My hands tingled following the breakneck descent down Spencer Branch. The climb up from the fire road earlier had not been too bad and I charged hard as the trail eased.
A right turn led me across a deep stream and the cold water shocked my feet. The single track I was riding started a long steady climb up a mild grade and I powered along. I was keen to see how my back felt after having to cut the previous days stage short due to low back pain. It was starting to ache a bit.
So I decided to get on the gas.
Middle Fork soon led me to a fire road climb. I could feel the rumblings of low back pain from the day before. Dang, I thought I had stretched this out. Seated pedaling seemed to be aggravating the situation.
So I stood up, and decided to hammer.
Well, I was surprised after a 8th mile or so. My back felt better and I my legs started to come online like they do in an XC race. I was motoring and it felt great. I thought, now I’m cooking with gas!
I felt great as I rocked out the rest of the fire road section and turned right onto Fletcher Creek Trail and kicked it up a notch like Emeril. Bam!
Fletcher Creek was a fast and fun descent with buffed out singe track and a few surprise stream crossings that came up fast. This trail crossed Spencer Branch and then had a moderate section of short punchy single track climbs. Once these topped out, I started flying down the rest of the trail and made my way to the aid station. I blew by the station knowing I would pass back by it in about 4 miles.
Now I was flying down the lower Trace Ridge trail and soon found myself hurtling down a section where a rut was developing into a deeper and deeper gash. I knew in a moment I would be at the washed out section that looks more like the grand canyon than a water eroded trail. It was gnarly, angry, and even hard to hike!
I finished lower Trace Ridge and was just about to catch one of the fast guys in my class. I hooped and hollered as we started a road climb back to the Aid station. While climbing the road, a car pulled up beside me and somebody said “Hey Jeff”. What a coincidence! One of my friends from Richmond was here with a ride guide and just happened upon me as I raced.
At the Aid station I grabbed my go juice from the drop bag and set out for the climb up the upper Trace Ridge trail. I saw the GoPro helicopter and popped up the front in the best wheelie I could muster. The climb was steep, but I felt great. My back was fine and I continued to tap into my standing power. I was able to ride most of the steep technical climb. Finally relief came when I summited and turned back onto the top of Spencer Branch trail and began descending. I took it fairly easy at first and started to get back into a rhythm motoring down the fast, rocky and root littered single track.
Once the descent opened up, I was on a mission. I tore my way down the mountain.
Near the bottom, I got a little too cocky and plowed into a couple of rutted drops with bad line. I cleaned it, but I was riding ugly. A rock flew up and banged me on the shin. Pisgah was keeping me in check.
Back onto the fire road, I motored towards the final double track climb to a single track descent. I kept on the gas and stood up on my pedals charging the hill. At last, the trail head!
The ride back down to the start finish was fast and pretty loose in a few spots. The grassy field and start/finish came into view.
I knew I had done it proper today.