Joel Wilson, Rolf Prima Sr. Engineer - Race Recap .. ...
The High Cascades 100 mountain bike race is the perfect event. It’s long enough, hard enough and the awesome trails go on and on and on. Riding high mountain singletrack for hours on end, stopping only briefly at full service aid stations, fill the bottles, grab a snack then have your re-lubed bike handed back to you to for more. Total indulgence.
Here’s how my day went:
I got my crash out of the way before the start when I highsided while noodling around on the sidewalk eating a grapefruit. Fully witnessed by friends and strangers.
Met up with Brian, Carrie and Adam on the startline. Adam coaxed Brian and I further and further forward while Carrie stayed back for a more modest staging for the extended road roll-out. Mike Ripley, the race director rambled through his pre-race routine and we were off.
I’ve done this ride before and I was honestly concerned about finishing due to a lack of miles in my legs this year. My last HC100 was with a great season of long rides under my belt and I went into it with confidence and still suffered a bit. This year my riding has consisted almost entirely of infrequent events with almost no riding in between. I was getting more saddle time in the winter…
With a long long day ahead I appreciated the “free miles” at the start; comfortably soft pedalling along on the pavement, 60 riders or so back from the front of the MTB peloton. It’s always fun to look around at the start of an event like this. The usual cast all astride their exorbitantly nice mountain bicycles. Surprisingly little chatter, mostly limited to guys that already know one-another regarding so and so being here or there. Race faces on.
We met the first dirt road climb and the group strung out nicely. I rode a little harder than I anticipated, coaxed on by Adam who was in site just up ahead. The loose sandy roadbed dictated two single file lanes of uphill traffic separated by uncertain soft ruts. The doubletrack turned to a dusty loose switchbacky single track climb. I was fortunate to settle into a rhythm with a good group, the only cries of missed lines were from behind as we powered up the short sharp switchbacks.
The first aid station had bottles to hand-up as most riders were rolling through fast. I took the time to get a 3 scoop perpetuum bottle mixed and munch a PB&J. On long rides like this the little things can make a huge difference. It’s too easy to forget to fill a bottle or forget to eat, undervaluing the importance of those things when they’re available, then suffering through miles with dry bottles and caloric deficit. It’s also too easy to blast through an aid station without seeing the smiling volunteers, some of whom have been up since 3 am setting things up so we can ride. They don’t let you hang around too long though, this is a race you know!
With a few more stretches of gently climbing dirt & gravel road roads a small paceline formed including Adam and myself. We traded pulls until the grade increased and the close formation opened up. Adam was pushing it. I knew at this point that I would be much happier in the long run if I set my own pace and let him and others gradually roll away up the hill.
I guess there was some more double track but what I remember is from that point out it was pretty much seemingly endless singletrack that got sweeter as it got more remote. Aid station 2: Perpetuum refill, top off the water, PB&J, chain service, thank you!
The third aid station, Skyliners sno park, was about half way through the race at mile 53. Usual aid station routine, but this one was serving up bug spray too. Thank you!
Seemed like we’d been climbing quite a bit and things should start to turn down but the stretch to Dutchman Flat would be long, crossing snow drifts and streams at the upper reaches.
Pristine high mountain singletrack that goes on and on. Totally indulgent. Maybe I could have gone faster. If I don’t stop to take a leak I won’t lose position and possibly get stuck behind someone slower in the singletrack. What am I going to do though, hold it for the next 5 hours? I made the right decision and again it was one of those little things that makes the ride that much better. I did get stuck behind a couple guys in a swoopy singletrack descent through trees. I’m pretty sure they were enjoying it as much as I was. One of them noted that it was far more fun that road riding at home in central California. Yep.
The trees became more sparse as we climbed higher, opening into occasional lush green meadows cut through with twisting streams of snowmelt. Trailside wildflowers. Snowdrifts became more frequent. I stopped at one of the deeper stream crossings and freshened up, washing the caked dust from my face, arms and legs. The little things.
For a long time it seemed like there ought to be an aid station just around the corner. Then more snow drifts. Dismount, hike 20 feet, ride 20 feet, repeat… I convinced myself that the longer it took to get to the next aid station, the better that ice cold Coke would taste.
I was greeted at the Dutchman Flat aid station by Justin and a cheery encouraging crew of volunteers and supporters, just as Adam was saddling up to roll out. That Coke was everything I dreamed. I had to take my time, put down another couple PB&J’s and enjoy the cold delicious goodness in a can. Top off the water, Perpetuum, endurolytes, chain service. Thank you! Off for more awesome trail. And more and more and more with a general downhill trend from here out.
I was holding up pretty well so far, not having dipped into the suffer zone even on the infrequent steepest pitches. No significant pains, keeping it upright, just enjoying the ride. And it did start to pitch down. Now the effort was in hanging onto the grips to not get shaken off in the braking bumps leading into tight corners. Aid 5, Wanoga sno park. Misty informed me that Adam was about 3 minutes ahead of me and I should chase him down. “Eh. I’m not racing”. In the back of my head I’m wondering how well he’s holding up and how fast he’ll take those mostly downhill trails and road finish. This time I restrained myself and kept it to a couple PB&J’s and just a few dixie cup shots of Coke. Not racing, but there’s no sense in wasting time when we’re so close to the finish. I hope they have a cold Coke at the finish. 18 miles to go, mostly downhill.
The trails were rougher from here on, retracing much of what we climbed up in the morning. At this point my hands were starting to feel it from hanging on as my front wheel hammered into braking bumps leading into the tighter corners. I started caring a little less about how fast Adam might be diving through those corners and a little more about just hanging on. Speed jumping through tiddly winks in no condition to dare leave the ground. Swooping through storm king riding high on the banks and taking most of the bail-out lines. The trail popped out on pavement and I dropped into my secret MTB-TT position and looked for my rabbit on the horizon. Could that be him, just over the next crest? Nope, rec riders.
I pushed my top gear, anxious to get to the line. The final little stretch of singletrack was probably the most brutal, putting my worn hands back on the grips and hanging on through the bumps. Upon crossing the line I was handed a cold wet washcloth, and an ice cold Coke. Seriously classy event.
Just under 9 hours, three minutes behind Adam, never really uncomfortable. Total success. Once again the High Cascade 100 proves to be my favorite event. !!