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PMBAR 2017 Race Report

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    • #17167

      PMBAR is an event that I start to look forward to the next one almost as soon as we cross the finish line at the current edition. The past couple of years Andy and I have come close to winning the single speed category and even close to sniffing the overall podium. So we were going into this year’s edition with some hopes of doing well. Although PMBAR is a special beast since there is so much more to it than just riding a bike quickly. You have to first figure out where you’re going, try and make a plan, then try and stick to your plan when you see other teams doing other things. This always proves to be a challenge for me.

      Pre-race was pretty uneventful, spin over to the start from the house for a nice warm up, make some small talk, observe all of the random set-ups for the race, and wait for Eric Wever to hand out the passports. Typically we don’t get to open the passport until the time starts, this year we were allowed about 2 minutes to review the passport before it was time to go. Which makes sense now that we’re done, these checkpoints were spread out with no real “logical” route. As soon as I was able to see where all we had to go I just made a very confused face and may have uttered some sort of expletive.

      Bennet Gap at the Perry Cove intersection (Mandatory)
      Pilot Cove Overlook
      Bear Branch / 5001 intersection
      Trace Ridge
      South Mills near the Wagon Gap Rd. intersection

      The typical roads were off limits, the main one of interest is Bradley Creek Rd.(FS5051) which allows you to avoid Bradley Creek Trail with its 12 knee to waist deep crossings. Anyhow, per the usual we started up Black Mtn Trail, which is the mandatory start. We had spent a few extra seconds in the parking area trying to make heads or tails of the checkpoints and verify there were no “gotcha” rules. This meant the climb up Black Mtn involved a lot of sketchy passing and working a little harder than we wanted to. It did give me the chance to consider some options and bounce some Ideas around as to how in the hell we were going to pull this together. The obvious option to me seemed to be to go towards South Mills First. However I really wanted to figure out a way to not have to finish with the Bennett point as we’d have more climbing to do late in the day.

      I put together an idea that I thought was a little bit of a gamble and bounced it off Andy, we made the decision to go for it. We’d drop all the way down to the Horse Stables, climb up Avery Creek Rd (477), and do a short out and back on Bennett Gap first to get that point, then head to Pilot Cove, make that hike, hoof it out to Bear Branch, up to Trace Ridge, back to Bradley Creek, South Mills pick up the final point there, then Cantrell creek, Hike up Horse Cove Gap, Squirrel Gap, South Mills, Buckhorn Gap, Clawhammer, Maxwell, Black and Burritos.

      Once we made the turn that committed us to the route we noticed that there clearly weren’t too many people in front of us who had chosen this route and when we were the first ones to the Bennett checkpoint I was a little concerned. We made quick work out to Pilot Cove, made that hike and were caught by two local guys who we would go back and forth with all day, Nick and Kevin. We came out of Pilot cove and hit the gravel to get out to the North Mills area to get the points up there. We still hadn’t seen very many other riders and I was starting to think we’ve either done something really right or really wrong.

      We refilled water bottles at North Mills and made our way to the Bear Branch point, where we were the first ones there…I was starting to get confused, but they had homemade snickers so I ate one and stopped thinking about it. Then up to Trace ridge, where we find out we’re the third team there. So now we’ve got 4 check points and we were one of the first to almost all of them. Maybe we were doing well. As we started down Spencer to make our way back we started to see people, Watts and Dicky, the I9 team, but how many points did they have and how in the world did they get there?

      Our journey home was going to take some time so we got on it, topped off out water at North Mills before making the climb back up to Yellow Gap. I was still feeling really pretty good at this point, but I could see Andy starting to struggle a little. Climbing back up to Yellow Gap is always a struggle, a pretty long gravel climb that doesn’t really let up much throughout its length. I saw a couple riders coming up from behind us. This time it was Thomas Turner and Tristan Cowie, two guys who I know are extremely fast. It didn’t take them long to pass us and get on their way (they would beat us by just over an hour). After getting up to Yellow Gap we had a bit of a descent down to Bradley Creek.

      Bradley Creek is a trail that doesn’t see a lot of riding as it has 12-15 knee to waist deep creek crossings on it, but otherwise it really isn’t all that bad. It’s not that “hard” of a trail and doesn’t take a ton of effort it’s just more annoying than anything else. We ran into a lot of people still coming up Bradley Creek as we were heading down it, which I was fairly surprised about since it was a long time into the race. We made our way through Bradley, onto South Mills and picked up the checkpoint. I did have to verify once or twice that we hadn’t passed it, since it was in a part of the trail I’m a little less familiar with.

      After picking up that point all we had to do now was get home. The plan was to go up Cantrell Creek, to Horse Cove Gap, to get to Squirrel Gap. I always seem to forget how rough the climb up Cantrell/Horse Cove to Squirrel Gap is. I’m a pretty good Hike a biker, so I pushed on and the trail just seemed to get steeper and never-ending. It didn’t help that it was kind of steadily raining at this point and the temperature was falling. I was just hoping that Andy was hanging in there.

      Once I finally got to Squirrel gap it was only a couple minutes before Andy made his way up the trail. We snacked quickly and got on our way. Not much hiking left, just some sweet singletrack and a few lower grade climbs. We made pretty short work of Squirrel and started up South Mills a.k.a. the wheelchair ramp since it’s a pretty mellow longer climb. I let Andy set the pace here and we made pretty good time. On to Buckhorn Gap, I knew there was a little cell service up at the top and since we had ridden over to the race that morning we weren’t going to have any dry clothes at the finish. I was still feeling pretty good so I rode ahead a few minutes and tried to get a hold of my wife to bring us some clothes, however that effort failed.

      At the top we decided it was finally time to get the jackets out, thinking we’d just unzip for the final climb. Really glad we put them on, we never unzipped them and still never really got warm. After the initial descent down Clawhammer we started up Maxwell cove and I saw a couple riders ahead. I decided I had to know who it was so I pushed the pace a little bit, the legs responded really well. I caught up to them and had a quick chat, another fairly local geared team. They mentioned that they had seen Dicky and Watts a few minutes ago and they were behind us. Which meant we were almost certainly the first SS team. This gave me a little more energy, not a minute or so after that Andy came charging by, so I grabbed his wheel and we put in a solid effort to try and gap the guys we just caught.

      We made the short hike up Hickory Knob and started down the Black Mtn trail. It’s a pretty rough trail at this point, I know it pretty well and had the advantage of a squishy fork and dropper, so I took the lead down it. We were making pretty good time, as we got a good bit of the way down lower Black I saw the team we just passed making up some time on their full suspension geared bikes. I let it go a little more and just hoped Andy could hold them off.

      As we got down to the finish line we were able to keep them just behind us and found out that was the race for third overall! Holy Cow, Third Overall!!!

      It was a great day in the woods and once again Andy proved to be a great partner, pretty much always positive, even when you can tell he’s in a dark place, and always seems to come back. There aren’t too many folks tougher than he is.

      I was really happy with how I felt all day long, 78 miles and somewhere in the 13k feet of elevation at about 9 hours. Nutritionally I seemed to stay in a pretty good place and my legs felt strong almost all the time. I was excited about that since I really have only done base training throughout the winter. This is the first time ever I think that I’ve actually paid attention to training and I’m using a recommended training plan from Lynda Wallenfels, with my main goal race being the Breck Epic in August. Having only completed a 12 week “Base” training plan at this point I was able to push a good pace for a long time and still feel good.

    • #17174

      Thanks for posting your race report and congrats on your well earned 3rd place overall. Your hard training paid off! Great to hear you were able to push a good pace for a long time and still feel good! That’s the goal! Nice job!!


    • #17175

      Thanks for posting your race report and congrats on your well earned 3rd place overall. Your hard training paid off! Great to hear you were able to push a good pace for a long time and still feel good! That’s the goal! Nice job!!


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