high cascades 100 NUE OBRA mudslinger events

At the front–briefly, OregonVelo

With just one weekend left before our big move to Wenatchee, I still had a little unfinished business left in Oregon. This would be my third try at the High Cascades 100 and I had good training and high hopes for the race.

Things got underway at the ridiculously early 5:30AM start from Bend. As we pedaled up Century Drive I felt decent despite the unreasonable hour and was happy that the temperature wasn’t near freezing like the other two times I’ve done this event. The pace was mellow even as we hit the dirt and I had little trouble staying at the front.

Barry Wick-nasty (Kona) led me into the single track as we paid homage to the late Steve Larson and seemed to be a little slow through the sweeping turns. Then he was really late and washing out the front end! I eased up and expected him to save it only to watch his wheel hook up and launch him over the high side. As I steered clear, Barry immediately clutched his shoulder and I soft pedaled until we reached the Funner/Storm King intersection in case he was able to get back on.

Apparently WickNasty’s day was over with a broken collarbone so we pressed on and I led into the first aid station. I brought two of my teammates along for support yet neither of them were there with my bottle. Instead I took a neutral bottle and pressed on still feeling well.

However, as we trundled up the long gradual climb to the second aid station I started to feel my energy levels dwindle. This was strange for me especially just over an hour into a race. I reached for the bottle and discovered it was just stale water. I kept moving yet I was beginning to feel more lethargic by the moment. I also felt like the energy drink I had consumed earlier had passed directly into my bladder so I made a stop to water some trailside bushes.

Corey Wallace (Kona) caught up and I allowed him to pass just as we began the descent into Swamp aid station. I discovered this was another mistake as his pace on the downhill was far slower than I intended to ride. I got a proper bottle there and made my way back to the front as we continued downward toward Tumalo. I dropped Corey and gained a couple minutes but promptly lost all of that as we began the long climb back up to Mt Bachelor.

I stopped for a bottle refill at the third aid station and Corey passed me for good shortly thereafter. The fluids still seemed to be draining right through my radiator despite the warm temperatures and dry air. I didn’t even feel like I could push the pedals hard enough to break a sweat but soon I had to stop for another nature break and my old buddy Sean Babcock (S&M) came into sight.
I managed to stay ahead of Sean throughout the climb up to Dutchman despite feeling like I was barely going forward. Then as we dropped down into the aid station I slowly began to feel my energy levels return. Like a spark touching tinder, my metabolism picked up momentum. Leery of pushing too hard, I proceed carefully down toward Lava Lake only pressing on the descents.

By the time I passed the lakes I was going well and the three hours of dead legs seemed only a memory. I quickly caught and passed Cary Smith (Team CF) just a couple miles past the spot I caught him last year. On the ensuing descent I rode sensibly feeling confident that I would be in third place soon. Sure enough I began to pick up dust lingering in the air indicating that I was just seconds behind a higher podium spot.

Then disaster struck as I clipped what appeared to be a small stick hidden under the brush. Instead it was just the tip of a two-foot, two-inch diameter monster that managed to flip into the back of my fork just above the front tire. It took about one millisecond to jam the spinning wheel and I was instantly hurled over the bars. Luckily for me there was no snapping bone and I was able to avoid my bike as it cart-wheeled by me.

I spun the front wheel expecting my totally awesome Industry 9 Trail to be bent. Fortunately it was straight as new but as I remounted my right foot slipped off the pedal. Looking down all hope of victory was lost as I discovered that my pedal body was completely gone and only the shaft remained!

Knowing I was only minutes from the next aid stop, I rode on still feeling good but unable to press due to the tiny slippery shaft I had to pedal with. In this area there are countless lava flows crossing the trail and as I faced the next one I awkwardly hurled my bike over it using momentum rather than finesse to carry the obstacle. This was my final mistake of the day: as my rear wheel plowed into the sharp rocks one of them tore through the sidewall of my up-until-now impenetrable Kenda SCT tire.

I gamely swapped the tube only to discover that it wouldn’t hold air. At the time I thought it may have been damaged in my saddle bag but later I found that the tire had multiple thorns in it. Fortunately a kind fellow handed me another tube and this time it held air well enough to make to the Edison aid station. I stopped again there to top off the tire with air and another bottle.

Cary had passed me back during the double tube change and I never saw him again despite gaining time over the last 25 miles of the race. In the end, I had no trouble holding onto fifth place but was left to ponder what could have been that day. I still have no explanation for my lack of energy during the early morning hours other than it being some symptom of the thyroid problems I’ve had this year.

The stick/pedal/flat tire episode was simply mountain bike racing and I have done well to avoid this sort of drama for a long time. All said, this was about the best I’ve ever felt at the end of a Hundy so maybe its time to be over those too…

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