Wednesday, October 22, 2008

2008 Double Dare - Day 1

I could kiss my Double Dare partner this year without fear of

A: getting clobbered by my partner
B: getting clobbered by my partners partner
C: her waking up

All of the above reasons made for an excellent Pisgah Productions weekend in the woods, and oh yeah, it didn't rain.

I teamed up with my s/o (significant other - not "surprisingly odd") for this years race. It was hard dropping my prior teammate of Jen Rinderle but about this time last year I got all googly eyed for the grocery girl and I am throwing out an invitation to potential disaster. Racing with your girlfriend. Wow. That's a step in direction. To some, it would mean sure separation, but to me, and hopefully her, it was a step in the RIGHT direction.

When I started hinting to Bi-Lo mama that I may extend an invitation to her to race the 2xDare with me, I usually premised the conversation with "how do you feel about riding until your totally spent and freezing and asleep and hungry and in pain?" Her usual answer was "sounds like fun". Each affirmative answer reinforced my strong intuition that Ms. Bi-Lo was at least equally tilted as me.

We started training after returning from a glorious trip to Indonesia this summer (note the crazy bikes at the bottom of the blog and see grocery mama in native tote'n posture). Our training consisted of long rides in Pisgah re-familiarizing ourselves with coveted trails we long for. Within two months of race day, we had hit 85-95% of the checkpoints in the actual race. Not bad for a couple of crackers. Our weekends prior to the race were just as insanely glorious as the race itself.

Racing with your s/o requires synthesis and application of a different and often unspoken rule set that does not apply to your riding buddies, be them male or female. Simple comments like "come on let's go" or "we need to hurry" can wreak mental havoc on your on-trail relationship when delivered incorrectly. Not only was our training "bike training" but it was also communication training. We learned what to say and how to say it. We learned how to encourage in a non-threatening or finger pointing way.

Day 1 started unorganized. We left both our bike locks at the house. Being a piece of required gear, there was no option for an opt out. C mounted up the HO (tahoe) and boogied to Sycamore Cycles (the best shop in the world, located just outside Pisgah, and my only sponsor) for a bike lock. Not long after her return, leg one of the 2008 double dare was under way -- a time trial to the gauging station just East of Pink Beds. We left White Pines and kept a strong pace to the TT (time trial) end. We passed several teams along the way. I always wonder "is my chosen route the best?". After putting aside any doubt you must follow your instinct and roll so you don't lose any time or energy pondering a different route. Sometimes indecision takes longer than riding the 2nd or 3rd best route. Arrival at the gauging station seemed like part two of the mornings jovial atmosphere continued over from our White Pines starting point. Mater and Nancy, Clay and Toby, SMOKE bikes and several other teams had already arrived.

Race format this year was similar to prior 2XDare's. You get your race directions (passport) at the end of the morning time trial. Everyone was hovering over their 780 Nat. Geo. maps intently discussing pro's and con's of each route. We grabbed our passport and laid out a route for the next 11 hours of riding. Given the specific CP's, a Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) crossing was inevitable. Our collective memories of frigid East to West crossings of the BRP, both at night and day swayed our decision to go for a West to East traverse during daylight hours. The gushing wind amplifies the cold and makes you wish for a big sail on your bike. We took off for the Pink Beds CP and ran into Mert, Brad Key and a few other riders heading East from the Pink Beds CP. My intention was to hit the Pink Beds CP and continue West then up 276, but why are all the other riders doing something else? No time for doubting my route choice. I dropped the uncertainty and headed towards 276. The climb was beautiful but it was peak leaf season and the road traffic felt like a late night bike ride down the strip at some redneck riviera beach vacation. Needless to say the dune buggies, motorcycles, FLoridians and constant flow of traffic made conversation w/Cissy impossible.

Once we hit the BRP our route took us East to Pisgah Inn then an out and back hike-a-bike to the Laurel/Pilot Connector Trail CP. During the off camber descent down the top of Laurel, we greeted many of the teams from the TT end. Wow! Those teams were making good time, but they had to push up Pilot Rock. We grabbed a photo to acknowledge being at the CP and rushed towards the Parkway.

Cissy and I trained a lot for this race. The previous 8 weekends included at least 1 full day of Pisgah exploring. I think we explored every trail on the 780 map but we never worked in a hike up Mt. Pisgah. "Hike to the top of Mount Pisgah" was a special test worth one CP. I decided to skip it since I was uncertain of how long it would take. Hindsight shows that we should have got the CP. Oh well. Now I know for next time.

The CP's flowed well after Bent Creek Gap. We hit the Hendersonville Reservoir, Middle Fork, Yellow Gap, Bradley Fields and then back across 1206 for White Pines.

Overall our route choice was average but our ride was excellent. Cissy and I gave it all we had and did the best we could. For Cissy's first endurance MTB race, she did great. We each suffered a par for the course mishap that unfortunately involved almost total submersion in a creek. But you have to love being soaking wet, freezing, sleepy, worn out, hungry and totally spent or this is not your race.

We communicated at a new level by the end of the day. Our ego's fell and our true needs easily shined through. Racing together was definitely the RIGHT decision. Our arrival at White Pines was wonderful. A quick check in and off to dream land in the back of the HO on the best futon mattress in the world. Glorious, glorious slumber! 4 1/2 hours of sleep then back to work on those saddle sores.

Props to Carlos for that excellent piece of steak at the Bradley CP.

81 miles, 10,800+- feet of climbing

Monday, October 6, 2008

Half full/Half empty?

Another day in life completed.

Black Mtn > Turkey Pen > 22 jumps > Bradley Creek > Pea Gap > Bradley Creek > 1206 > Laurel Mtn. > Pilot Rock > 1206 > 276 > 475B > Seniard (now road) > 225 > 475B > 475 > 276 > Black Mtn.

44.57 miles/7750 feet elevation/8 or so hours

Loss or gain? Happy column? Sad column? Good? Bad? Half full? Half Empty?

Big fish, little fish swimming in the water............

Disgusted with my current profession, i sit and profess to you, electronic shiterature voyeur, about half full/half empty:

  • What a great day in the woods. That's a beautiful new subdivision.
  • A 9 hour journey in Pisgah is an appetizer. If we get the STARZ pack, we'll have 9 more HD options.
  • We climbed more hours than not. Is there an elevator to the mezzanine?
  • My empty stomach after four hours of riding made me feel lighter and faster. Yes. Up size combo 4 please.
  • My cell phone doesn't work. My cell phone doesn't work.
  • My girlfriend is so sweaty. My girlfriend is so sweaty.
  • I smell like a day in the woods. I smell like a day in the woods.
  • Did that huge tree witness Indians on this trail? Christopher Columbus discovered America.

Was this day a success? In which column does it fall? Is there an anti-me for every me--someone living the opposite side of my equation real-time?

It was an excellent day. Cissy and I started out from the Black Mountain trail head after a long conversation with Peter, the ultra-endurance event connoisseur. Congrats to Peter for completing so many 100's this year. Keep it up.

We grinded up Black Mountain in regular painful format. It's always a quick warm up when you go up black - like starting out a long track work out by doing 4 or 5 full effort 200's. Our goal was to keep moving all day. We set out for a "book em Dano" but missed the arrest. Even though we had a great day @ 44.57 miles, the deep, dark, doubt catalyst in the back of my mind was energized by not hitting 50.

The early fall splendor of Turkey Pen is amazing. Few leaves on the trail, crisp air cooling your skin via sweat soaked clothes, wind in the leaves harmonizing with subdued mental screams durring the chilling descents and the equally brutal hike-a-bikes. All of these items add up to one great day. After the normal grunts and groans we descended the stairs into the Mr. Kuntz driveway extension known as Turkey Pen road, much to the surprise of two horses who looked as if they've never seen two ripping mountain bikers bomb a set of stairs from sheltered woods into an open parking lot. Gosh? We made pleasantries with the horses (and their riders) then proceeded down 22 jumps, now much more cautionary than prior since a horse greeting was fresh in our mind.

We went right on Bradley Creek, missed the turn to Pea Gap, crossed the river 1 too many times and realized our mistake. We backtracked up Pea Gap then bombed the lush single track to continue up the Bradley Creek trail. The air was perfect. It felt like a high altitude Colorado day in the dark green depths of Pisgah. Our final Bradley Creek crossing rendered us in the lush feed plots towards the confluence of Bradley Creek, Laurel Creek and 5015 (the road of long conversation). I couldn't recall ever riding up Bradley Creek to 1206 so I jumped at the chance to see which route to Laurel Mtn. trail head was faster...5015 or Bradley Creek? Ms. Bi-Lo headed up 5015 and I hit Bradley Creek. The creek was beautiful and I added about 50 of those "i should come back here on foot" kind of notes. There were at least 4 or 5 good swimming holes and I was surprised there were no skinny dippers taking advantage of the crisp water and the warm rocks. As to which route was quicker, we now know the answer and you, the extremely bored reader, must offer pleasurable gifts to be in the know.

Ms. Bi-Lo was ready for more so up Laurel we proceeded. No bees, not many other riders, 1 bear (not beer), a few long pushes, 3 weary riders and 1 extremely bewildered lost dude on foot. We arrived at the cut through to Pilot Rock. It was a great place to catch a quick bite to eat and ingest some caffeinated gel to heighten my senses for the dragons back downhill immediately in our sights. As we ate, I casually inspected my bike and noticed two pencil size blobs protruding through the thread bearing design know as my rear tire sidewall. Much to my dismay, Park Tool sidewall sleeves loose their adhesive properties after 16 months of storage in a sweat stricken, crusty Camelbak pocket. How bout that? They still worked with a little coercion.

Off to the races. Grocery Mama went first. I followed her shiny cart right down the center aisle of Pilot. Watching her chosen line. Sometimes following it and sometimes busting my self on things she was gliding over. Enough of follow the leader. There's a sale on aisle nine and I gotta roll. Past Grocery Mama and off to the first of many gnarly switchbacks. I didn't quite have the finesse of a perfect day but it was close. Occasionally, I'd steal a peak of the great 1206 valley below thinking "we are way up here" and quickly focusing back on the trail so i didn't end up "way down there" quicker than i cared for. I stopped a few times to watch C take a few switchbacks. It's always crazy trying to judge an others comfort level. She rode most of the ones i thought she'd skip and dabbed one or two of the ones i thought she'd fly over. Superb balance and perty teeth too! What a package deal.

We re-grouped at the bottom near 1206, mixed some iodine cocktails and headed for 475B. 1206 always seems like a never ending road, especially when traveled west to east. Out to the pavement and south towards Taco Bell (yes i was hungry). A quick stop at the Pink Beds water fountain to replenish our iodine cocktails then on our way to the entrance of 475B from 276. I pray the transition from smooth downhill sailing onto the immediately slightly uphill gravel is the closest I'll ever come to experiencing a run away truck ramp. A little climb here, left turn, right turn then on to what is now Seniard Road. It had been quite a while since being on this trail. I remembered it as an easy flowing jaunt along the contour and now it's like a driveway to some disgustingly wealthy McCain flavoured corporation CEO's seldom visited mountain home. We pushed on, despite our political dilemmas. Although freshly cut trees and widened corridors seldom offer immediate satisfaction to riders, the new views of Looking Glass were phenomenal! I highly recommend checking them out.

The new road dropped us off on 225 and we mozied towards the fish hatchery on 475B to 475 proper then to 276 and back to the Ho, Tahoe that is.

8+ hours later, Peter's car was still there.

Biking with my special grocery gal is red velvet cake wrapped in a layer of chocolate hidden in the middle of an Oreo crusted cheesecake...but much less fattening.