Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Oakridge XC Race - Sun July 27th 2006

Hills Creek Lake
Not sure if I mentioned this before but they've instituted 1/2 Summer Friday's at work (2nd one so far). So Heidi took a 1/2 off and we headed down to Oakridge, OR for my first XC MTB race. It took about 3 hours to get there. It's in the foothills of the Cascade Mtns southeast of Portland. We decided to do some camping too. Getting there Friday night was an adventure. There's been some really hot weather here lately. In fact the weekend ended up being a scorcher with Fri, Sat, and Sun all being just over or right near 100 degrees out. So Heidi picked a campsite on the water. That's another interesting story. There's really no natural lakes around here either. The way lakes get made is dams are built and then the water fills in the valley and they call it a reservoir. The other thing is that the water is cold. Ice cold. It's snow melt basically that pours down out of the mountains. So even though its like 95 degrees out the water is still cold and you can hardly stand it. Accept for the man-made lakes where it gets a least of fighting chance of warming up. But then again the weather never really gets too hot around here. So there you are, stuck in this loop of seasons.

Camping in the Pacific Northwest
Anyway, back to my train of thought. The campsite was on the opposite side of this man-made lake called Hills Creek Lake. Looking at the map we decided to go left around it. The road suddenly turned from 2 lane to 1 lane and then to gravel. We stopped and sure enough. The map had a dotted line for the road. I had the truck so screw it lets see where this leads. It was a pretty cool drive along the lake with the mountains looming up over it. The road was basically cut into the side like a single track trail. You could even see some parts that had been washed away in prior years.

Finally we got to the camp ground which was actually located on the river that fed the lake. So no swimming because it was shallow, cold, and rocky. It was nice to go to sleep each night and hear the water rushing over the rocks though. Like having a rapids in your backyard. That night was a scorcher and humid. And humidity is usually never part of the equation out here. Plus we forgot the mosquito spray. Heidi had a travel size one which we used to spray her down and I tried to rub off some of it onto my skin. Well that had little affect because they damn near carried me away and I was left itching for days afterwards.

Saturday I went to pre-ride the course. We had stopped at the bike store on Friday night to chat with the locals and since I had no idea where the trail head was I stopped in there. After getting directions, and meeting yet another guy from Wisconsin (Stevens Point), I headed out. The single track was cool to start with. It followed along this mountain river on the right. So as you were winding through single track you could hear the rush of water. The singletrack was very smooth. Not very tight so basically you could just blast through it. I prefer the tighter stuff with some technical obsticales like rocks or logs but this had none of that. I did hear later that other courses do. Anyway after that I slammed into the section they call The Wall. Basically 2 miles of a gravel climb to the top of the mountain... /sigh. Good god I had to walk a couple sections because I just couldnt breath anymore. I found out later that the climb was 2.25 miles over 1100 feet which means a grade of 13%. Ouch. Once at the top it dipped into some singletrack along the ridge which was cool and then blasted down some switchbacks along the side of the mountain. Now again, I hate to sound like a broken record here but why don't they make the single-track more fun? Blasting down the mountain you just took 30 minutes to climb is not fun. Needless to say I wasn't too excited. It shot me out onto some rode where I pretended like I was in the Tour de France and blasted down that an intersection. I had just done 11 miles in 1.5 hours and I didn't want to burn myself out. I also felt kind of lost so I called Heidi. She knew where I was and I was close to where I had started. It was basically a loop. Another .5 miles ride would've brought me back to where I started.

We went swimming later that day at Hills Creek Lake. Heidi got stung by a bee so I spent the afternoon killing any bees that approached. It was a little cooler that night and after we cooked up dinner (chicken and pasta sound familiar?) we had a campfire, some smores and went to sleep. Oh there was this strange noise, we lit the lantern and this huge beetle, like 2 inches, was flying around and then landed on the latern. When I poked it with a stick it made a loud sound so I squashed it... Later I'd wish I'd saved it and tried to identify it.

Race Director Course Tour
The race started that morning at 10 am. It wasn't to organized. The promoter led us around on the bikes to show us where we started and finished. The start had all of us take off in one mass group, Beginers, Sport, Singlespeed, all age groups. Then the Pro / Semi-Pro / Elite / Experts took off about 30 minutes after us. The race started about 10:30, 30 minutes late. A breakaway formed right from the start and I sat at the back of that. Once we hit the gravel road I couldn't hang as they were pushing a fast pace so I got caught in no mans land between the pack and the breakaway for about 1 mile. We hit that section of singletrack along the stream and I still couldn't catch my breath. I wasn't making up ground but not losing it either. I caught a couple guys and then a couple caught me. Then we hit the Wall. This time I tried to really focus on my breathing. Last time I think I mentally quit. I was able to get almost to the top but finally my legs and lower back were just burning so bad I had to stop. The heat was like a sauna. I heard later that a number of folks needed help. It was 95+ and the sun was beating on that climb. When I started walking I got passed by a few riders even though it was only about 100 feet of walking. 2 were women. Awesome. I also took a Clif Shot because I just didn't have any energy. The top of the Wall was at the one hour mark. Unknown to me I had ridden to high up the Wall the previous day. There was a white van with water about 375 feet short of the top and we (the sport / beginner class) were sent into a single track section there. The Pro guys had to go all the way up and also do a second lap (but only to our height the 2nd time). I grabbed a water from the van and dumped it over my head and entered the single track behind the 2nd girl that passed me. I remember thinking she was going to slow me down. Right. She took off. I was scared. Normally I have no problem with descents and can make up ground. Well this was different. basically the single-track was cut into the side of this mountain. It was like being on the side of a cliff with and endless drop. After a few minutes I settled down and started feeling good. Maybe it was the Clif Shot or maybe it was being out of the heat (or both) but I started really enjoying this section of singletrack. I was laughing out load and thinking how fun it was and if my old buddies back home could enjoy this. It was really different. Ferns, green trees, moss, everywhere. And once in awhile the single track would come out into the open and the view was amazing looking across these vast expanses to other mountain peaks. You felt like you were in the clouds. I was getting the flow of it. And starting to catch glimpses of other riders ahead. On a fast switchback descent I caught and passed two guys. It dumped us on some fireroad where I caught one of the girls. Then we hit that pavement section and I was really feeling the power return to my legs. The return leg was 2 miles of gravel, double-track type road with lots of ruts. Shitty riding basically. Great for my style. The girl that got away in the single track was stuggling up a short steep climb and I passed like she was standing still. I hammered it down the gravel and passed two more guys. I was all alone the last mile and just kept pounding into the finish. I ended up 8th. It was only 14 miles and just over an hour (1 hour 25 minutes) - I wonder if I would have done better had it been even longer. I think some of the end of the race was people popping and me feeling better. These are some things I think about to trying a 12 hour solo around here which the seem to have alot of.

Wow. Long story...

Chris Isaak Concert - Sun July 27th 2006

We raced back on Sunday to see Chris Isaak at the Portland Zoo. Hot day but great show.

I'm spent. Sorry for the lack of updates.

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