Yesterday I joined three teammates: Matt, Peter and Monica, at the Stottlemeyer 30 mile mountain bike race. Holy crap 30 miles on a mountain bike is a bitch. Here in the moist, heavily wooded Western Washington region the trails are tough man. Hairpin switchbacks, tight trees and the roots, the freaking roots. It’s just bam bam bam the entire time.
I have to say that I didn’t find the race all the physically exhausting; physiologically I was ready, but what I wasn’t ready for was the cramps and the mental fatigue. Cramps seem endemic to endurance mountain biking events, perhaps because it’s because of the quick changes in cadence or perhaps it’s because you have to continually alter the amount of power you apply to the pedals: you can go from powering over a root, to spinning up a hill to standing over the seat on a descent all in less than a minute. It tears your legs up. The entire second lap was a fight against thigh and calf cramps. I just couldn't push that hard withouot risking a sieze up.
About two miles into the second 15 mile lap I went over the handlebars and rang my bell right good. I rode in a fog for about thirty minutes and I really had to concentrate on keeping my focus lest I go over the front again. On long road rides, you can zone out for awhile and just let the miles go by, but on this mountain biking thing you have to be continually sharp, always on edge. It really taxes your brain.
Stottlemeyer also offered a 60 mile, four lap, option. Talk about a mind fuck. That would just beat your mind and your body to smithereens. I met a friend of mine, Tom, at the Edmonds ferry terminal; he and a couple of buddies were doing the 60. They had won the lottery for the Leadville 100 and were using this as a training day. I wonder how the terrain of Leadville would compare to Western Washington. The Colorado altitude would certainly screw you, but it looks to me like most of Leadville is devoid of trees and thus you won’t have the brutal switchbacks and roots. I’d like to get out there and ride some of that course just to see how the other half lives.