Tuesday, May 21, 2013

P111k Race Report

As I sit here this morning with my foot propped up icing my ankle, I notice how mangled my legs look. They are littered with cuts, scrapes, bruises and welts which will in time become scars, Pisgah scars.  As I recall the events that led to this thrashing, I can't help but crack a huge smile which in turn causes my jaw to ache from my temple down to my chin. Some people may look at me and think that I spent my weekend being tortured. To some, the races that Eric and Erinna Wever of Pisgah Productions promote, may be a form of torture but for me these races provide an opportunity for a sense of accomplishment and happiness.

The week after PMBAR, I was supposed to travel up to New York for the Wildcat Epic. With my experience at Cohutta the week prior to PMBAR, I decide to skip the Wildcat in favor of rest. In the week leading up to the 111k, I went on a few easy rides which left me a little uneasy about the upcoming events. Even with ample rest, my legs seemed to remain fatigued. I think that this may be because this year I am continuing to strength train while "in season".

Pisgah Productions
The P111k would be my first time racing in Pisgah where I didn't have to carry a huge pack filled with survival gear thanks to the four stocked aid stations on course. This race would also be one of the first times that I would be racing solo in the PNF. This meant that I could push myself as hard as I wanted without worrying about strategies that come into play when racing with a partner.

 I woke up the morning of the 111k to the familiar sound of rain. Being that this seems to be a theme this year, I knew exactly what I was in for. As we arrived at the venue, we were greeted by huge puddles as it continued to pour. The race hadn't even started and we were soaked to the bone. The start consisted of a short section of pavement followed by a long gravel climb. As we began the climb, I found myself in a group of three others which included Sam K., David W., and Sam E. We quickly put a gap on the rest of the field and it wasn't long until I watched the three climb out of sight.

Photo Cred: Eric W.
As I came up on Turkey Pen from the top of Black, I was told that I was two minutes off of the lead. About half way down the TP trail I caught a glimpse of Sam E. just ahead. He would remain within sight until the first check point where I was able to get out just ahead of him. Not far into Bradley Creek, Sam showed back up, dropped me on a descent and would not be seen again until much later in the day.

As I made my way up the 5015 climb to aid station #2, I found myself dealing with a significant amount of lower back pain which in turn was beating me down mentally. My mind was telling me to pull out of the race at aid #2 but in order to stay in the running for the King of Pisgah point series, I could not take a DNF. I was not in good shape pulling into aid #2 but as I pointed my bike down 1206, I knew that I was going to do what it took to push to the finish.

Nothing too exciting happened until I was descending Pilot. I have ridden this trail many times in all kinds of conditions. I have cleaned this trail most of the time and have never had much trouble with it. Well.. on this trip down, that all changed. I manged to clean all of the switchbacks down and was feeling good. Coming off the back side of a log that I had ridden without incident many times, I stuck my front tire into something. As my rear was coming off the ground, I tried to unclip but found myself stuck in the pedals. Sure enough, I hit the ground hard head first while remaining clipped in and tangled in my bike. I ended up in a pile of rocks which hit me hard on both sides of the spine just above the hips. I was hurting bad. As I got back on the bike I could not clip my right foot in. I was now in the infamous rock garden with one foot clipped and the other swinging freely when it happened again. I put my front tire in a hole and catapulted over the bars again landing hard in the rocks below. This time my bike came at me with a vengeance nailing me with a pedal? in the side of the head, putting a nice sized dent in my helmet and smashing my jaw into the rocks. At this point, I thought my race was over. I wasn't sure if I could even get up or gain enough composure to ride. All I remember thinking was that I was going to get passed by Garth on a technical downhill and give up a spot.

As I sat on the side of the trail to collect myself, I noticed that my right cleat was moving freely. No wonder why I couldn't clip or unclip. It took me a minute to figure out that I needed to take off my shoe and dig the dirt out of the allen holes in order to reset my cleat. Once back on the bike I crept down the remainder of the trail that I once had no fear of. Feeling lucky to not have been seriously injured and remaining in the fourth position, I made my way through aid #4 and grinded my way up South Mills and Buckhorn.

Photo Cred: Brado
It was within a couple miles from Black that I came upon Sam E. taking in some gel on Buckhorn. As I approached, he mentioned that he was not doing so well and then proceeded to ride away from me. I was able to keep within sight of him on the hike-a-bike to the top of Black but I knew that it was going to be impossible to overtake him today. It was apparent to me that he was a well-rounded rider and I was completely rattled when it came to descending Black. I crept down black without any issues and crossed the line in 7:17 which put me in fourth in the Open class and fourth overall.

Can we do it again... please!
Photo Cred: Eric W.
My legs felt like they were in good shape after the race but my body was more beat up than it had ever been from a single ride. With the heavy hits that I took crashing my way down Pilot, I was wondering if I was even going to be able to move the following morning let alone race the P55k. The P55k is also part of the King of Pisgah Series and I would have to finish the P55 if I wanted to remain in the series.

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