Saturday, April 29, 2023

Only As Fast As My Eyes Can See

I feel like I used to go faster down hills. Now I seem to really give my brakes a workout. I guess I can only go as fast as my eyes can see, and sometimes they don’t do a very good job!

Today was the Cascadia Super Gravel (or as we call it, the Super G). Once again, a bunch of us signed up for the 50 mile course. I had posted our attempts at pre-riding the 30 and 50 mile courses on Facebook. Needless to say, those had not gone well (I mean, it was a good ride, but not the full course either time). The last effort was just two weeks ago, and there was still a lot of snow. Not today!

But let’s start at the beginning. Stephanie was kind enough to pick me up at the nearly butt-crack of dawn of 6:45 (okay, it was plenty light out). The 50 mile race mass start was at 8:00 at the Evergreen Gun Club out at Mima. We were ready to go in good time. I took the following photos of my friends, as the start would be the last time I would see them until the finish (they are all way faster than me).






Quite a few 50 milers. Amongst all these riders, I was once again the oldest female. 

The start was my favorite…singletrack…not! Actually, it wasn’t too bad. It’s a pretty wide trail. The trickiest part was all the people all at once. Very slow. But hey, I don’t go fast anyway! There were also several giant puddles. A couple could be ridden around, but most were just ridden through. 

We popped out onto E9000 just where the end of the Mima Falls Trail reaches E9000. We did all the climbing up to D4000. Nothing terribly special. I’ve done this climb numerous times. I did quite quickly take the sleeves off my jacket. Oh! I didn’t mention the weather! It was spectacular! I wore shorts! I even put sunscreen on! The temps out on the course were going to crest 70 degrees. That was up in the Forest where it’s always cooler! Eventually, I took my vest off too. It was the warmest Super G I’ve ever experienced. 

I got to the first Aid Station. Kyle (who did the 12 speed modification on Sly) was there. A lot of the people were just flying by (racing, I guess). Not me. I told Kyle that since I pay to do this ride, I’m going to stop at every Aid Station. I had a banana and an oatmeal cream cookie. 

Continuing on, they must have recently put new gravel down on the C-Line. It was dry, dusty, and very sketchy. There was also quite a bit of traffic (hmmm…nice day, everyone heads to the Forest). Fortunately, I was wearing a “dust protector” Buff. 

Going down C-Line was the 50 mile route. The 30 milers went up toward Puke Hill. We hit Sherman Valley Rd, and returned to gravel at C9000. It was a decent climb with moments of downhill. The dead end was where the hike-a-bike to get across the creek began. Kyle, back at the Aid Station, had given me a little intel that they had made it easier to get across the creek, and up the other side. 

The beginning of the hike-a-bike. Follow the arrows. 

There was a tree across the creek that someone had planed so we could walk across it. I wasn’t confident I could balance on the log AND take my bike across. There just so happened to be a guy who had just taken his bike across, and was doing some stretching. I asked if he could help me get my bike across. He easily took my bike, and I walked across the log. The new trail up the other side was much less steep. It was still muddy, but at least I could heft my bike up. 

The guy and I met up with another guy at the other side of the trail. They took off, but were soon walking (me thinks insufficient gearing). I had so much mud in my cleats, I had to dig it out with a stick so I could clip back in to my pedals. Once I could clip in again, I shifted into the “dinner plate” in the rear, and pedaled past the guys. 

At the top, I stopped to take this photo. 

That’s the Sound way out there. 

And this photo as I was doing the up part of B8000.

Coming down B8000 to the B-Line, I was reminded why we don’t really ride in the Forest in the summer. The road was dry and loose (this was true for many of the roads today). Up the B-Line, where they have recently logged, the road is now wide open, and has a lot of tree debris. Sadly, it’s kind of been ruined. 

The second Aid Station (and the one run by Joy Ride) was at the top of the B-Line. They had pretty much run out of water (Kyle was bringing more), but Brian was nice and gave me what he had left in a Nalgene. Kyle passed me on B5000 headed to them. 

The climb up B5000 was the same as always. I wasn’t really thinking about how long it is because I’ve done it a lot, and what was coming next was “The Wall”, the long, steep climb up C4000. 

Nice view of Rainier from the beginning of “The Wall”. 

And so the climb begins…

I managed to make the climb all in one go without stopping or walking. I had done it two weeks ago, so I knew I was capable. Still, that sucker has some pretty steep sections! I glanced at my Garmin a couple of times and saw 17%! And that wasn’t when it was so steep I was popping wheelies! 

Two weeks ago, this was covered in snow!

At the turn to do Greenline 6, I went up to the singletrack and reaffirmed my decision to stay on C4000. It would be longer, but not sketchy singletrack. 

Even walking would have been tricky. 

There are drops and scary stuff…no thank you. 

I did go up the road past the trail to take a photo of the view. 

St Helens to the right, Adams to the left. 

I also saw this. 

Yep, that is a baby in a backpack on an ATV. 

I returned to C4000, and made my way to where the singletrack came out at the C-Line. 

Still snow in those mountains!

I went down the C-Line to D1000 and the final Aid Station. 

This guy had been cooking bacon! This was where all the routes came back together. 30 and 50 would stay together for the remainder of the route. The 100 milers still had an extra bit to do on the E-Line before finishing on E9000 and the singletrack trail with the rest of us. 

D1000 to D3000 was the same as always. Of course it wouldn’t be a Super G without one more bit of spicy. We went off D3000 down a very very steep and rocky road. Just as I turned onto this road, I saw an Aid Car coming. Then I saw another one. I thought, oh, that can’t be good! I guess there were two people who had crashed (did I mention how steep and rocky it was?). One guy had to be airlifted. 

I had to stop to let my brakes cool, and rest my hands. On another Super G, we had gone up this road (walking of course). I’m not sure which was worse! At the bottom was the final hike-a-bike to get back to D3000. 

This isn’t even the steep part! The pickup coming up was also a rescue vehicle. 

And now for some more hike-a-bike. I was able to ride parts of it, but when it would do these drainage ditches, I kept snagging my pedal. I walked the rest of them. 

There was also two creek crossings. 

Trail I could partly ride. 

Second creek. 

Once I was back on the gravel road, I knew there was nothing else that was tricky. There were still two more climbs, but I’d done those many times. 

It was nearly 3:30 when I finished. Most of my friends were still there. Steph and I went to the van so I could change, then we went back for pizza. 

Makaela and Brad both took 3rd in their respective categories. Apparently, the men’s category winners got Wahoo Roams as prizes. Makaela asked about the women. Shouldn’t they also get Wahoo Roams? Lee (the guy in charge of prizes) gave her and the 3rd place women’s finisher Wahoos! Then, while I was eating my pizza, Steph looked at the results, and said I had won my category. Of course, I was the only one in my category…again (it seems strange to me that I was the only one in the Women 50-65 category)! As we were walking out, I saw Cam. I asked him if I got a prize for winning my category. He directed me to Lee. While I didn’t have the guts to ask for a Wahoo, I did get a digital tire pressure gauge, one of the special mugs, and a 1st place finisher “medal”! More importantly, Lee thanked me for all I do for the cycling community. He said he reads all my posts about the rides! That means a lot to me!

So now my scheduled gravel races are finished. Now it’s time to plan some bikepacking trips with my friends!

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