Racing Across the Sky at the Leadville 100Chasing a belt buckle across the upper reaches of the Rockies. (Leadville, CO - August, 2008)
And with that I began the descent. Again, like a man possessed. I urged on the other racers still suffering the indignity of this hellacious climb as I flew past them in the opposite direction, then I grew angry. I grew angry at how much this climb had hurt, how my stomach roiled and ached, and at how my lungs were burned and my lips chapped. I left the turnaround point six hours and twenty-three minutes after that fateful gunshot that started The Race Across the Sky and I was furious. It wasn't supposed to be this hard. Or so I thought. I accelerated, leaped over the rocks, danced through the gullies, and dug deeper. I let go of any fear I had left, and mashed the pedals. The bud tucked into my right ear began emitting the electrifying vibrations from Tool's song Schism and again I descended on edge. I maintained an average speed of nearly 30 mph on the switchbacking descent, ever hopeful that my new tires would maintain their grip on the newly dampened-dirt. I again passed dozens of other racers on the descent. I held my grip tight, pedaled hard, and felt the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I had never descended like this. I was scaring myself.
Suffer Around Mt. Rainier in One Day
A tale of misery on the famed 154-mile RAMROD ride. (Enumclaw, WA - July, 2008)
I was feeling great for the first 45 miles or so. I was eating and drinking well, my legs felt fresh, and other than a twinge in my achilles tendon, I felt on the ball. Then it suddenly went downhill. I couldn't keep up with Dale and Jeff. I had to drop my speed on the flats and was beginning to feel nauseus. My abdominal muscles were cramping, my neck and shoulders were stiff, and I had no energy. We weren't 50 miles into the ride and I was starting to inexplicably bonk. And we hadn't even done any of the climbing yet. I was in trouble.
Double-Crossing the North Cascades
A 125-mile ride back and forth across the North Cascades. (Winthrop, WA - June, 2008)
My longest bicycle ride of the year thus far was the 56 miles I rode with the group out of Singletrack Cycles last Thursday. Not one to wade into things, I cast aside the swimmies, held my breath, pinched my nose shut, and took a head-first dive into the deep end of the cycling pool just two days later when I embarked on the Native Planet Classic, a 125-mile road ride with 10,000 feet of elevation gain. And I hereby impose a moratorium on all cliched swimming metaphors.
A Test of Metal
The most fun you can have racing your mountain bike. (Squamish, BC - June 2008)
Now it was time for the Powerhouse Plunge, a descent of over 700 feet in little more than 1.2 miles. It started out with a gentle slope, plenty of rocks and ladder bridges, and some pretty challenging trail. Then it became the single-most technical mile of singletrack I've ever ridden. I'd like to say I cleaned the whole section, but I cannot. Although I only had to walk about 15-20 yards of the trail, I definitely had my fair share of dabs and near-endos. I had no trouble with the dozens of ladder bridges, and managed to kick-out my way around each of the switchbacks (to the delight of the crowds lined up to see the carnage) but I also had a few very close calls on some of the larger, exposed rock drops. More than once I felt my seat slip between my legs as I tried to get back behind it on the rocky step-downs and all I can say is that if my seat were even 2 millimeters higher, it would have definitely snagged my shorts and catapulted me into the rocky abyss. I saw some bad wrecks, some frayed nerves, and even a bit of blood.
There was a very high pucker factor on this descent, and I'm not talking about blowing kisses.
Racing the TransRockies ChallengeA seven day mountain bike race through the Canadian Rockies (Fernie, BC - August 2007)
I climbed the first major climb of the day, a 900-meter ascent up the Elk Creek Drainage, better than I climbed all week. Good enough in fact to put my big 29er wheels to good use on the way down and steamroll past teams walking the tricky technical debris torrents that washed out the trail. We soon came to an awesome section of rooty singletrack belonging to a trapper who lives in a cabin in a meadow we eventually rode past. Talk about a slice of paradise. Brett was bonking pretty hard on this section of singletrack, but I felt great and gave him my wheel to draft off. I was happy to return the encouraging sentiments on this day and mile after mile of rooty, fun singletrack rolled under our wheels. We reached the second checkpoint and looked around. The scenery was beautiful but better still was the new faces we hadn't before seen outside of the dining tent. These were the faces and shaved legs of fast riders, many of whom we had seen on the podium each night. Today was going to be epic!
Seattle to Portland
A 204-mile bicycle journey done in a single day. (Seattle, WA - July 2007)
I was coasting along at 40 mph down the Oregon side of the bridge and hit a steel plate on the sidewalk we were on really hard. One of my two water bottles became dislodged but I was able to pin it with my leg against the bike. I was really scared to let it fall for fear of what would happen to the people behind me if they hit it at that speed. So I held the water bottle with my left calf while trying to slow the bike down to a speed that I felt comfortable taking a hand off the handlebars, but the bottle eventually fell. Fortunately, there wasn't anybody directly behind me and it seemed to roll someplace out of the way. Up until the middle of the afternoon, I was stopping often enough to only have to refill one water bottle at each rest stop but we were now in the heat of the day and I was clearly starting to get dehydrated. Now more than ever I needed that second water bottle.
Riding the 5 Drainages of the Teanaway
A ride report from a most difficult day on the mountain bike. (Cle Elum, WA - July, 2007)
We eventually reached the top of Beverly Creek and were able to lay the bikes down in the sun and stretch. At this point we realized that there was no doing all 8 Drainages and that 5 would be more than enough. After all, we had been out for over 5 hours already and only gone a mere 16 miles, including a couple miles of forest road at the beginning. So we took our time and left the bikes on the trail and hiked up to the lower Iron Peak summit and enjoyed the views. This is why you do this ride. For those who've done the other Teanaway area rides and think they've seen great scenery, please understand that you haven't seen anything yet. The views from the 5 Drainages route are incomparable. Your body and mind will suffer greatly in your quest to achieve these vistas but despite the neverending pain -- did I mention we all ran out of water also? -- the views from atop Iron Peak and within the Standup Creek basin are remarkable.
24 Hours Round the Clock
My first attempt at soloing a 24-hour mountain bike race. (Spokane, WA - May, 2007)
Night had finally come after my 6th lap and it was time to take a longer pit stop and change my clothes. I took my time washing the dust and grime off my legs, arm, and face and switched to a pair of three-quarter length tights (ahhh, fresh Chamois Butt'r!), a clean jersey, and arm-warmers. The sun had set and the temperature was dropping into the 40's. My plan to ride until midnight and then call it a night was moved to the back burner. I was in 10th place and feeling great. I put on the 12-hour light that I borrowed from Erik, downed a pound of Kraft Mac n' Cheese, and got out there for another lap. Halfway through the lap I had to take a 10-second break to vomit some of the Mac n' Cheese. Apparently I didn't fully chew all of it. Game on!