PMBAR was awesome. I don't know how else to put it, and the more I recap the day, the more awesome it was. That may be because the memory of the pain is starting to fade, but it was one of the best days I've spent in the woods. Yes, this was a race, but Mike and I weren't really racing, so it really was about the experience for us. Sure, we wanted to get our 4 checkpoints and finish the race, but most of all, we wanted to have a good time and push ourselves to our limits, and we achieved both of those goals. We made it to 3 checkpoints, but rode 63 miles. In looking at the results thread on mtbr, other teams rode the same distance, if not less, and got 4 checkpoints. That means I chose the wrong route. I may have known where all of the trails were, and we may have only had to look at our map a couple of times, but I learned a valuable lesson about sequencing the checkpoints. Next year, we will not be heading out to the furthest checkpoint first.
After handing in our wooden nickel, avoiding a 2 hour penalty, we headed up Thrift and Black like everyone else. Once we hit Pressley Gap, where most teams were sitting down looking at their maps, we headed down Maxwell>Clawhammer>477>276. We decided that we would go to the checkpoint at the intersection of Daniel Ridge and Farlow Gap. We hit Daniel, and followed the creek up to Farlow. At this point, we were feeling just fine about our day, and were confident we would get 4 CPs. We continued on Daniel, took the shortcut trail up to 225, over to 475B, and up to 276. We stopped at the Pink Beds picnic area and filled our water, and then headed up and down 1206 to the CP that killed our day.
The plan was to hit the mandatory CP at the Pilot Connector/Laurel Mtn intersection, head down Laurel Mtn, then down Bradley Creek to its intersection with S. Mills for that mandatory CP, then up S. Mills to Cantrell Creek, up Horse Cove to Squirrel, to its intersection with S. Mills for the final mandatory CP. From there it would be the home stretch up to Buckhorn Gap, down Clawhammer to Maxwell, up and down Black and then Thrift Cove to the finish. Well, that didn't really work out.
We headed down 1206 to Pilot, and started the 2+ mile hike-a-bike straight up. At this point we were probably at around 3000ft elevation, and the top of this trail is close to 5000ft. 2000ft of elevation gain over a little more than 2 miles makes for a steep hike. Add to that the 30'ish miles we had already ridden, and the fact that we were pushing our bikes, and you can probably see why this zapped most of our energy. My quads were cramping, and we got to the point where we were only taking 20 or so steps between rest stops.
We finally hit the CP and decided to reassess our goals. After finishing Laurel, heading down Bradley Creek would be a commitment. That trail is out there, and we would have a long way to go for the finish. We decided that we would be happy with 3 CPs, and really wanted to knock down a beer sooner than later. After heading down Laurel, we were feeling pretty good, but I assured Mike that it was a false high, and would fade as soon as we hit some climbs, so we continued on 1206 past Bradley Creek, and up to 476. From there we went up and down S. Mills to the CP at Squirrel, and then headed back up S. Mills, up Buckhorn Gap, down Clawhammer, down 477, and then took 276 back to the Finish. That part of 276 was off limits, but since we were DNF'ing anyway, we didn't care. We were just ready to be off our bikes.
Again, we rode 63 miles over ~11 hours in some of the toughest terrain around. I feel like that was a pretty darn big accomplishment, and I know that we will finish the race next year. Mike did awesome. This was really only his fourth time ever mountain biking, and he was able to do this. Unbelievable. Our first PMBAR experience was a great one. The atmosphere was the way anything involving mountain bikers should be, and the weather and trails were perfect. I also had the opportunity to ride with this guy for a bit. I didn't take the camera out at all during the race, but brado1 was there taking much better photos than I could have, and you can see his here. A big thank you to everyone involved with coordinating and carrying out this event. We'll definitely be back next year.
Some Garmin Stats: