Oh man… I will be the first to admit that 'epic' is WAY overused and extremely tired. And I won't use it here either especially since the series name - NW Epic Series - already has it in the title but this was an amazing race.
Just the other day I was reminiscing about 100 mile mountain bike races and getting a little worried but since Capitol Forest is such a blast to ride in I was hoping the Capitol Forest 100 was going to be a big adventure instead of a chore.
And mostly it was. Good times were definitely had.
Because the start was at 6:00 AM (yikes!) I drove out there the night before and slept in the van. It was really comfy and I just kept one of the back doors open and enjoyed the cool but not too cold night breeze.
Getting up at 4:15 to try and eat was tough but luckily I am usually hungry the minute I wake. Man was it dark. And all the stars… incredible.
ASIDE - pumping up my tires was tricky. By the time I got around to it Friday night the sun had set. I did it by car dome light in the evening so that was one less item to worry about in the morning when it was just as pitch black. I hate tires that are too soft or too firm.
We lined up for the pre-race meeting at 5:50 and were told the start would be delayed about 15 minutes to give the fog time to lift and the sun time to come out. That meant I had time for one more visit to the toilet which was handy because my efforts to hydrate were proving successful.
It was a Le Mans-style start. We put our bikes on the ground at the entrance to the grass parking lot and walked about 100 m back to the start banner. Then Roger said GO.
Nothing like a paved start to separate the single speed riders from the geared riders I always say. :) But today the lead pack was not murdering the pace like they usually do so after the pavement and a bit of gravel road I was probably in 25th spot as we hit the single track.
When who should I see futzing with his bike but Logan W. What rotten luck! Turns out he broke or bent his chain and had to ride back to the start, get a new one installed and then set out again. He caught me at mile 33 and went on to finish in 2nd place overall. Holy crap. Oh yeah, he also told me, "Good Job!" as he blazed past, that was nice.
Once on the trail I gut stuck in behind this boy/girl couple in matching kits that were cruising along at a pretty good clip so I hung out for a while. But then we started to climb. And boy/girl shifted to the small chainring and I was struggling to ride that speed. Finally I asked to pass and I never saw them again. Amazingly I was also passing other riders from time to time…
Before the start I told myself to keep the pace steady and not go out too hard. This kind of event can bite you if you dip into the red because then it's usually impossible to recover 100%. At the very least I wanted to enjoy a full day of mountain biking on some of the best trails in the NW. But damn I was feeling good.
I had also resolved to hit up all the aid stations and managed to do this except for one. It helped. They were SO well stocked and the staff was SO helpful even offering to hand you up a bottle so you didn't have to stop pedaling. Just amazing.
After lots of climbing and lots of ripping fast single track through a flatish section and then a descent we got dumped out onto a gravel road that was eight miles long and took us up to Capitol Peak. Even here on the road I was passing geared bikes! I had to pedal like crazy to do so as the grade was not very steep but those carrots sure were nice.
And here I first connected with Walter C. He was on a geared bike and knew a mutual acquaintance (Vince H) so we chatted some, as much as our labored breathing allowed anyway. Walter and I would swap place numerous times throughout the race and it was really nice having him along for company. I was faster on the ups and he was faster on the downs (full suspension probably helped that some…) and the end he finished four minutes in front of me. Way to go Walter!
Even the biggest, bumpiest downhill section was fun today on my rigid bike. I started the ride pretty tense but relaxed more and more the longer I rode. And other than two switchbacks, one dab and one climb I rode the entire first lap.
My glasses were a mess. The trail was super dusty so riding through all that dirt and mist from the fog and the steam from my body meant that I was practically blind zooming through the first bit of woods when I was behind boy/girl. Not to mention the sun had not fully risen yet. I put my glasses in my pocket around mile 10 and never looked back. There was no significant mud to speak of so the risk of getting a big blob in my eye never materialized. Even on the second lap there were some very dark (as in not much sun light) sections of trail in the woods.
As I cruised through the finish for the first time I took a detour to my van and dropped off the glasses and my two large bottles that I had started with. By this time I had one empty in my jersey pocket and a neutral bottle in my cage. Then I headed back out.
I crested the gravel road and started flying through some dry, dusty trail. One minute I'm enjoying the view (probably too much!) and the next minute I'm lying on the ground. I think I hit something small and stuffed my front wheel and went over the bars.
I'm on my back with one foot still clipped in thinking I must have broken something… I hit the ground so hard. I began the process of picking myself up and checking my body and bike. The bike was fine! My cyclometer was even still attached to the bars. Standing up was slow and painful but nothing felt broken and for some reason turning around never even occurred to me so I slowly started pedaling again. Boy, climbing/pulling on the bars really hurt. So did descending when it was bumpy. My left hand hurt and so did my right shoulder and I had a few - luckily not significant - nicks and scratches.
At the next aid station I ate and drank and even had the mechanic (there were TWO aid stations with mechanics!) oil my chain which was WAY dusty and dry by now. And then I passed two more geared bikes?! Kinda puts things in perspective I guess. I was feeling like dirt but these folks were obviously feeling worse. Might seem strange but this actually helped cheer me up a bit.
I got to the gravel road and connected with Walter one more time and was even able to ride away from him but my advantage was not enough and shortly thereafter he caught me on a bumpy descent, passed me and I wouldn't see him again. I also got to see what must have been the leaders in the 50 mile event scream by ON THE SAME TRAIL GOING RIGHT AT ME. There were two or three short sections (.25 miles each?) of trail where there was traffic in both directions. Exciting stuff for sure. Good thing we could all handle our bikes though.
My legs started to cramp some around mile 60 or 65? I don't recall exactly. It forced me to walk a few additional climbs and to throttle back the pace a little' more.
ANOTHER ASIDE - I gotta say that I am pretty happy about my time. In spite of falling and cramping and slowing down my second lap was still only about 26 minutes slower than my first. Just when you think your training has been totally inadequate your experience kicks in and you have a good day.
About 2/3 of the way through the lap I recall riding in some clear-cut where the trail splits. One way was labeled "hard" and the other way was labeled "easy". The hard way took you up and over this mound of rocks and dirt and the easy way went around the mound. The official course went the easy way and on lap one I laughed when I saw the sign and wondered if I could make it up that short, steep climb on my single. On lap two I didn't even crack a smile.
The last big hill in the course finished me off. Up until then I was still riding okay but by the time I got there my shoulder and hand/wrist were torched and anything more than 10 pedal revolutions out of the saddle brought on a cramp so I had to hike a fare bit here.
There was just one single speed in front of me and I never saw him. He must have snuck ahead at the very beginning or gone by at an aid station when I was not looking around. Until the very end I was holding out hope that I might win this thing but after I crossed the line and saw him I knew the best I could hope for was 2nd. It was Gary B and he rode a 29" wheel bike with a 33x20 and a suspension fork. Sounded kind of big to me but it obviously worked for him. Congratulations Gary!
YET ANOTHER ASIDE - it probably comes as no surprise that everyone (except me) was using a suspension fork…
The support didn't stop when you finished, the organizers had pizza, burgers, fruit, free pint glasses and three kegs of beer to fill them with! Nice. Especially when you realize that the 100 mile riders are finishing about three or four hours AFTER the 50 mile riders. I had some watermelon, this newfangled Darigold Refuel (of which they had cases and cases) and then hit the pizza and beer. To top it all off there were showers at the camp site. Nothing feels quite as bad as driving home from a hot and dusty MTB race with no shower so I was absolutely stoked to get clean.
I'm writing this two days post-ride and after coming home from the doctor just now where I got some X-Rays of my left wrist and right shoulder. Turns out nothing is broken but I do have a slight separation of my shoulder meaning the tendons that hold the joint in place have been stretched and now my right Clavicle sits up above the Acromion, about 1/4" higher than my left.
How do you treat this? Ibuprofen and rest. I guess it could be worse. I told some friends that I fell hard and one of them replied, "How hard could it be if you rode another 45 miles…?" Still not sure how I did that myself honestly. Sitting here typing I am sore as hell. My doctor just told me to take two weeks off the bike and I almost believe him as I can't put on/take off shirts by myself. Rats. Maybe it was adrenaline? Endorphins? Stupidity? Some combo thereof no doubt.
On the up side this course was fun. And I mean FUN. Top it off with perfect weather, awesome support, free bottles, free camping, free showers, tons of free food and beer (in a free pint glass) after and suddenly the $200 entry fee is extremely reasonable. Did I mention that Roger M from 4th Dimension Racing and numerous volunteers spent countless days (NOT HOURS) clearing the brush from these trails? It was buffed. That guy is incredible.
If you check out the route below you will see that my GPS listed the loop as a little under 50 miles. All the people I spoke with that had traditional cyclometers got readings that were pretty much bang on 100 miles so I'm guessing the canopy and tight corners made this come up short. And although I felt like lots of the course was flatish, we gained over 10,000'. Not too shabby. I guess those hills add up.
Here are all the pictures.
|4:30 AM - banana, HEED, whole grain tortilla, peach, water
|5:00 PM - watermelon, Darigold Refuel, 2 pieces pizza, beer, water
|2 large bottles each w/3 scoops Perpetuem, 5(?) small bottles w/Nuun, about 10 gels (half of them w/caffeine), some pieces of bagel w/peanut butter and Nutella, handful of Shot Bloks, potato chips
|fell around mile 55 and badly bruised my left palm, wrist and right shoulder
|Time of Day
|mid 50s at the start w/some fog, mid 70s shortly thereafter and at the finish, sun, calm
|(Capitol Forest 50) x 2
|Single Speed - 2nd (10:16)
Overall - 13th
|bib shorts, sleeveless undershirt, short sleeve jersey, cap, Fox full finger gloves