For me the P36 has been about testing my limits, riding with friends, meeting the top endurance nuts around here, and maybe seeing what makes them do what they do. Mostly though I am just curious about this crazy thing we call endurance mountain bike racing. I have always tried to live my life making the most out of my passion. Sometimes I think I may be a little shallow because ever since I started riding over 4 years ago, riding mountain bikes has been my one and only passion. I guess passion equals obsession in my view and if that makes me shallow, then who needs the deep end right?
I have showed up with my bike and gear at the past four P36’s, starting at midnight with the rest of the very small field (which has been anywhere between 9-20 people to start). I was mostly just racing for shits and giggles or as Sir Edmond Hillary once said, “because it was there.” I have always had no real goals, I just wanted to spend the weekend riding, camping and having fun. After all if you are not having fun, then why do it? For me, it is all fun, even the suffering. When you are on the bike for so many hours and have been going for so many miles, everything just seems normal and natural. Smiles and miles go hand in hand during the P36.
Months before this years race, I had a goal to complete five out of the six stages. In years past, my best result has been finishing four out of six checkpoints. This year, the day before the midnight start, I really started asking myself why am I doing this race? I know very well it involved a lot of Pisgah miles while being sleep deprived in the dark and cold of the mountains in February. In years past, I have always had friends start and ride with me every stage, so they helped keep me motivaed and experienced a taste of it as well. This year I only had one friend commit to one stage. I was not looking forward to shooting for my goal riding alone for all those hours.
Shortly after the start, I rolled up on a friend I knew that was also in the race named Kip. I find with a long race like this, it is best to ride with someone that has the same attitude towards it as I do. We decided to ride together and I was thankful to have some company. In racing my priorities are in this order. Enjoy myself and push myself with minimal suffering. The number one person I ever race against is myself. So having someone along for the ride helps to minimize the suffering and make it a common, shared experience. It takes your mind off yourself and you get to lift each other up.
The first stage was from 12:00-5:30am. I finished that stage with only a minor mishap going over the bars near a creek crossing on Cove Creek. I hit hard on my shoulder, but I would have to block out the pain, because in this race pain is like a good friend that you have known your entire life. It is just a part of it and must be blocked out. I decided to rest after the first stage and went down for a three hour snooze. After taking about an hour to get to sleep, I got out of the back of my freezing car around 8:30am. I slept some, but it was time to move on. Kip and I rode stage two together as well. It turned out to be a beautiful day in Pisgah. Once we got back to Cove Creek Campground, my friend Chris showed up to do about 12 miles with us to meet the minimum requirement for stage three. We rode up Cove Creek to the 225/Daniel Ridge checkpoint and bombed back to camp down Daniel Ridge and the unnamed connector to Cove Creek campground. I had never done that connector trail downhill and it was super fun and fast. Chris bailed after doing that stage and went to find other single-track in Pisgah as the road stage of stage four was next. My friend Nick joined us for this stage as well. We left Cove Creek around 6:30pm I think. With stage two and three totalling about 55 miles on two hours of sleep, fatigue was setting in. We climbed up Buckhorn, and then something magically kicked in as we went down to 1206. Other than the temps dropping fast, I was feeling a second wind coming on. It was almost like someone put Epo in my Infinite drink mix. The climb up to the parkway via 276 was long, but doable. After waiting for Kip about 20 plus minutes, he informed me he had gotten sick and had just finished throwing up. I felt really bad for him. We bombed down 276. While we were passing Pink Beds, he said to go ahead, so I did. When I got to 225 and Cove Creek, another racer was there and informed me stage five was as many Cove Creek laps as you can complete, with only one lap mandatory, and stage six would be just one mandatory checkpoint out of a possible five. Before this information, I figured maybe I would attempt stage five in the morning, thinking it was going to be another 30-50 mile stage. But after hearing about the last two stages, I thought I can finish this monster. I did stage five that same night. I then slept/tossed and turned from about 2:30am-8:30am. On Sunday morning, I completed the minimum one mandatory checkpoint and finished stage six by around 10:30. I am very pleased to have finally finished this beast called The Most Horrible Thing Ever. 18 racers started, and 8 finished. I came in 8th and was truly humbled by the experience and how well the other seven riders did as well.
I figured I rode about 120 miles to get just the minimum check points and rode approximately 24 hours. It is anyones guess how much overall climbing was involved. I will just say its in Pisgah, so you know it had some climbing. Because Eric made this years P36 not have as many mandatory check points I would say that it reminded me of finishing Double Dare. In other words, if you think you can finish two PMBAR’s in a day a half, you can finish P36. If you like to set your own pace and rest when you want this race is a great way to see where your at in endurance rides.
Before the race, I was telling my friend Chris about how I was not really looking forward to this race like I do the others throughout the year. He said jokingly, “just finish it this year and you will never have to do it again.” At the time I did not think I would finish. Now that I have, some people my be wondering if I will do it again next year. The answer is Hell Yeah! Long Live Long Rides. Patrick