A couple days ago my son sends me an e-mail about a mountain bike race to be held in Annadel park next month. This is somewhat big news for the last time there was a bike race in the park was 23 years ago. We both took part in it. I don't remember how we did, but we finished...and it was still daylight. I still have the t-shirt. Now the news that once again a mountain bike race will be held there got me wired and fired about doing it. I don't think my son was considering doing it but seeing my interest he now is up for it, sort of. The course is to be about 25 miles long. The only information given so far is that it will start going up Canyon Trail and finish coming down Rough Go Trail. The rest of the route will be given on race day. I decided to start training for it.
Canyon Trail is my favorite to come down on after a ride through the park. It is a rough fire road littered with rocks about the size of your fist embedded in the dirt. Going up is a bit of work picking your way through for the smoothest line. Rough Go is like the name implies. I don't think it can be ridden up without having to get off several times. The rocks here range from the size of a loaf of bread, to the breadbox itself and throw in a microwave oven and kitchen sink every once in awhile. For those reasons I have never ridden that trail. Now I needed to try.
I planned to start by doing those two trails with a loop around the lake thrown in the middle. This works out to be about 7.5 miles. The first time was on the Santa Cruz bike with it's 26" wheels and full suspension. Ideally this combination would work better negotiating all those boulders on Rough Go. Well it did to a point. I made it down through Rough Go without crashing and causing my immediate death. But I was beat at the end. No way could I do 3 times that distance on the Santa Cruz. I figured I'd try the Fisher bike the next day. The Fisher has 29" wheels so this makes it more difficult to pick your way through tightly congested breadboxes. Technical stuff it is called.
The next day the ride went much better. The Fisher is a much faster bike (some bikes are over others. Don't ask me how this can be for I don't know) and Rough Go wasn't that bad on the bigger wheeled bike. "I can do this" I thought and the Fisher would be my bike of choice for race day.
This all sounds well and good. Not really. As I reached the upper portion of Canyon Trail where it levels out I see a bike in my rear view mirror and it is gaining on me at a steady pace. She passes me like I am walking. Yes, it was a woman and if that isn’t enough, she’s wearing gym trunks. At least she is riding a high-end mountain bike (I think, it all happened so fast) and not something picked up at WalMart. Later as I loop the lake we meet on the trail and she is still moving fast. At least I am too, sort of. In the blur she looked to be in her 30's. On Rough Go coming down I am following a fresh bike track and figure it is her for I've been following this track all along the lake. Maybe she too is training for this race.
Today I decided to do the same loop with another portion thrown in to increase the mileage a bit. I am on Canyon, still on the somewhat level part where the fist-sized rocky part begins and I am passed by...the same woman! She has become my nemesis. Now it is early in the ride and I'm fresh so I decide to try to stay with her. That lasted only long enough for me to determine she's probably in her late 20's, her arms are about the size of my wrist, she's got different gym shorts on plus a small backpack. Soon she is out of sight. At the level portion where I saw her yesterday I am now in oxygen debt and remained that way throughout the rest of the ride. I had to stop four times to catch my breath and drink some water. I thought if this were a race, everyone I passed back there would now catch up and pass me back every time I stop to check my vitals. Coming down Rough Go my arms felt as if they were the size of...well, my fist and spaghetti for muscle. I had only the strength left to barely hang on and hope for the best. This is what she looks like, just add longer hair.
I leisurely rode the remaining two flat paved miles back to the car. 9.8 miles total for the day. I thought about having to do that again, then add another 5 miles more on top of that. That would be a sufferfest of over 3 hours. I loaded the bike, sat there in the shade and returned a call to my wife. "What am I doing? Sitting here in the shade at the park thinking about taking up shuffleboard."