So this past weekend I had plans to race the Bear Springs Trap MTB race on Sunday but instead I was sitting on the couch nursing my thrashed legs.
I was totally unprepared and underestimated the weather. The course is 70 miles away from Portland on the east side of Mt. Hood. When I got there it was snowing! 36 degrees is what the temperature in the truck said.
I tried to take a shot of the falling snowflakes next to my truck. The flash kind of causes some white out on the bike leaned up against the truck but I think you can see the snow fall.
Luckily I had tossed some booties, tights, jacket and some gloves just in case of rain but I wasn’t expecting snow.
It took me about 2 hours to get there. The cat 2 course was 18 miles so I thought I would pre-ride it to get an idea of the course. This is a very common thing to do back in the Midwest. Apparently not here and I was to find out why, 3 hours and 45 minutes later!
I’d say a good 1/3 of the course still had snow on it. The first 4 miles was brutal because there were awesome sections of single track, with patches of snow mixed in here and there that you had to walk/run. Within the first quarter mile the snow had caused the bottom of my booties to crack and so they would slide over the top of my shoe. My feet were cold and soaked and throughout the ride I kept having to stop and pull the boot down over my toes for warmth.
When I left Portland it was 50 degrees. It amazing that you can drive 1 hour and be in a totally different world. The snow on the drive there should’ve been an indication of what to expect. There were people driving the same direction to go skiing still! Don’t they know it’s the end of April!
I rode the first 4 miles in an hour. Granted I was riding with a beginner and stopping to talk to him every so often but still that’s a long time for a measly 4 miles.
With a 2 hour ride back home (total of 4 hours in the truck), I felt I should at least checkout the rest of the course.
Luckily the back half of the course had no snow. It was technical. And beautiful. Shale rocks. Looping corners. Stream crossings where you had to get off your bike and walk a 12 foot long log that was 4 inches wide, one slip and kaploosh – into the ice cold water. Riding along the Camas trail which basically meant it was alongside this mountain stream/river rushing by was awesome. At times you couldn’t see it but only hear the rush of the water. About two hours in, the sun had come out through the trees. There were these strange big flowers coming up right through the crystal clear water. I kept thinking how lucky I was to be able to ride this. I could tell that since the course was still being marked, I was the first person all year to be riding some of these sections of the course. The pine cones were crunching under my tires and some parts of the single-track were hard to make out with the combination of rock gardens and leaves and pine cones.
I can only say that I must’ve been on some kind of mountain bike riding high. The Garmin said 2 hours 30 minutes into it, and I thought to myself that perhaps I should stop and find my way back (the course was still being marked and at times I thought I might be dead if I get lost out here…) so I would be ok for tomorrow.
But I got to that point where I was like, ”I’m finishing this no matter what now!” It was like a challenge.
My feet got hot and warmed up (to which my wife would later say, “um that means signs of hypothermia dummy“). So the later part of the course was more bearable when it returned to having patches of snow. Then there was a brutal switchback climb. I had to walk most of it.
My mind started playing tricks. I would hear trees creak in the wind and think, “Is that a mountain lion? Did I just see bear scat? Am I going to get eaten by a bear out here?”
I saw only 1 person on the later part of the course. She had started riding it reverse. She was a local and said it was really beautiful out there and that I should come back in June and July. I had the course in the Garmin and you can bet your ass I was going to come back.
I was exhausted when I got back the truck. 3 hours and 45 minutes for an 18 mile ride. I watched the final minutes of the short track race then drove to Government Camp for a beer and burger. My legs were toast.
Sitting on the coach later that evening I made the decision not to come back the next day to ride the race. In hindsight, I should’ve stayed at a hotel or camped nearby, packed better clothes, and set a limit on riding time not distance.
Honestly I have no regrets though. I can’t think of better way to ride my first single-track of the season.