26 August 2011

one man, one dream, one speed, 100 miles

Occasionally one feels the need to strike out and try new things. in 2011 that new 'thing' I wanted to try was racing my single speed mountain bike. I've ridden a single speed and fixed gear road bike for years but in the dirt…? That was totally new.

I was originally inspired by my friend Tom L who I met when we both competed in TransPortugal. This guy shows up on a 3-speed, fully rigid mountain bike and does very well! Since then I met others that rode single speeds in the woods and even a single speed mountain bike tandem(!) so obviously I was not going to breaking any new ground here.

But it was so damn exciting! One of the appeals about riding a single speed on the road is the huge mental relief. You never need to worry about what gear you should be in because you only have one. With that incentive in mind I built my bike and headed out for a ride with friends.

My first outing was a 25-30 mile north of Lake Wenatchee. We started out with a significant climb and ended with a significant and rocky descent. And to my surprise I did just fine… Oh sure, the pace was pretty social but even when it hotted up some on occasion I was able to hang.

Next up I tried Tiger Mountain which is NW staple. Again I did okay. So let's raise the bar shall we?

This summer I have been competing in the NW Epic Series and it has been 1) fun, 2) a learning experience and 3) hard because I chose the long course for each event. The final in the series is tomorrow; it's the Capitol Forest 100 and I don't mind admitting that I am just a little nervous.

Back in the day I competed in a couple of 100-mile mountain bike races in OR but that was then (read: a LONG time ago when I was young and foolish) and it was never on a single speed bike much less a fully rigid bike.

This series is unique in that the races are extremely well supported. There are food/drink stops every 10 ish miles and after almost literally not needing my CamelBak for the first two events I am going to leave it at home for this finale. That's right, think light and fast.

I was looking over the finishing times from last year and the fastest geared bikes were coming in in around 9-9.5 hours. A guy I know that is a little faster than me did it in 9:47. Single speed bikes were 10.5-11 hours. My stated goal is to go under 11. Hopefully if I eat and drink intelligently that's attainable. There has been one single speeder that has been absolutely killing it in the series this year and I know he's out of reach. But on a good day I think I can compete for 2nd? At the last race I got 3rd by not so much. Then again, it might be a totally different field for this much longer event and if all the genetic freaks come out all bets are off.

Another stated goal is to have fun and not let the race mentality take over. 11 hours is way too long to be stranded in the forest hating life on some death march so I need to remember to have fun, enjoy the view, the trail and remember why I ride a bike in the first place. Because I like it.

Nothing like going big. Here's hoping I don't have to go home prematurely.

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