· ~100 miles
· ~12,000’ of elevation gain
· 1st-place singlespeed
· 16th-place overall
· 8:16:12 to the finish
Coming off of the Breckenridge 100, I was definitely a bit concerned that I wouldn’t recover in time to race the High Cascades 100 in Bend (only 5 days separated the two races.) So I focused pretty heavily on resting during the intervening days: daily naps, solid nights’ sleep, and only light riding to keep my legs lubricated. When my Fitzgerald’sBicycles teammate Jason Berning and I pulled out of Victor on Wednesday, things were looking good—the bike was clean, I was relatively sure that I had packed everything I would need, and my legs were feeling pretty fresh. If anything, it was my upper body that felt fatigued; my legs felt good.
After a long day in the truck, we woke up in Sunriver to perfect riding weather—clear skies and temps in the 80’s—so we threw down a quick breakfast and headed up to Mt. Bachelor to ride a portion of the course from the Swampy Sno-Park. Holy crap—so much fun! Fast, buff, flowy singletrack snaking through cool forest. If all of the riding was like this, the course was sure to be fast! (It was also interesting contemplating the amount of mental energy that would be required to rip through the endless turns—amazing.) The 25-mile loop flew by, and definitely worked to get our bodies loosened up after the drive and our minds stoked up to race on Saturday.
Friday was mostly spent just hanging out with Ryan and Natalie, and their baby girl (Jason’s cousins), taking care of final preparations, and napping of course. A bit of bike-tweaking and a massive pasta dinner sent me off to an early bedtime. Regardless, the night was a bit restless with pre-race excitement.
3am was dark, cold, and early. The starting area at 5am was still dark, cold, and early, although a bit more lively. When the clock started at 5:30, dawn had just broken and I was questioning my decision not to wear a vest in addition to arm-warmers. We followed race director Mike’s pace-truck for the 6-mile neutral start out of Bend and onto the dirt, and then it was ON!
I let myself get stuck too far back in the pack at the start again (I really need to work on that) so it took me a bit to break out of the dust cloud kicked up by riders ahead of me. Once I got all straightened out I realized that I was right behind Gerry Pflug (“The Pfluginator”, endurance singlespeedlegend)—sweet! We ended up riding about 10 miles together, on what was probably the day’s awesomest singletrack, snaking through the forest with amazing early-morning sunbeams all around. Pacing with Gerry was ridiculously fun—he’s way strong, and really smooth. At some point in there another singlespeeder named Jace Ives joined us to make it a trio of flying one-gear-wonders.
|The early-morning forest riding with Jace was awesome!|
Less fun--at some point in there I blew a remount after running over a rocky section and came down hard on a fully turned left ankle. My immediate reaction was to vomit, but I got past that and gently settled myself back onto my bicycle. Within a minute or two of pedaling it came back to life and I was off in pursuit of Gerry and Jace, with a bit of trepidation about how long the ankle would last. It took about a mile, but I eventually caught the guys just before the first aid station at mile 18. And we all pretty much blew through it onto a long stretch of jeep-road.
Within a couple of miles after Aid 1 I kicked up my pace for a steeper bit of climbing and found myself riding alone, chasing 2 geared riders ahead. I knew Gerry and Jace wouldn’t be far behind, but I’ve tried to nurture the habit of focusing on what’s ahead, making forward progress, reeling in the riders in front of me and chasing the clock. Somehow that feels more productive than watching out for what’s coming up behind. Focus on what’s in front, and ride your race.
So that’s what I did. The loop through Sector 16/Whoops/South Fork was even more fun than when Jason and I pre-rode it. Looser and dusty, to be sure, but faster as well. It seems that I still need to work on my downhilling technique; I got passed by a few geared riders on full-suspension bikes coming down Whoops and into the South Fork, and then passed them all back on the climb back out.
After re-fueling at Aid 2 (thanks to Ryan and Natalie for supporting!) I remained amazed at the riding down to Lava Lake. The trail changed considerably, from buff dirt to more technical, rocky riding on the best lava rock that Mt. Bachelor belched out when it was active. That stuff is sharp! Just waiting to slice through an errant sidewall… Somewhere in here I looked down and saw that my ankle was nicely swollen, and had lost most of its flexibility. Pedaling seemed to work okay, but bouncing over lava rock wasn’t that sweet with an ankle that couldn’t absorb the shock.
Down around Lava Lake, Tom from Cycling Dirt was waiting with a GoPro video cam on his handlebars. He pulled in behind me and rode a mile or so along the lake (which is gorgeous, by the way—crystal mountain water in a quiet forest with wondrous singletrack along its shore.) I did my best to answer his questions about how the race was going but it’s hard to speak while racing, not to mention think up coherent responses.
And the climb out of Lava Lake definitely lived up to Mike’s description on the course map. (“Pain!”) I rode as much as I could, but definitely ended up walking a couple of steep grunts. Oofdah.
Shortly after leaving Aid 4 at Edison Sno-Park I stuffed my front wheel into a dusty turn and had a moment of weightlessness over the handlebars before a less-than-graceful landing. It turns out that fine, powdery July dust is pretty forgiving when you fall into it—dirty, but no blood. A fellow named John Merrill was right on my tail and got to witness my fine athleticism (fortunately his braking skills were sharp;) he quickly ascertained that I was okay and then cranked past me. I got up and gave chase, and we swapped leads for much of the remainder of the race.
The wondrous descent back down to pavement was just that, wondrous. Huge, banked turns, huge pumps, friendly little tabletop jumps, fast riding, and it went on for miles and miles! If we hadn’t been 90 miles into a race I might have gone up for another lap!
I ended up opening up a bit of lead on John on the descent, but once we hit the 6-mile pavement spin back to Bend he blew past me in his big ring and I was left to spin as fast as my long legs could go. As it turned out, what I thought was going to be a fast, cruising downhill to Bend wasn’t really downhill at all—mostly flat, with short downs. Not totally awesome on a singlespeed, but it actually went by quickly and then I was cruising down the final singletrack to the finish. Woohoo!
Jace and Gerry weren’t far behind me—it was good to see them finish strong, despite Gerry’s multiple bleeding wounds from crashing into a jagged log down by Lava Lake. Fortunately an out-for-fun rider was right there with a full first-aid kit in her pack to bandage him up!
|Gerry's rib wound; there's a puncture-wound in his left bicep as well.|
My ankle continued to swell, and by the next day looked like a sausage. (In fact, I’m sitting with my foot in a bucket of ice water as I type this. Ouch.)
|The offended ankle at the finish. (Other ankle included for reference.)|
I was SO STOKED to have finally won an NUE (National UltraEndurance) Series race, and to have had so much fun doing it!
The HC 100 is really an outstanding
event—I’ll definitely be back next year.
Mike puts on a top-notch event. There is good video footage and interviews from the race at Cycling Dirt--worth a watch.
|The podium with Jace and Gerry. And my excessively long torso.|
Now I’m looking forward to the WYDAHO Mountain Bike Festival this weekend right her at home in Teton Valley, followed by the Pierre’s Hole100 next weekend at Targhee. Gerry will be at Pierre’s—I am definitely looking forward to racing with him again. He beat me by 30 minutes or so last year, so I’m psyched to see if I can perform better on my home course this year. And psyched to race on the course’s new singletrack!