The annual Swank 65 mountain bike race was the second weekend of November in Pisgah National Forest, NC. Not only is Pisgah my favorite riding anywhere around (it's gnarly, technical and steep... what more can you ask for??!!) this "race" is almost a right of passage in the Southeast. It is a 65k (42 mile) mountain bike race over the mountain of North Carolina. It is an all day affair.
Shannon, Paula and I decided that this was the year to conquer Swank. We are all doing our off season base miles right now so what better to get in a long day on the bike but 42 miles of mountain biking. I was doubly crazy and decided to get a warm-up the day before by doing a 'cross race. More on that later....
Swank started this year Le Mans style. There is nothing quite like watching a pack of mountain bikers RUN to their bikes. It wasn't just a short run either... we ran close to a half mile before we got on the bikes. I think that was the most painful part of the entire day. Paula and I were close together at the start and there was a lot of walking up the first climb with such a large pack of riders. After we got back on the bikes I settled into a pace and for the next three hours I rode with a friend of mine Sam whom I hadn't seen in a long time. Her and I motivated each other and the company made the time go by very quickly. Near the second SAG area we were told we were the 4th and 5th woman. Wow, we were just riding and chatting... maybe it was time to start racing a little. Shortly after that we got to THE descent; Farlow Gap. Farlow is one of the things that Swank is known for. It's gnarly, slippery and steep; marginally rideable at best. In fact, there are parts of it that are not rideable by anyone. My goal was to see what I could do. After riding past a bunch of guys walking their bikes (yes, I do love that) I ended up doing some walking of my own. In the process I passed the girl that was in 3rd and somehow lost Sam. Okay, I am now in third, the "training ride" has just turned back into a race. I pushed a decent tempo pace for the last 12 miles and finished 3rd. Paula had an impressive ride and brought home second place, about 8 minutes ahead of me. Shannon had a blast and finished a respectable 9th.
What a great day!! We had a blast and will definitely be back for more next year.
As a side note. I took 4th the day before at a very competitive cyclocross race in Bristol, TN. I also learned that 'cross racing is not a good warm-up for epic mountain bike racing. I am SLOWLY getting better at the 'cross thing (I actually had someone tell me I looked good out there) but I am still SLOW through the barriers. My legs were tired and SORE for the first 2.5 hours of Swank but what a great weekend. A special thanks to Cara and Andy for the use of their house Saturday night.