I ran out of descriptors for the hills after finishing the Test of Endurance 100. Here are a few that I can remember.
- really, really hard
This race was four laps of a 25-mile loop and after just one lap I was not sure how I was going to finish this thing. But I made it. And obviously perseverance pays off.
This race was put on by Mudslinger Events and I gotta say, these guys have their shit together in a big way. Phenomenal sponsors (Specialized bikes, Hammer Nutrition, Deschutes Brewery, etc.), fantastic aid stations, food and drink at the finish, massive prizes (a Garmin GPS, lots of cash, even more beer) and tons of raffles (more beer, gobs of bike stuff and a complete Specialized bicycle). Oh yeah, and results got posted ASAP. It was impressive.
Since this race was five hours from home I drove down and camped a the Fir Ridge Campground just west of Blodgett. Here is all I have to say about Fir Ridge.
As usual this 100 mile race started at the crack of dawn (read: 6:00 AM) so I had to wake up at 4 (that's two hours before the crack in case you're curious) to ensure my body could assimilate some breakfast. Since I'm a pretty regular early riser this was not so bad but it does feel weird pulling up to the start line in the dark. At the camp some regular told us, "It's going to get really cold tonight!" but luckily it never did. By the time I had to head over for the pre-race meeting it was warm enough for just a jersey and with the forecast predicting at least upper 70s I did not want to carry any more clothing than I absolutely needed. Nice.
This was the first year for the 100-mile distance at this event and a grand total of 15 people showed up to take advantage. At first I was mystified but after doing this race I understand a little better. This is a TOUGH course. At the start was a pro, a bunch of skinny elite racers, one woman (I recognized her from Stottlemeyer), me and only a couple of 'mortals'. Looks like I had my work cut out for me.
ASIDE - yes, I was the only single speed rider signed up for the 100… I suppose this tempers my result somewhat but hey, you have to show up to win.
In retrospect I'm not sure how I rode the entire first lap. I was most certainly not on a super day but I guess I had something to prove? What I proved is that if you go all out on lap #1 in a wicked hard 4-lap race you pay the price on each successive lap. You can take that to the bank.
The race started down a dirt descent and then we rode about three miles of flat and gradually descending dirt road to the first hill. In short order the elite pack of geared bikes was distancing me and I found myself riding next to the only female entrant. I dropped her on the first climb and suddenly it began to dawn on my that I might be riding by myself for 100 freaking miles…! Thank goodness that was not to be.
How can I describe the hills? They go up. Then you round a corner and they go up some more. And then they get steeper. I was getting in the bonus upper body workout for sure as I muscled my bike up each one. The trails were fun but most were also bumpy and several were steep meaning you had to use lots of brakes. Needless to say I was not getting much rest.
Finishers of the 50-mile race got a pint glass. Finishers of the 100-mile race got a shot glass. I guess the promoter thought we might need something slightly more potent to recover from the effort.
Here are some highlights (lowlights?).
- I blew by the first aid station without stopping. This act of heroics was not to be repeated.
- I have never consumed this many Endurolytes in a cycling event. Ever. Some of the climbs were exposed (read:hot) and I was sweating more than I have on any day in 2012 so far. Every time I felt the slightest hint of a cramp I gulped two or three more. That a boat load of fluids managed to hold the cramps at bay.
- Thank GOD for riders that are slower than me. The 50-mile racers started at 10:00 AM and so on my third lap I started passing people. I had literally been alone until this point.
- I also passed at least five single speed riders! This was a small concession for my snail-like pace by the end but at this point I was taking anything I could get to lift my spirits.
- The volunteers at the aid stations were amazing. I would pull up, give my bottle to one person with a request, "Heed with one Fizz please!" and hand my bike to a mechanic for some chain oil. I would grab some snacks, drink a LOT and then retrieve my bike (usually with the bottle already in the cage!) and roll out. Any dicking around was solely my doing.
- The singletrack sections had funny names like 'Super Tree' and 'Movie' and 'Panama Canal'. Super Tree always gave me a super big ass kicking as it was through this fresh clear cut and just slightly uphill so the surface was soft, rooty and you had to keep the power on constantly. What a massive effort; it felt so power-robbing to ride through that.
- The first time I rode 'Side Hill' which was the most wooded trail I had glasses on. DUMB. I almost crashed at least three times because I was practically blind. Once I finished lap #1 the glasses came off.
- The first two laps there were hardly any bike tracks in front of me. On lap three there were TWO HUNDRED MORE bike tracks in front of me. Amazing how 200 people can clear the trail.
- Everyone I met (riders and volunteers at aid stations) were giving me tons of props which was very kind. "Look, it's that guy on the single speed who is doing 100 miles!" I am not above needing to feel special and it helped push me along for sure.
- When I had to get off and walk my first hill on lap #2 I thought it was over. When I walked (what felt like half the lap!) on lap #4 I realized 'over' depends on your perspective.
- I never crashed!
- This pro from OR won the overall by clocking 1:55 laps consistently and was the only person to break eight hours. Unreal. I also noticed he did not bother to wear a jersey or anything tat resembled his kit on the podium and never bothered to give the promoter or OBRA his team name. Not so pro.
- At the finish each racer got a massive burrito. Then as I was leaving the promoter said there were extras so I got one for the drive home. Yes.
- This is the kind of prize I can get behind.
Here are all the pictures.
And here is my Garmin file. Note the steady decline in my heart rate after the first two laps.
|4:00 AM - 2 bananas, applesauce, 1 scoop protein powder, water
|LOTS of Hammer Gel, HEED, water, a whole tube of Endurolytes, peanut butter and jam sandwich, 2 bananas, Coke, potato chips, Nuun
|My hands got sore, but that's to be expected when you ride a rigid bike down such steep descents I guess…
|Time of Day
|low 50s to 80, mostly sunny, dry, calm
|4 x 25-mile loop, 17,000' total climbing, almost all the climbing is on forest service road, some fun sections of singletrack but this course is all about going UP s fast as you can
|1st - Open Singlespeed
|100 miles? The denser the woods and the tighter the turns the less accurate my Garmin GPS is.
|I did lap #1 (which included 2 miles of approach on dirt road) and #2 (amazingly!) in about 2:20, #3 was about 2:35 which means #4 was about 3:00, then I had to ride the two miles back to the finish.
34 x 20
26 x 2.0 Hutchinson Python tires
|bib shorts, sleeveless undershirt, short sleeve jersey, full-finger gloves, cap