Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Amazing Mosquito Ridge Road

We are lucky to call the little Sierra town of Foresthill our home. Living in the middle of nowhere has it's disadvantages, 30 minutes to the nearest real store of any kind, an hour commute one way for Mary and I and not much in the way of social diversity, unless you count differing variations of married cousins diversity....

But the upside is an amazing network of trails, dirt roads and world class road riding. Now I'm not much of a roadie, to tell the truth the road scares me. Luckily the road riding around here see's very little traffic, there are routes from the house that may cover 100 miles and you might only see a dozen cars on a weekend.

Today was a nice ride out Mosquito Ridge Road with Skip and Mary. I'd been riding this road all week and took a little ribbing from the gang as I am always the one who won't do any ride more than twice without whining about it. The road suits my early (to me at least) season training as it has  some of the longest sustained climbing in California, perfect for steady state zone training.

Monday was an ugly affair, 3-1/2 hrs in the rain freezing my ass off on the 11 mile decent before warming up on the climb back home 60 miles and 6,300'. Thursday saw some zone 4 intervals and a nice 50 mile 5700' after work ride, perfect for the guy who works with his body all day, Friday was a bit ugly in the energy dept at work! Saturday Mary and I headed back out and I managed to get about an hour and a half out when my front hub blew up. Mary headed back home and I started walking back. Two hours and 10 miles of walking later Mary came driving down the road with a spare front wheel. I headed out for another couple of hours to finish off a very long day with not nearly enough food or water, managed to get another 55 miles with about 6,300'.

Sunday saw us out for yet another day on Mosquito Ridge Road. The weather was nice to start, clouded up a bit later, but still comfortable on the way up.

Mary headed down to the curved bridge.

Oxbow reservoir in the distance.

Mary, headed across the curved bridge of the North Fork of the Middle Fork American River, wheww what a name....

The above long winded river.
Mary headed back as we reached Ralston Ridge Road, another bitchin  ride that is still awaiting some summer heat before we venture out that way, 20% grades and all! Skip and I continued up to Big Trees Grove, a massive grove of Giant Sequoias, the farthest Eastern grove if I remember right. The snow started showing up around 4000'. The road has been plowed, not a usual thing, but they are working on the dam at French Meadows so the road needed to be opened up a bit early.

Might be a while before we ride dirt up here.....

It was twice this high 3 weeks ago!

Skip and I continued up to the closed gate at Robinson Flat Road, had a bite to eat and headed back down on the 18 mile decent back to the curved bridge. We could have slipped by the gate and continued out to French Meadows but time was running short. I was envious of Skips vest and arm warmers as we headed back down on the 35mph decent. By the time we reached the bridge 35 minutes later I was ready to go back uphill to get my core temp back up, the forecast high was 65 degrees today, May 22!

The road disappearing in front of us.

The curved bridge lies down there somewhere!

My plan called for me to do 30 minutes of zone three, but that would have put a big gap into the now suffering Skip. I decided that some one legged drills would suit the task. Skip was a good sport as I one legged up the hill in front of him, it was a nice way to spend 30 minutes and I managed to get my heart rate up without putting a huge gap on him.
We met up at the top of the first climb, hit the decent and soft pedaled back the last 5 miles to the top at Foresthill and the downhill run to home. All in all a great day, 75 mile and 8,000' of up. Maybe I'll stay away from Mosquito Ridge this week, maybe not.....

2011 Lemurian Classic

Well the pain has finally worn off from the latest Lemurian Shasta Classic. No interval training, hell not much training at all, coupled with a 25 mile 4900' climbing course was a recipe for disaster. At the time it seemed like a good idea, mind you, "at the time" was sitting by the pool in Prescott the week before the race. We got back from the Coconino Loop an Monday and the race was on Sat. Todd was going to be holed up in the group camp with some like minded people for Fri. and Sat so we headed out for the 200 mile drive North.
 We arrived just as the sun set, got set up, said some hellos and were off to bed with a 6;30 wake up time. The wind had been blowing all the way up the valley, at least 30-35mph and it had not let up when we went to bed.

We awoke to the same wind, just 20 degrees colder, perfect for putting on spandex! After getting some food down I was off to the start line, Bonnie, Jennifer and Randy were the only others to race today, everyone else was either off on a hike or just riding the amazing network of trails in Whiskeytown. I made my way to the front of the grid, everyone thinks the're fast at these things, but my last race here 5 years ago I was 6th overall, not bad for the toughest race in NorCal, maybe even the state. The gun goes off and the pace is already a bit fast as we crest the first paved climb, I manage to get myself up to 3rd or 4th and the lead guys just sit up. WTF. Here everyone comes, and now it's a cluster with 25 guys all trying to push to the front before we hit the dirt, not fun....

The first climb is a doozy. Straight up, it separates the men from the boys, I was a boy today.....I have never lost so much time on a climb. We crest the hill for the Gas Can decent, a rutted out screamer that terrifies me mostly, people are going down hard everywhere and all I can think about is "don't crash, not here, not now". This race is either straight up or straight down for the most part, there is some flume stuff, but I got crushed on that because it is so twisty, all I could do was brake hard and accelerate out of every turn, definitely a locals course.

The course went along as a I remembered, a bit different as we went up the screaming decent of the 8 hour course. I didn't remember how long the course was, my legs were beginning to cramp a bit and we still had a little over 5 miles to go I thought. The steep uphills were starting to take their toll as I was having a hard time descending due to my legs being just on the verge of cramping, I could pedal alright, but as soon as I stood up they tried to lock up.

The last bit of the course is pretty fast and technical, with a few little kickers to make sure you fall over with cramps, I didn't fall over, but I certainly wobbled a bit. My legs were now going in and out of pretty serious cramps, I was still moving, but it was not easy. Everyone else must have been feeling it too since no one was coming by me. The end of the course is a steeeeepp little 400' section, by the time I crested the top I was in full lockup. The crowds were huge here and I didn't want to embarrass myself by falling over and curling up into a ball, so I gutted it out down the singletrack finish with a likely grimace on my face.

Five years ago I did a 2:20 and I was in pretty good shape, it got me 6th overall, right smack in the middle of the Pro class. This years pathetic showing netted me a 2:27 and a whopping 25th overall, man the competition is getting faster, and there's more of them! I did manage to win the 45+ class by  4 or 5 minutes, but a closer look at the results showed a guy that would have raced in my class to be in the pro class, so second is what I consider it, even though it says first on the medal.
Rick Kalb and I
Mary and I hung around for awards and then headed back to camp, she had not ridden yet so I offered to come along to try and spin my legs out a bit. After reliving some of the horrific parts with the other racers in camp we were off to Brandy Creek Falls, a nice 8 mile 1,800' kicker that certainly did not meet the criteria for spinning my sore legs out. The falls were spectacular, there was still snow just above us so the melt was on and I'm glad we made the trip.

Brandy Creek Falls
After the ride we settled in for some food and drink, much beer and whiskey was consumed. The group camp next to us had been invaded by forestry students from Humboldt State, the fresh smell of dope gave them away. Later that night a couple of them came over to join in the festivities, the crew was getting a bit loud and words were getting pretty slurred when we made my way off to bed.

 The next morning we all gathered up for breakfast and a group ride. Todd and I were in search of something different and decided to go off on our own since we would likely be bushwacking or climbing some stupid mountain, both of which happened on the ride. We found a beautiful trail that led us up some steep roads and a few creek crossings to Boulder Creek Falls,very nice!

Going Up!

Todd crossing Boulder Creek for the umptenth time

Boulder Creek Falls

Sweet singletrack climb

Todd coming into Papoose Pass

The view from the pass

The decent off the top, doesn't get much better!

After the falls we were off to find Papoose Pass. We met a hiker coming down the trail and he offered that the treefall was pretty bad and we should turn around, boy am I glad we didn't. We did have to bushwack around some pretty big downed trees, but as we got higher it cleared out and we were riding amazing singletrack, judging from the flagging not much more than a season old. The decent off Papoose Pass was amazing, swooping narrow singletrack for miles, we were all smiles by the time we hit the bottom at Lower Brandy Creek Trail, the last rocky decent from yesterdays race. We whooped and hollered our way down the trail and back to camp, all in all an excellent day!

Just a taste of what's out there, I'm looking forward to spending some time up there in the future to see what's available out further. It is certainly tough riding, our little adventure was only 13 miles, but it climbed 2,900 feet in that distance, well, half of that distance at least!