Monday, October 3, 2011
That's a wrap!
I started the week by doing the Three Peaks UltraCross Race in Banner Elk, NC, which turned out to be a 51 mile day of racing for me with over 8000' of climbing. I then traveled to Brevard, NC for the start of the Pisgah Stage Race with it's 195 miles of racing and 28,000 plus feet of climbing on some of the most technical trails I have ever seen. I didn't think that the Three Peaks Race would take a lot out of me, but at the start of Pisgah on Tuesday, I could tell right away that I under estimated the difficultly of the PSR.
Not only were my legs still tired from Three Peaks, but I felt me throat getting a little sore on Monday after the race. By Tuesday, I had symptoms of a cold coming and by Wednesday Evening I could no longer convince myself that I was not sick. Additionally, on Stage #1 at Pisgah, I had a minor crash that resulted in a torn groin muscle. I noticed the pain immediately following the crash and had pain while finishing the stage, but I did not want to even think about not continuing the race. I sucked-up the pain and learned to deal with my cold, so that I could continue racing. I did not make any of my aliments known to anyone because I didn't want my weaknesses to also become known by competition, especially with being in third place after the first two days and only 4 minutes back from second place.
My luck seemed to change on Wednesday and even though my legs didn't feel like racing, I was able to take a slight advantage over Garth Prosser and move into second overall on the third stage. The fourth stage was also a good one for me, but the race came down to the last descent. Stage four was a pretty technical route until the last long fire road climb a few miles from the finish. I was able to put quite a bit of time on Garth through the technical riding and thought that I was going to be able to keep a moderate pace up the long climb until getting to the long downhill finish.
I wasn't pushing my pace too hard up the final climb because I didn't see anyone behind me and I wanted to keep some fuel in my tank for the final stage. My conservative cruise to the finish ended suddenly when Garth caught up to me from what seemed to be no where. Initially, I thought that a bear had jumped out of the woods because I didn't think anyone was around me and because he came around me with so much speed. But, as soon as I saw that it was indeed Garth, I immediately jump onto his wheel and increased my pace to match his. His pace was much faster than mine and it hurt bad to match it, but I knew that I could not allow him to gain anytime on me during the next to last stage.
Since another stage had gone up this climb, I remembered where the top of the hill was and knew that I needed to get in front of Garth before the descent, so that I could try to gain back some of the time I had lost to him on the climb. I was able to attack Garth before the top of the hill and get the gap I needed before going down the technical Black Mountain Descent. By the end of the race at the bottom of the mountain, I was able to gain about 1.5 minutes over the finish time of Garth, which gave me about a three minute advantage going into the final stage.
With Andy Johnston being so far ahead of Garth and I, we both focused on securing second place rather than worrying about taking the overall win. Stage #5 started with about 6 miles of fast paved roads before turning up a gravel road climb. I knew Garth would try to gain time over me on the road and gravel climb sections, but I was not too concerned about it because I also knew that a lot of technical riding was ahead in the stage. And, since I was in the company of fast riders like Jeremiah Bishop, Sam Koerber and Adam Craig, I felt confident that the pace would soon pick-up.
By the top of the climb, the fast pros were gone and I went into the single track alone to start my pursuit of Garth. It wasn't long before I caught him riding along with Andy Johnston. I got around Andy first and then around Garth on the long fire road climb to aid station one. Garth looked fried and I felt pretty good considering my cold was in full swing, it was like 40 degrees outside and I had just gone through 8 cold stream crossings. I didn't want to go too hard, though, because I knew many mile were ahead and I needed to conserve my energy for the final climb, which was the same climb Garth had caught me on just a day earlier.
I maintained my lead until the final climb like I figured would happen, but I was really starting to feel the 5 days of racing in my legs on the way up the mountain. I started to become paranoid about Garth catching me again and couldn't help but constantly look over my shoulder for him. When I finally got to the top, I was so relieved to be up there alone this time. I did one final descent of the super fun and technical Black Mountain Trail and rode over the finish line with a solid lock on second place. It wasn't a win, but it still felt good to do pretty well at the Pisgah Stage Race, while riding on unfamiliar trails and having a body that was not at 100 percent.
Doing a hard 5 day stage race like Pisgah is a completely different feeling than doing back to back 100 mile races like I did this summer. While I feel like the effort of doing a 100 mile mtb race is harder for that particular day of racing, the daily accumulation of racing of a stage race like this seemed to wear on me more than even doing multiple weeks of 100 mile races. Which do I like Better? Well, I'd probably lean more towards the 100 mile race because it seems to suit me better and because of the time commitment a stage race requires. But, I will say that bringing an end to my endurance season with the Pisgah Stage Race was an awesome wrap-up to one of best seasons of racing ever and an experience that I will never forget.
Happy Trails, Gerry
Photo Credit: Brad O Allen...thanks!