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Tracy Posner’s Michaux Curse of Dark Hollow race report



I decided to race the Michaux 40 miler Curse of Dark Hollow to get in some longer climbs and have a longer race in preparation for the Shenandoah 100. I was a little worried about the weather, because it was calling for rain over night and if you’ve ever raced Michaux you know how hard it is and adding mud and slippery rocks would have made it even more ridiculous. Luckily, the trails were perfect except for the last 5miles that had some softer areas. I was a bit anxious about this race, because the Maximus was hard enough and the Curse is supposed to be harder. 

For some reason the women’s field was small, with just 3 of us doing the 40 miler, so the women and single speeders were started together. The start was about 1-2 miles of fire road and then it went right into a loose medium sized rocky descent. Cheryl Sornson was off the front and if you know Cheryl, shes a rock star. I figured I’d finish about 1.5hrs behind her. As we got into the rocky down hill the other girl was in front of me and was riding well, but I felt I could ride the rocky descent a little better so I passed her when there was a spot and tried to get a bit of a gap. After the descent there was an immediate steep climb. After that I don’t really remember much until the last few miles of the race. Just kidding. Sort of.

I tried to keep myself in check because it was going to be a long day. Based on my time at the Maximus, I figured I’d be riding for about 6 hrs. Its hard to keep your heart rate down at Michaux because you’re either climbing or muscling over rocks, which both make your heart rate soar. After the first climb the next few miles had some nice big rocky sections and shorter climbs and then an awesome fast fun downhill. Then at about 12mi the next 4.5mi was a big climb with a few small descents mixed in. This section also included the notorious ‘hike a bike’. Man they weren’t kidding. When I hit it, I had caught up to a guy I knew and he told me we were on the hike a bike section. So we walked up it a bit and then is kind of leveled out and I got back on and thought..that wasn’t ALL that bad, about 50 yards later, I saw why this section was notorious. There was a part that was about 10yards long and you were practically looking for vegetation to hold on to to try and pull yourself and your bike up it. I joked later that we need something like the cart lifter at Wegmans or a ski lift for our bikes, because it was hard enough just to get up it yourself, much less trying to pull or drag your bike up with you.

The next 7 miles were more rocks (lots of rocks!) and some medium climbs and some fire road mixed in which was a nice break. It was during this section that I realized how my triceps hurt from descending and the rock gardens and I think even my kidneys hurt from the constant bouncing over rock gardens. But man oh man was it fun. I tried to keep my speed up on the fire roads and the descents, because I knew the 3rd girl was a strong climber and was expecting her to catch up with me if I didn’t keep up my speed.

Fom about mile 25-29 was the next and last big long climb. It was single track in the woods and was long, but was more or less smooth. At the top was the last aid station, which was a nice treat. They told me I didn’t have far to go, although I knew by my Garmin that really wasn’t the case, but it still energized me and I started pushing harder knowing I was close to the end. Of course, i should have known that ‘not far to go’ at Michaux has a totally different meaning than other places. More smaller to medium power line and field climbs that felt bigger when trying to push tired legs and then the most technical descents and rock gardens in the entire race. At this point the trails were a bit loamy and soft. The descents were steep and the rock gardens had those shark fins or some call them tomb stone types of rocks. Being tired and not  knowing the lines, I ended bobbling a lot of them and having to put a foot out or dismount and run through it. I would  have loved to have turned around and tried all those again!

At this point I knew I was close, but where was the finish?! I was ready to be done. I was in the awesome piney twisty stuff and was passing some 20 milers that were still making their way and finished the same way the 40 milers did. Finally I saw some light and cars through the trees and speed up and finished in 4:55!! I was PUMPED! Cheryl had finished in 4:10 I think and I was super happy that I was that close to her, expecting at least an hour or more difference.

It was an awesome race and hard! I think I paced myself well, I rode relatively well, my nutrition was good, as I never bonked, and I finished much faster than I had anticipated and I never crashed! That, in itself, makes it successful at Michaux.

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