Doing it all the hard way...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Cross Camp 2011

Our bikes were flying. We had trouble keeping them on the ground.

Someone asked me how training camp was and I told them it was, “fast, fun, intense, relaxing and scary.”

We had the van loaded up and FUEL coffee in our cups and we were well on our way before eight Friday morning. We lamented that we were making the journey without one of our stalwarts, who had to stay to monitor a patient following surgery. If all went well, he would be joining the reinforcements coming over Saturday. We discussed the recent Tour de France in detail and speculated on all manner of cycling minutia. There was a light but persistent mist that didn’t let up until we were high in the Cascades. We expected, or rather hoped, it would be dry and sunny on the east side of the pass. We were right/lucky and it was nice.

On route to camp

One of our team members has a vacation home on the sunny side of the Cascades and when we rolled up, he stepped out to greet us. We unloaded the bikes and dropped our bags inside. We changed shoes and rode to the local general store and bought cold sandwiches, chips and drinks. After eating we returned and dressed for an afternoon ride.

With our cross bikes between our legs we hit the trail, and the sun felt wonderful on our arms. We had not yet seen summer in Seattle, so we soaked in the sunshine with the enthusiasm of a thirsty man drinking water. We started slowly and less than five minutes from the house, Matthew had our first flat. Changing out the tube like the seasoned veteran he is, we were soon on our way loving the single track trail. There were some small rollers that were fun to power up and then carry your speed over the top and down the far side. “Flat,” was yelled from behind. This time Sam was the victim. We all took the opportunity to add a few PSI to our tires. There would be two more flats on this Friday ride and we would refer to the ride distance as “a four flat ride.”

Sam led us in a rolling, rollicking rendition of "YMCA."

The trail had some rocks that necessitated backing off on the speed at times to avoid even more snakebites (pinch flats). When the trail was good we ramped up the speed and it was pure child-like fun. We were hot, but didn’t dare complain. We stopped by the house and grabbed thongs, suits and towels and pedaled up the road to a wide spot in the Methow River and jumped in.

Part of being President is having someone else carry your supplies

Nobody can style the team kit like the man we called "Flats."

Having the sun dry your skin in five minutes was a thrill we had forgotten in this summer-less summer.

We knew the stars were aligning when we enjoyed a tailwind all the way back. With man-like communication (almost none) we all pitched in and soon we had a salad, pizza and pasta salad for dinner. I brought some cookies Hottie had baked for us (is she cool or what?) and we savored some chocolate happiness after dinner.

Saturday brought the promise of a perfect day. Once again, with nary a word eggs and toast were cooking and soon we were seated outside eating and figuring out plans. We opted for a trail hike/run that took a lightly used foot trail that zigzagged straight up the south side of the valley. As we climbed the views just got better and better. A check of the watch told us we needed to turn around and after tightening my shoe laces we dropped back to the valley floor. As we turned toward the cabin we saw the Saturday reinforcements had arrived, and now we had ten middle aged bike riders.

We repeated the lunch at the general store and then we returned and dressed for the epic of the weekend.

Sometimes a "BEFORE" photo is a good reference point

This time we went down canyon and the single track trail swung back and forth and we challenged ourselves to go faster and faster. We were snaking back and forth upwards of twenty miles an hour. I found myself altering my position on the bike to increase my stability on the bike. My thoughts jumped back and forth between, “I can’t believe how fast we are taking these turns,” to “Wow, when I do THIS with my body weight, I feel almost…stable.” Brad had billed the weekend as “cross camp” and it was actually turning out that way.

Rolling on the road..

Instead of gravel made from rocks along this trail they have recycled glass that gets heated and turns into glass pellets. These beads are like rock gravel in every way including slowing you down like an anchor being dropped. If you get the light just right, they can look like a shooting star rooster tail, and it looks sooo awesome.

Preparing for track starts on the suspension bridge.

We crossed the road onto a jeep trail on the other side. We were riding on fire roads now and in addition to weaving back and forth, it climbed in chunks and we challenged ourselves to keep the pace high. Attack, turn, turn, attack, turn, turn power on; somehow we had a rhythm going and we were flying up these hills. It felt like we were on motorcycles. Our president misjudged a hill and went down hard; ending his day. That is all I’m going to say about that.

Our flow was interrupted as we collected a few more flats and then we stopped in town to buy some more tubes and Kevin needed more sealant for his tubeless tires as well. While we were stopped I downed two more bottles of nuun-enhanced water. The day was warm and we had lots of miles ahead of us.

Don't worry about how this looks. He's a doctor.

Just as we were ready to roll, Scott looked down to see that his rear tire had flatted just sitting there. It is difficult to maintain the façade of being serious cyclists when you have this comedy of errors that we called the flat parade. Marc was nursing a sore back and el Hefe was out of commission so they abandoned in town.

The remaining eight climbed out of town on paved road and in four miles we turned off a spur and the climbing got serious fast. We were exposed, and the sun cooked us and I gave thanks for full zippers. The grade would let up to four and five percent and then return to double digit steepness. The pavement ended and still we climbed. I watched my GARMIN. It had read 2,150 when we turned off the road. My cross bike has a single 42 tooth ring on the front and my legs were working hard just to keep moving.

We passed 3,000 feet. Then we began to string out and at 3,600’ we regrouped. I drank the last of my water. After a short stretch with a mild grade it was full on once again. Everyone was hurting as the grade would not let up and when you blinked, the loose stuff caused you to spin out. It required concentration and suffering. Finally we topped out at the cattle grate at 4,750 Banker Pass.

With the climbing behind us we headed down toward water, food and showers. We had 2,900’ to drop and about a dozen miles before we could call it a day. The road down followed a river and we were in shade on loose gravel with intermittent washboard that left our teeth rattling.

We made the most out of the chance to get more flats and our tally ticked up and up. We would finish the day with nine flats spread out over 50 miles and almost 4,000 of climbing.

Dave and his back up singers

I felt great and my theory about mixing Hammer products with different products with simple sugars proved correct. Just like in Ghostbusters, don’t cross the streams.

When we finally spilled out onto the valley floor we turned west and rode like the hungry fools we were. When we got to Brad’s place Sam and Marc had been shopping and were preparing dinner.

Before I washed off my "tan."

We showered and gorged ourselves on pasta with bacon and cheese, hot dogs, a green salad, and the last of Hottie’s cookies. We all drank like fish. I had no less than six bottles of water after returning and finally felt hydrated about ten that night.

Can you say "cooked?"

I was sore and it was comforting to see the others stretching and rubbing sore muscles and sucking down ibuprofen.

Each evening was filled with tire patching..

The effort of the day made sleep a welcome friend. After the dishes were done the conversation was short and we were soon horizontal.

I rose earlier than most and whipped out a double batch of competition scones. It may have been everyone was hungry, or far from civilization, or just kind, but the scones met with grand praise.

Can you believe we're doing it again ?

With mild trepidation, we donned our kits for the Sunday ride. We again headed east retracing the beginning of our epic the previous day. Despite sore legs and tired bones, after a social roll out, the pace ramped up to a furious pace on the single track.

Bee sting to the forehead

The uphill rollers were even faster today.

A bee tried to bite Matthew on the chest, but you can't bite through STEEL...

About ten miles in we took an alternate path and climbed some super steep loose trail that required skill just to stay upright. I leaned back to maintain traction as my quads screamed for a break.

At the bottom of the "plunge." Hmm, it even sounds steep..

The trail continued sharply up and if you stopped, you would be walking to the top. Finally the grade lessened and to a person we all blurted our joy at completing the climb.

The return was equally wild, but we had grown comfortable on our cross bikes at scary speeds. When we got to the house, we quickly packed and lashed the bikes for the return trip. To save time, we drove to the wide part of the river and washed the trail dirt from our bodies. We changed clothes in the woods and soon we were on our way home.

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