This is the fourth post in a series I’m writing about my adventure competing in the 2016 Pisgah Stage Race. You can read other posts in the series here.
I’ll start with a confession: peeing my pants as a 30-year-old was far more satisfying than I thought it would be. Now, don’t get me wrong—I’m not endorsing the act. If the circumstances leave you with few options, though, I’m not discouraging it either.
Ok, I’ll explain. One thing that is universally known about physical fitness is that hydration is key. If you get dehydrated, your goose is cooked, especially during a race. So, I’ve been drinking a lot of water. So much so, in fact, that two sessions in the woods before the race this morning wasn’t enough. Nature called—no, screamed—about 15 minutes after we left the start gate. Fortunately, today’s stage started on pavement and I was riding an exposed area of highway with nowhere to hide. Also, my legs were feeling pretty good and I didn’t want to take a break so early—I was already ahead of some people who beat me yesterday. So, the only option was to let it flow.
When you step back and think about it, the sad part about this whole story is that the guy in last place (me) is somehow trying to explain how necessary a (normally) socially unacceptable act is because of the pressure of competition.
Either way, I’ve made my confession and we can now talk about the race today.
Today definitely upped the ante. We started with a ~6 mile ride down pavement on the highway and then dove headlong into 20+ miles of technical single track. One thing you might not expect in a mountain bike race is how many people get off their bikes on difficult sections. There’s a cost/benefit analysis to be done—is it worth it to exert a huge amount of energy to get over a difficult obstacle, or to save that energy to make up time on the flats? Lots of times walking over a really hard section is faster than riding it.
With that in mind, I climbed really well, all things considered. In fact, I made it over a few sections that probably turned an eye or two, considering the fact that I’m one of the few people out there not wearing tight lycra exclusively. (I’m also in last place, so it’s probably better not to listen to my wardrobe critiques.)
The last climb showed me the difference between 25 and 29 miles with more climbing. Tomorrow adds on an additional 1,000 feet, which I’m guessing will land me somewhere in the nacho-fajitas-with-jalapenos-and-a-32oz-beer range.
One of the more exciting events of the day was going over the bars (that’s a front flip) on the enduro section. I thought the crash would kill my time, but even if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have been in the top 10, further revealing to me how much of an endurance race this is. The timed downhill started after 27 miles of hard riding, meaning I was already tired. My legs just didn’t give me what I was asking for, and my pride didn’t get what it was looking for either. The good news is that I walked away with a small scrape and bruise, neither of which will slow me down the rest of the week.
Overall, the ride was gorgeous. The leaves haven’t come back fully, so you can see deep into the forest most of the time, which reveals the beautiful contours of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
It’s the small things
When the results came in at dinner, I ended up moving up one place in the overall results. So, I’m now technically in second-to-last, which is encouraging in a small way. Maybe answering nature’s call on the run made a difference after all.
One thing I’ve loved about Blue Ridge Adventure’s management of the race is the details (which I also mentioned yesterday). At critical turns, they place race marshals who point you in the right direction. Some of them dress up and my favorite is Popeye—a guy who knows he looks the part and found an outfit to match, cobb pipe, voice and all.
It’s 9:14 and time for some sleep. The hardest challenge yet awaits in the morning.