Sunday, September 13, 2009

Test Ride in Tahoe

Within a week span, I had a dust-laden 2008 Scott Scale 10 shipped from a small bike shop in Oakville, new brake set put on by Evan down at Gregg’s Greenlake Cycle in Seattle so I could run Stan’s notubes ZTR Race 7000 wheelset… and zipped off south to Soda Springs, California at 7000’ elevation. Nothing like testing the bike out in a 100-mile ultra-endurance race in Tahoe country!

My old trusty Trek had been stolen when my car was stolen back in June. Since then I have only put around 4 hours of mountain bike time on my first race bike from 1995, an 8-speed Stumpjumper. Thanks to all who helped with parts (Ed, Di & Al) and offers to lend bikes (Trevor, Cindy). The thought of my lack of mountain bike saddle time scared me just a little for this race!

The course started with 8 miles of mostly descent. I was surprised to maintain a quick pace amongst the men and didn’t even think of the crazy speed we were taking on this bumpy forest road together. I stuck with a strong looking woman ahead of me and realized it was Louise Kobin, my TransAlp race partner from 2005. Wow, Lou has since gotten amazingly more powerful and dominated the pace for the climbs. She was dropping the boys like flies!

Looking at the course on paper, there were a lot of fire roads and only 2 sections of single track. In reality, the first 10-km single track was plenty long and brutally rocky. I was pretty beat after descending this long technical section. As I rode by a prickly high alpine brush, I was left with little welt marks and winced each time. The scenery high up was outstanding which I mostly took in peripherally as to keep my focus on the blazing trails.

Elevation gain 12,500 feet - long jarring descents
The feedzones were a welcome sight and I partook at almost all of them. The volunteers were awesome grabbing my camelbak to fill it and lubing my dry chain with oil. The course was ultra dusty. I was caked head to toe in dust.

The 2nd singletrack section was part of the Western States 100-mile running race. It was amazing following a cliffy ridge line. I chilled, took my time and enjoyed it. This was only 55 miles into the race. And it seemed like a longgggg way to go yet.

Lots of climbing left. I cried when there was yet another descent. My neck/shoulders biceps/triceps hands/fingers were just -aching-. Yeah, I loved using my new Formula R1 disc brakes a lot, maybe a little too much on the descents! New to the disc brake world, I was wowed by the control they gave over the speed of the bike. I had a few twitchy moments where I thought I lost it… though the bike worked with me and I was upright the whole time.

The Selle Italia SLR saddle on my bike was sweet, comfy, though was cut slim. It had no outward part to rest the thighs during descents. My inner thighs were whipped on the long bumpy descents as I tried to brace on the nothingness of this saddle. I may have to switch it out for endurance races.

The last 10 miles to the finish was a slog for me. Eating bits of HoneyStinger berries and dates helped keep me going. Dates are my new favourite energy food - taste like carmel candy with the bonus of quick glycogen energy.

Weather was perfect with an overcast sky keeping the blazing sun toned down. Most of the course was shaded in the trees. I finally made it to the finish 9 hours 22 minutes. Lou finished 25 minutes ahead of me. Tinker Juarez won the race and Canadian Cory Wallace from Jasper came in 2nd. Cory has been getting into incredible adventures with great stories on his blog.
I stayed at the Clair Tappaan Lodge a couple miles away run by the Sierra Club. Inexpensive like a hostel and has awesome chef made meals. A group of online guitar members got together for a Groetsch guitar specialty weekend. Nice to hear the jamming of music as my weary body got some rest.
Going to this race was a highlight for me... the scenic drive down, the frantic prep getting the bike together, visiting friends on-route in Seattle and Ashland. Most of all, it was my first mountain bike race in 2 years since my health got quirky in 2007! I was thrilled the whole time riding being back in action!!

Post-race sand & sweat covered - my new bike!! ...all 18.5 lbs!!!
Thanks to Mike at Notubes for sending me the wicked Race 7000 wheelset. I've run Stan's notubes system since 2003 and I won't go back to using tubes again. My new ZTR Race 7000 wheelset is only 1225 grams! I set them up with Kenda Karma tube tires with a couple scoops of Stan's sealant inside. Had my first experience with blowing a tire off the rim using a footpump... the ringing in my ears had me flop on the bed for a few minutes. I will never overinflate again! With Stan's setup, I run my tire pressure at 17 PSI in the front and 20 PSI in the rear. The lower air pressure gives me alot more grippy tire to ride and lets me rip faster descending (as long as I remember to let go of the brakes!). I have no fears of punctures as the sealant does it's job sealing the puncture if it happens. I haven't flatted - I haven't noticed!

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