Monday, May 21, 2012
I went up to the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina on Saturday for the Pisgah 111k mountain bike race. Pisgah has miles and miles of trails in lush mountains with lots of creek and stream crossings. It is a mountain bikers dream playground. It can also be tough if you are not prepared for the rugged singletrack with roots and rock gardens and long hike-a-bike sections of steep trail. I was not fully prepared, close enough to enjoy it though.
The first few miles were up a forest service road which was a good way to ease into the race. I knew my bike fitness wasn't where I needed it to be to push hard in a tough 72 mile mountain bike race so I started conservatively. After climbing for 10 minutes or so we hit the first singletrack trail section. What great riding! We dropped down to a nasty muddy rocky trail that ran alongside and crossed a creek several times. This section started the first of many dismounts to clear obstacles, either big rocks or creek banks.
I rode with some locals for a while, Curtis and Marvin, who answered my questions about upcoming sections. It didn't take long to figure out what I consider a rideable section and what they consider a rideable section are not always the same. We don't have such gnarly trails here in Macon Georgia. I was having fun no matter what the trail threw at me.
Up to 50 miles the course had been challenging but not too tough. All that changed in the last 20 miles. We did a long climb up to Pilot Rock that had a very steep section of trail that could not be ridden. Just put the bike on my shoulder and hike up. I was looking forward to my reward, a long downhill to recover on. I topped out and started down and immediately realized this was not going to be a fun descent. It was rutted out, rock strewn and had numerous tight switchbacks that kept me grabbing at the brakes most of the way down. It was a relief to get down.
At the last aid station, with 9 miles to go, I asked Curtis what was in store on the Black Mountain trail that would take us to the finish. He told me that there would be a long hike-a-bike to the top, a short downhill to a gap and then another short hike-a-bike and then all downhill to the finish. It was good to know what was coming up because it had been years since I had been on this trail. It was not as I remembered. I surely didn't remember all the steep rocky sections going to the top, but I finally got to the top and started my last downhill to the finish.I crossed the line in 8 hours and 50 minutes.
I rode knowing I once again had not done enough bike training for this type of race but knew my increased running mileage would get me through the race without too much suffering. It was the most fun I have had at a mountain bike race in years.