It must be old news by now that the Test of Endurance 50 was my only personal goal for this year. My one, giant, monumental achievement for 2008. So I've been doing a ton of training to get ready. And since this is also a local race I wanted to take advantage of having the home-court advantage. I'm a terribly slow climber, so I need to try to make up a little time on the descents. And since I'm not a super fast descender either, I need to get to know the trails ... as well as I can, anyway.
Naturally though, the course is dynamic until the last minute ... always in a state of change. Winds blow down trees. The logging company comes through some areas. New trails appear (with a lot of hard work by the promoter and some friends). So really, the only way to do an honest pre-ride of the course is to be involved in trail work up to the last minute. But Gregg was able guide us on a route that had similar distance, elevation gains, and some of the singletrack I'd be riding in the race. So it was enough to give me a good sense of where I stood, and gain some level of "comfort" with the challenge ahead.
In mid-may we invited a couple of friends from Portland to come down and ride with us. Heidi and Sal grabbed a Portland Velo teammate of theirs, Javad, and we grabbed another friend, Melissa, and the six of us went out for a pre-ride.
And after all that training I've been doing, this is how the ride started out ...
(Heidi) "Hey, where'd Stephanie and Melissa go?"
(Gregg's voice, echoing down to us from the top of the mountain) "There they are."
Naturally, all that work and I'm still getting dropped in the first mile. And poor Melissa had just done a race the day before, and was really feeling the fatigue from that. Bummer for her, but good for me ... I had myself a riding buddy :)
The conditions were about perfect; mostly dry with a few muddy spots, and a little overcast and cool but not raining.
The ride had a little of everything. Several of the trails are now well established and hard-packed. Some of them are barely recognizeable as trails, and a little tougher for us less-skilled riders to navigate. There was some hiking over down trees, Heidi's favorite part. And lots and lots of climbing. (Heidi's second-favorite part, I think).
We had some getting separated in the woods shenanigans, preceded by a little trailside bike maintenance.
So the day had practically everything you'd expect from a day of mountain biking. Including a well-earned post-ride feast at the local McMenamins. Yumm! Cajun-ized tater tots!
I really wanted to get out one more time though, without all the stops, so that I could get a better idea of what it would feel to ride constantly for the 25 miles. Can't really be taking so many breaks on race day. So I invited Carrie to come out with me again in June.
Originally Gregg was going to come along as well, and possibly bring another guy from work. But Gregg ended up having to work. so it was up to me and the Garmin to navigate. That was challenge number one.
Challenge number two was the spring weather. It had also been raining since may, so things were a little wet. It's surprising how much more work it is to ride in the mud, even when it's just a little bit of mud. It's like running in sand ... it just absorbs your energy. Not so noticeable if you're doing a ride that's well within your limits, but if you're riding at the edge of your physical limits it can make a significant difference. And even now, a week before my 50 mile race, a 25 mile mountain bike ride with about 3,700 feet of climbing is a challenging ride. So there were some fairly muddy spots, which should have slowed us down.
The logging company has also been in there, and it looks like they're getting ready to do some work. Some of the stuff that was part of the course is now torn up from a CAT, and there are more down branches on the trails. Navigating the now horribly muddy CAT tracks, and removing down branches should have slowed us down a bit too. Check out the wall-o-mud on the rear tire, and the remains of the pine tree in my chainring.
But the third, and most significant challenge for me, is pacing myself! I find it difficult enough when I'm staring at my heart rate monitor. And when I'm staring at the course on the GPS unit and can't see my HR, I really tend to let work too hard. So although this was a much more difficult ride, we finished in almost exactly the same time. Seriously, fractions of a second different than the much more casual May pre-ride. My average HR was 10 bpm higher today, and at the end of the first lap I was not feeling like I could have turned around and done it again. No way.
Good news ... Mike changed the course to avoid the newly torn up stuff, add some singletrack, and take out a couple of road out-and-back sections ... it sounds like a great course, and the weather report is looking promising. It should be fun!
I've just gotta remember to pace myself!
(pictures from both rides)