Sunday, 25 April 2010

Shasta La Vista Baby!

The weekend of the 24th April saw me, Scott and Aaron travel north for the Lemurian Shasta Classic. A 26 mile race which starts from Whiskeytown lake, climbs 5200 feet up Mount Shasta and then takes you alongside Brandy Creek to the finish. With numbers like "26 miles" and "5200 ft" floating around, liquor is the last thing you're thinking about. Instead we opted for a quick motel breakfast and headed to the lake.

The race was organised into categories, but it didn't matter as we all took off in one big huddle. The first part of the course took us along the road to the trail head. 350 plus mountain bikes of all persuasion hurtling along must've been quite a sight. One guy shouted "Hear the knobbly roar!" which instantly became the quote of the day.

Once we hit the trail head the warm up began. A grueling slog up a few miles of fireroad. My bike - fresh from the tune up shop - clearly knew it was to be replaced very soon with the Nomad. The front derailleur refused to give me the granny ring and the rear couldn't decide what gear to settle on, so gave me a few choices whenever I put any sort of pressure on the cranks. Typically, it settled on the gear just hard enough to force a dismount. Not fun, and something which made me seriously believe the bike had a heart blackened by jealousy as the ride progressed.

Once over the first big climb it was time for some downhill. Some nice, rutted single track to warm up the bike kung fu skills. After that, a long, steady single track ride through amazing scenery and a few refreshing creek crossings. Its at times like this, out in the fresh air, rattling along in the open countryside, that you really do wonder what you did before you discovered the joys of 26inch wheels. The next bit reminded me. I used to avoid excruciating pain. Now, for some reason, I spend my weekends in it.

The second big climb was the longest I have ever pushed my bike up. I might've had a fighting chance of riding it had my gears behaved. But the biggest handicap was cramp. If you've ever seen the stiff legged goats on youtube you'll have some idea of how I looked. I wasn't alone though. The trail sides were littered with us poor soles, hunched over and looking bewildered at our squirming thigh muscles.

After a few rest stops and a few more Goo shots I reached the top of the second climb. I'm not sure how many miles we had to go as my trip computer had given up in disgust. It felt like it should be the home stretch, and it was. The descent back to the lake was a mixture of some serious X and XX grade drops and some epic technical single track. Putting mechanical issues aside (both bike and body) I grinned through the technical stuff and took in the awesome beauty of Brandy Creek.

I finished the ride just shy of the five hour mark. A good hour or more longer than Scott and Aaron. Its a fantastic race, but one you need to prepare for. I need to start hitting those San Francisco hills to build up some strength. Its Downieville in a few weeks for more of the same (and a couple of extra miles.) As I crossed the finished line I thought the best was over. Until I saw Scott and Aaron who welcomed me with a prize! yep, I'd won a T and a beanie in the raffle!

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