Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Tribute Ride: In Which Larissa was The Weak Link

It's been a long time since I last rode with a group of people who are ALL considerably faster/fitter than me. I know there are tons of crazy talented, fast cyclists in SoCal, and any given day I could get my butt thoroughly kicked by any number them, but I tend to ride alone or with Carl a lot, which artificially inflates my ego, leaving me thinking I'm untouchable. the strongest endurance rider in the land... lies :)
So it was quite the experience Sunday, to limp along behind Menso DeJong and Dominik Cinka, dying to ask them to slow down, but keeping my lips tightly sealed as to preserve the last shred of ego I had left. 

Last year around this time Menso got the insane idea to put together the most epic shuttle ride we could imaging in Sequoia National Forest. For the first edition of what he deemed 'The tribute to the greatest ride in the world' we started at 10,000ft at Sherman Pass and rode mountain bikes all the way down to 2,000ft at the end of the Kern River Trail. The route threw in a cool 13,000ft of climbing in the 95 miles of some of the best singletrack in Southern Calif. and gave us a wooping 21,000ft of descent. 

Da boys, getting ready to shred sweet trails.
This year Menso updated the route to include some seldom ridden singletrack out past Portuguese Pass west of Kernville. Like last year, Menso stashed a box of Clif products, cokes (and rum... haha) and cookies at mile 47/75 and we roped Brendan and Allie into coming out to assist with the shuttling so we wouldn't have to drive back to Sherman pass after 10 hours of riding.
Unlike last year, we made the most of the weekend by riding Camp Nelson trail the day before the Tribute Ride, and had such a good time we did it twice. If you haven't been to Camp Nelson before this trail was well worth the drive, complete with tons of tech, flow, rocks, bridges, drops, jumps, everything that makes me giggle with glee while screaming 2,000 ft down a mountain in 5 miles. We even rode THROUGH A TREE... it was awesome, go there, do it!
We all gorged ourselves on pizza in Kernville Saturday night before heading up to the pass to sleep, and before I knew it we were bundling up with every article of clothing we had at 5:45 am to start the day in 30 degree weather surrounded by dense, cold fog. 
A terrible picture of our 'camp site' in the parking lot on Sherman Pass, the coldest place to sleep in all of socal :)
 There were multiple cold related mechanicals at the start of the day (think dropper posts refusing to stay up because they are frozen type mechanical) so we got a slow start. I also somehow forgot how much harder riding at 10,000 ft is, and rather than taking it easy, I just pushed harder, assuming my body was being weak and needed to be punished. Prehaps the biggest thing I still need to learn about riding bikes is that if it hurts, maybe you should slow down. Instead I often assume I'm being weak and try to beat myself into the ground... not sure why my brain thinks that's gonna help. Anyway, what I though was a slow first leg of the ride, the 25 miles of Canell trail, resulted in multiple QOM segments, meaning the pain was from going hard, not me being slow/tired/weak.

Canell trail drops 8,500 feet in elevation,with a cool 2,000 ft ascent thrown in for good fun. Halfway down, there is a breath taking view of Lake Isabella and although I was loving every minute of the delightfully technical, fast, flowy descent I had to stop to take a quick picture. Just look at that crappy iphone pic... wish I knew how to make that a Carl quality picture!

And then it was back to shredding :) At the bottom of Canell we were all pumped on mountain bikes, leaving me wondering why we bother with road bikes at all. There is something about flying down crazy scary/rocky trails that just makes me feel alive! haha, I wish I knew how to describe the glee I feel when I'm lofting my bike off drops and over steep/terrifying rock faces. 
Anyway, we rolled into the town of Kernville, stripped off our un-necessary warm clothes (as it was now 65 degrees... much too warm for a rain jacket and wool shirt over my jersey), and hit the coffee shop in town for a quick hit of caffeine and warm scones. I normally hate stopping on bike rides, but it's finally the season to slow down, enjoy the snacks and coffee stops, and just be in the moment, and that is exactly what we did. 

Menso & Dom... sitting down on the job. 
After coffee and chain lube we rolled out of town towards Old State Rd, which took us up to the top of Just Outstanding trail. Rather than descend awesome singletrack though, we rolled across the highway towards Portuguese pass and the great unknown. The climb up Old State rd took a little over an hour, so we paused at the top to raid the stash of snacks Menso had left the day before. It was at this point that I realized all I had eaten in the first 4.5 hours of the ride was half a scone and 3 Clif bloks, I was WAY behind on nutrition. Menso had purchased those really crappy sugar cookies from Ralphs, the kind that are white hockey pucks with bright colorful frosting, and I made short work of one of those bad boys and a nutbutter filled Clif bar before we climbed up, up and away on a fire road out to what felt like oblivion.
Because the route was different from last year, and because I had been too busy with school and whatnot to read the planning emails in which the group discussed the route, the next 4 hours of my left were a complete unknown to me. As we rode away from the food stash Menso mentioned that it would take 4-5 hours to complete this part of the ride, which kinda scared the daylights out of me. 4 hours seemed like a long time, and I was hurting already. My anxiety about the state of my legs resulted in a very very quiet Larissa, which I know you don't believe is possible. But swear on my life I was quiet as a mouse as we climbed and climbed and climbed across a mountainside recently incinerated in forest fire. It was cold, and I was tired, but too proud to slow down or ask the boys to do so. The fog in the blackened skeletons of trees was spooky and unsettling, amplifying the dread I was feeling. We were only about 50 miles into what was supposed to be a 100 mile ride... and I was starting to fall apart. 

At mile 57 we reached Frog Meadow, a random camp ground out in the middle of nowhere. The entrance to the trail we were supposed had been bulldozed by loggers recently so we spent the larger part of the next 30 minutes looking for a trail we knew was there, but could not for the life of us find. When we finally gave up and decided to head back across the fire road... THERE it was! Of course, and we made short work of descending 1,500ft to the bottom, just to start the climb back out. 

The next few hours are a blur of pain for me. I remember climbing and climbing and climbing. When we got to the next trail on our route we decided to skip the 3 mile loop as we were pretty far behind on time from being lost for so long. Instead we continued up to the burn area and the fire road that had lead us out to Frog Meadow a few hours earlier. 

Menso's brilliant route planning brought us some rad singletrack on the way back, which was a welcome change to all the fire road, but what should have been 'downhill all the way home' turned into heinous hike a bike after back breaking climb in soft sand, followed by another hike. Fortunately the trail did eventually trend down hill, and we were rewarded with a beautiful ribbon of dirt etched into the side of a fire scarred mountain. At one point the boys dropped me on the descent, and the trees curled over the trail, most likely from the effects of the extreme heat in the fire, while dense cold fog wrapped around everything. It was so spooky, I've been kicking myself for days for not bringing the GoPro to capture this moment, but at least I wont soon forget it. 

As the day progressed and the sun started to descend towards the West we realized we would probably be doing some of the ride in the dark. After a second quick stop at the food stash, where Menso and Dom downed half a handle of rum in cokes (how do boys do stuff like that?!) and I sat on the ground like a hobo to inhale more nut butter filled Clif bars, we pushed on towards Just Outstanding.
JO is one of my all time favorite trails, and after all the pain and climbing, it was incredibly rewarding to tear down the flowy smooth trail. We even got tacky conditions, something I've never experienced in the Kernville area. 

After JO I was hurting pretty badly, and a 15 minute climb, followed by Wagy Ridge trail set me further back in the hurt locker, leaving me at the end of my ego, ready to ask for mercy. Sadly for me I had waited too long, as Menso informed me the 'shortcut' out on fire road was longer and had more climbing than finishing the ride. All I could do was suck it up, and continue to make steady forward progress to the end. 

Some good late afternoon Lake Isabella Views.
After half an hour riding in fading light post sunset we strapped lights to our helmets and finally arrived at the last climb which would deliver us to the final descent. Menso and Dom dropped me hard on the climb, and alone, in the dark, so tired and cracked, I fought back tears with every step. I was so over riding my bike that I walked almost the entire last climb, which took a good 10 to 15 minutes. 
And to cap off an excessive day of riding, in which the theme was 'none of what we are doing is necessary' we descended a very rutted, loose Dutch Flat trail, the same trail they use for the Keyesville Classic Down Hill race. You know what's not fun at all? Descending Dutch flat in the dark, and even more not fun is doing it when you are so cracked that you can't see straight. I don't really know how I stayed alive on the final descent, but having Dom volunteer to ride behind me helped loads, and eventually we were at the bottom, climbing into the van and devouring massive handfuls of Cheeze Its. 

This recap is already way longer than I meant for it to be, so I'm going to put this away for now and pick up where I left off another time, I had a lot of deep thoughts while I was pedaling around silently cracked, although maybe they just seemed deep because I was delusional. In any case, I'm still processing what happened to my body and brain on Sunday, but I do know that I am stoked to have friends like Dom and Menso who not only think this kind of thing is a good idea, but can kick my butt at it as well :) Thanks guys, that was one for the books!

1 comment:

  1. the shuttle ride must have been quite interesting I would love to be part of this years event Ms larris thanks for such an awesome post looking forward to the next one