Ironman Boulder :: Race Report

Mobb Rider Bradford S. is an animal. He does events that force you to swim, run and ride really far distances. Check his report on his epic trip to Boulder for the brutality that is Ironman.

Ironman Boulder is a triathlon under the Ironman brand. It is an ultra-distance race composed of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run totaling 140.6 miles. I raced last year with a friend and we decided to come back in 2018, shooting for a little bit better finishing times and to settle a bit of a friendly rivalry. The reality of this year's race was nothing compared to what either of us expected. There was also a lot more to this trip than just the race. This year was tough and it has taken a while to write this. What a great trip though!

This year presented some challenges for my friend and me (work schedules, injuries and the weather) that made us question whether or not running this race was even a good idea. Over many conversations, it became apparent that we were both too stubborn (stupid??) to back out, so with a plane ticket already booked and our registrations daring us to come back, we prepared as best we could.

Before getting to the race itself, I had about 5 days to enjoy this beautiful city at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Some sight-seeing was pretty much a necessity. Boulder is a fantastic city with beautiful mountain views no matter where you are. The trailhead to the Flatirons is right off of Baseline Rd, just outside of downtown.

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Continuing down Baseline will shortly drop you onto Flagstaff Rd which is a fun, roughly 3 mile winding climb to the summit. The road switches back a number of times and consists of various grades from the gradual straight away to short and punchy around the corners. The view from the top was serene.

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The remaining days were spent with short runs in the local park and some swimming in the reservoir. Luckily we were able to get in the water as this was our only open water swim, prior to race day. Needless to say, I'm grateful for indoor pools! The Boulder Reservoir is a pretty shallow (<20ft, to my understanding) 700 acre recreation and water storage facility for Northern Colorado. On a calm day it is absolutely amazing to swim; however, on a windy day like last year's race, it can get a bit choppy. With temperatures in the 90’s we took full advantage of the 71° degree water.

The swim is nice and simple. You enter the water at the boat ramps, swim in a giant 2.4 mile triangle and exit about 100 yards from where you started. To keep us on our toes, there were some changes to the bike and run course this year. In the past this race operated with 2 transition areas, T1 at the reservoir, exiting the water to mount your bike, and T2 at Boulder High School, where you would rack your bike and begin a 2 lap run along the multi-use trail. In 2018 we saw a combined T1/T2 at the reservoir with modified bike and run courses due to permitting and logistics issues. Totally understandable. Shutting down large sections of roads isn't always feasible. Studying the cue sheet and maps were a necessity, for the bike course in particular. The 112 mile route held 3 U-turns per lap and a halfway point that caused a great deal of confusion for a number of athletes. The 26.2 mile run course began at the reservoir and took us south into Boulder via 5 miles of roads and then onto the local multi use trail. The course is set up as a “Y” with 4 U-turns (one of which is made twice) and the “Flux Capacitor” at the convergence of the 3 legs. A large section of this trail is run right next to Boulder Creek. A gorgeous and fast moving, cold water creek. The chill from the water makes the atmosphere next to the creek very pleasant to run along.

 One of the more calm sections, riding to Flagstaff Rd.

One of the more calm sections, riding to Flagstaff Rd.

Race day is approaching. Checking in Thursday, getting our wristbands and transition bags. Friday: a run, packing transition bags (quadruple checked) and the opening ceremony, complete with food, music, a lot of inspirational athlete stories and Mike Reilly (the voice of Ironman) being inducted into the USA Triathlon hall of fame.

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Saturday we visit the expo for the athlete briefing and take a preview of the run course on our bikes, discovering the first 8 miles, or so, will be pretty rough. Very little shade. At the briefing we are told they will have iced towels and plenty of ice to help cope with the heat. Thank you! After getting the bikes checked in and racked, and dropping transition bags, which were checked three more times to be safe, we hit the water to relax a bit. Anything to prepare for that 3am wake-up.

Race Day! I usually can't sleep the night before, but had no issue this time. Waking up, feeling great, we had breakfast and hit the road. The atmosphere, like last year was a little chaotic, with athletes and families scurrying all over looking for the morning clothes bag drop-off, taking photos, warming up and getting in line for the swim start. With the water still in the very low 70’s, there is no worry about not being able to wear wet suits. Swim start is conducted as a rolling start with everyone corralling themselves into time based groups. 1:00hr-1:10, 1:10-1:20, etc. I knew I would probably be in the 1:20-1:30 group, but wanted to push a little, so I hung toward the front of this group. From the time the pros enter the water, a clock starts, allowing 2hr:20min for everyone to complete the swim.

The small starting cannon is lit off to start the pro men. Five minutes later, again for the pro women. Mike Reilly walking through the age group athletes, amping everyone up, shaking hands and wishing us a good race. Ten minutes after the women we begin to enter the water by ones and twos; for the next 30 minutes, a continuous flow of around 1600 racers.

The water is gorgeous. Barely a ripple, aside from all of the flailing swimmers. The first ¾ mile was really smooth. Then my group catches all of the people that either thought they were much faster, or just wanted more time in the water. From here on, there were a lot of bodies knocking into each other, hands and elbows to the head; all accidental, but obnoxious. I know I'm swallowing a lot of water. Past the halfway point and the water is still beautiful. We round the final turn and head back to shore. The emcee is announcing names as we exit the water and I have to take a few seconds on the ramp to get my legs back under me while unzipping the wetsuit. The wetsuit peelers did a great job of getting everyone out of their suits and moving to T1. Grabbing my bag, throwing on my helmet and stopping to get a liberal dose of sunscreen, I start to feel sick knowing it's all the water I had swallowed.

The bike course rolls us through a loop of the parking lot and out onto the main road for about a mile before hitting the first U-turn. Continuing past the reservoir on 119 up to the next U-turn and back to a right turn down N. 63rd St and jogging over to Rt. 36. There aren't really any big climbs on this course. Long, grinding, gradual climbs are seemingly everywhere, but only total ~3800ft over the 112 miles. Neva Rd is the first and has you riding directly toward the flatirons. A beautiful sight and for me an uplifting distraction. Coming off onto Rt 36 is possibly one of the worst hills on the course, but again, not awful. Once on 36 we have to ride alongside traffic. A large portion of the side of the road is coned off for the race with traffic running along beside and is working well. There were two small stretches of construction that had the race lane slim down, barely large enough for two riders, bar to bar. There were apparently instances of people passing three wide in these areas and unfortunately caused at least one wreck.

Off of 36, we turned down Nelson Rd, eventually making our way back to 36 until turning down Hygiene Rd for U-turn #3. This was one hell of a fast descent. Since I was feeling gut punched still, I took full advantage of rolling 30mph for over a mile with little to no pedaling. With the mountains dead ahead, the climb back up to 36 was, again, not awful but challenging. Especially with the heat. Looking back at the data, my bike computer recorded a 109° high at some point in the ride.

Rounding the corner onto 75th St. would bring us back to 119 where we would head back toward the reservoir and the initial turn off. At this intersection there were no less than 5 volunteers yelling directions to the athletes, standing next to signs and tape on the road pointing which way to go. “This way to mile 56/start lap 2”, “this way to mile 70”. There were a lot of DQ’s even with all of this. Was it perfect? No. It's our responsibility to know the course, though. Don't get mad and yell at the volunteers!

Lap 2: Repeat.

Feeling better and able to drink and finally eat, but behind on both, I was able to pace a little better, until mile 91. Just after the final U-turn I had to stop for the 3rd time, this time thankfully in the shade. Pouring a bottle of water down my back, drinking another, eating more food and chatting with others who had stopped was a great way to ignore the heat for a few minutes. Replacing all of the bottles on my bike, I set off for the final 20 miles.

As we rolled back into the reservoir we were greeted by bike catchers, a huge crowd and my friend’s wife, all with words of encouragement. The guy that came in with me shouts “Anyone want to buy a bike?” Laughs...it's the little things.

After spending 15 minutes in transition still trying to settle my stomach, a group of us set off for the run. Volunteers are handing out iced towels which we all wrap around our necks or tuck in our hats. 11 minute miles are all I want! The first 4 miles were really rough and exposed but a brief reprieve in the shade for a hundred yards felt amazing. The next 4 miles were seemingly very exposed as well and at roughly 3pm, there is no sign of it cooling down. Even still, the atmosphere around the course is fantastic. We're all miserable in the heat but push each other to keep going. The volunteers are taking fantastic care of everyone. Three other athletes from Cleveland are in the race and we pass by with greetings, encouragement and high fives. Diana Woolfe is on the run course in her turnout gear to raise awareness for PTSD, with Natalie, also from Cleveland Tri Club as her support. Mad props to them for going the full distance! You guys are awesome!

Starting to walk and feeling terrible again at mile 11, I started to think about turning in my bib and calling it a day...but I'm basically half way through the run. Take it mile by mile. The spectators are all amazing, volunteers running all over taking care of people, checking on them and getting food or water. In the end, after wanting to quit a few more times and walking about 8 miles, coming down the finish chute is an unbeatable feeling. This race is over. What started as wanting to improve on last year turned into a stubborn desire to stumble across the line. Finding friends, getting food and sitting against a tree feels fantastic and I can’t wait to fall asleep. With a total time of 14:44:04, I can’t say I’m thrilled with my finishing time, but under the circumstances I am happy to have been able to cross the line.

To the volunteers who worked for days and months to coordinate and run this race, make sure everyone was safe and we all knew where we were going: I cannot thank you enough! We are all incredibly grateful that you are willing to give so much of your time for this event. To the spectators, thank you all for coming out to cheer on family and friends, or just to have an excuse to sit outside drinking! The signs and the spirit you all bring to the course is awesome! Thank you also, to the directors and volunteer chairs for all of your work to make this thing happen in the first place. And the athletes. Stepping up to that start line is no easy task. Congratulations to everyone that showed up and gave it everything they had. This was a brutal race and whether or not you made it to the finish, be proud of what you accomplished!

Mohican 100 :: Race Report

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Shred Mobb Capo Banks take it to the woods once again. Full Mohican 100 report below. 

Oh Mohican 100, you got me good… Again. There is no doubt in my mind that the Mohican State Park trail system is the premier trail system in Ohio. Ray’s MTB Park may have received IMBA Epic status first because of its novelty but Mohican stands above all in the buckeye state as far as variety, distance, and challenge. There are trails with steeper climbs and gnarlier downhills but none that that keep coming at you with the relentless pace of MSP’s 26 miles of nearly full single track. Set in the heart of Mohican Country, near Loudonville, the MSP loop comprises the first major section of the annual spectacle that is the Mohican 100 MTB Race.

I’ve lined up for the 100 miler every year since I first raced Mohican back in 2014, with exception of 2017 when I raced the 100k due to a bad crash that kept me off the bike for a month during peak training. Much of what keeps me coming back for the 100 miles every year is a half mile long downhill section I call the Stroble Downhill right before Aid 4.5. The Stroble Downhill is located on private property and can only be ridden as part of the race. Yes, it is really so good as to make the extra 40 miles worth it. I was giddy at the start line, happy to be back to the full length, looking forward to that relished piece of descent later, and lucky to have scored a really good spot near the front of the field. Jeremiah Bishop (Canyon Topeak Fox Shimano Maxxis) and Brian Schworm (Think Green - Bicycle Face pb SWORD) were a few riders over and a row in front of me, respectively. One of my closest rivals, Michael Gottfried, was several rows back from me.

For the first time since the race’s inception Race Director Ryan O’Dell opted for a neutral start due ongoing bridge repairs not a thousand feet past the start line. Michael, who was taken out by another rider on that same bridge last year must’ve been relieved by this. We rolled out at 7 o’clock on the dot, bunching up behind the lead out vehicles that were not to be passed. I was glad for this because it meant that the first few hundred feet of the climb out of town were also neutral, which suits me. The bliss did not last long though and the lead vehicle blew its horn and took off rapidly to signal the official start of the race.

Within seconds my heart rate shot up into the 170’s as I tried my best not to let the excitement get the better of me as familiar faces passed me. There went Jeremy Paul, Ryan “Dombro” Dombrowski, and to my great chagrin, Gottfried. 400 vertical feet and 1 mile later I found myself at the back of the lead group losing ground repeating my mantra for the day: “don’t blow up, don’t give up.”

 Early on all is well and spirits are high! Photo credit: Butch Phillips

Early on all is well and spirits are high! Photo credit: Butch Phillips

Due to the heavy rains the night before the oftentimes bone dry gravel roads to the trailhead were damp this year which, thankfully, kept the dust to a minimum. Surprisingly, the ATV trails down into the Mohican Adventures Campground had much less mudd than they usually do. The MSP trail system is known for how well it stands up to rain and it did not disappoint. I don’t recall a single puddle as we settled into a 4 man paceline consistent of the legendary masters racer Roger Massey, Ted Rauh from Marauders, Scott Morman from Rescue Racing, and myself. We rode together until a rooty climb right before the OG’s (original gnomes), when Ted launched an attack. I dug deep to stick to his wheel and so did Scott but we lost Roger. Ted kept up the pressure until we got to the two track shortly before County Rd 939. Determined not to be behind anyone going into the upcoming downhill sections  I countered Ted’s attack on the two track and pulled ahead to the Mile 9 climb. I motored up it passing several more riders, Ted and Scott hot on my heels and into the first downhill. Scott is undoubtedly a stronger climber than me but I was able to put enough time into him on the downhill to stay ahead into the mile long DH to the bridge. I definitely burned a match needlessly here but it was worth the reward of a personal second best time! “Don’t blow up, don’t give up.”

 Scott Mormann of Rescue Racing in the zone on the MSP Trail Photo Credit: Butch Phillips

Scott Mormann of Rescue Racing in the zone on the MSP Trail Photo Credit: Butch Phillips

Those of you familiar with Mohican already know what comes next, many a riders most hated section of the entire MSP Loop: The 2 mile long Mohican FU-climb up to ODNR Mohican Rd 58. Scott and Ted got the better of me pretty quickly but I was able to keep them in view all the way to Aid 1. Where Ted didn’t stop and Scott had trail crew waiting to hand him pre-filled bottles while I had to explain to the aid crew which bottle was for HEED and which one for water. “Don’t blow up, don’t give up.”

Grateful for the refill I chugged along a minute later and eventually arrived at the hike-a-bike section that is generally considered unrideable by anyone but Jeremiah Bishop who was the first to ride it during the race and in perfect conditions back in 2015. I was surprised to spot Jeremy Paul a strong rider for the Spin Litzler road team about halfway up and set out to catch him. I caught up to Jeremy shortly before the Water Bar Downhill and was determined not to get stuck behind him for this part. The Water Bar Downhill is the Mohican 100’s equivalent of Heckler Hill at the Pisgah 111k. Normally closed to bicycle traffic this horse trail features a series of water bars with 6-12 inch steps that are tricky to navigate because they’re off camber and slick. The trick is to clear them one wheel at a time without hitting your bottom bracket in the process. Sounds simple enough, right? Well I should mention the 6 inches of mud and horse shit you’re riding through between each bar. While most technical riders get down this without dabbing, there is no shame in walking because you do not want to fall in this nastiness. Trust me. It can really wreck your day. A few miles further along we got to the first road section since the start where I fell in with a group of 5 other riders and we stuck together loosely until Aid 2. “Don’t blow up, don’t give up.”

 Don’t set your foot down here, it’s not just mud you might tread in. Photo credit: Butch Phillips

Don’t set your foot down here, it’s not just mud you might tread in. Photo credit: Butch Phillips

Jeremy caught back up to me at Aid 2 and we chatted briefly. I was waiting for my bottles to be refilled while J needed to have his handlebars straightened. He was not having a good day and had crashed a couple of times. Knowing that there would be more road riding for much of the way to Aid 3 I considered to wait for J to partner and take turns pulling but lost track of him while I dealt with my bottles and so I took off solo. As it worked out this was actually a wise choice. Jeremy caught back up to me at the top of the Griffin Rd. Climb, told me to jump on his wheel, and proceeded to pull me more or less all the way to Wilderness. There, he was kind enough to give me a pass almost right away (I owe you a beer big bird!). Even though the Wilderness trails are located on private property, they are open for legal riding year-round due to the generosity of its owners. I usually only ride Wilderness during the race because it is a bit of a maze if you don’t know your way around. If you have never been, I strongly recommend you find yourself a buddy who is familiar with the trails and go check them out. A mix of old school single track, downhill trails, and rocks for days, Wilderness is pretty unique in Ohio and the closest we have to West Virginia style trails. It’s also a good place to send someone who thinks they’re the shit because they’ve made it around East Rim a couple of times; if you’re really mean spirited, anyways. I jest. don’t do that. Seriously, it’s a dick move. Don’t be a dick. Another reason I don’t often ride the Wilderness is that it is deceivingly short; at least the parts you ride during the race, which are the only ones I know. Don’t let that fool you though. This hell will suck you in for a good long while and none of the aid stations along the course is as welcome a sight to me as Aid 3 at the end of the first three quarters of Wilderness. “Don’t blow up, don’t give up.”

 Tom Weaver of Knobby Side Down on the happy side of the Griffin Road Climb. Photo Credit: Butch Phillips

Tom Weaver of Knobby Side Down on the happy side of the Griffin Road Climb. Photo Credit: Butch Phillips

I got into Aid 3, where the 100K and mile riders split, ahead of Jeremy and was on my own for most of the rest of the race. I felt fairly good as I made the right turn out of the aid station and set off toward the final quarter of Wilderness. Soon after, Kenny Kocarek from KSD whom I had seen repeatedly throughout the day caught up to me. We rode and pushed our bikes together for a while and chatted about my target race for this season the Marji Gessick 100. Kenny raced Marji last year and according to his descriptions it is a sincere leg buster, so I was happy for what insight I could glean off him. Kenny is a single speeder with insane climbing ability. To my detriment I made the mistake of giving him a bit too much of a leash on one of the steeper risers and he dropped me as we got toward the end of Wilderness. “Don’t blow up, don’t give up.”

A little less than halfway between Aids 3 and 4 is Aid 3.5. Historically, it has been minimally stocked with water and sometimes cups of flat Coke but this year they had a full spread. Apparently I was the first one through to help himself to some of the homemade pickled beets which were delicious! I think this development is really cool because it reflects how this race has grown over the years. More fully stocked stations mean better neutral support which in turn makes race completion more attainable to first timers, which grows the event.  Much of the remainder to Aid 4 consists of the Mohican Valley and Holmes County trails. They’re both rail-to-trail conversions. Mohican Valley has always been paved as long as I’ve raced the Mohican 100 but Holmes County was only paved last year and times along it were faster than ever this year. I set a PR this year even though I found myself without a paceline for the first time on it ever. Considering the Holmes Trail was crushed gravel before the paving may not seem like a big deal but it matters, considering overall race times this year were significantly longer than in the past, which gives you an idea of the overall trail conditions during this year’s race. “Don’t blow up, don’t give up.”

The Holmes County Trail dead ends in Glenmont, which is also where Aid 4 is located. The crew at Aid 4 was comprised of all veteran volunteers who have been at this location for 5+ years and know exactly how to make the pass through as efficient as possible. Big props to those guys and gals! With a little over 26 miles to go, Aid 4 is also usually where the light at the end of the tunnel becomes visible once more. Another 10 or so miles of road eventually lead to a gravel road called Stroble Rd which then turns into a logging road replete with ankle deep mud. In the past, there was a section off of Stroble for which the race lead through a more or less dried out riverbed. This year there was some new freshly cut single track running parallel to the creek bed which was littered with downed trees. The single track leads to the second to last truly grueling climb of the day and, finally, to that sacred little bit of single track descent down to the swinging bridge. “Don’t blow up, don’t give up.”

I do not know what it is about this descent. It is ridiculously short to claim it is worth riding 40 miles for. It is washed out, rough, and chunky. It flows horribly and really all you can do is hold on and let roll. Maybe it is because it is on private land and therefore may only be ridden during the race. Maybe it is because it is the last real singletrack downhill of the day. I don’t know; but dammit I’ve loved these 30 seconds of descending ever since I first rode them. Thank you to the kind landowner who provides access for the race.

 2017 MTB Nats M45-49 winner Brian Schworm crosses the hanging bridge Photo Credit: Butch Phillips

2017 MTB Nats M45-49 winner Brian Schworm crosses the hanging bridge Photo Credit: Butch Phillips

At the bottom of the Stroble Downhill lies a narrow suspension bridge that crosses the Mohican River. Tucked away in a corner across from the bridge is Aid 4.5 undoubtedly the best aid station of all along this 100 mile course. It too is staffed by a veteran crew except these dudes are a bunch of no good hooligan knuckle heads who will offer you beer hand-ups or, if you show inclination but ultimately decline, flavor one of your bottles with a shot of cheap hootch. Thanks guys, just what I needed 90 miles into this slugfest! “Don’t blow up, don’t give up.”

 

Up a small incline from Aid 4.5 the course once again merges the 100k/mile routes, keeping the little gem just barely out of sight for the 100k riders. It is always an odd feeling to come across the 100k group here. You know you just rode an extra 40 miles compared to them and you cannot help but resent them just a bit for that but at the same time you can’t help but offer them encouragement to keep going because they’ve probably suffered just as much as you, if not more, in their own way. A few may even offer cheers in return although most just grunt or give you angry or blank stares. Not a half mile past Aid 4.5 is the last bad climb of the day: Valley Stream Road. Not a mile long this fireroad climb features an average 7% grade. The bottom half while long is reasonably flat and it flattens out further as you climb but then the road takes a sharp left turn and all of a sudden turns into a wall. I still remember the first time I climbed Valley Stream and while I’ve learned how to pace it over the years it is still a heartbreaker. “Don’t blow up, don’t give up.”

 Don’t let the wind chime fool you, Aid 4.5 is rated R Photo Credit: Butch Phillips

Don’t let the wind chime fool you, Aid 4.5 is rated R Photo Credit: Butch Phillips

Valley Stream eventually leads onto a township road and onward to the MSP trailhead parking lot where Aid 5 is located. Most riders skip this aid station because it is less than 5 miles from the finish but I was grateful for it and grabbed one last Hammer Gel to see me through the finish.

9 hours and 10 minutes after I set out with over 600 other racers I crossed the finish line with my second worst time but best positioning ever at the Mohican 100 Mile Mountain Bike Race and I cannot wait to do it again next year. I finished 29th out of 123 in the Men’s Open. “Didn’t blow up, Didn’t give up!”

All Photo Credit goes to Butch Phillips (Photoglyphix), Event photos for purchase: http://butchphillips.com/sessions/2018moh100mtnbike/content/index.html
Website: http://butchphillips.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/photoglyphix/

Event website: http://ombc.net/mtb-100/mtb-100-2

Series Website: http://nuemtb.com/

Strava activity:  https://www.strava.com/activities/1613308687

Gear list:
Bike: 2017 Rocky Mountain Element 970
Wheels: Velocity Blunt SS laced to DT Swiss 350’s (Custom built by the BC Crew)
Tires: Maxxis Ardent Race 2.35 (F), Maxxis Ikon 2.2 (R)

Pisgah 111 :: Race Report

Race Report by Mr Banks - Shred Mobb Capo.

Because it goes to 111.

The Pisgah 111k is a special event. Set in the Pisgah National Forest it is deceivingly short yet even top finishers take upwards of 6 hours to complete it. It is highly technical, the climbs go on for days, and there is a plethora of river crossings and hike-a-bikes. I first rode this race back in 2015. In mid-April, behind on my Marji Gessick preparation, I recalled the experience from 3 years ago and I decided that it would be a good way to jump start my 2018 season.

Thursday before the race my VRBO host emailed to ask if we still planned on coming down because the Brevard/Hendorsonville area was severely flooded and flash flood warnings were in place until Saturday morning. With no cancellation on the event website I said yes we were. The first highlight of the drive down was a stop to move the bike from the roof rack into the interior of the car, much to the chagrin of our dog, Waldo, who up until then had enjoyed the whole backseat to himself. Other highlights include repeated incidents of hydroplaning in Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Friday night, at the very damp check-in tent, it was revealed that the area had received 7 inches of rain a day for the past three three days so most of the river crossings would be removed from the course. Should be interesting, I thought to myself.

 Weather weary racers at the start line. Photo credit: Asheville Icon Media, Steve Barker

Weather weary racers at the start line. Photo credit: Asheville Icon Media, Steve Barker

Saturday morning, clouds looming ominously, a fairly small corral of racers lined up at the start. The 111k, maybe because of its rugged nature, never draws a huge crowd like some of the NUE races but today's crowd was small even by 111k standards. I suspect the weather was to blame. During the pre race announcements Race Director Eric Werver once again reminded us that we would face only one of the normally ten plus river crossings today and shortly after sent us on our way.

 Starting out for glory!&nbsp;Photo credit: Asheville Icon Media, Steve Barker

Starting out for glory! Photo credit: Asheville Icon Media, Steve Barker

Right out of the gate the 111k hits you with a brutal 40 minute climb up Clawhammer Road. Clawhammer is a gravel road and with fresh legs the pace tends to be fairly fast. Anticipating a long day in the saddle I opted to take my time up Clawhammer. Originally, I had planned to pace off of Kenny Kocarek from KSD. Kenny is a strong single speeder but I had to let him go because I would pay dearly later on if I didn't. 3 years ago the roles were reversed and I learned my lesson back then. I fell in with a group of 4 or 5 other riders, including Jen Toops, the defending women's OMBC and NUE Marathon Series Champion.

At the very top Clawnhammer turns into a grassy field with no discernable way out. Had we missed a turn? We consulted the cue sheet: From Clawhammer continue straight onto Buckhorn Gap Trail. This was clearly a dead end and we decided to backtrack. A quarter mile or so back down Clawhammer we eventually spotted an inconspicuous trailhead with a barely discernible sign for Buckhorn. What a great way to start the day.

The bad start was made up for with a rewarding descent down Buckhorn. It is fast and flowy, almost guiding you down a tunnel of lush Rhododendrons that seems to go on forever. From the bottom of Buckhorn the course continues onto South Mills River Trail which weaves along a hillside with plenty of roots and rocks that beg you to get some air. Be careful though, lest you misread your landing and find yourself 5 feet down the side of the trail like I did. Unhurt but still slightly shaken I rode on to Squirrel Gap and then on to Cantrell Creek Trails. There were several creek crossings along Cantrell as well as a section for which we rode along a creek. A single speeder I was riding with at the time and I mused about the fact that apparently Eric had miscounted a bit. Right before Aid 1 we hit South Mills River trail, parts of which were two way traffic but the ever helpful cheer section had a massive cowbell to caution riders.

 Climbing up to Aid 1.&nbsp;Photo credit: Asheville Icon Media, Steve Barker

Climbing up to Aid 1. Photo credit: Asheville Icon Media, Steve Barker

My hydration/nutrition game was on point today and my bottle only 90% empty when I hit Aid 1. Dialed aid station crews generally amaze me but the 2018 Pisgah 111 Aid 1 crew takes the cake. In spite of the rather miserable conditions the three volunteers seemed to be genuinely happy to be out there helping us crazies accomplish our goals. One volunteer swapped my bottle while another refilled my hydration pack and the third handed me my drop bag. I was back on the trail in less than a minute, riding toward the two way section for the second time. Normally, the way from Aid 1 to Aid 2 goes via Bradley Creek and Forest Service Road 5015 but because of the flooding some additional trail sections were thrown in, including Mullinax, Squirrel Gap, and Laurel Creek Trails. Eventually I found myself on FS 5015 climbing a long and painful 30 minutes up to Aid 2.

Aid 2, which also doubles as Aid 3 (more on that later), was just as well run as Aid 1. The 10 or so year-old kid who reported of some heroic fully rigid single speeder up ahead crushed my spirits just a bit, though. I believe his words were along the lines of “you’re pretty cool racing this and all but the guy up ahead on a fully rigid single speed is insane!!!” Thanks, buddy!

Never one to dwell on a crushed spirit, I continued onto FS 1206, a nearly 3 mile long winding service road downhill. My clothes and gear were soaked at this point and I was horribly cold the whole way down. The next 4 miles lead me along FS5000 another service road which connects to the steep climb up Spencer Gap Trail which, in turn, gives way to some awesome downhills along Fletcher Creek, Trace Ridge, and North Mills River Trails. Eventually, the trail dumped me back onto FS 1206 some 2 hours later; only this time I found myself at the bottom having to ride back up. Well ain’t that a bitch?!

Many riders find the hike-a-bikes up Laurel Mountain just past Aid 2/3 to be their darkest moment during the 111k. Personally, I find this 90 minute climb back up to Aid 2/3 at least as bad, if not worse. I feel a bit guilty to admit that I found some motivation in the cheers of several racers who were still on their way down this cruel mistress while I was already trudging back up. I tip my hat to you guys, for I can only imagine what kind of personal hell you must’ve been in later in the day.

On the cue sheet the 10 miles from Aid 3 to Aid 4 would have you believe that you’ll get through them in a breeze. Let me tell you: Not so. Laurel Mountain Trail, which comprises 90% of the way from From Aid 3 to Pilot Rock Trail covers some 1600 feet of uphil, a lot of which is basically unrideable because of its steep pitch, rocks, and natural steps. Jeremiah Bishop, one of the most accomplished U.S. endurance mountain bikers Strava PR stands at 4 minutes 40 seconds, a whopping 3.0 mi/h pace on the section of Laurel called Laurel hike-a-bike. This earned him 7th on the leaderboard at the time of this writing. The KOM, by the way, goes to one Miss Paisley Wigglebottom with a time of 1 minute 38 seconds or 8.7 mi/h, which is more than twice the speed of the runner up. I won’t share my embarrassing time with you but suffice it to say that my Garmin did not detect movement for this part of the race and simply jumped from bottom to top in one long glitch.

Finally, at the top of Laurel, awaits your reward: The infamous and gnarly downhill known as Pilot Rock. Pilot Rock will forever be one of my favorite trails. The top section consists of a series of tight switchbacks about half of which would literally drop you off the side of the mountain if you didn’t turn in time. Between the switchbacks you’re faced with a mix of drop-offs and increasingly chunky boulders as you weave your way toward and through the middle section. Toward the bottom all roots and dirt make way to rocks and boulders as you pinball down this white knuckle descent.

 White knuckling down Pilot Rock.&nbsp;Photo credit: Asheville Icon Media, Steve Barker

White knuckling down Pilot Rock. Photo credit: Asheville Icon Media, Steve Barker

Near the end of the descent the trail opens up and a crowd of hecklers with mountain horns and beer hand-ups/pour overs awaits you. To me, this truly epitomizes the nature of grass-roots mountain bike racing!

I don’t care how accomplished a racer may be they will feel like shit at this point in the race. They will be tired, hot or cold, soaked in sweat or rain and they will greeted by a bunch of loudmouthed smart-asses with nothing better to do than make fun of them and pour beer over them as they ride by. A small number of racers will stop to whine or complain about this kind of treatment but the vast majority will appreciate this tribute for what it is and, maybe, reach for a beer hand-up. Then they will chug along knowing that they’re almost done with this sick self-imposed exercise in futility.

 Josh Kunz of Knobby Side Down (3rd place Single Speed) is drenched with beer by Pilot Rock Hecklers.&nbsp;Photo credit: Asheville Icon Media, Steve Barker

Josh Kunz of Knobby Side Down (3rd place Single Speed) is drenched with beer by Pilot Rock Hecklers. Photo credit: Asheville Icon Media, Steve Barker

Shortly after Pilot Rock I reach Aid 4. No longer worried about whether or not I will beat my time from 3 years ago, I pause to chat for a minute with the crew about how several hours earlier the race leader came through with an 8 minute gap on the eventual runner up. Rested and mentally restored, I push off toward the last climb back up Buckhorn, over the top and down Clawhammer to the finish.

9 hours and 29 minutes after we set out I have only one thing left to say: What a day. What a day.

All Photo Credit goes to Asheville Icon Media, Steve Barker, Event photos for purchase: https://www.iconmediaasheville.com/Events/2018-Pisgah-111k/ Icon Media Website: https://www.iconmediaasheville.com/

Event website: http://www.pisgahproductions.com/events/pisgah-111k-mtb-race/

Strava activity: https://www.strava.com/activities/1582899137/

Gear list:

Bike: 2017 Rocky Mountain Element 970

Wheels: Velocity Blunt SS laced to DT Swiss 350’s

Tires: Maxxis Ardent Race 2.35 (F), Maxxis Ikon 2.2 (R)

Grips: Ergon GA2

Biking Thru Lakewood

Interested in taking advantage of living in a bicycle friendly community this season? Lakewood Public Library and Beat Cycles are collaborating to bring you "Biking Thru Lakewood". This event will cover everything from basic bicycle inspection to navigating the local roads. Join us as we discuss the ins-and-outs of commuting by bike. 

Friday, April 27th @ 6pm


Gathering will begin at 6:00pm with refreshments and a chance to meet your neighbors with seminars and workshops to follow.

We look forward to seeing you there!

 

 Ryan Sheldon, of Beat Cycles.&nbsp;

April Financing!

Hey, hey, hey!

The calendar says that spring is here, but the weather as of late has been saying otherwise. This is Cleveland, so really we're not surprised. Here's the thing though.... once Mother' Nature catches up and bring's her sunshine smile, we know you're going to want to be ready to roll!

We've got some great financing opportunities this month just for YOU!

 Beat Cycles April Financing

While we always offer financing, these extended terms are ONLY valid thru the end of April! Come check out all the sweet bikes we've got on the floor!

Feel free to send us a message or give us a call for details!