Although both The Crusher and this race are endurance type events they are very different in many ways.
First off, of course, is the bike. While many rode mountain bikes at The Crusher, I really felt like the course was ideally suited to a cross bike, which was my steed of choice. There is no way I would consider a cross bike for the Mammoth race though. There are plenty of braking bars (picture widely spaced, deep washboard), deep soft pumice, and enough rocky sections to warrant, or even demand, a mountain bike, so I raced my Giant hard tail 29er.
Besides the rougher terrain, the courses were completely different too. At The Crusher you basically do a big climb, a big descent, some flat pavement, and another big climb with a few rolling sections near the top of the climbs. At Mammoth you ride as many ~8.5mile loops as you can in eight hours. The longest climb was only about five minutes while the rest of the lap consisted of shorter climbs and really fun rolling terrain. Over 90% of the time you are on single track!
At The Crusher you spend most of your day climbing near your aerobic threshold. At Mammoth you only hit full gas for short bursts, but you are constantly tapping the pedal to keep you speed up on the twisty trails.
The Crusher grinds you down with steady climbing, especially the ascent of the Col de Crush. Mammoth beats you down with short, unceasing jabs. The Crusher is all about your legs. You also need legs for Mammoth, but your back and shoulders better be ready to play too!
O.K. enough of the compare and contrast!
Here's how it went.
All ~80 of us lined up for the start in front of Main Lodge at the ski area. There were 24 hour solo riders, 24 hour team riders, 8 hour team riders, and 8 hour solo riders - me (between the black & green jerseys)!
With little fanfare we were off and heading straight into the first singletrack section. If this had been a regular XC race this would have been a nightmare scenario with a full sprint and full contact to get to that singletrack first. Thankfully this was an endurance race and folks were sensibly polite.
Instantly we are zooming through tight single track on the Downtown trail with huge braking bars. Yippee - sort of. Everybody spread out surprisingly quickly and settled into their own pace. Nevertheless the adrenaline in the veins and the dust in the air had me wondering if I had started too fast.
Here's a pic of me near the end of the first lap.
After the initial rush subsided I happily found I was keeping a sustainable pace. Then, somewhere during the second lap, it started to rain. "Nice" I thought. Knock down the dust, firm up the loose soil, cool things down - "I like this!" Then, on the third lap, it started to pour! Hail and lightning were part of the mix too. Strangely, I liked it even more! The whole scene was invigorating. Plus, I was going too hard to get cold. Perfect!
After twenty or so minutes the downpour turned to sprinkles and the clouds lifted enough to see back towards the Sherwins (left) and the Mammoth Lakes Basin (right). The air was moist and cool. The trails were now firm and fast, and my morale was solid.
So along I rolled. Through three hours - no problem.
Four hours - hmm this is starting to hurt! So, I took a break. Lubed the bone dry chain. Chowed on a peanut butter roll up. Sat down and let the back and shoulders rest, and psyched up to go back out.
I rallied and put in two more solid laps before taking one last, shorter pit. With about two hours and ten minutes I thought I might be able to get in three more laps, but realistically probably only two. This is a weird aspect to this style racing. You watch the clock. You check your lap times, and your greatly impaired brain gets to figure out how many laps you have left!
Here I am riding with my greatly impaired brain and just a bit over one lap to go.
Fortunately for me I was too slow to be near the cusp of trying for another lap. The second place guy in my division (45+) got his tenth lap in with just a minute to spare. If he had not made it he still would have been second, but he would have ridden a whole, painful lap needlessly! Crazy.
About 100 meters to go!
I am done! and I mean DONE!! I had no idea how much discomfort I was in, or how "out of it" I was until I stopped. Everything ached. I had difficulty putting a sentence together. Yet, somehow, there was a prevailing haze of joy overriding all other sensations.
First place in the 45+ division and third overall. Sweet!!! More joy!
Thanks to Nick who found this video of the race where I get a nice little appearance.
And thanks to Mary & Dori for cheering me on and taking the pics.
Time for a break and something completely different - stay tuned!