OBRA mountain bike race GOATS Oakridge MTB

‘Puff Daddy! by Nathan Pfeifer

With all of our worldly possessions in a moving van heading to Washington I took a “break” from packing to take another stab at the race I said I would never do: the Cascade Cream Puff 100. As I was coming up toward the top as a mountain bike racer I heard about the CCP. It was a race down in Oakridge, Oregon which claimed to be ridiculously hard and totally awesome at once. At that time, I couldn’t imagine riding 50 let alone 100 miles on a mountain bike and hence determined that I would never ride such a crazy race.

I continued to hear how rad it was but basically ignored it until 2006 when my friend Ben Thompson won the it just days before we left for Europe to race the Transalp Challenge. Undoubtedly the CCP sawed off his lower extremities so instead of me chasing him up all the climbs in the Alps and Dolomites the opposite occurred. However the seed of possibility was planted and when I finished third overall in the NUE series in 2008 I knew I would eventually give the mother of all Hundies a shot.

In 2009, as the wheels came off my wagon I followed through but after seven days of racing in a row in Breckenridge, a nasty crash at Marathon Nationals to start the week and a “rest” day of driving in between my day was cut short with a nasty cut tire. That year was the old “two-lap” course and just completing a half of lap in the rain that day was enough for me.

With chronic fatigue in full swing I didn’t have the courage to take another shot until 2011 when I raced the “three-lap” course on my single speed. I felt awesome that day and despite a broken rear brake rotor on the first descent, I was able to win my category and finish second overall.

So another two years later with the big move to Washington a reality I decided last-minute to race another ‘Puff. This time the steady trail steward of Oakridge had built several miles of fresh single track connecting parts of the two courses I had previously done to create an all new two-lap course maximizing the available trails. I couldn’t resist!

Leery of another early morning debacle I woke up at 3:30 to take my thyroid pill and then rode from Oakridge to the start in Westfir just to make sure I was “awake”. I got off to a decent start but didn’t have the form I had in Bend at High Cascades. Moving is hard work and late nights probably didn’t help either. In any case I was happy to reach the first aid station in the lead and tried not to look back.

As I entered the first loop of trail I realized all over again why the Cream Puff is still the ONE. The trail was like a finely manicured ribbon sweeping through a tunnel of magnificently huge fir trees. When the occasion presented itself, the views from the ridgelines treated riders with a seemingly endless sea of the surrounding Cascade Mountains with the mighty Willamette river, various lakes and reservoirs and of course snow covered volcanic peaks in the distance.

Though not all the trails around Oakridge were purpose built for mountain biking, they seem perfectly suited for two human powered wheels as nearly every inch offered up either the perfectly graded technical challenge or equally awesome sample of beauty to behold!

I managed my bottles and pacing well through the first big lap enjoying every butterfly in the grassy alpine meadows and carving each switchback with a loving caress from my tries. It was basically the perfect execution of 50 miles of mountain bike racing. Then I reached the bottom and I had to do it again…

In a lapse of near perfect planning I didn’t leave a bottle at the start/lap/finish area and had to improvise. Apparently the calories weren’t quite enough and I started to notice I was slowing on the long climb back to the neutral aid station where I had my stash. After doubling up on sugar, I felt better but when I came back through the last time I somehow managed to leave without a full bottle.

I didn’t make this discovery until I reached for it 15 minutes later and realized I was on conservation mode until I could make the final aid stop. The same trails that had seemed so blissful the first go-round were already feeling like hard labor and this development made the journey even more toilsome.

Its interesting to me how something that can make one nearly salivate with anticipation can invoke utter fear just hours later. Knowing I had the hardest climb punctuated with the heavy slow new trail to come made me question begin to question why I had come back to the CCP.

My body began to cannibalize itself but luckily I made it to the last aid station with some time still in hand. I pounded a gel and a bottle of energy drink before filling another for the final leg of my journey. The damage was done but at least my blood sugar came back to the point where I could enjoy the final downhill to the finish. “Enjoy” is a relative term at the end of the Cream Puff though where finishing is where the only real satisfaction can be found!

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