The Pisgah 55.5k by Carla Williams via FTP: Forget the Pedals - IconMediaAsheville

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The Pisgah 55.5k by Carla Williams via FTP: Forgot the Pedals

Published by: Jennifer Mesk

Published on: 06/12/17



I woke up at 4am Sunday morning. My legs were sore and hurting, I could barely stretch out my arms they were so tight from all the hiking and bike carrying of yesterday. My stomach was cramping from hunger. I grabbed my phone and started poking around our air bnb room searching for food and ibuprofen. I found a cliff bar and a bagel and luckily my mom woke up and told me where to find ibuprofen in her suitcase. All of that down the hatch and then back to bed to try to catch a few more hours of sleep before race time again.


I woke up again at 8 and looked out the window. It was teeming down with rain. "Are you sure you want to do this again today?" my mom asked. I didn't answer right away, but I already knew the answer in my head. I committed to a weekend of racing in Pisgah and a little or even a lot of rain wasn't going to deter my plans. I wrapped up my blistered feet as best I could, slid them back into soaking wet shoes and headed out to the start line.

Starting off in the pouring rain: Photo courtesy of Icon Media Asheville

I want to give a huge thanks and shout out to the guys at The Hub, who helped fixed my suspension after the race yesterday. Although they didn't have a replacement lock-out in stock, they were able to rig up some type of solution so that I had at least a working front fork and a partially working rear suspension for the race today. I really can't thank them enough for helping me. 


I had heard from a bunch of people that the 55.5k is harder than the 111k with more technical trails and no "free miles" on fire roads. I knew that were were going up Black Mountain the way we had finished yesterday, across on Turkey Pen, which was going to be a new trail for me, and then repeating the hardest 17 miles of singletrack that included the descent down Pilot and long hike-a-bike sections on Black Mountain again. At least today, I knew exactly what to expect. 


We started off in the pouring rain, and it rained all day, never letting up. The trails were just comical, rivers literally running down them, muddy, slippery - it was going to be an epic day of riding for sure. We started the climb up Black Mountain. Allison was definitely looking peppy. She was running up sections of trail, jumping onto her bike cx style, pedaling away. I was definitely not feeling that limber. I just let her go and focused on steady deliberate hiking up Black Mountain. Again, my main goal today was to finish. However, at the top of Black Mountain, I was saw Allison again turning right down Turkey Pen, and I was only a few seconds behind her. Hmmm. I thought. I seemed to be catching her without putting out too much effort. Maybe I can make this into a race. Turkey Pen was a mess. Wet, muddy, steep, slippery downhills. As much as I want to push the limits of my descending skills, I also enjoy having a job in the ED and 4 fully functioning limbs, so I decided to run my bike down one of the steepest parts on Turkey Pen. Allison road it and came shooting past me and got a good gap right before aid 1. Oh well. 


I was actually feeling pretty good at Aid 1. I had plenty of water in my camel pack and just rolled through without stopping. The rest of the course I knew from racing yesterday. The river crossings today were super high with strong currents. I almost went under across the largest one but luckily my foot found a rock and I put all my weight against it and stood up and forced my tired arms to get my bike above my head so it wasn't dragging me downstream. They guys I was crossing with made some comments about my good save. 


On the climb up 5015, I saw Allison again in front of me. I decided to go catch her and passed her just before Aid 2. I filled up my camel pack and was off up Laurel. It was still pouring, but I felt great and was riding really well for me. Even with all the rain and mud, the slippery roots and rocks were not causing me any issues. I made it up to the top of Pilot and again did the scary descent down the back, this time with rivers running down the trail. Into Aid 3, and back up Buckhorn Gap. Today it was not a fun fast climb. Today, it was a deep muddy mess that your tires just sank into. I met another racer named Tony, and we talked for bit as we rode along and then did more hiking up Black Mountain. I just focused on constant, deliberate forward progress and tried to roll my bike up everything since my arms were too tired to carry it.  Finally I hit the last descent.


Finally, a few minutes of fun before this race was over! However, mid way down the mountain, both of my brakes finally failed. I couldn't stop. OMG. So scary. I unclipped my left foot and started skimming the ground trying to control my speed. I finally turned my bike straight into the woods, off the trail and was able to stop. F. It seems fitting that had to run my bike down the rest of the descent. Pisgah made me work for every single mile of that race. I finished though, 1st place, drenched, bruised, blistered, tired, with a totally destroyed bike. It was pretty epic!


At the finish! Photo courtsey of Icon Media Asheville

I feel like I conquered Pisgah, and I did it in the rain. Finishing back to back races there definitely makes you feel like you can do anything! Many thanks to the race director and all the volunteers who put on a great weekend of racing and who braved the elements to make it a great day for all us of racing. Much thanks too to Maxxis Tires and ESI grips which held up great in the terrible conditions, Ridge Supply socks (blisters were from new shoes not the socks!), Huma Gel, Joe's Bike Shop, my coach, Chris Beck, and of course, my mom who only questioned my insanity once!


Women's podium. Eleanor finished 3rd both days on a single speed which is absolutely insane!

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