This past weekend I made a trip over to the Olympia area to ride in the first ever Capital Forest 50/100. That is the official title of the event and it turned out prophetic.
Having jumbled thoughts on this ride, please excuse the bullet points in place of the extraneous commentary that usually comes along with my ride reports.
- For a first time event, things were reasonably well organized, but could have been better. I have confidence the race organizer, who seemed like a very nice guy, will make the event better next year, so keep an eye out for it.
- The course is a 50-mile loop, done once or twice.
- The course is hard. It is fairly technical, fairly muddy in places even though it was considered "dry" by some locals, has a lot of vertical (about 5,900 ft each loop), and it is also hard. Oh, I mentioned that, didn't I?
- Course marking was very good except at a few key points where there was two way traffic, which included both aid stations out on the course, which resembled a figure 8 except that you stayed on the "outside" of it (does that make sense?).
- The volunteers could not have been friendlier or more helpful. No really, they couldn't have been.
- The ride time was billed at 6.30 am start with 8 pm close to the course. In the days before the event, they moved the start time up to 6.10 am. In reality, there wasn't enough daylight to start until 6.45 am and they had to close the course by 7.30 pm because there wasn't enough light to see after that.
- This is relevant for me because I wasn't riding fast enough to feel confident about riding the whole 100 miles, my intended distance, in the shortened time. My pace would have kept me inside 14 hours, but not confidently in 12.5 hours. Bummer for me.
- Crashing hard also took some spirit out of me. I had a stupid crash exiting a very slippery bridge after which there was an immediate rise to the left. I accelerated (I know it was stupid) with 5' of bridge left and managed to push my tire right out from under me. Hard hit on left side.
- My next crash (oh yeah, more than one) involved an upturned tree root grabbing my right arm and shoulder as I passed it too closely and ripping me off my bike in a painful twisting motion. As I rode away from this one, I could feel my shoulders, trunk and pelvis all pointing directions other than forward.
- My other crashes (yes, a few) were much more simple, but involved various tree roots and sticker bushes.
- Even though I rode whole thing with arm warmers and knickers, my arms and legs still have numerous scratches, small abrasions and I have a few king-sized bruises which are still surfacing two days later.
- The course, in addition to be hard and technical, was also beautiful. The Olympic Forest has 160 miles of single-track and the Friends of the Olympic Forest apparently volunteer to do most of the maintenance, so hats off to them. That much growth and greenery and mud must make it challenging to maintain.
- I recently read about a helmet mounted camera that is on my holiday gift list. I wish I had had it with me as this course was really beautiful in a "you have to see it believe it" way. Even the water/waterfall crossing where I thought I was going to die.
- While I am a long way from being an expert mountain biker, I was gratified to have guys who were experts talking about some sketchy areas or difficulties. It makes my assessment seem more reasonable.
- Did I mention that my rear hub failed? That didn't help. It would intermittently seize so that my chain was sucked into the wheel. When it was less bad, it barked at me like a loud, angry duck every other second. When it was bad, I literally could not coast for a single foot, having to keep tension on the chain continuously, which meant I had to brake downhill and had much less opportunity to move, stand or shift positions. When you can't, you get the idea of how regularly you stop pedaling on a mountain bike, even if for just a second or two.
- When I pulled into the start/finish area after my 50 miles, I was bummed that I made the decision to quit there instead of going for the second lap. I could have ridden more but with the 100% likelihood that I would have been pulled from the course at a later aid station, but there was a diminishing to non-existent return to this idea.
- Almost lastly, PW and I started out to ride this together; recognizing that PW would have to wait at the top of hills, and also at the bottom of hills, and also after technical sections, and probably some other times. He was a good sport about it, but it became apparent after less than auspicious start for me and then having a mechanic look at the rear hub (and suggested that I stop riding) that I was not on a schedule to do 100 miles, but PW still had a chance to do it if he took off on his own. I suggested we go with the Top Gear Rule - loosely translated as the failure of one to proceed shouldn't hold up the others - and wished him well.
- Remember when I said that the course marking was mostly good? PW got bad directions at the first aid station on his second loop, sent the wrong way and ended up at the Start/Finish area after 70 miles and a bit over 8 hours of riding. They wouldn't let him go back out since he couldn't finish another 50 miles and there wasn't a good loop for him to do another 30.
- Lastly, I spent the whole day feeling off my game, even before crashes and mechanicals. I thought that I would show up on the results list just before the DNF and DNS group and maybe a few other unfortunate types. I was therefore pleased to have finished in the top 2/3 of 50 milers and a full 30 places ahead of PW (no, that doesn't really make sense). To be fair, I averaged a meager 7 1/2 mph and PW was over 8 1/2 mph; still, that makes for a long, slow day.
In conclusion, I feel a bit better after having seen the results and realizing that there were people out there taking longer than me to ride the course. That's sad, in a way, isn't it, but it's also true. Final analysis - It was a hard day on a hard course. I'm ready to rest for a while.