Saturday, October 22, 2011

Three rides

"Maybe sometime we can all have a relaxing pack or bikepack trip with camping, swimming, and soaking. Something relaxing. Jill, when you visit your friends it usually involves some kind of hell walk or ride," my friend Bill wrote to me. We have been exchanging e-mails and scheming our plans for the 25 Hours of Frog Hollow. I wrote that I was secretly (or not so secretly) looking forward to disassembling myself completely over 25 hours of mostly darkness in the Southwestern Utah desert.

"I don't think I'm going to win but it's been so long since I really tried to unravel myself," I wrote. "Tahoe Rim Trail was the last time, really, and that was a painful disaster. I'm optimistic that I'll be able to turn Frog Hollow into the soul-crushing experience I desire without too much specific physical pain." It was a declaration of anticipated suffering that I thought would even impress "Missoula's endurance mountain biking champion."

But my former Montana adventure-partner-in-crime could only laugh at me, and wistfully dream of a peaceful, friendly reunion that we were throwing aside for a purposeless quest in adversity and solitude. Still, I know that Bill, who has already enjoyed a long successful summer of bicycle racing, is going to show up for our parallel solo battle ready for pain. Even though I spent my summer either running slowly, injured, or hiking, I too wish for battle-ready fitness. The race is in two weeks. Cram session.

On Thursday I had to go into the doctor for a second rabies shot as part of my Nepal vaccinations. I figured I could squeeze in a couple of hours on the road bike afterward. I'm not sure if I ate something bad for lunch or if I had an adverse reaction to the shot, but soon after I left the doctor's office I did not feel well, not well at all. I had to backtrack down Mount Eden Road, twice, to the bathrooms at Steven's Canyon. Normally I would just give up and go home, but the Frog Hollow devil sat on my shoulder and told me to "use the pain." "Gotta practice feeling bad on the bike," I told myself, and continued pumping the pedals. I managed to motor through decreasing waves of nausea to the 3,000-foot "top" on Skyline Drive. 28 miles (plus four from the initial commute) and 3,600 feet of climbing. It felt like a victory. One Frog Hollow demon slayed. (GPS track here.)

On Friday, Beat and I were planning an evening run with our fully loaded packs. There's nothing like focused training for two wildly different events at the same time. I didn't want to overdo it so I planned a lunchtime "spin class," using the fastest bike in the house (Beat's Specialized S-Works Roubaix) for a higher intensity ride up Monte Bello Road. Due to accumulating fatigue I couldn't even engage my high gears, but I still set a PR on the 8.7-mile, 2,600-foot climb at 51:50 from my house. The exact same climb usually takes me 1:15 on my mountain bikes (it's the access point to my local trails.) I swear the S-Works pedals itself. Despite giving most of the credit to the bike's prowess, I still felt fast. Two Frog Hollow demons down. (GPS track here.)

On Saturday I conned Beat into joining me on a "moderate" mountain bike ride; you know, only five hours or so. He wanted to ride the singlespeed so I took the Fatback in an effort to better match his bike's energy demands. We did a fantastically fun loop of trails that ended at the bottom of Grizzly Flat, near 1,300 feet elevation. I declared that I wanted to head back up the ridge on the Table Mountain Trail, a route I have only climbed once and remembered vaguely as "steep." Beat took the smart route, which was the trail toward home.

The initial singletrack threw in challenging obstacles that I powered up with glee. When it comes to any kind of technical trail, I've found I'm actually the most comfortable on a fat bike, because I don't even have to pick a line. I just point the huge wheels that fill up nearly the entire trail and monster-truck my way to mountain bike awesomeness. I ground over boulders and steamrolled across roots and even successfully lifted the monstrous front wheel onto a particularly eroded ledge, something I usually wouldn't even attempt with my much lighter Element.

I reached the end of the singletrack at elevation 1,759, mile 22.5, and proceeded to climb to 2,555 feet at mile 23.7. That's 800 feet in one mile, up a rocky, loose-gravel fireroad, on a fat-tire bike that weighs well over 30 pounds. I planted my butt in the saddle to keep the rear Endomorph from spinning out (those tires have the worst traction; I'm sorry, they do) and cranked the quad-burning granny gear at a blazing 3 miles per hour. The Frog Hollow angel sat on my shoulder and said "use the Zen." I zoomed all of my focus on a tiny patch of gravel and thought of Hurricane's Jem Trail, weaving a red ribbon through the sagebrush, cast in silver by the light of the moon. It's a beautiful, blissful descent that a lap race such as Frog Hollow affords many visits to. As many as I want. As many as my legs can handle. Go, legs, go!

Yes, bliss is 80 degrees, sunshine and five hours on a Fatback. Who knows how the 25 Hours of Frog Hollow will turn out? But the training sure is fun. (GPS track here.)