Last weekend, EJ and I did Epic Ride’s Whiskey Off-Road and well certainly be coming back again!
I really had my sights on doing the Whiskey, Catalina Grand Fondo and SDMBA’s Archipelago … but all three organizers all picked the same day for fun. (So sad!) I was a little hesitant going out for a ride that I hadn’t done before… I mean, after race registration, hotel, food, etc… they all end up being an expensive weekend.
We got into Prescott, AZ the Friday evening and stayed at the recommended Springhill Suites. The best part of staying there? Not having to drive ALL weekend (hear heaven’s angles, do you?! yeah!) The hotel was a whooping 4 blocks or 5 minutes walk from ‘town’.
After stashing our bikes, we layered up to keep us warm from the slight elevation’s chill and walked over to register, get dinner and listen to the options for next days ride.
This race has 2 options to choose from, they’re designed to really reduce and pace traffic along the course. Even though we signed up to do the 30 mile course, by adding the 2 longer options you could actually bite off 37-38 miles. By the end of the first night, I new that these race organizers were WAY organized as opposed to other MTB races I’ve been to. This was going to be a lot of fun!
Next morning, I was thankful for our 9.30am start. Just enough time to eat, relax and NOT get up at the crack of dawn to pedal my bike. I was also 100% thrilled for the ‘race tattoo’… completely practical temporary tattoo of the race course elevation. I new that I had ~5,000 feet of climbing for the day – this made it easy for me to know exactly I was suffering… and how much more I had to go.
The race started on a paved, gradual uphill to spread out the field. There was ~700 riders in the 30 mile race… ~500 in the 50 mile. Then we had our first option. My plan was to do the first shorter option, then the 2nd longer option; both single track.
The first shorter option was a bit of a mistake. Being ‘shorter’ also meant that plenty of other people took this course and every time there was something technical to clear there was a pile up. When I mean technical – I don’t mean impossible to clear… just impossible from a really slow pace. So I learned a lot about riding with different technical abilities, when and how to get quickly off the trail if a speedy guy is behind me and exactly how much space I need to see what’s coming my way. (Unfortunately like most of the guys, I can just muscle my way through technical issues…)
I also quickly figured out that I brought the wrong bike. I had brought my hard tail, not wanting to carry the extra weight during all the climbs. My ass was hanging back most decents and I was bottoming out left and right with my little 80mm front. Oh well, as least the guy behind me got a good view! 😉
All of the above being said, it was FABULOUS single track! I immediately told myself that I’m coming back to explore more… challenging but fun, flowy in some places and a lot of heavy breathing (living at sea level did not help me!) The downhills were nice an long… so as long as you paid attention there were no places you needed to get off your bike to clear. (These parts also clued me in that I need to start lifting weights again… my arms were shot by the end!)
Shortly after the first option, I was able to take my 2nd longer option and was suddenly alone (most of the time). Not a lot of people to get bottlenecked with and I could go my own pace. The single track was great and I could just focus on what I love. Camelback was also doing a promo on this section and I scored myself a nice new water bottle. 🙂
I’ll admit, although this race boosts unreal views – my eyes were on the trail. The view glimpses I got when I would stop to grab a bite were pretty awesome. But, alas, no procures because, well, I was just too damn tired.
After clearing the top of the 2nd climb, I knew that the last miles were mostly single track and downhill. YEAH!!
So there I am, bumbling along, having a good time… and, what!?, why can’t I shift? ok, let’s put the chain back on… again… why is my rear derailleur sticking out like that?? *Sigh* So after who knows how long (and my nice people to help me figure out that I’m f*cked) my rear derailleur is stuck in a forward position, no one could get it free – so although I can’t pedal, I can coast.
Which is exactly what I do for the last 6 miles of the race. Coast downhill where I can, use the bike as a scooter on the flats and run the bike up hills (which, of course, was the last 100 meters of the race).
DFL. That was my place. I can’t remember if I’ve ever been there before… But I was THRILLED to finish.
In the end, I had to suck up my pride and accept a lot of help from a lot of different people. Especially, Steve the Kiwi who made sure that no one came crashing into my slow ass as they were pushing for the finish line. I was greeted at the finish line by many of the people that helped me get there… and I was thankful.
I picked up my damn pint glass (so happy that it wasn’t another medal) and filled that puppy up!
I’m sure you can imagine that next year I have to redeem myself. I can’t let this be the end to the Whiskey Off Road for me!
Have you ever had a great race but crashed and burned before the finish line?