Not long after us Yuri and partner rolled in. Damn. They were that close? That means if we had fiddle-fucked around even more than we already did, we'd have been nipped at the line.

Then we proceeded to get destroyed... part of the beauty of camping at the start.
We hung with our friends until the wee hours...watching people roll in past dark. And yeah...while it's neat and all to snag all the checkpoints real fast like and finish in 8 hours... it's kind of more hardcore to do it in 13. Those folks are the real winners of a race like that...pushing way past their limits and still smiling at the finish. Because that is a long day in the woods.

Shanna: Singlespeeds are OVER!

"It seemed like a good idea at the time." 

Yuri gets shoe props... but loses all the sock points.
But then he earns all the other points because the next day he ran over 30 miles for PRAR...the on-foot version of PMBAR. 

whutt a bunch of loosers

It doesn't matter if it's good... it only matters if it rocks.

We stayed up until midnight, jabbering with all of our best friends and trying to polish off all of the cases of Oskar Blues that Eric kept appearing with. And eventually..succumbed to sleep.
I miss Pisgah. I miss living in the mountains. I miss the smell and feel of that air. I miss waking up to mist and watching the sun peak up over a hill. I miss crossing rivers and creeks on every ride and run I do. I need to figure this shit out.
Rumor is that we're doing PMBAR again next year. I'm down. Because as strong as those other dudes were... we could have taken this race. Easy. I'll try to bring some fitness and accountability next time around.
Or not.
I'll just shrug and smile and when Rich throws out options, I'll say... "I'm down with whatever."
Because I usually am. That's kind of winning, right?

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