Jul 24, 2010

Mountain Bike Oregon - 7 Stitches later...

Mountain Bike Oregon - July 2010

This really is summer camp for adults on steroids and then some. You pay good money to be shuttled up 5000 feet in a school bus on a narrow gravel road, only to be dropped off at the top of any number of 20-30 mile long trails, and then let loose on a 10,000$ Trek/Ibis/Santa Cruz whatever you want carbon fiber demo bike.

Kronda and I get dropped off at the top of Apline on the first day, after we warmed up with the beginner women's ride on some flat trails out of camp in the morning, ready for adventure. Being new to MBO myself, I wasn't quite prepared for what 1500 feet of riding gain and 4000 feet of descending would really look like. We had dozens of lovely guides with us who honestly kept me alive (especially Julia from the Poplollies in Eugene). I was told there was lots of "exposure" on the ride, which being naive I thought that meant open view/field like riding (think Sincline in Hood River). Turns out that "exposure" really means you'll be on single track no wider than 10 inches across with a 4000 foot cliff to your left and a steep incline to your right. Basically you are sandwiched between death and a vertical wall of mountain with only your 10,000$ demo bike and your handling skills keeping you from sudden death.

It took all my concentration to stay upright on that ride, and breaks every 30 minutes to shake out my hands that were so sore from holding the brakes on all the descending. This is advanced riding, and I am not an advanced rider.

So day 2 I opt for another women's clinic, this time the intermediate one. The group and guides were fan-fucking-tastic, and all 12 or so of us "clients" on that ride were learning a lot. We did repeats of stream crossings, roots, climbs, descents... and had tons of guidance and support. I was on a Kona demo bike on this ride, that was too small for me and had tight pedals that I couldn't clip out real fast. That turned into a big problem when I didn't make it up a small climb covered in exposed roots, hit a big root and crashed sideways onto a big log. Not a bad crash, but of course you always land right on that sharp exposed piece of log and gash your ankle pretty badly. Our lovely guides patched me up and I rode out back to the bus, with blood all over my shoes.

Then it started to really hurt bad and I got nervous. Back to camp on the bus for me, and the ambulance guy they have stationed at camp took a look at it. "You need stiches". "REALLY?"... Ok, so we are in a small town, an hour from the nearest hospital, and we can't get to our cars because there is a forest fire and they have closed the road where our cars are parked. MBO staff Paula calls the local doc at home, and he agrees to meet me at his clinic in 20 minutes. Paula drives me since we can't get our cars, and the doc gets to work. Good thing I went because he pulled some pieces of tree out of my wound which was so deep he had to stitch a lower level, then an upper level. Super swollen ankle but he said there was "no chance" it was broken.. thank goodness.

Ice, pain meds and bandages, I can hobble walk, and soft pedal a bike... so he said I should be back to clip in pedals in about 10 days... not too bad.

In short I have to say that MBO is awesome and totally worth the money, but I think you need intermediate to advanced skills to even ride these trails, and you definitely need a nice full suspension bike that fits you. I think i'll come back in a couple years when I have lots more riding under my belt, and a much nicer bike.

Kronda can give you the run down of the longest trail here, which she rode yesterday, called Middle Fork. I was signed up for that today, but I guess that one will have to wait a couple years.

Driving the Team Truck - Elkhorn Stage 4

Anne's truck keys in hand, I was ready for stage 4 - from the safety of a dry warm truck. The weather was awful, and I was on rider pick up duty. I started the day at Bella with Bev, and we sat around and drank coffee, chatting while everyone else was racing in the pouring rain. Me and my lungs were happy to be indoors.

I drove up the backside of the mountain to the finish line, and there wasn't much going on up there, so I started driving down the course backwards, heading to the feed zones. I ended up finding Anne and Jan when another vehicle was flagging me down with a Sorella jersey, and I pulled over so they could jump in. Cold and wet, they had stopped riding at one of the feed zones, and had no interest in hurting themselves any further. 3 Sorellas down, 3 still in the race. We headed to the final feed zone and waited for the women to roll by. Everyone looked good when they passed, so we drove up to the finish.

Freezing cold we saw the finish one by one, and what an impressive climb to end on. We got them changed and warmed, and they devoured some pizza while we waited for the podium.

It was nice to end the race as support car, and to get a feel for driving behind the packs. I am not sure if I will do more stage races, I am going to enjoy the rest of the summer and race less, ride more.... and see what happens.