DNF= Did Not Finish.
I finally signed up for the Pisgah Productions P111K one week before the start. Knowing that my training has been lax and non structured, with my longest ride since February a mere 2.04hrs, I knew that the likelihood of finishing this beast was slim to none.
I played mind games all week and forced myself to the start line. If I could get to the start, I told myself, that would mean part of the mental battle was won.
Carey Lowery found me in the parking lot before the race started and gave me this note with some goodies! It appeared to be a good start to the day. I'd have some yummy treats waiting for me, no matter the outcome!
90 racers lined up and started, I held back and found my all day pace. I was pedaling fine, but the mind games continued. Every minute that passed brought new questions and doubts. Why am I doing this? I could be at home. There is no way that I should be out here with my lack of training.... and so on, all the way up Clawhammer, then up and over Black Mountain to Turkey Pen.
Looking around, I took in the beauty, I tried to enjoy it, but simply was not. Even the view at the top of Black, which usually causes my spirits to soar, only brought about a mediocre response.
Left on Turkey Pen, a dreaded trail in these parts, and I pretended to rip the first down hill. At the first hike a bike, Laura Goetz caught up to me. Cool, company. I vented a bit to her, trying not to sound negative, but glad to have a sounding board. Her advice was to keep on going forward, that it was impossible to make a judgement call at this point in a long race. I chewed on that and miraculously the cloud lifted from my head. I made the Yellow Gap rest stop my goal. I would get there and see how I was feeling.
I actually enjoyed the rest of Turkey Pen. Despite lacking long hours on the bike, I have spent most of that time on the mountain bike, and I could tell that my skills were more solid than in previous years.
I rolled into rest stop #1 feeling good. The Motion Maker peeps were there doing a stellar job. Happy Birthday Kent! I refilled, grabbed my salami and cheese sammy and ate it on the down hill to the river. I should have saved it, because that downhill is fun, but.....
Across the river, through the woods, up Mullinax, Squirrel, Laurel Creek, 5015 up to Yellow Gap and greeted by Sam White, the wife and kid! Nice. I was feeling good but still pessimistic about finishing. I only had 22 miles at this point and was roughly 4 hrs into the race. I knew the reality of what another 40 miles could feel like. Pete and Mark hooked me up at the Liberty Bikes aid station before I headed up Laurel to Pilot.
Zeke showed up and had some encouraging words for me, and then I started the climb. I was still having fun and determined to make rest stop #3 and reassess how I felt.
The climb up Laurel was uneventful, eating, drinking, pedaling, hiking etc. I made it to the top, had a snack and then started to descend. Maybe I'd enjoy this trail more on full suspension, but I simply don't like it. I tried to like it, and felt that I was picking better lines than usual, but ugh, its a beast, and I was glad to get to the bottom.
Left on 1206, left on Slate Rock Pilot Cove loop (clockwise). This loop is has no flow and includes a lot of hike a bike. I was still feeling good and hopeful about continuing. I chatted and yo yo'ed with Melissa for a bit over the next hour. I finally got back to 1206 and took a right. It was then that fatigue started to set in. I slowed way down, ate some, drank. I could feel my body shutting down, then came the nauseousness, and that was it. I slowed some more, asked Tom if he had some Coke. He didn't so I soft pedaled to 479.
I was at a crossroads. I was done. Could I recover? I didn't think so, but the only way to find out was to keep riding to aid station #3 refuel and keep riding. If I kept riding and didn't recover, I would be deeper into the woulds and rescue would take time and resources. If I pulled the plug, I could get to Hwy 276 and soft pedal to the finish. Then the mental game got real. If I quit, what does that tell my kid? Just the other day he talked about quitting track and field, " because it is boring". Quitting here was different though, possibly a matter of survival.
I started heading down 479 to rest stop #3. I had been out for over hrs. That was a long time. Did I really think I would recover and be able to finish the Black-Buckhorn-Avery-Clawhammer-Maxwell-Black loop? Ugh, no way I had enough left to do that. My tank was empty and I knew it. I had discovered how far I could go with little training. I had pushed myself and overcome the voices in my head. It was time to quit.
I headed out 1206 and down 276, chilled I stopped to put on my rain jacket. My head was quiet on the ride back. I was comfortable with my decision, not pleased but comfortable. Better than laying on the side of the trail waiting for rescue though. I was also bummed to miss the friends at the Industry Nine rest stop.
Back at the start finish, I chatted with friends and fellow racers, had a burrito and a coke, and did the walk of shame to the timing tent to announce my DNF. Before loading up and heading home, Eric Wever, head honcho of Pisgah Productions wrote a check for $650.00 to Trips For Kids WNC. Money raised from I-9 product raffles at the races this year. That was an amazing surprise, we are gearing up for a big spring/summer full of rides with kids and this will help fill in some gaps! Thanks I-9, Pisgah Productions and everyone who took a chance!!
Driving home, I had the time to reflect on our cycling community, local more widespread, and all of the contributions that people have made over the year. I appreciate each one!
And to top off the day, I had that banana nut bread to nibble on on the way home, it really hit the spot!