Sunday, May 4, 2014

Whiskey 50

I am finally getting around to reporting on my Whiskey 50 race. The race is held in Prescott Arizona and travels some of the beautiful trails and dirt roads west and south of town. It's a true mountain bike race with plenty of single track trails, rideable (by some, sometimes!) obstacles, and lots of climbing (7,000'+).

The weather forecast grew worse and worse during the previous week and by race day eve there was good certainty that a vigorous, but fast moving cold front would move through the area during the morning hours. Rain, moderate mostly, and strong winds greeted us at the race start.

One aspect of the Whiskey 50 is that the field is large and the racer's starting position is important because when the pack hits the first trails and technical obstacles, everything backs up. The further up you are the more you avoid what's known as "the conga line." However, I had little desire to line up early and stand around in the cold for an hour, so I stayed warm and dry until about 15 minutes prior to the start and tucked in at the back of the line. Turns out most folks got there earlier, parked their bikes as a placeholder, and kept warm elsewhere!

I figured I would start slowly, ride the more technical single track at a mellow, safer pace, then make up time on the big fire road climb out of Skull Valley. It turned out "mellow, safer" was really, really slow, and technical sections weren't nearly as bad as I feared. 

Here I am rolling to the start at 7:15am.

Queued up at the back.

After a few miles on pavement passing as many people as I could without going too crazy hard or pissing anybody off with aggressive riding, we arrived at the singletrack and the first of several stops in the action.

Check out this video for an idea how the long lines formed in the woods as the rain turned to snow. Pretty well captures the intensity of the storm up on the ridges too.

Here's a pic I purchased. When we weren't stopped, it was fun riding. Cold, but fun!

From the ridge a long, steep trail falls down to a fire road. The descent was the toughest part of the day for me as there was too much traffic to bomb down, there was no pedaling to generate body heat, and my hands were numb and cold from nearly constant braking.

Once I got some food in me and started climbing the fire road things got better. A little stinging sleet in the face heading down to Skull Valley was the last of the truly bad weather and by the time I got to the turnaround the sun was shining and I felt good.

I took some time to oil the chain with much help from Erica Tingey (Jamis) who was waiting on her man and I was on my way up the climb. As planned I passed a ton of people up the big grade hitting the top with good legs and ready for the fun single track. After another hour of great riding, a bacon station (hell yeah I took some bacon!), a short, but painful grunt up Cramp Hill (lived up to its name, but just minor quivers), I spilled out onto the pavement and motored back into town


Epic indeed and oh so much fun. In the end I'm glad the weather came through!

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