So last Sunday (October 20th) I got with a couple buddies and went to Pisgah to pre-ride The Couch Potato race course.
The first trail is Cove Creek, and you go straight up it. Now it's not a very steep trail, and it's also not very technical for Pisgah standards anyway. What it lacks in skill challenge though it adds in sustained climbing over small root ledges. No big deal, but enough to start working the legs/upper body early and get the heart rate climbing at times. You also have to cross 3 or 4 of these dandy bridges.
At the top of Cove Creek you hang a left and keep climbing up FR225. It's called a forest service road, but it is essentially overgrown singletrack with lots of very small loose rocks that make traction a chore at times. Whew, 45 minutes of climbing and now I get to ride a xc bike with a seat way to high, down rocky, baby head infested eroded out gullies. Actually I can't lie, I kinda like this part. the only part I don't like are the 10 stream crossings and the fact that it takes 12 minutes to get down something it took me 45 minutes to get up.
Above is a pic of the flowy "easy" section on Daniel Ridge trail. Sorry, but as I was hanging on for dear life I didn't have the brakes to stop and actually get a pic of any of the rock gardens. Would have been fun on my longer travel bike, but a little challenge on the xc bike.
The brave crew, left to right - Serge, Jonnynails, and P.Diddy:
So we stopped at the car quickly at the bottom of Daniel Ridge Trail to get more H20 and some fuel, and then we climbed up FR475. This was an easy climb as far as the surface - hard packed fire road. The road is F'ing long though, and it climbs, and climbs, and climbs. It was easy to keep a good pace, but it took a little toll. We thought Serge got eaten by a rogue white squirrel at one point.
Once at the top, we got to descend a little on the fire road. It was one blind corner after another - I kept waiting to come around a corner at 35mph and have billy bob in a pickup truck coming the other way. Luckily none of us were destined to be road kill that day.
A little more climbing and then straight down Butter Gap Trail. Love that trail! Was wishing once agian I had the long travel bike or at least a dropper post. Had some technical, but still rideable creek crossings. We choose to walk a few as it was wet and the rocks looked like bad news. I got going to quick through one section and then tried to stop before a 3 foot root ledge (only saw a horizon line as I approached it) onto really steep rocks. I never got stopped and now had no speed. Still don't know how I didn't go over the bars, but somehow I managed to muscle the bike through that shit. Again, this trail would be boss on a 5/6 inch travel trail bike.
At the bottom of Butter Gap we hung a left onto Long Branch. By this point we were getting pretty wore out. We thought that most of our climbing was over. WRONG. Not only was there more climbing, but it was fairly steep and techy. I'm gonna ride that trail the other way someday soon because it would be a fun downhill. It was steep enough that I was solidly in zone 4 heart rate and borderline lactate threshold for a lot of the climbs. A place I'm trying to stay away from in the race, at least until the end anyway. I thought it was never gonna end. We were all pretty pumped when we reached the fire road as we knew it was downhill from there. My back wheel was feeling pretty squishy bombing down the fire road. Sure enough I was getting a flat - cut the tire on the rocks somewhere. Didn't surprise me, even though it was a brand new tire I just set up tubeless 7 days ago. At least it held on for the first 3 hours.
Not the fastest ride I've ever done, but one of the harder ones for sure. Looking forward to next Saturday's race. Note that we didn't finish the last 10 miles of the course - I went back and did some hill intervals on that a couple days later. I'm guessing I'm looking at 3:40-4:00 hrs to finish at race pace. That is if I eat right, drink right, it's dry, and I don't cramp up. Pete and I both had leg cramps afterwards while at dinner. I'm sure our fellow customers wondered what the hell was wrong with us as we stood up and screamed while trying to straighten our leg out just begging for the pain to end.
The family stayed up in the area for a few days afterwards to enjoy the beautiful NC mountains fall weather. Like I said, I got in another ride doing some hill work and riding the other 10 miles of the course we missed. We also learned that the little guy likes staying at hotels! Looks like more road trips to the mountains with him in the future!!!