I drove down to Brevard, North Carolina (just south of Asheville) yesterday. I got in around 3:30 and checked into my 'swank abode', per race standards, and quickly unpacked. My hotel is only a couple miles from the race start/finish. It's very nice to be so close to the venue, have a clean shower, clean room, wifi, etc. Registration and the opening ceremony was scheduled for 5pm. I had hoped to get a decent ride in to flush the long drive out of my legs, but a half-hour was all I could fit in. I felt ok. It was a warm, humid mid-80 day.
I drove the ~10 minutes to the Brevard Music Center where registration, race briefing and dinner were taking place. I pulled into the parking lot next to Lee and Brenda Simril (my 100 miler buddies). They have done this race the past two years and love it. Dinner was pretty yummy and super healthy. I had trout with pesto sauce, quinoa, veges and some bread. During dinner, the race directors went over the various courses and other race 'stuff'. Some of the trails sound pretty rough and gnarly and bordering on dangerous. Oh boy. I do like technical trails but traveling around the country had made me realize there are different 'technical' trails -- like the rocks in PA/MD are different than the Northeast, etc.. and much different than out west. Each place has it's thing.
I was feeling pretty wooped from the long drive and taking in all the new sites and trying to wrap my head around having to race my bike for 5 days. Did I really sign up for this again. It sounded like a lot of fun back in August. Now, after a long season and busy month of work etc., I was feeling a bit worn out from wanting to push myself to the point of exhaustion. But here I was in North Carolina, better get pedaling. At least the weather forecast for the week looked great - mid-70s and sunny, until Saturday which will only be in the low 60s.
I woke up at 6:30 and ate a bagel for breakfast. I headed over to the race start for 8am and finished getting and had plenty of time to kill before the 9am start. It was really damp out with a lot of the humidity burning out of the air once the sun really came out. I knew it was going to be slick out there on the trails. They have had a lot of rain down here recently and the forest is really dense so it takes a while to dry out. I figure we'll be getting wet and a bit muddy every day with stream crossings, etc.
The course today started out with a mile on a flat road and then turned onto a dirt road rolling climb for about 6 miles up to Aid Station 1. Then we had a nice smooth gradual descent. It was a bit tacky but pretty smooth sailing down to a river crossing and then up a really steep, greasy climb. I was feeling pretty good thus far but was riding conservatively. I saw the woman who came in 1st only at the start and she took hard with the lead men's group. I just let it go and rode my pace reminding myself it's a long week, lots of tough trails, lots of tough climbing and lots of tough descending. No need to kill it on day one. I also wanted to just get a feel for the terrain. It was very slick and greasy in spots. Mid-race we were riding a very narrow trail with lots of off camber roots and a nice steep drop off. I just took it easy through there and enjoyed the terrain. Put a foot down or whatever to get over some of the really badly angled roots so as not to risk crashing down the mountain. It was kind of nice in that the trail made you have to ride conservatively and not put out a big effort.
Aid Station 2 was at 22 miles. I refueled there with my 333 carborocket mix - best stuff ever. From there it was an extended road section, mostly down for a while and then some climbing back up to a double track trail. It was rocky and rough at first and then smoothed out into an almost tunnel like track with the brush growing over. Then we eventually come out to Aid Station 3 at 32 miles and hit the dreaded hike-a-bike section. Thankfully I had been well warned about the numerous and very long hike-a-bikes at Pisgah and today's hike-a-bike would be like 20+ minutes. It was hard to get the legs to come around to pushing the bike uphill versus riding but they came around a bit. The views from on top of the mountain were spectacular but I was in race mode then and didn't take too long to take it all in.
It was slow-going descent off the top part. Many deep ruts from water runoff would make 2-foot drops or more so if you weren't careful in picking your line, you were sure to go over the handlebars. So I continued in my 'conservative mode'. Further down the terrain less hairy, but you still had to really keep you eyes ahead and paying full attention. The final descent into the finish, which apparently we finish on a few more times, was super super fun and fast with nice banked turns and just enough rocks to keep you honest.
I finished in 2nd about 9 minutes back from 1st place. I felt pretty good. I hadn't gone all out although post-race now I do feel the effects some. I headed back to the hotel and cleaned up, ate some snacks, massaged the legs some. Then, I went into 'town' to check out some shops before the evening awards. There was a reception afterwards with some finger foods and beer. I had a beer. I admit it. Then I grabbed some dinner with Gerry Pflug - 100 miler single speed champion. He's amazing. He's racing on gears for this one though.
well off to bed. four more days....