Friday, September 30, 2011

Pisgah Race - Stage 4 - Promised Land

Stage 4 - Promised Land Loop
39 miles, 8,000+ ft of elevation gain - MAP

The hardest stage of the race turned out to be my favorite and suited my riding strengths well. The weather was perfect, cool fall breezes with bright sun and spotty clouds. Also there were lots of leaves changing color and drifting to the ground. This day was a super challenging stage and one of the best days I have ever had on a bike.

We started the day riding UP the Black Mountain descent that we have been finishing on all week. It was eye opening to see how steep and rutty some sections were from the other direction while riding (and hiking) up them.

After a long and painfull grind, hike, and scramble up to the top of Black Mountain, the trail turned right onto some fairly fresh single track. This turned out to be really fast but sketchy because the thorns bushes and rhododendron have reclaimed most of the free space where the trail runs through. It seemed like bombing a downhill in the jungle, never knowing what whould await around the next corner. Then the trail went back up and down about 5 times before descending to aid 1.

Next up was Squirrel Gap, but in the oposite direction from stage 1. It turned out to be a long and enjoyable single track climb that undulated up the mountain in a long series of rollers. Near the top one of the course marshals was chilling out and playing a banjo. Then it got much steeper and I clawed my way to the top where a long fireroad section had sweeping views of the pisgah forest.

A fast long descent lead back to Aid 2 and the riverside trails ridden in the opposite direction which then turned skyward with a climb to Buckwheat Knob. Another rider and I inched our way up the very steep inclines and were rewarded with a fast and very technical descent followed by a super fast gravel descent.

I was relieved to see the horse stables and aid 3 which meant that there was one final climb left. I found some new energy as I drank my bottle from aid 3 and had visions of the final Black Mountain in my head. A good bit of climbing later and I hiked up to the final descent. 3 of the 4 stages so far have returned to the start finish with the same descent down Black Mountan and as tired as I was today it was nice to have trail memory to guide me as I ripped down to the finish!

5:10 4th place Open Men

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day 3 - 2011 Pisgah Stage Race

Stage 3 - Carl Schenck Loop
25 miles, 3,200+ ft of elevation gain - MAP

Todays stage was a welcome reprieve from the typical 4+ hour battles against the Pisgah forest trail. We started the day from a campground that was about a 30 minute drive from the house where we are all staying. It was nice to have a start time of 11:00am instead of 9:00am.

The race began with a fast paced fire road ascent to the trail head. I was able to hang with the lead group for most of the fireroad and regained some positions after the climb turned into single track. The pace was fast and the riding was close quarters!

I was really stoked when the 1st descent started. It reminded me alot of the Hoo Ha course and I got on the gas and hauled the mail. For me it was really nice to catch many folks from the lead group on the 1st descent and flowing single track.

Next, the single track started to climb and gave way to rolling fire road. 25 miles does not sound like much more than a typical XC race. However, but with 3200ft of ascending, some of it very steep and rocky, it was a tough race!

Finally, the gravel ended and the trail turned into a fast pump track like series downhills. This section was really flowing and almost made the pain in my legs disolve.

After the 1st aid stop the trail got steep again and the rocks got bigger. I was railing down a sweet sectin when I came accross the gully, I rode a bit and got off my bike just shy of a face plant. That section was really crazy!

More flowing goodness and I arrived at the road we drove in on to get to the camp ground. A good bit of climbing brought me back to the aid station and I kept going thinking the trail would drop down again. I was wrong, very wrong. The next series of climbs were brutal and I pushed a fair bit. My mantra was "please just let this be the top".

A rider was catching me on the hike section and I pushed as hard as I could to keep him behind me. With this much hike a bike, I need to add trail hiking/running to my training program.... Then, at last the summit and down another great trail. My right calf ached from all the out of the saddle riding.

A few more miles of gravel and one descent and I could see the cars through the trees at the finish. It felt great to roll in to the finish of the most fun stage so far.

2:27 4th place Open Men

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Stage 2 - Land of Waterfalls Loop

43 miles, 7,300+ ft of elevation gain : MAP

Today was hard, real hard. Tons of steep climbing, some nasty descending, and lots of hike-a-bike. It was also a real blast to ride with lots of fast flowing trail mixed in and some really nice scenery! At the finish line I didn't know weather to hug the stage planner or to smack em.

The day started with a "trolly" ride from the finish area to the campground where we would start the race lemans style. A guiged tour through Brevard was part of the trolly ride. A couple of trucks had all our bikes loaded, but one of them was running a little late. Adam Craig stopped and asked me about my Anthem 29er and we talked bikes for a bit.

A lemans start got things going and we started the 9 mile climb to the top of Farlow Gap. A seemingly endless series of switch backs finally yeilded the trail head to us. I put er in the Big ring and started to motor down the the rocky path towards to the big descent.

Farlow Gap has one of the nastiest descents I have ridden in a race. I walked about 20% of it because it was just so knarly and risking an over the bars in the wilderness seemed like a bad idea. After the downhill the trail opened up into fast descents and the rest of the mountain was a real blast.

Next up was a series of gravel sections that led to the Cove Creek, Daniel Ridge, Davidson River Trail systems that are a real hoot. Fast flowing single track with some tricky log crossings, barely wide enough to walk.

Then another brutal long gravel climb that eventually descended to aid 3. After I grabbed some coke and water, I started the single track climb after aid 3. For a while I rode everything until it got too steep and rocky and I did a hike-a-bike for 1/2 mile up the side of a mountain. Yay.... Finally it eased up into a rideable ridge line that turned down hill and got rough and fast.

Finally, more fire-road led back to the climb for the Black Mountain descent to the finish where I crossed the line tired and relieved.

4:58 4th Place Open Men

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Day 1 - 2011 Pisgah Stage Race

Stage 1 - White Squirrel Loop
39 miles. 6,200+ ft of elevation gain

The day started with a few miles of bicycle path that 4 of us rode to the race start. It was a nice morning and did not look like we would see any rain. On Monday, when I arrived at Brevard it was raining pretty good. Then it rained last night before today’s stage. The pre-ride I was able to sneak in yesterday between rain showers was well worth it and gave me chance to re-familiarize with riding in the Pisgah.

Stage 1 started with a nice gentle paved climb paced out by a lead car. Once we turned right onto the 1st section of gravel the pace picked up but not too bad. Then we passed the horse stable area where the days 1st major climb started. Lots of winding gravel with false flats.

The first single track we entered was right off the top of the climb and I got to enjoy some big ring flowing singe track that leads down to Squirrel Gap trail. I was able to put a nice gap on the riders who were trading paint with me on the climb. It was fun, and eerie, to enjoy the entire dirt slalom by myself. It sure was fast and fun!

Onto Squirrel Gap: this trail is pretty technical with a narrow trail cut and often not much else. There are lots of rock features and tons of roots. All of this made more difficult by the fresh rain and very slippery mud. I really enjoyed Squirrel Gap, even though it is very exhausting and wee bit tricky. I gained some more positions and jammed down some muddy ruts complete with many surprise drops. Plassman don't care.

After Squirrel Gap I was looking forward to Aid 2, only to realize it was at the top of a long gravel climb. I was out of fluids and my mind just thought about water, cramping might get me later... Finally Aid 2 where the volunteers had everything ready and waiting for me, awesome. A couple of splashes of coke and I was on my way to finish the rest of the gravel and climb back up the dirt slalom in reverse to the trailhead for Black Mountain.

Aid 3 was a welcome sight and I grabbed water and some sprite, just as another rider rode by... So I jumped on the Anthem 29er and proceeded to chase. Soon I was hike-a-biking up many rooty switchbacks connected by short sections of trail. Then the real hiking started. A seemingly unending set of rock stairs and switch backs led to about 3 false summits. Then finally as I thought my legs would lock up, the true top and I jumped back on the bike with my quads not to happy.

The next descent was very techy and washed out with lots of drops. It was hard to attack because my legs were just shot from the hiking. At the bottom, I was relived to see the next trail head for the final hike to the last descent of Black Mountain. This descent is a real blast and I smiled all the way down to the finish.

4th Place - Open Men : 4:20

I was stoked that I took 50 minutes out of the previous time I raced this stage.