June 22, 2010

Test of Endurance 50

I used to be a runner.  I ran long distances – pretty often, pretty fast.  I actually won a 50 mile race once.  But I don’t run much anymore, just enough to remember how and to get ready for cross season.  Now I ride my bike and I love it; on Sunday I rode my bike for 5 ½ hours.  

Let me rephrase; Sunday was the Test of Endurance and I raced my mountain bike for 5 ½ hours.  The Test of Endurance was HARD.  8,300 feet of climbing over 50 miles; gravel road climbs, slippery as snot muddy descents, 2 laps, 4 gels, a bottle of Perpetum sludge, and a smile as I crossed the finish line.  Wow – that was tough. 

I have run more marathons than I can count on both hands, and more than a few ultras, but this race topped them all.  The TOE is hard; but in some crazy sort of way, fabulous and awesome and fun. 

After the mud was washed away and the battle wounds tended to, we gathered on the floor of the Blodgett School Gymnasium among some of the strongest, most talented cyclist in the nation.  The Men’s Podium was stacked, Carl Decker, Adam Craig, and Chris Sheppard occupied the top three steps, but the next seven were familiar names as well: Erik Tonkin, Sean Babcock, Barry Wicks, Luke Pennington, Brig Brandt, Ryan Trebon and Ben Thompson.  Alice Pennington took top honors in the Women’s field, broke the course record and schooled the rest of us……..but it didn’t matter.  

It didn’t matter if you finished in 3 ½ hours or 6 ½ hours, we all accomplished something that forced us to push our limits.  We all had to eat and drink and think happy thoughts. We had to stay focused and ready and poised.  We were out there to see what we could do; and after the fact, reflect on what we could have done differently. 

The Test of Endurance was the second to last race in the Oregon XC Mountain Bike Series.  Seems like a long time since we drove to Eastern Oregon for Echo Red to Red.  I have learned a lot about racing my mountain bike since then, but have so much more to learn.  This morning, riding bikes with Don, I learned something; every time I get on my bike I learn something. 

Sunday is Sunnyside’s own Pickett’s Charge, held on the new Wanoga trails; the last race of the series and my last mountain bike race until High Cascade 100.  I’ll race on the road in July, HC 100 in August and then, you guessed it – CYCLOCROSS!