Tuesday, June 9, 2015

2015 Pisgah Enduro






*Endergo is an acceptable alternative.

I raced bikes for very short periods of time but it took all damn day. Enduro racing. That pretty much sums up what went down in the booming metropolis of Old Fort, NC this past weekend. 

Old Fort, NC

Bikes was raced, beers was drunk, and rad was gotten all up and down the hills and dales of the lesser known portion of The Pisgah. "My side" of Pisgah to be exact. Remote, technical and fun as hell. For those of you unacquainted with Enduro Mountaincycle Racing here is a terrible attempt at explaining:

Enduro: Riding casually to somewhere where your then timed to see how fast  you can shred for about six or eight minutes, usually downhill, then slow down and proceed to the next place and repeat a few times. Do that all day and drink beers. 'bout 30 miles.

Or just consult the EWS rule book.

Day One:

Show up late to Camp Grier and make it to registration. Come to find out that the second shuttle bus to the bottom of Rattlesnake wont leave for another hour and a half so I hang out, grab a beer and mosey around. Eventually I made it over to watch some of last year's footage with E. Dub and the rest of the Billy Goat Bikes Team. E and Pisgah ripper Charlie Roberts were setup to have a fantastic Enduro and the stoke level was pretty high among them. Showing up too late to catch the first bus up we gathered around and waited on the second shuttle wagon to arrive.

 I found Swannanoa Luke and shot the shit with him during the ride. Up I-40 we went and soon we hit the bottom of Rattlesnake and started making our way up the Adventure Trail to the first stage. It was a pretty miserable climb being cold legged and having to grind up to road in the heat. We hit the top and lined up to start the first stage. Rattlesnake.

I know Rattlesnake well but recon had come in that the recent forest fire had caused some issues up top and the trail had some new, sketchy water bars scattered about. Luke an I lined up together and decided I should try to follow him down. He knows the trails in that area pretty well and being that I was on a hardtail and he had five inches of full suspension he would be faster anyway.

We squared up to the starting line and Luke takes off. I give him a few seconds lead and sprint like hell trying to catch him. Wham! five seconds in I get a mud glob square to the left eye. I do my best to swipe it away while trying to keep Luke in my limited sight. Eyes clear when we hit the hard left onto Rattlesnake. Immediately the trail turns steeply down and into a rocky chute. This is my type of trail and I make up a little time on Luke when we hit the smoother lower section. Berm after berm and rocky flat mixed in. I catch up just enough to keep Luke in sight and we cross the pavement into to the lower section. I damn near come off the bike once but hang on and cross the finish gate a couple seconds behind.

I knew going into the race that riding a hardtail in a race where only the downhills count for time was not the best idea if I wanted to do well. I realized this instantly at the bottom of Rattlesnake. "Oh well I'm just here to have a good time" I told Luke. The Billy Goat Team came in soon after me and we all headed onto Kitsuma and the next stage.

Up the forty six or so switchbacks on Kitsuma and we were soon on the trail rolling pretty good. The Billy Goat Team and myself were rolling the first downhill on the way to the starting line. Everyone was doing there best to get a good feel of the trail and things were moving a little too quick. E. Dub gets loose and all four of us end in a pile up with me front flipping over the hillside trying to avoid smashing into Charlie. We recoup and bikes and bones were good to go as we headed to the start gate for Stage 2.

Kitsuma is a bad mothertruckin' trail. Its fast and smooth and narrow and awesome. Make one mistake at speed on Kitsuma and you will surely find yourself forty feet down the hillside, waded up like a biscuit wrapper. We make the start gate and I drink the only beer I had on course with me. Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA. It was like rocket fuel. My turn was up and I was sprinting to the start gate, charging into the flat section to start the stage. I pedal as hard as I can go, waiting for the first downhill to start. I hit a left and immediately into a rock strewn set of off camber switchbacks. The trail is coming pretty quick and the bike is bouncing off of everything like a pinball. Rocks, braking bumps, and roots hammering the wheels. I get the bike under me and start to pump through most of it. Luke had a 10 second lead on me and I could hear his brakes and chain slapping ahead. We hit the bottom section and into the red clay. Loose and slick as owl shit. I hit a root and save the front wheel from trying to slide almost face planting into the rhodo. I sprint to the end and through the gate.

Safety first.

No crashes and a fairly clean run. Not terribly fast but OK. We hit the pavement and toward stage 3 on Star Gap. Over the train tracks and up the hike-a-bike toward the top. I opt to ride as many of the switch backs as I can but try not to waste energy for when I need it. Star gap is nothing but a laurel choked goat trail with nasty switchbacks that give way and disappear around corners leaving you wondering where to turn. Its pretty awesome but not a trail I ride often enough to know well.

Luke in "Preparation Shred" mode...
not Preparation H mode.

The Billy Goat Team had opted to save energy and so Luke and I were up first. He was having a great day so I figured him going first was working, why mess it up? Off he goes and me right on his wheel. I was going to do my best to rope him in and soon I was on him heading into the steep. I railed a hard right corner and felt the bike break loose. I saw the rear tire come beside me and somehow wrangled it in and kept upright. Down the way I could hear Luke a switchback ahead. I caught him at the bottom and I hit the straight to Jarret Creek Rd on his wheel. A log in the trail snuck up on us and Luke slid out going over it and fell a good way down the hill. "Go Go Go!" He started yelling at me so cleared the log and onto Jarret Creek Rd sprinting as hard as I could. Down the first couple turns and into the finish gate. Luke came in soon after and we grinded the gravel to the final stage.

We used the long stretch of gravel on the way to stage 4 to get used to the loose turns that only a gravel road can give. Sketchy and when your hauling ass you drift at the whims of the gravel. Wheels have a way of just giving out and I had the thought in my head of a recent gravel crash that left me with pretty tore up. Hauling ass on gravel is mostly out of control but in control all together at once. We make the start and let a few female racers go ahead while we relax. I opt to go first this run and soon I'm out of the gate with my legs aching and lungs bursting. The entirety of stage four is on gravel and I feel pretty good. All the gravel grinding this winter helped me get a feel for the loose descending and corners and I was making fairly good time. I kept both wheels planted and made it through the finish gate in tact.

Luke came in a few seconds back and we hit the pavement and tooled it on back to Camp and ice cold beers.

Pisgah Enduro Day One Done.

Day one had me sitting 41st or so out of 100 racers. I was ok with that. Hardtails are meant to climb well, not Enduro race so I was pretty stoked to have beaten at least a few dudes on big bikes.

The real test will be Pisgah Enduro Day 2:

Heartbreak Ridge....

gnar gnar

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Photo Dump...

BanjoLife up to this point......

You are now caught up... Have a rad week.

Party on.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Pisgah 111k...

P111k and P55k. Race Weekend. Bleh.



I found myself, yet again, staring down the barrel of another weekend of suffering on two wheels in the Pisgah. I had a pretty big damn weekend in store. The Pisgah 111k on Saturday and, if  I had still had legs attached to my body after that, The Pisgah 55k on Sunday.

166k of bike racing in two days. I don't know what that is in American distance but I know enough about the metric system to know its a long ways to ride a bike. Friday afternoon was all about supplies and getting out to the woods in time to set up camp, rest, hydrate, and chill. Traffic was a nightmare and It took the better part of 3 hours to hit a few different bike shops for chemical energy "foods" and get over to Billy Goat Bikes to pick up Thelma Lou. At some point during PMBAR my rear wheel developed a nasty wobble and with zero time to true it myself, I had put the job in the more than competent hands of E Dub.

Stopped by the shop, the shit was shot with E. and Fletcher and it was home to pack up. My apathy to packing earlier was a mistake and it took a few more hours to pack and get on the road. Eventually I made it to the woods, got to my campsite and commenced to chilling.


Up at 6:00am. Jumped in the creek to wake up, food, coffee, kit up and head to the Start/Finish. I was really worried that today would be a repeat of the crampocolypse that was PMBAR. I told myself "today is about finishing" and did my best to keep nerves down. I ran into K. Brown and a few other fast folks. Good lucks were exchanged and I saw Burton, Em, and Becky hanging out. Becky and Em were both in for the P111k and the 55k so we were talking strategy when Burton mentioned that it should be a nice warm up going up Clawhammer. "I thought we started up Black Mtn." I said and he said "nope, its the same course as in 2012". It was at this point that I realized that the course I had been studying for the last few weeks was in fact, not the course we would be racing. Shit.

"Just follow the flagging tape man" was all the advice I needed from Burton and we lined up to go. The silver lining there is the long stretch of paved Hwy. 276 and flat gravel on FR 477 would be a great warm up.

I started at the back chatting up Em and in 3...2...1... GO!

Off we went at a silly slow pace onto the pavement. I worked my way up to mid pack and found a comfortable gear and spun out the rest of the way to Clawhammer. We hit claw with derailleurs popping and shifters clicking. "Settle in man, its going to be a long day" I thought. My plan was to start slow, see how my legs were feeling and go from there. Passed a few more folks on Claw and hit Buckhorn feeling fine. The previous night's rain showers made for sloppy going and my 2.3 Minions were hooking up. I passed a few more at the Buckhorn/S. Mills intersection and headed down to Squirrel. Once on the machined out climb on Squirrel Gap I had awful flashbacks to PMBARs past where I was in the throes of cramps on this very climb. This time around it was great. I felt strong and picked off a few more on the technical climbs as we hit Cantrell Creek. Cantrell is nothing more than a gully filled with rocks and mud. Its a trail in the sense that it has blazes marked on trees and its on a map. Otherwise its a goat path. The rain and all the tires going down it made it crazy sloppy and plenty of folks were struggling to maintain. Riders were doing there best to navigate the loose cantaloupe sized rock and creek crossings but it was slow going. I passed a few trying to ride the creeks and we soon hit South Mills River. It was a relief to be on the flat smooth double track of S. Mills. I dropped several gears and did my best to make up time with legs that felt great. We crossed the bridge at Bradley Creek and I swung left but was stopped by a "Wrong Way!" sign. "Damn" I thought, "He's got us going up to the Parking lot. I did my best to ride what I could on the steep, water bar strewn trail up to the Turkey Pen parking area and Rest stop #1.

I made the aid station, grabbed my drop bag and filled bottles. I heard "yo Banjo!" and turned to see Todd Hudson hanging out fueling up. He had DNF'd at PMBAR and was at the 111k for Pisgah redemption. He asked if I wanted to roll with him but I declined, not sure how fast they would be going and still not sure about my legs and how they would handle the cold, waist deep creek crossings on Bradley Creek. He went on and I ate some PB&J and drank some more water and headed out after them. Bradley Creek is the worse trail in Pisgah. Sandy, sloppy, steep in sections, and no fewer than 13 creek crossings. Luckily we only had four wet crossings before we would be going up Bradley Creek Rd. I worked my way past a couple more on Bradley and started up Bradley Creek rd. feeling fine. At aid station #2 I lubed my chain, refueled, and headed down the long gravel road to N. Mills Campground. I took advantage of the smooth descent to shake my hands out and cool down. N. Mills is my weekly ride spot and I felt confident that I could knock it out quick.

Up FR 5000, up Spencer and onto the steep-tech of Spencer downhill. Knowing this trail really helped and I passed 3 folks who were walking their bikes down the gnar. Right onto Never Ending Road and onto Fletcher Creek. Fletcher is the Yin to Spencer's Yang. As technical and steep as Spencer is, Fletcher is smooth, flat, and fast. I was hauling ass and actually having alot of fun at this point. I hit the second wildlife field and saw something on the forest's edge. "What are all of those dogs doing out here?" I thought. It was at this point that the four "dogs" stood up on their back legs and turned toward me. Bears! Four bears were standing not thirty yards from me blocking the trail. In order to not impede my mountain cycle racing they bolted and I carried on with a big smile on my face. Always cool to see bears in the woods...

Fletcher done and headed to Lower Trace. This was another great part of knowing the terrain and I passed a rider on Lower Trace who was hung up in a blind rock garden. Onto N. Mills River trail and up Yellow Gap, down FR 5051 to FR 1206. I made 1206 and saw Tom and Jim Tonyan hanging out cheering racers on. "How ya feeling man?" asked Tom. I felt OK but could definitely tell the legs were starting to fade on me. "Getting there man" I said and we high fived and off I went up 1206 to aid station #3. Aid station #3 I refueled and talked with Burton who was up there hanging out waiting on Becky to come through. He gave me a couple chamois butter packs which at this point in the day I was "sorely" needing. I spare you the details of why I needed lubrication but after 35-40 miles of hot, humid, bike seat grinding I was hurting bad.

Butter'd up and started the climb up Laurel Mtn. to Pilot Rock. I had taken a shot of Coke a Cola at aid station #3 and this set me off like a rocket ship and soon enough was at the hike-a-bike below the Pilot descent. Myself and another 3 racers were commiserating in the misery of the hike-a-bike and then it was back to racing down the awesomeness that is Pilot Rock. I passed at least 5 other racers who were walking most the Pilot descent and couldn't help but smile. The 140mm travel fork on Thelma Lou was soaking up the gnar and I was once again having fun despite my tired and sore legs. Through the gnar and back onto FR 1206. Ripping gravel trying to gain time I made aid station #4 feeling great. I ate some chips, PB&J and pineapple while talking up Mike from Industry Nine who was volunteering at the aid station. He offered encouraging words and I set out onto S. Mills toward Buckhorn and eventually the last big push before the Finish Line.

S. Mills and Buckhorn went by in a haze and soon enough I was in the shit, pushing my bike up Black Mountain. Race Promoter, and Pisgah Racing Mad Scientist, Eric Wever had a twisted mind laying out this course. After 60+ miles of racing we all had to go up arguably the worst hike-a-bike in all of The Pisgah. I had failed to pack any energy chemicals and so I was forcing Lil' Debbie snacks and Snickers into my face, frantically trying to fight of my mind and body's pleas to stop. At a certain point I stopped, staring at a rock and not able to will my feet and tires over it. I was literally shutting down. I kept pegging away and soon made the Looking Glass overlook. I don't know if it was the Pisgah gods, my energy starved hallucinations or something greater but looking out over Pisgah, with the 6,000 footers of the Shining Rock Wilderness looking down at me I suddenly became very aware of where I was, what I had accomplished to this point, and I felt amazing. I took a few deep breaths, drank what was left of my water and pushed on. Before long I was on the steep downhill of upper Black Mtn. Doing my best to keep it together I passed a female racer who was walking most of the trail. She looked trashed and just grunted when I asked her for the pass. I crossed Pressley Cove and up the last 100 yards of hike a bike before the last descent to the finish. About halfway up I saw a rider coming down. He had a number plate and looked terrible. He asked me "whats the fastest way out of here? I'm over this shit...". He had shed a derailleur on Pilot and was trying to finish the race on a full suspension single speed. Not easy. I guess the hike up and over Black mountain had done him in and he was quitting. "Your almost there man! No way you can quit now." I looked at him and said "come with me, your finishing this f***ing race!"

I talked him up the last bit of hiking and at the saddle told him to maintain, don't crash, and don't flat. I thought the same in my mind as I descended the short bit of steep gnar before the Thrift Cove intersection. Once on lower black it was all over, time to have fun. I was pumping and jumping every grade dip and jump the entire way down lower Black. It felt awesome to be going so fast on such a smooth trail after 70 miles of Pisgah.

I crossed the Finish line 70 miles, 10,000+ feet of climbing, and 10 hours and 12 minutes after I started. My goal was sub 10 hours but I didnt give a shit at that point. I got a beer and a burrito and sat on the grass waiting to see who would come in next. Hudson came in a bit later and soon enough Becky and Em crossed the finish and all was good. We talked for a bit and everyone dispersed for food and rest....

Because we'd all be doing it again in a few short hours....

55k to come.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

The post PMBAR hangover is usually pretty fierce. Body shot to hell, drained, and sapped of any desire to do much of anything. Sunday morning Burton headed to go watch some XC racing down in Columbia, SC and I was up looking for biscuits.


Great? Or greatest thing ever conceived? I think the latter and if you live in NC you already know this. K.A.W and I woke up earlish and I was starving. Too tired Saturday to to eat much so Sunday morning had me feeling like zombie in search of brains. Delicious brains.

We headed over to Biscuit Head to satiate the Sunday Morning Biscuit Crave. The Sunday Morning Biscuit Crave is a time honored tradition whereby folks recovering from a hard night make their way to biscuit merchants to partake in the miraculous healing powers of biscuits.These folks bake a mean biscuit and they didn't disappoint. We biscuited up and decided to chill and go for a super easy "recovery" ride. Good to spin the legs out a bit after a big effort like PMBAR. It was good to ride nice and easy and I even had to tell her to "take it easy on me".

PMBAR is one of those events that no matter how well you plan, its going to all go shit in the first 30 minutes. This proved somewhat true for me. I was bummed to have cramped early on but stoked to beat our time from last year. Route selection could have been better. I could have carried less food, lots of little things to second guess. Overall I was pretty happy with the day. As horrible as racing a mountain bike 70 miles, near and far, over and under mountains all day sounds,,, it feels pretty badass when your done.

Otherwise not a hell of alot going on here at Greenview Manor, AVLUSA. Ive managed to get out for a few rides on the gnarcrossgravelcross bike. Hauling the mail down a steep gravel road is pretty damn fun I've decided and It may be getting time to upgrade the equipment...

This weekend, K.A.W has made the plans so were heading back into the forest for the night. Im really looking forward to getting out in PisaghGod'scountryUSA and doing absolutely nothing. Only things coming with us is the dogdren, Pabst, and banjo. The rest of the weekend is on from then.

That pretty much sums up the situation. Hope you'nzers have a splendid weekend and raise ten kinds of hell,

Party on.

Monday, May 4, 2015



or maybe...

For those of you'nzers that follow this waste of bandwidth, or WNC endurance mountain cycling, you already know that mountain cycles were raced long distances in the forest this past weekend. It was the twelfth happening of the Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race affectionately anogramed as


And for the second year in a row I chose to spend a perfectly fine Saturday hating life and forcing chemicals into my body, while riding a bikecycle hither and fro through the South Ranger District of Pisgah Nat'l Forest. For your procrastinating pleasure here's how it went down...


Off work at noon and tying up loose ends. My race partner, and Buick le Sabre owner, Burton had arrived to the mountains and we had plans to do a pre-check in at Liberty Bikes here in AVL. We got our required gear checked out and from there it was off to Billy Goat Bikes to buy some stuff. E-Dub works there and since he was doing the PMBAR as well, I had to get in a little shit talking before race day.

From there it was back to Greenview Manor to do a final check, shakedown the bikes and, rest and hydrate. Resting and hydrating pre-race somehow never happens and I found myself several Greybeard IPA's deep watching Burton fighting a stubborn tire that didn't want to set up at 10:30pm. We had to be up at 5:00am to head to the forest so this was really the best way to prep for PMBAR... Emergency bike repairs late at night and drinking too much beer. W ended up scrapping his Weirwolf for an Ardent and went to bed.


Up early. Food, yoga, coffee and on the road. We arrived at the PMBAR and started the pre-race preperation. Hydrating, talking strategy and trying to shake the pre-race nerves. Burton went off to psyche himself up and I meandered the crowd talking to folks and trying to get a sense of what the day had in store. We kitted up, bikes ready, and the race announcements under way. The 2015 PMBAR was to be 5 checkpoints. Four to finish with no mandatory checkpoints. We would be going up Thrift Cove instead of Lower Black Mtn. to start. Otherwise same rules as last year, same off limit roads except Hwy. 276 would be open from FR 475 to FR 477. This bit of knowledge would end up being huge later.

Race gun set to go at 8:15am, passports handed out at 8:10am and we were lined up with 75+ other teams ready to give it our best and hoping The Pisgah wouldn't crush our hopes of making awesome endurance bike racing this day....


We set off and hit the forest 12th or 15th. Usually folks start bottle necking around Black Mtn. but going up Thrift gave plenty of room to pass and folks were spinning up with little issue. Thrift Cove is by no means an "easy" climb but its much nicer than trying to crank up Black Mtn. ass to nose like years past. My nerves are on edge at this point. I start sucking wind pretty bad on what is normally and easy-ish climb. I should be just spinning but I couldn't catch my breath and I somehow forgot how to ride a bike, and I was struggling bad. Fifteen minutes into the race and I'm maxed out, starting to cramp, and having horrid flashbacks to last year's PMBAR aka worst day on a bike in my life.  At this point I thought "F*** it, I have all day to race. Why am I trying to crush it like I'm in a short track race?" I backed off and was starting to catch my wind as we started the hike-a-bike up Black to Pressley Gap. I had decided to race with clipless pedals because A) my 5.10's had to be sent back for warranty, and B) I had no other option with flat pedals besides Chacos... This makes the big hike-a-bikes really tough. Stiff plastic is not good hiking shoe material.

Once we hit Pressley Gap we started to formulate a plan. Checkpoints:

-South Mills/Bradely Creek
-Horse Cove/Squirrel Gap
-Laurel Mountain at Sassafrass Gap
-Daniels Ridge/Farlow Gap
-Bracken Mountain (wherever the hell that is???)

Lot's of folks were coming in behind us now and we saw plenty heading up Black Mtn. to Turkey Pen. They were going to knock out S. Mills/Bradley first. Knowing what the bottleneck would be like and not wanting to hit a nasty hike-a-bike early, we headed down Maxwell Cove to Clawhammer and off towards Buckhorn Gap. We really had no plan other than we knew where the Horse/Squirrel and S. Mills/Bradley checkpoints were and we needed them so off we went. Claw went by harder than it should have and it was obvious at this point that I was going to have a hard day. I still could not catch my wind and my legs were shooting cramps every few minutes. I solo'd up Claw and let Burton go ahead and talk strategy with some Charlotte folks. We hit the top of Clawhammer and I just said "lets go" and kept on without stopping to talk to the other teams. Burton was soon on my wheel as we headed toward Squirrel Gap. We pushed through Buckhorn and S. Mills and once on Squirrel I was feeling ok, not good, but ok. We spun up Squirrel Gap passing two teams and hit our first CP at Horse Cove/Squirrel about an hour and a half into the day. Now we had to make a decision.

We knew no matter what, we had to get out to the Fish Hatchery at some point. Should we snag S. Mills next? Push up Pilot Rock to get the Laurel Mtn. CP? Laurel Mtn. was stuck out like a thumb and was really tempting to go for. Its a moderate climb up buts its long, taking up alot of precious time just to get out there. Go up Pilot Rock? That's a nasty hike-a-bike but if your strong it can be done fast. We decided that since the S. Mills/Bradely CP was mostly down hill from where we were, it would be the next CP. Down Horse Cove to Cantrell Creek. This descent is basically a goat path with tons of loose cantaloupe sized rocks and off camber roots to put you in the dirt. Not to mention a few creek crossings to keep you honest. I had been having trouble all morning with my seat post slipping down, so at the Horse/Squirrel CP I tightened the hell out of my post clamp trying to keep it from sliding. Now I was doing the PMBAR with a seat in my ass all day. Not good for steep, technical descending. Burton was crushing it and I did my best to hold his wheel as we passed a couple teams who were hung up in the rocks and roots. Knowing the trails is huge in this race, not only for navigating the climbs but also for making up time on the descents.

We hit S. Mills and smoked it down to Bradley Creek. Check Point # 2. Passport checked and for once they actually had a gear check. Rain Coat this time, and I guess my 1 mil plastic poncho passed. Refill bottles and bladders and talk strategy. We saw a ton of people heading down Bradley Creek and into the 15 creek crossings and slow grinding climb out to FR 1206 and Laurel Mtn. We had a decision to make. This decisions would end up solidifying our PMBAR and was crucial. Do we go for the Laurel Mtn. CP or do we get Bracken?

The Bracken Mtn, CP was a wild card. Neither one of us had ever been there and had no clue where it was, how long it would take to get there, or how hard the route would be. All we knew was that it was at the very end of FR 475C. Neither one of us knew what that road was about. Easy, hard, steep, mellow? Nothing. We knew going Bradley Creek to Laurel would be a slog. Better than fifteen creek crossings and then six miles and 3,000 + feet of climbing up to the Laurel Mtn. CP. Chalk on the long stretch of FR 1206 out toward the Fish Hatchery and your talking some serious time loss. We had seen a few teams heading back up S. Mills toward Horse Cove and we made the decision to go back up what we had just come down and go for the two CP's out at the Fish Hatchery. We  chose the wild card and Bracken Mtn was the plan.

PMBAR route done.

Burton knew that if we could hike strong we could push our bikes up the rock chute that is Horse/Cantrell Creek and save time as opposed to going Mullinax to Squirrel Gap. The later is an easier route. More pedaling, almost no hike-a-bike, but longer and more time consuming. However, Burton was on fire and feeling strong so despite my cramped legs I followed him up. We ripped back up S. Mills and hit the hike-a-bike on up Horse Cove/Cantrell Creek in no time. Going up I actually felt good pushing the bike. Maybe my legs just needed a different look and soon I was pushing Burton up the hill. As we neared the Horse/Squirrel Gap CP for the second time, I saw a couple of tall, lanky dudes heading up Upper Horse Cove. It was Short Travel Nate and his partner Zink...

I yelled out but they didn't hear. I looked at Burton and we both knew we had to hit it and try to pass them before they hit the gravel descent down Funnel Top Rd. to FR 476. We pushed hard, rode when we could, hiked/jogged when we couldn't and soon hit the top. We never saw them. "No way they came this way" I told Burton. "We would have passed them" He said. I saw another team resting at the clearing on top of Funnel Top and asked if they had seen two 6'3" dudes and they said yes. We were about 5 minutes back on them. "Lets go" and we took off down the gravel toward FR 476. Doing our best to gain time on them, we passed a team on the descent and hit FR 476 and headed toward FR 1206. We hit FR 1206 and ran into Kiwi Ryan and his partner Max. They had decided to quit. They're buddy Jim, and his partner, had accidentally taken their passport at the first CP and they couldn't catch them to get it back. No passport? No PMBAR... Shitty way to end the race but they seemed in good spirits. We said our "good lucks", refilled our bottles, and off we went down FR 1206 toward Hwy. 276 and the Fish Hatchery. We hit the pavement and soon took a right onto FR 475B. Stopping to check the passport and refill pockets with food for quick access, we heard some tires rolling up. Sure enough it was Nate and Zink who had taken a stretch break at Pink Beds and were actually behind us. We told them about trying to catch them on Funnel Top and cruised the bulk of 475B and FR 225 together, talking strategy and taking it a little mellow up the long gravel climb.

Halfway down FR 225 we ran into Em and Tom who were out for PMBAR redemption after getting a DNF last year (while attempting the most difficult route I have ever heard of). They had already knocked out the CP's at Daniels Ridge/Farlow Gap and Bracken Mtn. and looked in really good shape. We asked about Bracken and Tom just sorta laughed, shook his head and said "its way out there man".


Well at this point we sure as hell weren't going back for the Laurel Mtn. CP and we were pot committed to Bracken. Nate and Zink had kept going while we stopped and now it was on to try to catch them and see who would come out on top. The whole day I knew that Nate and Zink would make for our best competition and beating them would be sweet. Burton put on his ear buds and went into his own place on the remainder of gravel, grinding up, up, up toward Daniels Ridge. We hit the intersection with Daniels and found some Faster Mustache guys taking a break. They were of the mind that the Bracken CP was about 5 miles out on FR 475C. Ten mile round trip out and back. Burton and I ate a quick snack and headed down Daniels Ridge to the CP. Daniels Ridge is one of my favorite trails in all the forest. However, forty some miles in and a seat in your ass is no way to have fun shredding down Daniels. We hit the CP and pushed on toward the Fish Hatchery. We hit FR 475 and onto the Davidson River trail and soon were at the Fish Hatchery. Bottle refill and eat some more. My legs had pretty much not stopped cramping all day and I was forcing electrolytes and Pop Tarts into me as hard as I physically could. I felt like ass and was at a really low point in the day. "Lets get this over with" I said to Burton and we started out the "five" mile climb up to the Bracken CP. There were alot of folks going up to Bracken and plenty coming down. I kept looking for Nate and Zink and using that and our time to the CP as a gauge to where we were behind them. Burton had been pulling me and my cramped legs all day. We were grinding up Bracken and I could tell he was in a bad place. He was really struggling to keep the pedals going. What was stranger was that for whatever reason, my legs and lungs opened up and I felt f***ing amazing! I kept telling him to set "his" pace or just take a break. He just looked at me and said "keep going man, I'll catch you". I took off hoping to see Nate and Zink toward the top. Sooner than later they passed us coming down and I was bound and determined to put some time on them. I stopped short of the CP to wait for Burton. Quick stretch, hydrate and  we were heading down from last CP of the day. Four down... Lets go home. Burton was in a dark place on Bracken but the realization of getting our last CP and looking at the home stretch put a little pep in his step. We smashed the descent down FR 475C back to the Fish Hatchery.

In PMBARs past, the stretch of pavement on Hwy. 276 from FR 1206 to FR 477 has been off limits. This pretty much forced people to go out FR 1206 or down and back up FR 475B for any Fish Hatchery CP's. Luckily Burton had been paying attention and knew that it was free to use this year. We hit the pavement roadie style, drafting and big ringing it all the way down the 5 miles of pavement to FR 477. Now it was up FR 477 to Clawhammer toward Maxwell. PMBAR rules state that everyone must finish by coming down Black Mtn. This forces all race teams to grind up the steep gravel of Clawhammer and Maxwell Cove in order to finish the race. Just one more way to make folks earn their PMBAR finish. What little energy I had in me had been left on FR 475C and Hwy. 276. I was hurting pretty bad but Burton had got his legs back and towed me up the gravel to Black Mtn. Once there we pushed through, not tempted by the hot dogs and beer race volunteers were giving out to teams as they approached the long descent down Black Mtn. to the finish line.

"One more hike-a-bike man" Burton said as we pushed up the few hundred yards of steep, root strewn trail to the final descent. There were two teams within eyesight and I really wanted to try to pass them. At this point PMBAR was a sprint race so we pushed hard on the hike-a-bike passing one team who were struggling hard up the hill. We hopped on the bikes, and pedaled into the final few miles of trail before the finish. We were taking the safe lines as opposed to the fun ones I usually take down Black Mtn. It was "don't crash, don't crash, don't crash" all the way down to the Thrift Cove intersection. We passed Thrift Cove and hit Lower Black Mtn. hauling ass and sucked up the last team (so we thought) between us and the finish. Burton put a move on the guy in back and I swooped around on the inside of a berm. The team mate in front was trying to keep us from passing but Burton knew that he would either pass him or we'd all get waded up a half mile from the finish. We used a straight away jump section to pass and were on the home stretch. Coming around a berm we saw two guys on the side of the trail changing a flat. I noticed their above average height and a green Salsa Spearfish...

Nate and Zink!

We flew passed them yelling and I saw the crushed look on Nate's face as he realized how close he was to finishing, only to have us sneak past in the last quarter mile. We tooled it down the gravel section and into the finish line at just over ten hours and plenty of Pisgah trail, road, and gravel behind us.

PMBAR done.

Nate and Zink came in a minute behind and we all couldn't help but laugh that Zink had flatted so close to the finish. If it weren't for that they would have beaten us by several minutes. I would have rather won out right but racing is racing and that's the way it goes. I later learned that Nate was really hurting on Maxwell too and had to stop for the hot dogs at Pressley Cove to keep from shutting down. Never eat the hot dog... classic PMBAR mistake. I didn't feel so bad about winning by default.

After that we hung around waiting for others to finish and drinking beers.

38th out of 100. I'll take that. Fighting cramps, under hydrated, and maybe poor route choice, we still finished top 30.

I just want to say great job to all who raced out there.

Especially Em and Tom who finished with an hour to spare and earned ultimate PMBAR redemption. Also great job to Burton's brother Burton the Elder and his partner Good Guy Greg for finishing their first PMBAR under the cut off time. And one more to E Dub who's partner Fletcher had to quit and E. finished solo any way.

Well done you guys.

Now its time to get ready for the  Pisgah 111k/55k in two weeks. 166k of racing in 48 hours?


Friday, May 1, 2015

Its the....

Final Countdown!!!

Yes. I could not come up with another cliche to represent a winter's worth of preparation, training, and beer drinking.... Shame on me but at 6:10am my creative juices are not awake yet.

Its PMBAR eve and the time to race endurance bike cycles in the woods is nigh! 


I feel ready, we'll see tomorrow morning though how ready ready really is. I have all my required gear...

...and Thelma Lou is ready to rock. Burton's hopes are high and I hope we can beat our time from last year, or at least finish in the day light. As you can see my light source is not up for the challenge of Pisgah night riding,

Good luck to all my other folk joining me tomorrow for  endurance mountain cycle racing. Let's have fun out there...

Don't forget Pop Tarts Em.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Preparation PMBAR

Boom shackalacka!

Greetings internerds and welcome back to BanjoLife where aint a damn thang change but my limp...

The past week since I last brought you epic bloggage mediocrity was pretty swell. A few bike rides, more beers than I should be drinking this close to endurance bike riding, and a little home improvement...

Wednesday was when the week really kicked off with the post work shit show ride down at Trace Ridge with some co-workers. These rides have been pretty fun for not taking bike riding seriously and just hanging in the woods with good folk. We ended up shuttling Trace Ridge even though I did my best to ruin the ride by forgetting my front wheel at the bottom... and then I forgot water, and then managed to ride despite all that. Beers were swilled, Pisgah was shredded and we had a great time.

Friday I got out after work and headed to Bent Creek for some solo miles. It had been a while since I Bent Creek'd it and It was actually kinda fun after shying away from that place for so long. Managed to knock out a few good climbs and a few good descents and felt pretty good. About halfway down Ingles Field Gap I noticed my left foot felt odd and about the time I looked down my crank arm was in imminent danger of falling off. Stopped and fixed it as best as could... more on that to come.

Saturday was the day to start proper PMBAR prep with a part swap on Thelma Lou. She had been a great bike all winter long but she'd been rode hard and put up wet more often than any bike should. The time had come to freshen her up a bit. Five beers and 3 hours later I had her back up and running like a sewing machine. Sunday the plan was to head out a do a shakedown ride and little reconnaissance on some trail that I hadn't been on in a long time. Charlotte folks were coming up and the weather looked awesome. Best to make sure Thelma Lou is ready...

Sunday arrived and Em. Watts, Tom Tom, myself, and Burton the Elder were off on a shakedown. Heading out from N. Mills Campground we headed up FR 5000 toward Spencer Gap. Gravel grinding we hit Spencer and up we went. The climb up Spencer always tests me. It starts off mellow then proceeds to get steep as shit for a short time but toss in some nasty root beds and loose rock and you got a pretty tough climb. I took off in the lead and did my best to hit a "comfortable" PMBAR pace. We met back up at the saddle below the Trace Ridge climb and made the decision to go down Spencer Branch toward Fletcher Creek. Spencer Branch downhill is as gnarly as anything in the forest. Big washouts into rock littered gullies, sketchy switchbacks and the absence of any true line down makes it one of my favorite descents. I ended up behind a random dude on a 6.5" travel bike and kept his wheel the whole way down. Once at the bottom we headed up the N.E.R. and onto Fletcher Creek. Fletcher creek is the Yin to Spencer's Yang. Smooth, flat, and fast as hell. Too fast as I let the bike get away from me a few times and narrowly avoided ending up the brush.

city folk wading shoeless....

From there we headed up to Lower Trace, down the "new" Lower Trace and back onto FR 1206. We refueled at the truck and Burton the Elder decided his knee was not up for the rest of the ride and held it down for us at the parking area. Tom Tom, Em, and myself pedaled up 1206 to Pilot Cove/Slate Rock. I had never pedaled up Pilot Cove and it wasn't so bad. There were a few hike-a-bike spots but overall it wasn't too bad. We hit the saddle at Slate Rock and headed down (with some up) back to 1206. It was at this point that my left crank arm went to shit. It fell off at least three times between Pilot Cove and Slate. Luckily Tom Tom used his expert woodcraft knowledge to cram a stick into it and make it work temporarily.

Tom Tom.

We stopped for a good rest at the Slate overlook and headed down the trail back to 1206. Once back on the rode we ran into Mike Pierce who was out for Mikes Big Dumb Ride 2015 aka the dumbest 200 miles you can do on a bike. He was on mile 120ish and looked no worse for wear. 200 miles in one day on a bike is pretty dumb but bad ass too. No doubt his PMBAR will go well...

Burton the Elder had gotten bored and driven down to meet us and Tom Tom and Em took advantage of the free ride and headed out back to N. Mills. I wanted to finish so we said our farewells and "see ya next weekend"s and I took off. It was at this moment that I realized that If I pushed I could probably beat them back to the campground. I started cranking and knocked out the climb out of Bradley Creek surprisingly fast. I was really stoked at how my legs performed at the 30 mile mark on one of my least favorite gravel road climbs in the forest. However, my legs we rent enough and the crew passed me about the time I hit Laurel Mountain. Not to let an F-150 full of bikes get the better of me I stomped it and was within sight of them within a half mile coming down the descent into the Campground. Gears maxed and legs spinning out I managed to pass them on the inside and I'm pretty sure Dale Earnhardt would have been pleased with my moves coming around them at 40 miles an hour.

But the long flat going into the Campground got the best of me and they passed me before we got to the bridge.

Fun day in the forest.

I feel pretty good about PMBAR coming up this weekend and the bike performed well, beside my crank arm issue.

Hopefully Saturday will go well and I'll have another PMBAR under the ole belt...

That's it folks. Have a great week,

Party on.