Wednesday, April 7, 2010

P36AR: Long Haul

Yet another installment in the P36AR race report miniseries. Go here and here for the earlier parts!

It was still pretty early when I got back from Stage Two. When I rolled back into the campground the sun was still pretty high and there were a number of people milling around the camp. I got the card for Stage Three, which was another choose-your-own-route stage but required only one checkpoint to complete. That checkpoint was the end of Summey Cove trail, super annoying to get to, but I kind of expected to have to go to it. Summey Cove is only 2 miles long, and way far away from all other singletrack, down some old logging roads near Courthouse Falls, and not really worth the trip over to it. There were five other optional checkpoints in the stage too, including the top of Farlow and the top of Butter. Either of those could be easy to add onto a trip to Summey Cove.

I was not feeling too bad and spent a couple minutes chatting but I knew that if I spent any real time sitting at the campfire I would never get moving again. I also wanted to ride in daylight as much as possible. I lubed my chain, changed into a fresh kit, drank a lot of water, grabbed my lights from the charging station and threw some more food in my pack.

I decided to just hit Summey and come back so I could start Stage Four as soon as possible. I really just wanted to finish all the stages and not worry about getting lots of checkpoints. I cranked up Gloucester Gap and took the right onto 5003 for the second time that day. 5003 was much lonelier this time around but in the daylight it was easier to avoid the sticks and branches littering the road and to peg the little fake-out abandoned logging spurs.

I got to the unmarked junction where 5003 dead ends into 140A. I knew on the way back it would be dark and there would be a good chance of me missing 5003 and just keeping on up 140A towards Farlow by mistake. I took a big white rock from the edge of the woods and plopped it right in the middle of the trail to remind me to make the turn. Then I headed down 140A to the graded gravel of 140. I was walking it on a steep section of 140 when I saw Brad Kee and Matt Fusco heading down towards me. They were the first racers I'd seen since I'd left Shawn and Ryan back on South Mills. Turned out Matt had broken his bike, dropped out of the race, procured a backup bike, and was now just enjoying the ride and keeping Brad company. Despite a serious pace they were happy to stop and chat about the great time we were all having. It's all just riding bikes, and we were all three deep in the rhythm of the all-day-no-sleep ride. How lucky we were to get to ride bikes all through this beautiful forest all weekend.

I made it to the Summey Cove trail turnoff right as the sun was setting. Since we were not allowed to use 215 but had to get a photo of the trail sign at 215, Summey had to be an out and back. Which meant pushing up and walking down the short steep ridge twice. A little ways down the trail, before the steep part, I ran into Clay for the first time since the start. We compared race strategies. He told me he'd just ditched his bike before Summey got steep, and then hiked over the top of the ridge and down to the checkpoint. This was a tremendous idea! Not only was walking over the ridge easier and faster than pushing, but getting a little time away from the bike sounded pretty appealing.

I ditched my bike and helmet near the first deadfall at the base of the climb. Clambering up the trail and over obstacles was definitely easier on the shoulders and arms without a bike in tow. Making my way down the gnarly downhill I ran into another racer wrestling his bike up through the rhododendron undergrowth. He seemed to agree that I'd made a smart choice.

I finally got to the end of the trail and tried three times to capture my feelings about Summey Cove:
The teeth gritting was about right but I didn't think this evoked the annoyance very well.

This one seemed to overstate the suffering involved. It actually wasn't that bad, just a hassle.

This one kind of showed my ambivalence about Summey Cove but didn't really portray the whole walking-two-miles-in-SIDI-Dominators-in-the-dark aspect of the experience.
I decided summing up my mood about Summey Cove was more complex than I could handle so I ended my little photo shoot. Got back to the bike, got back to the gravel and turned on my ipod for the long haul back to the campground.

Back up onto 140A where I had my only crash of the entire event. I just lost balance and fell over while climbing out of the saddle, clearly my mind and body were getting pretty fatigued. The big white rock did its job and I successfully made the turn onto 5003. It was around 11pm. A couple times I thought I saw a headlamp behind me but based on the final results it must have just been a car way down on 215. At the time I thought someone was about to catch me from behind and I kind of randomly decided I didn't want that to happen. I was feeling good and I decided pick up the pace and try to finish stage three before midnight.

5003 went fast and I didn't pause at the turn onto 475. I'd only brought the lighter, dimmer backup headlamp on this stage and even with the handlebar light blazing my speed was almost faster than the light could accomodate. Still for some reason I had it in my head to finish the stage before midnight and absolutely as fast as possible. I was hammering like it was a sprint finish, though I have no real idea why I decided to. I hauled ass back into the campground and checked my watch. 11:35! Yay? Still, it had been pretty damn fun to hang it out there on the 475 descent.

I marked my one checkpoint and Erinna gave me the card for Stage Four.

TO BE CONTINUED!! The next part is going to be the last one, I swear.

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