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Thursday, October 30

Share the Wisdom Wednesdays (on Thursdays): Part One

So I wanted to do Share the Wisdom Wednesdays on Wednesdays, but as you know, I inconsistently take Wednesdays off to sleep in (assuming The Oldest Dog in the World decides to take the day off from her early morning pacing as well).  What I plan to do with this is share with the class all the things I've learned from the 2014 "season."  A little bit product review,  possible endorsements or thumbs-downings, helpful advice, things I hope to avoid/do in 2015, or whatever else... until I can exhaust my resources or run out of resolve to follow through with anything close to a theme.  I give it three weeks at best.

I posted up about the "whys" and "hows" of acquiring my new Mavic Fury shoes at the end of July.  I've now had them for three months.  I've worn them for my Colorado/Utah vacation, the Shenandoah Mountain 100, Pisgah Monster Cross, and Wilkes 100k (and a handful of shorter rides).  Many hours of constant wear.  Enough to form an opinion (in my opinion).

They hurt me.  Maybe my feet just can't handle the crabon soles.  Dunno.  Just bummed, as these have so much in common with the best shoes I've ever had (aside from their frailty), I thought these would be the ticket.  Sharp pains, feeling as if the shoes were filling with my own blood.  I don't know how so many other people are making these work. Keep in mind, this isn't hike-a-bike related pain.  There was little to no walking at those last two events, yet the fire was lit under the balls of my feet after about three hours.

In all fairness, I'm gonna keep riding them for shorter rides hoping that at some point they "break in."  Two to three hour rides are not as much of a problem pain-wise.  Anything with hike-a-bike?  My foot pulls outta the heel cup, I assume because the sole isn't flexing with my feet.  Otherwise, the fit is perfect.  *sigh*

In the meantime, if I can't readily find a replacement, I think I'll get one more year outta these if I have to:

Way too flexy after everything they've been through, and Sidi has totally redesigned this model (vomit) since I bought them in 2010.   They have no equal.  I like some of the other Sidi shoes out there, but without the SRS sole... they'll be dead after one "season."  Fortunately, I had one more pair of SRS replacement soles in my possession. 

Good as new, aside from the $20 (SRSLY) metatarsus pads I decided to not replace, the worn-out flexiness, and the patch I put on two years ago.

29" compatible
There is hope that the 2015 version of this shoe will solve all my problems.

I picked up a pair of the Pearl Izumi X-Project 1.0 shoes (in a colorway that would make a dog puke) from "someone" on the cheap, figuring that worst case scenario, they'd end up as work shoes.  Size 43, bit on the tight side, good for warmer weather, but when I need to go with wool socks, I'll have to revert to wearing the roomier Shoes of a Thousand Dead Corpses.

I more or less wanted to check out the walkability of these shoes for myself.  It's pretty good... enough so that I'm anxiously waiting for these to hit the shelves at the LBS (in size 43.5):

photo cred: Flow Mountain Bike
Sadly, nothing in white available in the 1.0, but it addresses my one issue with the 2014 version and apparently goes well with beer. The heel cup retention is the absolute best I've ever felt, even with the straps barely tightened.  So hopeful...

There you have it.  The first ever Share the Wisdom Wednesdays (on Thursdays).  Not so sure if it was much of a thing, but since it's the off-"season," it's gonna have to do.

I have an early morning dentist appointment tomorrow to empty one of my pockets that was full of dollars, so no more bloggage until Monday...

When hopefully I'll be able to sort out all the happenings at this weekend's Backyard ExperiencePre-reg closes tonight at 11:00PM, so if you plan on going, save yourself $10 and get in now.  Beer,  racing, food, prizes... you'll get your $25 worth and then some.

AND DON'T FORGET!!!

Registration for the Six Hours of Warrior Creek opens at 9:00AM on Saturday.  It will fill stupid fast.  Set the alarm for 8:30, start the coffee, grab your Pop Tarts, register, poop, and then head over to The Backyard Experience.  If you aren't able to poop, don't worry.  We'll have a fresh (until 9:07) port-a-potty on sight.

Tuesday, October 28

Emotional Turd Control

Before I get to anything else, I want to remind people that The Backyard Experience is this Saturday.  It's a one of a kind event that has the best bang for the buck anywhere.  Four stages of straight  racing plus a bonus stage all held on Charlotte's most technical, feature-laden trail (jumps, stunts, and gnar), beer, food, prizes from Maxxis, Mountain Khakis, Bike Source, Backcountry Research... custom hand-made awards.  Nothing like it anywhere.  Only $25, pre-registration ends Thursday night, day-of is $10 more. 

We've been working hard to get everything ready for race day...

and the weather could not be more choice to spend the day in the woods riding, hucking, racing, and whatnot.

So don't be a dispshit.  There is NOTHING BETTER FOR YOU TO BE DOING THAN RACING AT THE BACKYARD EXPERIENCE THIS SATURDAY.

Nuff said.  Next thing.

I was talking to Eric "PMBAR Honcho" Wever after Zac and I had completed our Double Dare experience.  We were discussing what it really takes to win.

"Control of your emotions." ~ Eric "PMBAR Honcho" Wever

Correct.  Huge.  Something I'm terrible at.

At the Double Dare, it means many things.  Knowing you should never let pride take control and Tin Cup your way to one too many checkpoints.  Knowing you need to stay outta the dark place, as the sads will only slow you down.  Move forward, robot style, agenda driven, focused but not engrossed.  Eyes on the prize.  Not my style, per se.

Although the Wilkes 100k was only about five hours long, I was all over the place.  Pissed to see so many people get away from me at the start when I knew how important it was to get a good position going into the woods.  Delighted to taunt Mike Jarz into making passes in the crowds of riders we encountered.  Pleased to be passing people, but then sad about all the effort it took to make the necessary moves to get around them.  Angry that so many parts of my body were in pain, not affecting my pedaling ability, but distracting me from putting out a full effort.

This all over the place emotional rainbow blinded me to just how much I had moved up in the field.  With the benefit of hindsight, I can see that I scooted up from somewhere in the fifties or sixties (maybe even further back?) all the way up to 16th overall by the finish.  Focusing more on my emotional ups and downs as opposed to counting the riders as I passed by meant that at the finish, I assumed I was in the top forty or so riders.  I was way off.  I coulda been in a much better place had I know I'd passed "X number of riders" before I hit the halfway point.

I know how to count.  I just didn't.

Then I wouldn't have convinced myself to "finish just for fun."

The pain in my ankle and shoulders would have pulled less of my attention away from going faster.

I know there's no reason to try to ride 60 miles on two bottles, but once I convince myself that it's now the new challenge and distraction to keep my mind busy?  Shit.

Maybe I coulda worked together with Jarz as opposed to either wishing he would drop me or fall off my wheel.

And maybe this is all part of why I race.  Not so much my desire to beat others, but some strange pull towards stringing together a series of moments where I control the story.  It happens sometimes...

2013 ORAMM

2014 Tussey Mountain Stage of the Trans-Sylvania Epic

Those are my most recent moments that I can recall.  Times when I "won" despite the demons and crossed the line feeling victorious, regardless of the outcome. Times when I managed to keep the demons away just long enough.

Oh the desire to be one of those cool-headed people that I read about on the internet who manage to tell themselves to...

Sorry, but if you're looking for that guy?

Monday, October 27

Wilkes 100k 2014

Last race of the year.  Sorta wanted to take it seriously, despite the fact that I've done little in the way of real training for like.. ever.  That and this is not my specialty.  It somehow ends up being close to a 60 mile XC race.  So fast and painful, it sneaks up on you like running into a wall a thousand times for five hours.  No sustained climbs to get a rhythm, no long descents for recovery.  Just gas, gas, gas.

Podium dreams seem limited.  Bob Moss and Gordon Wadsworth signed up.  I might have had a few beers the night before once that information settled in.

When Kürdt and I get to the Warrior Creek campground, it's cold.  Not last year's low thirties but something something in the forties.  I did not plan for that cold of a start... in late October... in the mountains... by a lake.  I'm smart like that.

Number six, because.... it pays to know people.

Gordon tells me he's actually signed up in the open class.  Bob tells me about all the other honches that I don't know in the single speed class (he knows everyone). Not sure if I regret the beer the night before or not.

Neutral start out of the campground and down the highway.  The race is going live a lot earlier than last year, prolly another mile or more of open road to cut down on congestion at the entrance to the Overmountain Victory Trail.  Once we get over the bridge, the moto pulls off, and riders start pulling away.   More single speeders than I could keep track of and so many riders that in my judgmental mind I should be so faster than get away... carrots to munch or impediments to forward progress on narrow single track.

No waiting line at the entrance to the OVT.  I dive right into the trail and into traffic.  Trains of people ahead.  I start making my way through the first one I encounter, and I lose a bottle.  Too early to give it up, I stop and get it, losing all the ground I just made up.  I watch a single speeder go by as I fumble around in the woods.  Shoulda ordered those new King ti cages I inquired about at the LBS over a month ago.

More trains.  Groups of five to ten led by an engineer that has no idea how much sad he/she is creating.  Last year, I was more quiet about it.  This year?  Not so much.

As politely as possible, I chided the leader of our slow convoys for their lack of attention and the folks following him/her for not... just doing something.

I should point out that I am aware of two things:

This is "racing."  Assuming there are no lapped riders involved, we all have a right to the trail and it is up to the passing rider to make the move.

If someone comes up on me and no one is in front of me holding me up, I get over at the next convenient moment.  No need for me to ruin someone's day.

But then again, people park in handicap spaces...  it only takes seconds to pull aside and let ten riders through and then have the trail to yourself again.

I try to stay calm at the back of the accordions, but soooo much lost momentum and energy.  Way too many sads on my part.  So many thrilling passes.  I get knocked into a small tree.  Another rider tags a rock as I pull even with him, and we both get in a dangerous speed tangle of bars and elbows.

I yell at the single speeder ahead of me every time we get in a train together.  He gets through the traffic and then gaps us.  I fight to make contact, and then we repeat the scenario... until I pop out of the OVT while he's in the gap phase of our dance, and I no longer see him.

Skip the first aid station and head to Dark Mountain.  Things are spaced out much better now.  Passing riders one at a time.  The familiarity of all those laps at the Burn 24 Hour Challenge makes me feel warm and tingly.  I come up on a nemesis from those days of solo stupidity, Ross Doswell, and as I pass him, it feels like a decade just melted away.  Coming out of Dark Mountain, I see the single speeder ahead of me and we ride across the dam together, past the aid station and heading back into the OVT the other direction.

photo cred: Deborah Hage
We ride together.  I hate it.  Nice guy, but when he's on my tail, he's in my head.  When I let him by, he won't gap me.  We're stuck together.

We pop out of OVT at the same time and hit the road.  I (re)introduce myself  to Mike (we've met before, I'm a moron) and he tells me we're probably 4th and 5th on the road.  I tell him that I think we're much worse off than that, but if I can't podium, I always wanna get sixth place.  It's just my thing.  While we're talking about not much of anything, a single speeder comes up on us hot and passes us.  Doh.

Up to the third aid station and I realize there's a chance I can make this whole thing on two bottles.  I stop, see Mike filling a bottle, grab a handful of cheeseballs, and head back out.

photo cred: Mudman
Mike and I are riding together again.  We hit the stupid steep paved climb, and I drop him, but I decide that my knee warmers are too much.  I've already shed my hat and arm warmers, so there's no other way to drop the heat makers.  I stop at the top, take them off, and he goes by.

We head back into the trail.  More OVT that's been nicely leaf blown (the trail rarely sees traffic) and over to a reverse Warrior Creek loop.  I see some course tape down and the gap to Mike closed too quickly.  I think he mighta got off course.  I stop, consider fixing the tape, realize that if I'm wrong about my fix, I ruin many people's day, and turn left.  Just down the trail, I see a spectator.  I stop and ask her if she knows the course pretty well.

"Yeah... sorta."

I ask if she would mind walking back down to the fallen course tape and fix it.  I wasn't gonna go back myself, but I also wasn't gonna ignore the problem altogether.  She agreed to try to do something (she had kids with her) and I rode off feeling smug (not really).

I caught back up to Mike and with the energy I had been saving earlier, I pegged it (as much as I could) planning on either putting him away or blowing up.  So much pain.  My lower back, my feet, my shoulders, something strange above my right ankle... just no easy way to get this over with.  Blow through the final aid station, still on my second bottle.  Drink where I can, but that's not very often on Warrior Creek.  Pass a few more riders and hit what I know is the final "climb" out of the woods.

Come across the line in five hours ten minutes... sixth place.  Well played.  Can't say I planned it, just the fates smiling on me for the last "real" race of the "season."

Grab beverages and barbecue.  Revel in the fact that I found one of my favorite tire levers of all time on the trail and that Bob Moss (already being sponsored by Crank Brewing) gifted me his growler of Hefeweizen that his second place had netted him.

Wait for Kürdt to finish. 

Seconds later...

This race always leaves a mark.

Final results.  Whoddathunkit?  Out of the top six riders, three of them were in the single speed category (four of the top ten overall)... and had I felt more just a little more urge to poach the 40+ class?  Third place.  I'd considered it. Now I can regret it.   Unnnhhh.  I heard third place 40+ got like a million dollars.

Thanks Bum and Co for another painful yet pleasant ride around seventy thousand berms.  See you at the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek in April!

And just a reminder... registration for the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek (which sells out in minutes) opens Saturday at 9:00AM EST.  Don't screw it up.  Set your alarms and make it happen.

Friday, October 24

That thing I said... yeah, maybe forget that.

Yesterday, I said I would contradict myself.  Here we go.

I pretty much blame these for my problem.

Two Silos and a Titan Tank from Nuclear Sunrise.   They showed up at work the other day.

They got me to thinking about all the things I would do differently if I ever raced Double Dare again.  Things I would tweak, change, leave out or heavily reconsider.  These things could make a world of difference and with a few more changes... ?

Then I saw Zac in the courthouse later in the day.  I expressed my enthusiasm about the hows and whats and stupid ideas.  His face lit up and stupidity came from his largest facehole as well.

I went into the Double Dare in the most half-assed of manners with the bar set almost as low as possible.  With more preparation, I could easily increase my ass factor by two... maybe three.  A total of a possible 1.5 asses.  I will not share with the class, as these things would be done in the name of making great bike race, and showing my hand 361 days before the event would not do me any good.

So do I sign up for the King of Pisgah again, totally going against everything I've been saying all year long?  Perhaps.  The Monster Cross will most certainly be the last thing I want to do again (except the Faster Mustache Drink ALL the Beer After-Party was pretty fun), and I'm pretty sure I won't be any better equipped for gravel racing a year from now.  If the 111k/55.5k weekend is still 6 days before the Trans-Sylvania Epic again?

That's what killed me last year.  Tossed my laundry all over the room, it did.

I know the race is about more than just sticking stuff hither and tither on your bike and person.  It would also be more than a nervous grab of gear a couple nights before and some rash decisions made at the grocery store.

I'm gonna masticate on things for awhile before I decide to swallow another one of Eric's jagged little pills.

But I'm thinking about it.

Oh well.  Tomorrow is the Wilkes 100k... which will more than likely serve me up plenty of dark quitty thoughts and sads with occasional woops, hollers and braaps.  Things in the plus column, things in the minus.  I'll do the math later.

Looking forward to riding this bike in go-fasty mode and drooling all over myself for 4.5-5 hours.

Thursday, October 23

Dirty Laundry

This "season" reminds me a lot of my college laundry system.  Let me explain...

Just back from the laundromat, I would have a nice stack of clean clothes... properly folded and piled nicely on the floor.  I was never much for hangers or dresser drawers.  This pile of fresh smelling clothes represents all my fitness and ambition back in late April.

I would wear my clothes to class and work, favorites first of course.  If there were no offensive odoürs in the pits or crotchal regions, they would be placed in a secondary pile... the "I can get away with wearing these at least one more time" pile.  Socks and underwear did not apply, as I rarely wore them anyways.  Yes, I didn't generally sport socks in Youngstown, Ohio in the winter.  Anyways, once they had been worn in an athletic endeavor (usual intramural sports or one of the many phys ed classes I took for fun... and an easy "A") or to a smoke-filled bar (where I spent at least six nights a week), they were then moved to the "totally dirty" pile, not to be worn again until properly laundered.

This year, I pretty much burned through my clean pile of ambition and fitness by the first week of June.  To make matters worse, it's as if someone came into my room and kicked all the piles around while I was out dancing to Blister in the Sun at Pogo's on penny draft night, leaving me smelling my way around, trying to find that last t-shirt with a day left in it before heading out the door to yet another class I would sleep through.  By mid-June, everything smelled like ass, I was out of quarters, and I just didn't care how much I stunk anymore.

I had nothing left for July, August, September or October.  Going through the motions, following through on commitments I had made to myself, putting the "season" behind me.  A race like Double Dare is no longer in my bag of tricks.  Those days are behind me.  I don't want to ride my bike for more than twelve hours (especially twelve hours of something in circles at some park) unless it is followed by beer, sleep and a bleary-eyed drive home the next day.  Burned-out, washed-up... whatever.  It's just not my cup of tea anymore.  I wished I woulda made a better run at it back when I had some interest in such self-flagellation.  Not a missed midnight cutoff.  Not a torn sidewall.  Now I just wanna have fun... relatively speaking.*

I also didn't want to push too hard and set myself up for bailing on the Wilkes 100k this weekend.  90%+ singletrack at close to 14mph average.  If you don't bring legs, you will perish and settle in with the pack fodder.  Although I was only out in the woods for 14.5 hours this past weekend, I had plenty of time for quitty thoughts.  I was resigning from races in 2015 I haven't even entered yet.  Thoughts about buying a squishy geared bike and doing nothing but lackadaisically pedaling around the Pisgah this winter and well into next year.  With all this darkness inside me, there was no way I was going out for extra bonus yet pointless checkpoints only to put myself in such a hole that I either would have a terrible time at the Wilkes 100k or avoided it altogether to hide from further painy things.

Despite dressing myself in low ambitions and smelly fitness, I still managed to achieve what some refer to as "goals."  I stood on the top step of a few podiums, lingered on the lower parts of the box a few other times, and finally completed the King of Pisgah Series... which in and of itself is not an easy thing to do.  I spent more than forty hours balls-deep the Pisgah over five events.  A lot can go wrong... but it didn't this year.  I am thankful for that.

I also have to thank Zac for two things:

Going hard for the "W" at PMBAR back in May...

Only to accept my low goals at Double Dare this past weekend. 

We coulda went for it and made prolly six or seven checkpoints on Day One.  I didn't want to push things, risk a DNF, taint my brain (and taint) for Wilkes 100k... just a finish is all I was after.  I know it was hard for him to settle for so few checkpoints.

Personally, I was stoked on the fact that at 6:00PM on Sunday, when the race was over, I was already unpacked, washing machine loaded, and headed to the shower.

Maybe someday I'll have that desire to dig deep and go do something super hard and super stupid.

Someday... but not Sunday.

*I will contradict most of this tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 22

2014 Double Dare: Day Two

5:00AM.  The sound of an orchestra of kazoos playing The Final Countdown shocks me into a state of sudden awareness.  Best start to any day.  The realization that I will finally be a part of a Double Dare Day Two start as a participant, not a guy who failed to finish the day before but stayed up all night drinking by the fire to watch everybody else head back out for twelve hours of fun without me.

We're moving slow.  As expected.  An hour to go before we head back out into the same darkness we finished in the night before.  It's in the mid thirties out, so at least there's no frost on the ground like usual. 

The hour goes by fast.  Eric "PMBAR Honcho" Wever starts mumbling on the PA system.  Ready to go, I head over to listen.  Something about going up Farlow is all I catch.  I ask Eric to confirm.  Yes.  We are heading straight up the beast that is Farlow Gap, time trial style to our passports, not up the road as is customary... unless you are into unnecessary pain.

I head back to retrieve Zac at the tent. We start in less than eight minutes.  If you don't make your start, you're DQ'ed.  Not good.  He's in the vestibule doing something.  I don't have the energy to ask what.  Eight minutes goes by and I hear Eric calling our names.  Zac is still in the vestibule, but feeling my sense of urgency, he emerges.  We head to the start, they bleep my timing blooper, Zac realizes he left his in the tent, I wait at the edge of the campground for him to fetch it. We're doing great so far.

Up Daniel's Ridge to Farlow.  Zac is riding strong where it's possible to ride a bike.  I'm trying to ride, but am sorta feeling drunk from lack of sleep.  We get to the base of Farlow.  More hike-a-bike.  Look back down the mountain in amazement at the site of all the little tiny lights behind me.  Try to keep my feet dry on the creek crossings.  Almost fall backwards while trying to scale a steep rock section.  Catch myself before tumbling ass over tea kettle, but bust my SIDI buckle into pieces.  Fuck.

A creek crossing without paying attention and I scoop my toe into the water enough to fill my shoe.  Another creek crossing and the rock I was counting on to hold my weight tips over.  The other foot is soaked now.  Angered by the wet feet and busted buckle, I hike in rage.  Passing other riders being hikers with drool coming out of the side of my mouth.  Still taking in the wonder of the strange, bright orange light coming through the trees and lighting the ground in strange patches.  This is the day two experience I was hoping for.  I get to the passports and wait for Zac to get to the top.

Once again, Eric has outdone himself.  The mandatory checkpoint is ridiculously far away (Buckhorn Gap shelter).  So many checkpoints stuck in so many bad places.  I tell Zac there is no glory to be had adding to our 2.5 checkpoints from day one.  We're in good company, as many others have lowballed their expectations right along with us.  We opt for another 2.5 checkpoint kinda day.

I give Bob Moss some of my Little Debbie's brownies, as he was caught with his pants down and left his food behind in a mad dash to make his start time.  Where I'm going, I won't need much.  I'm guessing between five and seven hours to make the mandatory and one for good measure on Bennett.

We head towards the gravel descent.  Zac's best guess, 2,700 feet of descending.  My wet feet become painful rocks.  My hands are throbbing.  Even the easy way out hurts.  We diddy-bop our way over to the climb up Clawhammer Road, and maybe twenty minutes in, my feet and hands are back to normal.  The realization that I will descend Clawhammer for a second time in two days amazes me.  There is no reason to ever do that.

We get to the top, hike up to the Buckhorn Gap shelter (about four hours into the day), Erinna gives us the option to hacky sack volley three times or eat two jalapeno peppers.  We hacky sack successfully, and then Zac eats the peppers for good measure.  1/2 a checkpoint earned.  Zac pockets another pepper for his Ramen noodles later.

Descend back down Clawhammer, bang the right up Bennett and push up to Coontree.

Our one and one and done route.

Down Coontree and back to camp on 276.  No cars almost hit us on this day, and we get back to camp before anyone else.  Drink beer, eat biscuits and tear down a tent that dried nicely in the sun while we were gone.

I got what I came for, a Double Dare finish and a completion of all the events in the King of Pisgah Series.  An interesting collection of results.

1st Single Speed Team (with Zac) at PMBAR
2nd Single Speed at the Pisgah 111K
3rd Single Speed at the Pisgah 55.5K
4th Single Speed at the Pisgah Monster Cross...

and 24th overall at Double Dare... 3rd place in the single speed class.

There were classes at Double Dare?

I guess I should pay more attention.


Double Dare aftermath tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 21

2014 Double Dare: Day 1

On the 2.5 hour drive to Double Dare, Zac and I discuss many things, one of which being the silly people that choose "fun" routes over practical ones whilst doing PMBAR and Double Dare.  We decide to not be those guys.  We shoulda pinky swore on it.

Getting ready before the race.  Zac realizes that he left all his jerseys at home.  I have brought four sleeveless jerseys, all part of a layering plan to avoid wearing a pack on a potential 12 hour ride.  We work out a plan that involves some sharing and the wearing of soiled jerseys on day two.  We are an unstoppable force to be reckoned with.

I'll do my best to not lose those that are not familiar with the layout of the Pisgah National Forest from this point on in the interest of making great bike story.

Eric "PMBAR Honcho" Wever sends us out time trial style starting at noon... to the other side of the forest (South Mills at Bradley), where will will get our passports with ten possible checkpoints.  The team with the most checkpoints wins, one checkpoint will be mandatory.  I'm not gonna move up in the King of Pisgah series no matter how hard I try unless someone above me makes a mistake.  The minimum will do fine for me.

We head out in the same general direction as the other teams.  Zac and I have our route planned, but once I realize how boring it will be to grind mostly gravel and pavement to get there, I ask him if we can take a more "fun" route... more trail.  More gnar.  He's in.  We're stupid.

Pink Beds, Gauging Station Road, South Mills, Squirrel,  Cantrell, South Mills... we run into other riders who are on similar but still different routes.  There's just no easy way to get there and people are making better and worse decisions than ours.  Three hours after we start, we finally get our passports.

The looks on people's faces as they pore over their passports and maps is incredible.  Eric has decided to make this the hardest Double Dare ever.  It is immediately apparent that all ten will be within reach of only the super humans.  I think seven, maybe eight could be attained by the strong teams.  Piles of poison carrots all over the forest.  Untidy bunches.  No logical routes whatsoever.  Temptations aplenty for the greedy checkpoint collectors.  Eric pushing buttons in a dark room.

The mandatory CP is a punishing push up Turkey Pen.  It doesn't loop in very well with anything, but most of the checkpoints don't hook up seamlessly anyways.  Four hours in and we finally get there.  FOUR HOURS TO JUST GET TO THE MANDATORY CHECKPOINT.  Write a haiku or nail a beer can with a slingshot for a half CP bonus.  We do both for no better reason than killing time.  A beer is drank by each of us and we move on.

We select a route with the possibility of hitting four total checkpoints.  I tell Zac that trying to get up into the North Mills area or high up on Laurel Mountain will easily lump more than three hours onto our day... if everything went well.  We decide to stay in the hole that is the South Mills River area, turning our backs on the poison carrot bunches.

We get to the bottom of Cantrell, a place we'd already been to today without knowing it was a checkpoint.  Take the photo.  Move on. 

On the way up the trail that is hardly a trail... more of a stream bed, I can see that Zac still has his punch but is carrying fatigue.  We'd already discussed our lack of a good night's sleep on Friday for our own various reasons.  It was now taking its toll.

While walking gracefully up the stream/trail, Zac asks what it would take to really make a run at this whole race.  I tell him that without decent sleep the night before, we'd have a huge hole to dig out of at 5:00AM on Sunday.  We'd have to start the race with the mindset that we were going for twelve hours, two days in a row.  We'd have to really stay on top of our nutrition and hydration.  At that point, we were 5.5 hours in.  Zac had consumed two water bottles and a beer.  Me?  One water bottle and a beer.  You don't stay on top of your game for twelve hours that way.

At the top of Cantrell, we fill our bottles at the creek.  A decision has to be made.  Go right for maybe a 45 minute (or more) out and back to a checkpoint or skip it and go left.  I know I want to hit the one on Bennett on our way back, so I tell Zac I'd rather save our chips for that hand.  He concurs.  We go left.

We ride Squirrel, South Mills, Buckhorn Gap... finishing up in the dark.  Lights on, an amazing leaf-covered ride down Clawhammer Road.  We blow past the out and back on Bennett.  I know it, Zac doesn't.  When he mentions it, I tell him we shouldn't bother.  There's not much difference in the pride of nailing two or three checkpoints.  We take paved 276 back towards camp... and then we almost die.

Darkness.  An occasional car goes by.  We talk about tomorrow...  and then there's the heart-stopping sound of screeching tires from behind.  Headlights right behind us.  Zac yells.  A quick glance over my shoulder and I see him going into a ditch and the lights are still coming for me.

No one was hit. Zac and I are both in the ditch.  Tire smoke everywhere.  The guy rolls down his window as he drives by... says he never saw us.  Our blinkies blazing, our hundreds of lumens of LED light casting off in the distance illuminating the surrounding trees.  He slurred all his words.  I think I know why he "never saw us."

Bummer, but very exciting.  Hate to have to drop out of yet another Double Dare, but dead would have been a better excuse than a torn sidewall.  Zac is happy that there is no trip to the hospital that would delay his access to his macaroni and cheese (and avocado and tuna and chicken juice)  Adrenaline helps keep you warm for sure.  I know that now.  We roll into camp eight and a half hours after starting, 2.5 checkpoints in hand.  Plenty of time to take care of ourselves, drink a couple beers, and get six or so hours of sleep for day two.