A great guest blog post from our team rider Michael Jarzomski.
PMBAR 2015 marks my 3rd time taking on this epic adventure through Pisgah National Forest. This year I teamed up with Tom Boylan, one of the area’s strongest single speeders. The race started out 15 minutes late to accommodate the long check in line. It was about 46 degrees and temporary attire was difficult to figure out considering the high of 75 to come. I made the mistake of wearing a hat and arm warmers, which were unnecessary after 3 minutes of climbing off the start line.
Up Thrift Cove to start, Tom and I took off with the lead group. We were among the top 10 to get to Presley Gap but had to stop to plot our route. Mark and John rolled up soon after and we all agreed to ride the same route. Mark sent off Tom and I since he thought we had a “better chance” at winning. We took off down Maxwell to Clawhammer, Avery Creek Road, then 276. The ride on 276 to 475 was way longer than I expected. The plan was to do Daniel’s Ridge as an out and back, then Bracken as an out and back. To be honest, I forget what the rest of the plan was.
Up to Daniel’s Ridge, we were to the checkpoint before we expected. We are told we are the first to the checkpoint. Crap. We did something wrong…no way we should be first if this was the right way to go. We stuck to our plan and descended back down Daniel’s Ridge and back to 475C to get out to Bracken. We see Mark and John bombing back down about 1/4 of they way up. “Change of plans!” Well great, this confirmed we didn’t take the ideal route. They chose Bracken first and Daniel’s Ridge up and over. We forgot that there was a short section open at the top of 276 to connect to Yellow Gap.
We continued on our way up to Bracken. I had never been on 475C and this was a long fire road climb. Finally at the top, we decide to reevaluate our route. We recognize what we did wrong and decide to take Headwaters (475B) up to 276 to connect to Yellow Gap. We had initially planned on heading down for a counter clockwise loop to collect the rest of the checkpoints. The 6 mile climb up Headwaters wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t my thing. Tom pulled on me a few times and my mood diminished.
Once we get to Yellow Gap we reevaluate our route once again. We decide to change it up and hike a bike up Pilot (with the plan to turn around and come back down). At this point we thought about going for only 4 checkpoints. Up Pilot, we are moving along well on the hike-a-bike. We eventually catch a couple of guys pushing at about half our pace. We knew we were pretty close to the top and thought we could use the break so we followed them the rest of the way up. We later found out that Mark and John were only one switch back ahead of us (confirmed by Strava Flyby). Had we not slowed up behind the other guys, we probably would have caught up with them and rode out the rest of the day with the entire team.
Over the top of Pilot and down the gnarly descent on the top of Laurel, we collect checkpoint number 3 on Laurel. Our mood is not great. We were both thinking our directional error put us out of the running. Another change of plans, we don’t feel like hike-a-biking back up Laurel so we choose to continue down instead. The descent down seemed to take forever. We definitely were NOT bombing it. At the bottom we stop for water off Yellow Gap. The plan was to head over to the checkpoint at Horse Cove and skip the South Mills/Bradley checkpoint. Water filter problems led to about a 15 minute break, and a decision that we would be stupid not to get all 5 checkpoints considering we were sitting at the top of Bradley Creek. Another complete route change and we are off down Bradley Creek.
The knee deep creek crossings that I normally despise feel great. I stopped a few times in the middle just to cool off. We make our way to the intersection where we marked the checkpoint and it is nowhere to be found. Another look at the passport and I realize I marked it in the wrong spot. A little confusion and we find our way to the South Mills/Bradley Creek checkpoint.
JAMBALAYA! The volunteers at this checkpoint were awesome. They have been volunteering for 6 years and decided to cook up a special treat this year. Two bowls and a scoop of pasta salad later, we realized we had been hanging around way to casually and decide we better get on our way.
South Mills River. I don’t know why it always gets me but it does. Tom and I both got completely lost…a mistake we both have made in years past. We started up the short climb where South Mills splits with Maxwell. We insisted were we must be on Maxwell and turned around before getting to the split. We went down a trail that led to a campsite, turned around and up the Turkey Pen parking lot connector, back again to the foot bridge. At least 5 map checks. Twenty or so minutes lost, we finally came across a knowledgeable hiker that pointed us in the right direction – the way we went originally, up the short climb where Maxwell and South Mills splits.
Finally on track to the final checkpoint at Horse Cove, we find our way to Cantrell Creek. It’s a steady climb for a couple miles through lots of loose rocks. Annoying on a hard tail single speed (even more for Tom on fully rigid), but we get through it and find our way the Horse Cover connector. This trail was a serious hike a bike, and even though it looked short, it seemed to take forever. At the top, our fifth and final checkpoint awaits us.
Having collected all 5 checkpoints and with a fully belly of Jambalaya, we both came alive. I’ve never ridden Squirrel heading west and it was an absolute blast. We bombed it and made really good time. Back on South Mills up to Buckhorn gap – the steady climb and perfect trail conditions made this long and steady climb easy and refreshing. At the top we bomb down Clawhammer to Maxwell. It is a wide open shred down loose gravel.
Knowing that the end was near, I pushed it into high gear and we hauled up Maxwell. We passed a good 20 riders on the way up. I felt terrible that we went by the so fast. Some riders were pushing their bikes. At the top we are welcomed by the final hike a bike up black mountain. I forgot about this, but it was over before we knew it.
Tom and I opened it up, passing people walking or dabbing on the technical descent on Black. Nothing slows us down, the end is near. The final descent down the bottom of black is all out wide-open throttle. Eric Weaver knows how to win over the hearts of those who he crushes with this ruthless event. Finishing down black mountain is spectacular. I hit the dirt berm and clear about ¾ of the 90 degree bridge. At the bottom Tom and I cross the line together in 11:25 with 85 miles and 11k feet of elevation behind us. Five checkpoints gives us a 2 hour time bonus so we are penciled down for 9:25.
We were greeted on arrival by Mark and John. They had finished an hour earlier. Our directional mistakes and casual stops put us way behind. Rich Dillen also welcomed us at the line…curious if we got all 5 checkpoints. It was down to a few minutes, but our mistakes cost us. We ended up in 4th place in SS with Mark and John in first, Rich and Zac 2nd and another team I don’t know in 3rd. The two Farnsworth teams were the only single speed teams to get 5 checkpoints!
The “what ifs” have gone through my head over the past few days. That is the great thing about this event, you really never know what could happen. It was a perfect day in Pisgah and another great PMBAR. Tom was a great partner and I think we matched up well for the long challenge. And once again, Tom and I’s Farnsworth single speeds delivered. Our gear choice was perfect (34/21), and we had no mechanicals or crashes.
Looking forward to PMBAR 2016!