Stage 3: In Which I Re-Climb Pilot. Again.
I rolled into camp having been awake for 29 hours, the last 11-1/2 on my bike. I was falling asleep on my bike, I’d been through a bad patch emotionally, I’d crashed and nearly put myself in the drink. All I could focus on was grabbing a quick bite to eat, setting my alarm and falling asleep.
And then I saw Charlie.
In street clothes.
|Game on! Sad Charlie was out, but ready to go ... once I woke up again ... |
Thanks to Eric for the pic.
All of a sudden, it was a new race.
For every stage, we were given a very specific set of checkpoints that we needed to reach, sometimes in order, sometimes in more of a choose-your-own-adventure format. Stage 2 was the latter, and somewhere soon after I saw him (at 5:30 in the morning), Charlie had made a couple of navigational errors – one led to another – that set him back nearly 3 hours. He rolled back into camp and was given a choice: Restart the stage or call it a day. He called it a day.
Which meant I was winning the race.
I’ll admit: I went into this wanting to win. I figured that as long as I could finish, I had better than a 50/50 shot at the top step of the “podium.” I’d been planning my assault for a year, even through the uncertainty of whether it would happen again or not. There were no prizes on the line, no medals, not even official recognition of any sort. I kept telling myself that I was racing Eric (the Dr. Evil who dreamt up this crazy race) and I was racing the course – I wasn’t racing my competition. I even told Eric that when I rolled in and he declared that I was in first place. “I’m not racing,” I said. “I’m just trying to finish.”
“No you’re not,” he replied. “You’re racing.”
And, in hindsight, he was absolutely right. Thankfully, I was able to delude myself into focusing on “just finishing” enough that I didn’t dig myself into a too-deep hole that I couldn’t get out of. But at the same time, yeah – my whole outlook on things had changed.
Still, the first order of business was some rest. Though it was tempting to head out into the warming sun – and Charlie tried to talk me into it – when I saw the Stage 3 passport and determined my route, I knew I would need sleep before I tackled it. So instead, I scarfed down some food while I plotted my course, set my alarm on my phone, and promptly passed out in my nice, warm sleeping bag in my nice, warm tent.
My 2-1/2-hour nap stopped short: 15 minutes early, Eric’s wife and daughter came to camp, and his little girl’s voice invaded my subconscious and made me think of Kate. I jolted awake, and felt strangely refreshed – I was ready, once again, to do battle. Matt Fusco, half of the Pisgah-slaying duo of Fusco and Key, still hadn’t returned from Stage 2, meaning I was several hours ahead at this point. That gave new determination as I changed clothes, ate yet more food, and got rolling: I knew that out-of-sight was out-of-mind, and I didn’t want him to see me.
477 > 276 > 475 > 475B > 225 (CP at Cove Creek) > Cove Creek > 475 > Pilot Mtn Road (AGAIN!) > Farlow Gap (Mandatory CP at Shuck Ridge Creek) > Pilot Mtn Road > 475 > Davidson > 475 > 276 > 477 > Bennett (CP at Coontree Gap) > 477. Left on the table were CPs at Butter Gap, Buckhorn Gap shelter and Pressley Gap.
This wasn’t the most fun stage, given that both Farlow Gap and Bennett were hike-a-bike out-and-backs. And I left my sunglasses out on the singletrack part of Pilot Mtn Road, so I lost 15 minutes or so going back to find them. But sunset way up on Shuck Ridge was beautiful, and the bomb down Pilot Mtn Road was phenomenal. It wasn’t yet cold when I stopped by camp on my way to Coontree Gap, and though I thought about leaving my bike at 477, I took it all the way up, which meant the return to camp was super-fun – just can’t get enough of the lower part of Bennett! Big thanks to Greg for this one too: He proved that hike isn’t that bad, way back in Double Dare …
I rolled into camp to an evening that was becoming rapidly chilly. The sun was gone, the crescent moon came out, and the stars were absolutely brilliant. Someone mentioned that the wind was forecast to be gone, which was a good thing after the breezy afternoon: “it won’t be so bad on the Parkway,” he said.
Race time at the end of Stage 3: 20:23