Eric Wever did it again! I sit here on a Wednesday still wondering what happened to the weekend! Double Dare is not for the weak, and it made a spectacular way to end the King and Queen of Pisgah Series. Anybody that has survived this series deserves to give themself a big pat on the back.
It started off with PMBAR in May soaked with rain and temperatures that barely reached 40. I remember hiking up Pilot Rock Trail, reaching the top of Laurel Mountain and my Garmin read 32 degrees. BRRR!! It made it almost unbearable to leave the fire at that checkpoint. However we were on a mission! While sitting by the fire we realized that we shouldn’t get all the check points. Teams were only required to get five checkpoints and any extra checkpoints reduced your time by an hour. If you know Pisgah then you know that to get almost anywhere it takes at least an hour or more. We already had made the mistake going out to FS475B to FS225 and getting that checkpoint, so we bailed on Pilot Cove and headed to get the one on Squirrel and then our final one at the bottom of Turkey Pen! Wow! Turkey Pen has to be my biggest soul crusher. Hiking up from the bottom towards Black Mountain I was wondering if I even existed anymore or maybe I was just having a nightmare. How can one trail be so gloomy and seem so impossible? Eric thankfully puts Black Mountain as a mandatory descent for the finish though, and after descending a muddy, fast Black Mountain I was all smiles!!
Two weeks later it’s the 111K and 55.5K weekend. I think all of us were just hoping for better weather. However, since we had already done all that training in the mud at PMBAR we might as well spend this weekend in the mud and rain as well. I barely made the start of the 111K because I didn’t want to get out from under our pop up at the campground, but I managed to suck it up and started my way up Clawhammer Road to begin another grueling race put on by Eric Wever. I remember chatting with my friend Chris Joice after we had just hiked over Black Mountain, went down Turkey Pen, and then got dunked under the freezing cold water at one of the many river crossings about how all I wanted was to be sitting on a beach with the sun warming my body. I never hear Chris complain about anything, but he seemed to agree a beach would be better than this at the moment.
Again thankfully Eric Wever puts Black Mountain descent as the finish and I can’t help but feel extremely accomplished and happy at the end of that race. It’s not over though, we got to get up and do the 55.5K in the morning. Yaaaay (with a big hint of sarcasm)! The 55.5K was a rough start for me hiking up Black Mountain, but the sun was actually out and my mood started to lift when I began going down Turkey Pen (Wait did I just say my mood lifted while riding Turkey Pen? … I really was losing it). I began to pass A LOT of people going down the muddy single track, and one guy even asked, “Are you really going to ride this?” which I proceeded to tell him, “Yes I can ride down this better than I can walk down it!” By the time I got to the end of the 55.5K I was in great spirits. I descended a river flowing down Pilot rock, and my favorite ending descent on Black Mountain! Woo Hoo!!! This weekend is finally over! Thank you Eric for making me know what real mountain biking, and what a real suffer fest is. You have made me a stronger rider with your races!
Monster Cross was the next race in the series, which is a 70 mile gravel/road race. The weather was great, and tons of people were there, but man oh man after all the other racing I had been doing the month before (Shenandoah, Three Peaks, and the Collegiate Races) and the fact I stayed out late celebrating with our local mountain bike club at the Clips Film festival I was dirt tired. I may have even fallen asleep on the Parkway with my eyes open. It was a tough race for me because my heart and mind were not in it, but I knew I had to finish. I had already made it through over thirty hours of racing in this series. I did not want to give up now! I finished in the top ten which was better than I expected.
Last but not least, DOUBLE DARE!!! This year was my second year competing in it, and for me I completely enjoy the atmosphere of this race. Many of my friends from Knoxville come to this race to participate and have fun, and having them there in my favorite place to ride makes me a very happy person! Scott had a cold the week before, but we started the race strong. We got in a fast group on our way up to Bent Creek Gap, a two hour bike ride to get our passports. Then the real race started. From there we realized it was going to get dark in a few hours and we still had to get up to Pilot Rock and all the way back to the campground by midnight. So we got all three checkpoints in the Trace Ridge area and then made our way up Laurel Mountain Trail in the dark to the top of Pilot. From there we did the hike out to Mt. Pisgah and back and made it back to the campground around 11:30. Shew Wee! That’s a lot of riding in 12 hours for only 6.5 checkpoints, but day one was done and I was ready for a beer and sleepy time.
5 A.M. came way too early Sunday. It took me almost 45 minutes to get dressed in the car trying to stay warm and getting ready for the day. However once we started the climb up to Farlow Gap my spirit lifted, and I got to see a beautiful sunrise. Not many people can say they got to do that! Once we reached the top I knew Scott wasn’t feeling well, so we stood at the Farlow Gap checkpoint debating on whether we should go down the gravel road and take today seriously or if we should have fun with our friends? Who had already decided today was just for fun and they were not going to descend the gravel, it was time for some single track. At that point I felt the months of racing every weekend enter my body and take over. I really was not competing against anyone at Double Dare, but myself. I was in a solid third place in the series and the only way I was going to move up is if Carey or Kym DNFed. That’s when I looked at Scott and smiled, “Let’s go down Farlow!!”
We met up with our friends at some point on Farlow and the rest of the day our ultimate goal became have fun and get the mandatory checkpoint. Needless to say we had a great time. The descent down Farlow followed by riding Long Branch put a huge smile on all of our faces and made the long road climb up to Pink Beds seem not so horrible. Once we got back to the campsite at around 2 that afternoon we had raced around 19 hours that weekend. It was time for a beer, good food, and some fun times around the fire! A lot of us had decided to take Monday off and camp out one more night so we could enjoy the finish of Double Dare, and we did just that!
In the End, I finished the Queen of Pisgah Series in third place behind some of the strongest women I know! I could not be happier. These ladies are such an inspiration to me, and I could not be more proud of myself for standing on the podium with them! A big HUGE congrats to Carey Lowery for killing all of us women in every race and being the Queen of Pisgah, and another HUGE congrats to Kym Schifino on getting Second. I watched Kym win the Pisgah Stage race last year, and then got to watch her kick some butt this year in this series. Needless to say she rocks!!
A big HUMONGOUS thank you to Scott Smith, who has been my partner, bike mechanic, and biggest fan this year! I know that I would not be this strong without him telling me to suck it up on hike-a-bikes and that excuses will not get me anywhere!