Okay, okay. P36AR is going to have to be a Dicky-style multi-part race report. I can get pretty wordy in my race reports (for example see last fall's 8-paragraph report on a 30 minute cyclocross race) but I usually try to pour it all out in one flood. I'd rather just do this in one long blast, but I'm still recovering from the weekend-- mostly trying to catch up on sleep after three essentially sleepless nights. I should have been able to crash last night, but with all the caffeine still in my system from the race nights I still could barely sleep. Plus work is crazy this week, and I have some other things to do, and I think I'm still in calorie deficit because I just ate two pizzas. So I am going to have to string this out for a few days.
If you're not caught up: P36AR is a 36 hour long race based out of Cove Creek campground, in the heart of Pisgah. An inspired race design from Pisgah Productions. 6 stages to complete, each with multiple checkpoints throughout the forest. Sometimes a set route, sometimes you choose which checkpoints you want and work out your own route. At least as much a mental test as it is a physical test. I'd been pretty psyched for this race for a while and was bummed when it got postponed back in February. It actually worked out great to have it happen in April since I had my new bike and was in better shape than I would have been earlier. Also, the trails were not covered in a foot of snow anymore.
Prologue stage: exact route stage (Cove Creek campground- 475- Daniel Ridge parking lot- 5046- upper Daniel Ridge connector- 225- Cove Creek trail- back to the campground). The race started with an easy prologue that took an hour or so. Everyone was chatty and happy to be riding bikes. I was talking for a moment with someone who said he'd never ridden in Pisgah before, and as he passed I warned him that the little Daniels Ridge-225 connector was easy to miss. Oh no, he said, there will be a sign at the trail intersection. Due to my good Midwestern upbringing I felt I needed to be a proper host to this visitor and I tried to convey that actually there wasn't a sign there, but he clearly didn't believe me. He hammered off into the dark.
The moon was coming up as I hit that unmarked connector and it was giant and orange behind some wisps of cloud. Jonathan came up behind me and confirmed that the moon was looking truly awesome, then I pulled away from him big-ringing it on the graded gravel after the gate on 225. The loop went down Cove Creek, and I remembered how I was not really a fan of all the little bridges on that trail. Jonathan soon passed me back in dramatic fashion, riding straight through one of the creeks while I walked it over the stupid bridge. Meh.
On return from the Prologue lap Eric gave each person the card for Stage 1, an exact route stage. I swapped to my good headlamp and threw some extra food in the pack for this one.
Stage 1: exact route stage (Cove Creek campground- Davidson River- 475- 475B- 225- Cove Creek- 475- 5095- Long Branch- 475- 5003- 140A- Farlow Gap- Daniel Ridge- 475- back to the campground). As I left for the stage I saw someone trying to figure out where the start of the Davidson River trail was. He tagged along behind me down the right path, taking the opportunity to use me as a navigator. He followed me for the entire first part of the loop keeping up a pretty constant patter. Eventually I was on 475 and looking for the left turn up the gated gravel of 5095. With his constant chatting in my ear I spaced out and missed the turn, the guy followed me right along up an extra 10 minutes or so of climbing up towards Gloucester Gap. I guess I needed to have fewer distractions and was not dealing well with the situation.
I hightailed it back to 5095, and passed Cissy and a couple others at the Long Branch trail intersection. I decided I wanted to ride bikes for a little while and not have to chat so I left them behind and stomped it up Long Branch trail to get a little space. Up to Gloucester Gap to 5003. I ran into Matt Fusco, Jonathan again, Anet's husband, and a couple other unknown riders in the dark and we all rode kind of more or less together without saying much. After the push up 140A it was finally time to leave the old logging grades behind for a ride down Farlow singletrack.
Second checkpoint photo for the first stage. Long Branch. The checkpoint photos soon got more interesting as I got bored of landscape photography and decided they needed some human interest.
Jonathan passed me at the top of Farlow again and soon his light disappeared from view as he shredded the descent. The trail actually seemed really fun in the dark, maybe it was just easier to focus without any peripheral vision but I really enjoyed it. I know Farlow well enough to anticipate the hard sections and decided this was not the ride for hero stuff. Nothing to prove out there in the dark alone at 4:30am so I walked the sketchiest bits and made it down without any crashing. Probably not too far off my daylight pace for that trail, actually.Top of Farlow checkpoint photo.
First in the "Emily's current P36 mood" portrait series.
Daniel Ridge went fast and I got back to the Cove Creek campground just before sunrise to get my Stage Two route card.
Bottom of Farlow, intersection with Daniel Ridge checkpoint.
Mood: in the groove, could not be bothered to get off my bike long enough to get a decent photo.
TO BE CONTINUED! Actually, Stage Two contained by far the most drama and mental struggle, so you might want to come back for it tomorrow.