Tuesday, May 8, 2012

PMBAR 2012—Battle of the Bulge

Not sure what to title this write up...“Wheel Problems”  would have been on the mark also, but already I digress.  On the way to Brevard, Jay, Steve and I had to make a stop at an RV place to purchase some hoses for the propane tanks.  After a quick stop, I noticed a subway and made the suggestion to pull in for lunch rather than hitting the freeway and having to pull off again.  Jay takes the turn into the Subway parking lot when suddenly  CLANG-CLUNK-KERCLUNK!  A wheel had fallen off of Jay’s trailer, and due to the slow rate of speed, the trailer fell on the wheel.  This little mishap cost us ~4.5 hours (luckily the RV place was right there and could tow the trailer and fix the wheel).  Also, because the trailer rested on the wheel and did not scrape against the ground, only some pipes to the septic-tank broke so this mishap only ended up costing Jay ~$500 rather than $2-3 grand.  We were all pretty happy this did not happen on Hwy 40 while traveling 70 mph, so maybe it was a sign of good things to come.  We made it to Davidson River late, but still had time to check in, eat Steve’s spaghetti dinner and get a good nights sleep.
As far as a sign of good things to come, not so much:

Steve wondering if duct tape can fix this.
Blocking the entrance to Subway!

Simply put, Jay and I had a day full of mishaps and misdirection.
I was determined to be ready this year, because I remember the horrible feeling of being rushed last year and forgetting things.  No change this year.  There I was again, rushed to get to the start.  Forgot to add my 2nd bottle cage, so no extra water bottle…and there is more.  We are at the start listening to instructions and I realize that I had not eaten any breakfast.  Yep, just blew off the most important meal of the day.  So I begin chowing down on a bar, a Slim-Jim and swallowing it down with some Infinite drink.
Ready with my custom map strapped to my chest.
Bruce at Pressley gap, ready to roll!

Oh great, I have a flat.  So there we are, everyone is off and Jay and I are at the start fixing my flat.  Luckily we aired up, I spun the tire and the Stans held, so off we went, in last place, which means we were forced to walk up black.  In fact we had to start walking on the darn road before even getting to black thanks to the backlog of riders walkers.

Jay pushing up Black, or Turkey, or Pilot, or Laurel, or Club...
Finally we make it to Pressly Gap and start to plan our route.  With a simple goal of 4 checkpoints and a finish before dark, we hurriedly decided to head down Maxwell (can’t remember what we were going to get first).  About half way down, Jay says, “You know, we could have taken Turkey Pen to Bradley Creek.”  Then it hit me.  My mind worked with the speed of a computer calculating all different scenarios and I immediately knew that was the correct route.  We came to a stop and started climbing back up Maxwell to Pressley, then pushed up Black, down Turkey Pen and to our first check point.  Surprisingly, there were a lot of people at that checkpoint, so I felt confident in our route selection.  Now off to Bradley Creek.

For mature audience...behold, my bulge!
We do the little climb not far past the first big river crossing, then hit the bombing downhill afterward, when BAM Pssssst! Flat #2.  Not just a flat, but a slice in the tire.  No boot, so I try sticking a bar wrapper over the slice (took way too long), hoped the tube did not bulge out of the tire too much, and off we went.  Now this is where I DNF’d last year after slicing up my leg on a fall, so we carefully navigated the rivers and just about reached the end when we ran into Kelly, who unfortunately had been sick all week and was calling it a day.  He gave us his spare boot (we decided to only use it if the tube popped) and fantastic directional advice to
 our next checkpoint.

With Kelly's guidance, and pointers I felt very confident we were on track so off we went racing down 1206 to Laurel.  All I could think about was getting a grilled cheese sandwich and a coke.  I remember passing a few trails, but could not see signs, but it did not matter, where we were going was beyond Janes' sandwiches.  Then we run into Steve and Tim.  We tell them out plan and Steve tells us, “Dudes, you are almost to 276.”  Holy Mutha F’er!  We went the wrong way on 1206!!!  Kelly gave us explicit directions, but assumed we knew which way to turn on 1206.  Actually we did know which way to turn, we just did not do it.  SON OF A B!$@#!  So, back we went, with Steve and Tim.

Dave Anderson and Jim Stranix at the top of Pilot.
Jay and I at the bottom of Pilot.
We decided rather than riding back to Laurel (maybe we should have) we hiked up Pilot (took me 59 minutes to get to the top) and down Laurel to the checkpoint, then back up Laurel and rode down Pilot to 1206 and off to 276.  Saw Hawkins coming down Pilot (among others), saw Anderson and Stranix at the top along with a constant stream of teams making their way from Laurel. Also noticed that the slice in my tire had increased in size and now had part of the tube bulging out.  Yikes, so coming down Pilot (and from that point on) I am trying really hard to avoid any rock or root from coming close to rubbing against the drive side of my rear tire as I really did not want to change the tire (again).
Anyway, we are finally are on track with mostly fireroads left to ride.  We get to the 225 checkpoint without issue and then head back up to Club Gap and gingerly down Avery to CP#4.  It was there we were told to double check our passport and instantly decided to take the side trail over to Clawhammer, and down to Maxwell.  We knew we would now be finishing in the dark, but now the goal was just to finish.  The tire was looking worse, but we decided to risk it and just go.  We road up Maxwell to Pressley, and made it up and down Black with lights on and no real issues (nice to see JD and Mark w/ 5 CP’s) and onto the finish where we downed our burrito, some beer and conversation with everyone else who had crossed the line in front of us.   We did not get the finish we wanted, but just like our drive there, it could have been much, much worse, and ultimately ended up o.k..

Heading toward CP#3, Look out for Poison Ivy!

Jay cruising down 225.

   Almost to CP#4, were gonna make it!
Thanks to the generosity of Kelly and his family, we enjoyed some delicious spaghetti and meatballs (and more beer) and spent the rest of the night exchanging stories of our day with Jeff, Bobby, JD et. al.  I seem to remember a comical focus on how my large bulge almost kept Jay and I from a qualifying finish, but I think it is only funny when you are not sober. 
Good times!

Note: The next day when we were packing up, a guy camping across from us came over to chat.  We started talking about the race and I eventually asked how he did.  He replied, “We had a pretty good ride, ended up winning…”  It was Jake Mcgahey.  Totally cool guy, we all talked about the race, work, kids, riding etc.  Really nice of him (and his wife and kid) to come hang out with a few guys that came in 67th place and/or DNF’d.  I’ve had this experience several times either training or at events where I end up just talking bikes with amazing riders.  One of the things I love about mountain biking is most guys, regardless of ability, love talking bikes as much as I do…
Just another thing that really makes this sport special.
Jay and I at the finish with burritos & beer...there is a joke there somewhere.


  1. Another great write up for a race report. Sounds immensely difficult...but hey at least you are smiling at the end of the race. That's got to say something! :-)

  2. Thanks to you and your HTFU rides, I was able to get 5 CPs this year (insert Infomercial here). Much respect on sticking with it and finishing this year.


  3. Hey Mark, it was always great to see you on the HTFU ride. You (and JD) really killed it out there. 4 checkpoints are no joke, 5 is incredible. Amazing!

    Thanks Laura, I felt good at the end...much better than I did after the Harris Lake 6 hour race...hope to get a ride in with you before July as our house just went under contract. If all goes well, it is CA and/or bust! :)