2012 Tahoe Sierra 100 Endurance Mountain Bike Race
th of 25 Men’s age 40-49; 28th overall of 65 participantsTime 13:13:54
My Ride Air Nine carbon 29er hard tail set up 1 x 10 (34 x 12-36) with Specialized Captain Tires at 30psi
The TS100 is well known as one of the hardest one day MTB endurance events anywhere. For the first time ever the 2012 course would be a point to point course starting in Soda Springs near Donner Pass and finishing in Auburn, CA the endurance capital of the country. The course includes nine climbs of significance and 45 + miles of technical single track trail while it negotiates the deep and steep canyons of the American River watershed. Despite the description of 17,000+ vertical and the obvious drawbacks to an all day race in the middle of July when temperatures can soar into the 100s I was intrigued by the idea of a ride from Tahoe to Auburn and lacking any good sense I signed up a couple months ago thinking it would be a grand adventure. I’m wondering if the end of mid life will bring and end to doing ridiculously hard cycling events to convince myself I’m a worthwhile individual.
I did this race two years ago and finished 13
th in my class. My goal was to finish in the top ten. I estimated a finish time of twelve hours forty five minutes. The first forty miles of the 2012 race would be identical to 2010. After a restless night spent dreaming of being awake I popped out of bed at 3:20 in order to meet seven compatriots for the hour long drive to Soda Springs. With the Party Van full of TS 59/100 hopefuls we headed up the hill… the van full of the usual pre race chatter. (This turned out to be the winner’s vehicle whose passengers included Dan Garcia 1st Place 30-39 and 5th Place Overall 100 mile course, Kayden Kelly 2nd Place 30-39 and 2nd Place Overall 59 mile course, Randy Floyd 1st Place 50+ and 5th Overall 59 mile course and Jimmie Winne 2
nd Place in the Pro/Expert 59 Mile Course) We all piled out of the van at 5:10 into the chilling 52 degree dawn mountain air and prepared for the start which included one hundred 59 mile and sixty five 100 mile participants. It’s a strange rare cadre of nut cases including Tinker Juarez, a pro rider who has made a career out of these endurance races, who slipped into the front just before the start. The small number of participants underscores the difficulty if not insanity of this event.6:00 am….Three…Two…One…They’re Off!
The first twenty five miles are pretty straight forward on well groomed fire roads strewn with rocks loose dirt and punctuated with occasional stream crossings and snow melt starting with a fast, chilling and dust filled thousand foot descent followed by a 1350 stiff climb another thousand foot descent and another stiff 1600 foot climb. My strategy for the first leg of the
race was to bomb the descents and ride conservatively on the climbs so as to keep a steady pace throughout the race. Randy Floyd passed me at the bottom of the first climb and though I was tempted to follow his wheel I stuck with my strategy. (Randy killed it on these climbs and rode at the front of the fifty nine mile race with Kayden most of the day. Randy is my hero. At 57 he can ride most people I know into the ground, whether on the road or in the dirt) This is the only section of the race where one finds themselves surrounded by other riders passing some and being passed by others. At the top of the second climb, The first rest stop (8:23am) marks a split in the TS 59 and TS 100 routes with the 100 beginning a rugged eight mile single track section along Red Star Ridge. The trail climbs and descends along an undulating ridge line with varied trail surfaces from solid rock to root infested soft duff. The riding here is hard and takes total focus whether going up or down. With a final fast hard descent of 1500 feet to Mosquito Ridge Road I welcomed the short smooth paved descent before turning onto a short flat double track and then the stiff climb up to the second aid station, Mad Cat, at mile 39 (10:27). At this point I was feeling pretty good and about fifteen minutes ahead of the time I had estimated I would arrive at this location.
This aid station is followed by several miles of well groomed fire road with a slight incline. I hooked up with a guy from Laguna Beach and we started working together picking up Joe, the single speed racer along the way. The three of us ripped this section passing a number of riders. I stayed on Joe’s wheel as the terrain steepened to a 15% plus grade for 3/4 mile or so where the TS59 and 100 courses rejoin each other. Laguna Beach fell back but would pass us on the crazy technical single track descent that followed. This steep section with troughs, drops, and obstacles descended 1500 feet before dumping us out on another rolling dirt road section (welcome and well earned smoothness) for several miles before reaching aid station #3, Dusty Corners, at mile 52. (11:49am) At this point I was 20 minutes ahead of schedule and feeling strong… Dawn Infurna-Bean said this race was brutal….maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all.
The next 20 miles of the route is on the Western States Trail, a contiguous equestrian/hiking trail that connects Sacramento California with Colorado. Once used by natives, trappers and miner’s. It’s most famous today for the one hundred mile stretch from Squaw Valley to Auburn, California location of both the Tevis Cup 100 mile trail ride and Western States 100 foot race. Nothing I have done compares to this monumental endurance race which takes runners as many as 30 hours to complete. Our 20 mile section includes traversing three deep canyons that have been cut steeply into the mountains by the relentless power of the American River and its tributaries over eons of time. They are furnaces in summer and the terrain is rugged. It is both spectacular and daunting. Of the 19 riders who dropped out of the race most would call it quits during this part of the race.
Within a few hundred yards of the aid station the route leaves the road and enters a shaded forest and flat loamy single track trail…easy enough. This four mile section eventually arrives at the edge of the canyon wall sometimes coming frighteningly close to the edge, thus the name “pucker point trail”. The views are spectacular as the canyon walls plunge 2,000 feet to the river below. After a few more miles the descending begins and it is unrelenting as the trail dives into the canyon on a steep narrow trail with drops, rocks, and endless tight switch backs.
Oooh…there goes a rider over the edge rolling twenty feet before coming to rest in a mesh of Oak and Poison Oak. The descent seems to go on forever…it is at once thrilling and sobering. I walked a few of the sharpest turns…this is not a location to have a bad injury and the penalty for missing the turn is just too high. Finally, the bottom. I Crossed the stream and stopped long enough to soak my head and jersey in the refreshing water before beginning the “Devil’s Thumb” a 1.1 mile hike a bike ascending 1500 feet seemingly straight up the canyon wall. I knew this was coming and was actually thinking to myself, “walking will be a nice change”. Walking wasn’t so bad but pushing the bike was another thing. And because it is a race one does not want to stop and smell the roses so to speak so I put my head down and for the next 45 minutes trudged up the trail in the mid day heat at the fastest pace I could maintain without having to stop. Fortunately, the canyon is enshrouded in a thick pine forest offering appealing shade.
I arrived at Deadwood Mile 60, the fourth rest stop, (1:40pm) still fifteen minutes ahead of my expectations, I was feeling tired by now but after all the worst was behind me….right? only seven miles to the next aid station. Immediately the single track starts up again descending 2500 feet on narrow steep highly technical single track. My right arm began to get soar from holding onto the front brake so much. By itself this is a glorious downhill section, but coming 60 miles into this ride in the heat it was a different matter. After the race I talked with several people who shared my sentiment regarding this point in the race…”I thought I would never say When is this awesome technical descent on ribbon wide single track going to end…I have had enough for one day already”….still we descend……more descending…switch backs…still more descending…………………finally…the bottom. The climb up the other side of the canyon was not a whole lot better than the last ascent, not as steep but longer with more elevation change. I wasn’t ready for that. The trail tempted and taunted here as it was not so steep but yet steep enough that it would require a huge effort to stay on the bike with my 1 x 10 gearing….I walked most of it. Joe went by slowly on his single speed….”how is he doing that”. I had been staying in contact with two other competitors for the last 30 miles…they started moving away from me…no motivation….I just kept walking my bike. I was hitting the wall and it sucked…just keep walking.
By the time I reached the top of the climb at aid station #5 in the little town of Michigan Bluff at mile 67 (3:15) I was a walking zombie. The fire was gone. It was no longer a fight for top ten but just to survive and finish at all. Fortunately Dawn Infurna-Bean and Chris Morin and a crew of angels descended on me and fixed me up good wiping me down with icy wet towels stuffing me with bacon, grilled cheese sandwiches, several shots of Coca-Cola and ice water, tuned up my bike (in just a couple of minutes), and gave me a great pep talk. Dawn looked me in the eye and gave me a blow by blow description of what was to come. I was encouraged when she told me “you can do this…I run this section in a hour and a half”. If she can run it in that time I should be able to pedal at least the same speed…thus is the twisted mind of the bonked competitor. Though I wanted to linger they put me back on my bike and cheered as I pedaled away…slowly.
Truly, the worst was behind me but there were still 35 miles to cover and I had lost a lot of time on the previous section. From this point on, as with all my previous experiences it would be a lonely ride as I wouldn’t see another competitor on the trail. With so few participants everyone really gets spread out and it becomes a solo experience. The next section was exposed to the sun so for the first time I really felt the heat of the day. There was some climbing on dirt roads more technical descending and another climb with a few short hike a bike sections but nothing like I had been through. I began to recover and felt better with every mile. When I hit Forest Hill Road I was tempted to stop and kiss the ground. “A couple miles of glorious pavement…Yeehaw!”
I pulled into the Forest Hill Aid Station, mile 73 at 4:05 fifty minutes after leaving Michigan Bluff. My wife LaRee and our kids Addy and Corbin were waiting. I pulled up to say hi and was just overcome with emotion…”Hi Honey…How’s it going…are you crying…is it that hard?” I grabbed the supplies they had brought me stuffed some ice in my jersey pockets for air conditioning (great call Aaron at Victory Velo) and hit the road…standing around was just getting embarrassing. A couple more miles of easy pedaling on the pavement and then the course enters fast and fun single track trails that wander through Todd Valley, a vast residential neighborhood outside of Foresthill. One poorly marked road crossing cost me a ten minute detour and 6
th place. Back on the right trail and eventually Ponderosa Road which is a bombing descent on well groomed dirt to the American River then the steep but ride able ascent up Rucky Chuck (1,000 feet over 2.3 miles) to the Driver Flat Aid Station at mile 88 (5:36) LaRee and the kids were there to greet me and it was a much better meeting. I was getting stronger and looking forward to finishing this thing. At this point I grabbed a couple of bottles of fluid and left my camel back pack with LaRee…what a relief to get that thing off my back…I’m not a big fan…but they are sometimes a necessary evil. Losing the backpack I felt fast and hit the trail riding at close to the speeds I would normally ride these trails at when I’m fresh.The final twenty four miles are on trails in my back yard so to speak and having ridden those dozens of times over the years I could probably do them blindfolded. Compared to the previous 90 miles Forest Hill Divide, Connector and Culvert trails are like butter…well worn smooth rolling single track…nirvana! I kept up as fast a pace as I could. Reaching the American River yet another time I began the final ascent up Stage Coach, a 2 mile 900 foot ascent on a dirt road, to the finish in Auburn.
At 7:13 I pulled into the finish, 13 hours and 13 minutes after starting. It is a little anti climactic…a few dozen people sitting on the grass, some cheering…a Bar-B-Q and someone hands you a medal and says good job as if you just finished a season of little league baseball or something. I didn’t really care. I was so happy to be finished, give my sweetheart a hug and then flop out on the grass. It was a lovely evening and the burger tasted real good!
I felt like I was the last guy in but the results posted the next day tell a different story…7
th place in my category…yes!