I wasn’t gonna do it this year. After doing the White Mountain Epic a couple weeks ago, and a few big climbing rides after that… my body finally broke down and I got sick – whether I wanted to acknowledge it or not. The week leading up to the MLBFL, I felt like crap, and spent much of it coiled up on the couch with a comfy throw blanket my dad brought as a gift to Lucy when he visited last month.
On Friday, I woke up feeling “almost ok” – the best I’d felt all week. I decided at that moment I was “good enough” to ride the MLBFL. Even if I don’t do great, at least it’ll get me off the couch. Saturday, I prepped my A9C and put a 21t cog on it. In 2013, I used a 20t, which was perfect. Since I was not feeling great, I wanted to sit in the saddle a bit more. Going one gear easier was the right call. It made the ride feel much “easier”.
Another difference from the 2013 MLBFL was the weather. Last year, on Sept. 29th, the weather was mostly overcast, cold, and blustery. This year, on the 14th, it was sunny and gorgeous. Sure, it was windy on San Joaquin Ridge, but that’s a given. Most of the ride is protected from that wind, and the weather was in the high 60’s and perfect! So nice.
I was off to a slow start, as the Shady Rest portion is not too friendly for SS’ers. There’s a lot of “flat and sandy” riding, where I just sit and spin. There’s no need to push it. It is what it is. Whereas most people do the Shady portion in around an hour, it takes me about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Hunter and Jen got way ahead of me during this portion.
Luckily, once the route gets to Uptown and Brake Through – I can start upping the ante. By the time I hit Brake Through, I had reeled Hunter and Jen in. I was about to pass, when I decided to hang back and ride this section with them. It was my favorite part of the day. Hunter set a nice pace. It was great to enjoy the views on Lincoln Express with friends… and give Hunter crap for dabbing on part of the Brake Through climb 🙂
Being competitive with myself, I knew I’d eventually have to pass them and pick up the pace to have a chance of beating my 2013 time (the goal I had set for the day). So once we started climbing Beach Cruiser, I reluctantly said bye to my friends and got into business mode. I was feeling strong and pretty fresh when I topped out on Hard Core. Last week, while riding the Double High Five Y, I came face to face with a bear at the summit. Luckily, I was alone this time. While flying down the descent, I saw Jen and Hunter grunting up the hardest climb of the day… always fun to see people and cheer each other on this gnarly out and back section.
At this point, I was on pace to beat my old time easily, so I put it in cruise control through Mountain View, Big Ring, and Paper Route (much like Shady, this section is slow for me because it’s pretty flat, and I didn’t feel like hammering hard just to spin out). I kept a decent pace, but kept the heart comfortably below the red zone. On my way down the last out and back climb of Paper Route, I saw Jen climbing up. Rock on!! She’d pulled away from Hunter, and obviously made some time up on me. She was charging it and it motivated me to pick up the pace again. During Juniper, Lakes Trail, Panorama Dome Trail, and Mammoth Rock Trail, I got in the zone and flowed right through it. So much fun!! Before I knew it, I crossed the finish line. 17 minutes faster than last year, with a time of 5 hours 31 minutes. Stoked to improve on my ss course record. I know I’ve got wiggle room to better that time… maybe next year I’ll come into it healthy and try and pushing a harder gear… I’d love to get closer to the 5 hour mark – probably need a 18 or 19t and the legs to do it. I’d also love to see some fast geared XC racer types give this course a go… Somebody has gotta go sub 5 hours one of these days!! I think a 4:30 time is realistic. Bueller? Anybody? Maybe I’ll throw a derailleur on and give it a shot 🙂
We all gathered for slices and stories at Z Pizza afterwards – good times. good people. I really hope this becomes an annual thing – it’s a blast. Maybe next year, I’ll try and promote it a little more and get some people from down south and Tahoe to show up…
So I remember, and in case anybody is curious – here was my nutrition/hydration plan – which was spot on:
- I drank one bottle with Gu Raspberry in the first section (Shady Rest). I also ate a Gu Gel (mint chocolate) during this portion. I stashed a camelbak, 3 bananas, and another bottle of Gu near the exit of the singletrack onto pavement in the Knolls.
- I loaded up with the fresh bottle of Gu Blueberry, 50oz camelbak bladder and 2 bananas before starting Uptown. I also shoved a banana down my throat on this easy pavement spin to Uptown.
- I ate a banana where Beach Cruiser passes Off The Top and ate the 2nd one on Mountain View. I carried one more Gu Gel (espresso) which I ate before the final out and back climb on Paper Route.
- I went back and forth between drinking water and Gu. When I finished, my bladder was nearly empty, and I had a few sips of Gu left. No food left.
- I wasn’t craving more food or drink – it seems I packed just enough to stay light, but not skimp.