"This race will be a cake walk, I mean Cream Puff"
...and I "blame" Pacman for bringing it with him (like you can blame General Coonskins and Scott for the snow in SoCal).
Pre-riding Alpine trail on Thursday, average temperature 65 degrees, 78 at the finish/Aid1.
"A little warmer. I may not need those knee and arm warmers in the morning."
Pre-riding Alpine trail on Friday, average temperature 73 degrees, 84 at the finish/Aid1.
Sunday - Race day - Average Alpine temp 88 degrees, 103 at AID1.
That's the story in a nutshell. Now some details. I arrived Wednesday afternoon and drove up the forest road climb. I wanted to see the first climb, the course markings, and verify that I was in sync with the map. I got on the bike to shake off the travel lethargy and noted how cold it was at altitude. (it was getting near sunset). I had a thought that the slower racers (like me ) should bring a jacket.
Thursday morning at the Trailhead Cafe I saw an ad for a shuttle operation. That was fine for me, I wanted to get up the mountain and ride the singletrack portion of the race called Alpine. The race course does Alpine twice.
I was dropped at Aid3. The course leaves Aid3 on a forest road and then turns onto singletrack. I started on a likely looking forest road, turned at a junction, found marked singletrack and completed a short loop. Too short, I had taken the wrong road. Two riders who had ridden from Aid2 showed up and confirmed the proper road to take. I didn't mind at all, the day and the trails were perfect. So I repeated the loop without the shortcut.
After the loop the course leaves Aid3 on more singletrack. The track was well-marked and a great ride. Plenty of big trees, ferns, meadows, fun track, and shade. Lots of cooling shade. On one switchback I slid on marbles and whacked my hand. No big deal at the time.
Thursday night Kim and Ruben arrived from SoCal.
Friday I took Kim and Ruben on the shuttle to Alpine. It is a trail worth repeating and ends in Westfir. Thanks to a shuttle operation that others were doing we would be driving past Aid0 to drop a car off. It was another great ride, just a little warmer. In the Jedi Forest (that's the local name) I was JRA and the handlebars were ripped away. It could have been that I was favoring my sore hand, in any case, I was flying without a bike or a jet scooter. I landed with my face in forest debris, luckily there were no rocks or worse. I bled well enough to scare my friends. We took the forest road down rather than complete the singletrack. They convinced me to go to a hospital in Eugene where I got a tetanus shot. I refused stitches, the doctor had first said that stitching a gap like that would leave a scar. (??)
Saturday was a rest day for me. I drove Kim and Ruben back up to complete the Alpine singletrack.
Sunday, the race starts at 5:15 AM. I'm up early and the air is comfortable, too comfortable. It means the day will be very warm. We group for the mass start, we ride as a pack for three miles until hitting the forest road climb then the race starts. The pack breaks up immediately. The racers are off at speed and undoubtedly a few others who are going too fast. Left behind are the riders out for fun, those who want the finisher's cap.
The climb was uneventful, we chatted on the way up and gradually separated and rejoined as singlespeeders and geared riders had different ways of handling the varying slope. At the big turn at the top I was in a group of 6. At the transition to singletrack and I stayed at the back. It was a short climb, no need to a pass them and then stand aside as the FS bikes sped away on the downhill.
The descent to Aid0 is another great trail. The sun is blocked by huge trees, the singletrack has bridges over deep ravines and streams, and when pedaling over the soft trail there's no noise. Lower down the dirt is harder and rockier. And surprise, there are climbs and climbing switchbacks, this is not all "descent". Aid0 was relief, from this point on I knew the course. It was 70 degrees here but I was thirsty. I slurped up big slices of watermelon and took two bottles of iced GU. The initial climb was all in shade, when the gravel started the GU had kicked in and I was thinking I had "century legs" (just spin forever). After a few miles in the sun the heat was on. I finished off the iced drink and sipped warm camelbak water. I passed one rider who was off the bike and slowly limping uphill. He said he was alright. Passed a few more geared riders.
At the aid station (#3) at the top there was nothing cold left. The ice was gone and I was hot. Kim and Ruben had volunteered to work the station and luckily had brought along my cooler with some cooled protein drinks. I refreshed (somewhat) and took off for the loop. I climbed/stumbled past a female racer and maybe encouraged her by saying "Only one more switchback and it's downhill". A few minutes later she zoomed by on the DH. Then it was my turn on the next climb. I passed Aid3 on the loop and was feeling the heat. It was 88 in the shade (at altitude), my monitor read 111 in the sun.
The ride to Aid2 was a survival ride, drink what I could stomach and ride on. I went through Aid2 without stopping, I had water but it was not effective. On the descent the hot wind had destroyed any cool pockets of air. On any normal day you could expect some relief in the shade, but not today. The wind was blowing like a SoCal Santa Ana.
On this ride I wished for suspension, I wanted to get out of the oven as fast as possible. I made it to the bottom to complete the 60 mile loop. (edit: 10,000' climbing) They gave me a wet towel for cooling off, it had little effect. I avoided being DNF's on time but I told Shiggy I was done. Any more riding would be foolish. My monitor said 103 degrees in the shade, 118 on the bike.
Many thanks to Shiggy and all the volunteers. It was a great race and I'll be back next year. (Pictures later)