Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Race Report: Pisgah 111k

If you're a frequent reader of my blogs, you'll know that last year was a very tough year for me.  I was over trained, over stressed, over race weight, and contemplating throwing in the towel.  With the passing of my father last June, and the birth of my son Nolan in January of this year, my life has been an emotional roller coaster.  I love our little Nolan, but as any parent knows the first year with your first child takes a lot of adjustments and challenges.  Luckily, he's an amazing, well-tempered baby (I like to call him a great beginner baby).  I know that a lot of people expected me to take a step back from racing, but not my incredibly supportive wife, Megan.  She knows the kind of man I am.  When the chips are down, that's when I work the hardest.  Most wives would have asked for a divorce long ago after dealing with the high maintenance life of an endurance athlete, team manager, ball of stress man I have become.  Instead, she has stepped up to the challenge and made sure I didn't miss a day of training.  If it weren't for Megan my racing career would be over.  She pulled me out of the hole I dug and I encouraged me to keep pushing.  It's been hard on both of us, but we made it through.

I toed the line in the Pisgah National Forest with the tail end of a nasty cold, and legs that were just a couple days off from being 100%.  I knew I wasn't going to be a competitor, but that was never my goal for the day anyway.  With around 70 miles, 10k of climbing, and terrain I had never ridden all I wanted to do was finish the race while taking in the experience along the way.  Finishing was just going to be a little bit tougher.  Once again, the chips were down, my motto all year. There was no way I was backing down.

The race started easy paced until we hit the first climb.  My legs nor lungs were not going to keep up with the front pack, so I quickly settled into my own pace for the long day of climbing.  The first half of the race took a lot of adjusting to the unknown.  I was warned about the wet rocks/roots, creek crossings, mud, and brutal terrain.  I had no idea that I would be carrying my bike overhead while wading through several knee high creeks, and sliding down endless mud/water shoots through rocks. 

Something happened to me out there that I hadn't experienced in any other bike race.  It seemed like every time I had to get off my bike to walk through another creek crossing, crank through another deep mud hole, or had more skin ripped off my arm by overgrown thorn bushes it became less like a race and more like a quest for survival.  I kind of went crazy out there.  At aid stations I’d stop and devour bananas with peanut butter, PB&J sandwiches, and anything else I could get into my paws.  For someone that follows a strict race day nutrition plan, this was far from normal.  I just snapped and said screw it.  I was in survival mode!

The second half was nastier than the first, and the last quarter of it was the nastiest.  The last several miles were a lot of climbing, with tons of steep uphill hike-a-bike.  After each steep uphill you were greeted with down hills so rough that it hurt every bone in your body.  It took every last bit of me just to hold on.  When I finally saw the finish line, there was no sprint nor spirit left in me to give.

The race director was there at the end greeting everyone.  After catching my breath, and taking a minute to take in what I just experienced, I thanked him.  The Pisgah 111k, much like my life this past year, was an emotional roller coaster full of fear, thrill, anger, weakness, bliss, and triumph.  It's the kind of experience that wakes you up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat amazed you survived, and finding yourself filled with joy that you got to experience it.  Somehow I was able to pull out a 15th in Open class, and still have some leg left for the Gunnison Growler for following weekend.