Prior to the race, we had heard that Pisgah Productions was going to put the hurt on us this year. Of course Jeff and I were excited upon hearing this which lead to daydreams of monster routes including locations such as Sumney, Bent Creek, and Turkey Pen. We came to the conclusion that there was nothing that Eric could throw at us that would be any harder than the routes that we usually conquer for fun. For the most part this held true. We would come to find that the hard part of this race did not have to do with riding at all.
My family was able to spend the weekend in the forest with us. I can't explain how wonderful it was to spend time with them in one of my favorite places. Jeff and I were spoiled with an excellent dinner Friday night followed up with a pancake breakfast on race morning and a pasta dinner that night. Thanks mom.. you are the best! Oh yeah how can I forget about the two dozen homemade cookies that I ate during the race.. yum.
Time to ride...
Once we received our passport, we quickly glanced at the rules and were ready to head for Pressely Gap. I can’t remember who it was but somebody said “Hey Kelly.. did you turn in your wooden nickel?” I had not. Once we figured out what was going on, we turned in our nickel and headed to Pressely Gap. A glance at the passport revealed 5 check points and some interesting rules/road closures. We quickly made the decision to work the checkpoints in a clockwise direction and set out for the Daniel Ridge/Farlow CP.
The grind out to the first CP was uneventful. We cruised along at a decent pace while dodging hoards of rabid vicious chipmunks. It was on this fire road grind where I discovered that my legs were still recovering from the effort that I had put in at Cohutta the weekend before. It seemed as if I was lacking power and twinges were present in all of my major leg muscles. I was not thrilled to be experiencing these symptoms so early on in the race and I was a bit worried as to how the rest of the day would unfold. Once we hit the Daniel Ridge Connector, we were glad to see that the briars were waiting until later in the season to take over the trail. We arrived at CP #1 and then proceeded to retrace our route back out to 276/1206.
The Pilot Rock hike-a-bike was a welcomed change. Jeff and I are very familiar with the hike up Pilot as we have found ourselves headed up many times on our way to Big Creek or the Parkway. I was hoping that the change in activity would provide some relief for my legs but once we began peddling the same old legs were there and they would remain on the verge of cramping for the rest of the day. We made great time up Pilot to CP #2 and had a blast descending Laurel. We weren’t sure about the best way to make it to CP #3 (N. Mills/Lower Trace) but after consulting with Rich, we chose to take Yellow Gap Rd. instead of 5000. Neither Jeff nor I had been on Yellow Gap Rd. before but we enjoyed it in both directions.
Bradley Creek is a great trail if you like carrying your bike while making your way across a dozen slippery creek crossings. I happen to enjoy this. Jeff does not. At times it was painful to watch as my partner struggled to stay upright (apparently balance is one of the first things to go with age) but he finally decided to thoroughly soak his hubs and use his bike as a brace. This worked out well for him (not sure about his hubs) and we managed to navigate the trail without incident. On our way to CP #4 (Bradley/SMR) we discussed the route that we would take to get CP #5. Since we are always up for something new, we decided to take a section of trail that we had always avoided on all of our previous trips to the forest.
South Mills River from Bradley to Squirrel lived up to its reputation. It was very wet with deep mud holes and plenty more water crossings. It wasn’t all that bad but it was no Cantrell/Horse Cove/Squirrel. We nabbed CP #5 and cruised back on over towards Black Mountain where we decided to take Clawhammer to Maxwell.
My legs never came around but they also never cramped. Jeff was strong all day and had zero unexpected dismounts (rare for him) as well as no cramping. The hard part of this race ended up being route selection. Our chosen route was not the best. We overlooked one small detail that could have saved us a lot of time. 276 was open from 477 to the Daniel Ridge parking lot. I also think that Cantrell/Horse Cove/Squirrel could of saved us time over South Mills. Would it have been faster to work the CPs in the opposite direction? Who knows and who cares. Eric and Erinna know how to put on a race. Their race formats are very unique and are always my favorite. If they are holding a race, I will be there. Thanks for providing us with a passport that allowed us to enjoy another 90+ mile 12.5 hour Pisgah adventure.
Our Route.. Thrift=>Black=>Maxwell=>Clawhammer=>Black=>Club=>477=>276=>475B=>225=>DR Connector=>DR=>CP1=>DR Connector=>225=>475B=>276=>1206=>PR=>CP2=>LM=>1206
=>Yellow Gap Rd=>NMR=>CP3=>Yellow Gap Rd=>1206=>Bradley=>CP4=>SMR=>CP4=>