Test Of EnduranceI'd already locked up the series championship, so I had the luxury of choosing between the standard TOE (50 miles) and the extended TOE (100K). Only the shorter race counted toward the series - it was two laps around the course, and the extended course added a jaunt up to the top of Mary's Peak. I'd never ridden on the trails up there, so I figured I'd do that.
Race day came and I headed out. I had gotten a free entry from a guy on Facebook who'd won it in a raffle and wasn't going to use it (yay). It looks like I didn't warm up much, which was kind of my game plan as it was going to be my longest MTB ride ever - 62 miles. I vaguely remember getting a few minutes of spinning in - and I was pedaling in circles as Ripley talked us through the race.
Ripley drove us out for a mass start, and I steadily made my way toward the front. At one point I was in a group that was falling behind the leader group and I realized it was just silly of me to sit back here resting when w/out too much effort I could be in the lead group. So up I went.
I rode next to Trevor Norland for a little bit - he seemed impressed. I asked his heart rate, and he was cruising around 130 - I didn't let on that I was north of 150. I remember thinking that I was probably pushing a little too hard for the beginning of what was to be a long day, but I was a little stoked to be with the lead group.
About 5 miles in, the grade got quite a bit steeper and the lead group got away from me. I stuck with Trevor for a couple of minutes, but he too slipped away. I dialed the pace back a bit and settled in for the long climb. At some point, Melissa Norland caught up with me, and we rode together for a few minutes until we hit the first aid station. She pointed out the only other Clyde - he was just ahead, but I let myself get psyched out (he regularly races in the 100 mile races) and I figured I'd just let him ride away. At the aid station, Mel downed some fluid and took off - that was the last I saw of her. I ate a bit, rested for two minutes and took off. On to the trail up Mary's Peak.
I didn't realize the course we were doing would take us past where Mary, Simone and I go mushroom hunting, but it did. The race course traversed across to the Woods Creek gate, and then up the North Ridge trail. I guess folks generally come down this trail, but we were going up it because Mike figured people were less likely to crash going up and perhaps he'd save himself the hassle of coming to rescue someone.
The trail going up is pretty rooty. The conditions were great, sunny but cool, the roots were dry and the trail smooth (aside from the roots). At first I tried getting up all the roots, but as the trail got steeper, and the roots larger, I started walking some. The pucker factor (aka fcsk-up factor) was pretty high at points due to the steep fall if you went over the side of the trail, so I was OK with walking some of them. But, the entire time I rode up I marveled at the beauty of that trail. I've really only hiked up it in the rain and/or snow - this was the first time I'd been on it when it is at its prime.
I was pushing pretty hard going up, and right about the mid-point of the climb (just over 2 hours into the entire race) I started to blow up. I realized this and pulled over (as much as you can on a trail that's 18 inches wide) and stopped to eat some corn nuts and drink some water. I stood there for a few minutes, letting my heart rate come down. A number of people passed me, and while I felt a little disappointed about that, I knew it was the right thing to do. There was no point in wrecking myself when I hadn't even gone 1/3 of the race. After 3 minutes and half a bag of corn nuts (there is just something wonderful about salty and crunchy when racing) I hopped back on the bike and resumed the climb. Looking at my heart rate data, I didn't really ride much easier, but I did feel tons better.
I kept an eye on the roots, and another eye on the odometer, and I pushed my way up to the top. At the top I sat down and took 6 minutes off the bike just to rest and relax. I was in no real rush. Justin was at the top helping folks out. I saw the 14 year old make his way past me and realized - I've got to beat him. So, after a couple more minutes sitting down, I hopped back on and began the descent.
The trail down was fun and fast. Luckily, I didn't run into but two or three groups of hikers, and I cleanly rode all but the one corner that was well advertised as being full of loose, slippery rock. The down was over super fast, and then the course followed a road back to the Woods Creek gate - rather disappointing to lose all that elevation on a gravel road. Luckily, right at the gate the race course dropped into a two mile stretch of singletrack - which helped ease the loss of elevation.
A quick ride back on the road and we were back at the aid station to continue on the standard TOE course.
The rest of the ride was a blur. I remember stopping and resting at each aid station in an effort to ensure I had all my facilities available for the descents. I remember riding Dinner and a Movie and cleaning the "Danger" section both times (it was scary as all get out the year prior). I remember enjoying the Side Trail as much as ever (my favorite section of trail in that forest) - and getting passed by a gal on a single speed on it. I don't know where she had been before passing me, but she was flying when I saw her (so why was she behind me to begin with?).
At some point I did pass the 14 year old kid. He's a part of the family from Washington who did all the OBRA XC races last year. I remember seeing his sisters (they ride in long skirts - very noticeable) dominate the podium, and it turns out he's no slouch himself.
I ended up finishing the race after 7.5 hours of riding, 8:12 total time - yes, that's a lot, and nearly 11,000' of elevation gain. The other Clyde was a mere 12 minutes ahead of me (I rested 45 minutes total) - I could have made up that time had I wanted, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
I could see doing that race again, even with it being as long as it is. The trails are pretty darned fun, and Mike always runs a well-stocked and well-marked race.
That was it for the XC series, I'd locked the series up with my Pickett's Charge race, and this was just gravy. Actually, it was more for training, as the next race on my calendar was but 2 weeks away, and would be guaranteed to be longer and harder - the High Cascades 100 miler...