Saturday, May 31, 2008

24-hrs Takes its Toll

Riding a mountain bike over a bumpy course for 24-hours is an annual challenge that I seem to enjoy since I do it every year. I can not find a sane answer as to why I like torture myself with this 24-hr race. But every year I am enlightened with something new about myself and how my body fuels, hydrates, and reacts to extended riding time.

This year I rode only for 16-hrs of the 24 for a total distance of 190-miles. Not good enough for fame and glory, but I am satisfied that next time I will be better prepared. I started the event not well hydrated and my body let me know it by making me sit out after every 60-miles or 4-5 hours of riding to rehydrate to a minimal amount to again start riding at my desired speeds.

For the first time ever I had a support crew helping me (in the past I did this unsupported which I found difficult, but attainable). A support team makes a huge difference since I no longer had to fill up my own water bottles, get my food, or maintain my bike throughout the race. Plus they provide encouragement a push me onward when I was getting mentally tired. Overall it was great to have the both of wife, Donna, and Scott my friend and race mechanic. Finally there was Scott's son, Everest, (aka Master Yoda), who schooled me in using my internal Force to achieve greatness within and speed on the bike...very advance words of wisdom coming from a 4-yr old, words that I continue to use.

After the race I traditionally eat dinner with a group of friends from Sandpoint then breakfast the following morning and we top off our fun with a slow ride around the race course picking up racer trash (used gel packets, energy bar wrappers, and typically some lost rider swag like tools, lights, etc.) I am not sure why some of these piggish racers feel it is necessary to throw their used wrappers on the trail instead of back into their jersey pockets, and I have an ill feeling about them after I've personally picked up 50 or 60 of these (just as everyone else in my post ride group has). Part of their race fees do not include litter pickup off the trails and I personnally think any racer found littering purposefully should be disqualified.

This is the funnest post-race ride I've done simply because Donna decided to ride the 15-mile course with us. She is not a traditional cyclist, but you would never know that by the way she climbs the hills and rides over things many beginners would walk. I put her on my Ellsworth for the ride and afterwards she announced quite forcefully that my Ellsworth was now her bike...hmmm. There was also several people from the Sandpoint crew that were trying to recruit her onto their 24-hr race team next year. So the end story is that Donna may start racing...she's got her co-workers at the Wound-Care Clinic fired up to make a local team...Warriors Over Wounds or WOW! Hmmm...I'm excited even if it mean I will need to share my bike(s).

I have a few more planned outings for self torture tests this year, but much depends on the expense of fuel to get there. Otherwise it will be local backcountry outings of endurance that will satisfy my insane desires to ride all day on a mountain bike.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


With restless needs to explore I am continuing to test the snow depth/elevation...which means I ride as high up as I can until I hit impassable snow. On my last re-con mission I found the snow level at 5100' was the end of the ride...much improved over just a few weeks ago. I anticipate that this weekend's high temps may put a final end to the over-abundance of impassable snow for this year. The cool thing on this trip was finding flowers growing right beside the snow at elevation. The snow seen in the back ground is 3-feet deep which also just so happens to be the road I was's like someone just drew a line and said, "The snow will end here!"

It was a great place for some lunch amoung the little purple flowers, with a wind-block provided by a sizeable ponderosa pine, and just enough sun making it through the thin clouds to provide some warm comfort. Aaaaa...this is the life! After contenting my self with wild-flowers, fresh-air, and the green of pine trees I headed back to the wastelands below.

Knowing that snow still blocks my desired routes I turned to my next essential life need...Pizza! Yesterday morning I decided it was "Eric Needs a Slice-of-Pizza Day" in Pullman and promptly found myself drooling with anticipation on what became a hungry sprint ride to Pullman on my mountain bike...taking as much dirt road as possible of course. Coincidentally there is a Pizza shop that sells by-the-slice that is remarkably close to B&L Bicycles in Pullman.

My mouth was watering all the way up Stepto Canyon in anticipation of that Pizza slice and I was making great time even with the increasing strength of the crossing-headwinds to full-on headwinds. The sky had been cloudy since I left and did not look threatening, plus the mighty National Weather Service-Disney-fantasy-weather-machine said there was only a very slight chance of rain...hmmm that should have clued me in a bit more. About 3-miles from Pullman I could smell not pizza, but rain! The winds were suddenly much colder and stonger, which dissolved my Pizza hunger in a hurry.

Then a sinister smile appeared on my face and the self challenge had changed into a 34-mile race home to see if I could beat the inevitiable rain, now on the immediate horizon. I turned the SuperCal 29er around into another (now changed) headwind and started my sprint home...I was sickly happy, chuckling all the way. At Johnson I was being hit with some very fine little sprinkles which made me tap additional power to speed this endeavor along (Note: At this point I was riding down the road at a tilt to compensate for the huge cross-winds). Down Stepto Canyon the sprinkles turned into a fine mist...not enough for a rain jacket, but enough to mildly dampen the outer layer. On my doorstep as I was getting my key out the clouds let loose which started a gentle, soaking rain...(smiles)

Experience has shown me that weather and seasonal predictions are incompetent wizardry at best and seem to be more of a whimsical brain fart than a science. The fantasy computers used to predict weather and seasons I'm sure were programmed by Disney characters on psychotropic, mind-altering la-la drugs. So what this means is when the National Weather Service predicts there is a "very slight chance of rain" it really means it's going to pour on you while at the farthest point from home...."sunny" means cloudy, warm can mean either cold or blood-boiling HOT, a mild 3-5 mph wind means gail-force wind (a 10-15 mph wind means hurricane force winds) and the wind direction is always in your face no matter what they predicted.