In the morning, I awoke to guess what... more rain! I also awoke to no soreness in the back (how does that work?). Even though I felt as if the P55k was going to be more of a ride for me than a race, I went ahead and took up a spot in the front row. The start today had us going straight up Black Mountain to Turkey Pen. The pace was quick and I found myself in the same company as the day before. Once again, we dropped the rest of the pack rather quickly and once again, the threesome of Sam K., David W., and Sam E. pulled out of sight. As I hit the hike-a-bike on Black, I kept peering over my shoulder expecting to see a train of riders but instead saw no one.
|Photo Cred: Eric W|
At one point on Turkey Pen, the trail was so slick and greasy that I decided to get off and walk. As I was walking, I slipped which caused me to turn my ankle and fall, sliding downhill with my bike on top of me. I had a sharp pain in my ankle and my first thought was that I had just broken my ankle while trying to be cautious. After some more sliding and riding, I made my way out to aid station #1 and it was apparent that I was dealing with some sort of sprain and not a break. Needless to say, my nerves were pretty rattled and I was questioning my ability to ride a bike.
With all of the walking that I had been doing, I was expecting all kinds of people to catch me. After all, there were people racing the P55k who did not race the 111k the day before. It was only a matter of time before being overtaken. I continued to look over my shoulder while navigating Bradley and knew that if I made it to 5015, I could more than likely out climb the others behind me. I made it to Yellow Gap with no one in sight and continued to keep a steady pace knowing that I needed any gap I could get as the descent that destroyed me 24 hours prior lay just ahead.
I did not clean Pilot nor did I try. When I got an uncomfortable feeling, I dismounted and walked. It happened more than I'd like to admit but I made it back to 1206 without incident. As I rolled through the last aid station of the day, I asked how far behind the person was behind me at the previous aid station. I was told that Garth had been just a couple minutes back. With how cautious I was coming down Pilot, I knew that he could be on my heels at any second. I proceeded to put the hammer down, picking the smartest lines I could find and standing where ever I could.
As I approached Black Mountain for the final time, I knew that the difference in being caught or not might depend on climbing versus hiking. As I climbed stuff that I had never even attempted when conditions were dry, I was amazed at what the mind can make the body do under certain circumstances. I descended off the top of Black cautiously and I was almost down to Pressly when my front tire slipped into a washed out gully sending me over the bars just to keep me humble. I passed through Pressly Gap where Clay was ringing a bell and cheering. Not ten seconds went by and I heard the bell again. The sound of that bell was enough motivation for me to climb my way out of Pressly ensuring that I would not get caught.
The pace I was now carrying was a little faster than I was comfortable with but by no means did I want to get passed in the last couple miles of the race. While making my way down the non-tech but very slick final section of Black, I noticed a rider just up ahead. As I approached, it was apparent that Morgan had no idea I was behind him. The first thing I thought of was gaining enough speed so I could attempt a pass leaving him unsure of what just happened. Morgan had out ridden me for the entire day and he deserved to finish ahead of me. I did let him know that he had company and had better get rolling and roll he did. We flew down the remainder of the course and he was able to out sprint me by a wheel. Come to find out, Morgan thought that I was Garth who was racing in the same category as him. Sorry to mess with you like that, but it sure was fun! No one came in until 10 minutes after Morgan and I meaning that Clay passed out with the bell in his hand or was just messing with me.
|Photo Cred: Eric W|
|Photo Cred: Vanessa|
As always, a huge thank you goes out to Pisgah Productions as well as all of the volunteers, cheerleaders and Brados out on the course.