Two weeks back, Allison sent an email that said something like, "There's this ride in Idyllwild on the 24th...do you want to do it?" Apparently, we all shocked her by saying yes. And so, riding the San Jacinto Enduro became a quick addition to the calendar. The official stats from the non-management proved intimidating enough that a weekend warrior would not even think about it. I'll admit, it left me (experienced in painful multi-hour events) thinking about how smart I was.
My last really long ride was back in early August when we did our century. After that, I stopped being in training mode, riding and running as I felt necessary, which ended up being quite a bit. Would I be able to finish the ride...touted as 70+ miles and 11,000' of ascent? Only time and my legs would tell.
We met up with Allison and Justin the night before, in a routine that has become familiar and comforting all at the same time: we drive up on Friday night, make final preps while the guys tinker in the garage, then debate what time to wake up and finally lay our heads down. A & J have been there on most of the hardest rides I have ever done, and I have come to think of them as our enduro partners in crime.
Alarm went off at 4 am on Saturday for breakfast, packing the truck, and the drive up from Murrieta to Hurkey Creek. It was warm until we descended from Mountain Center into Hurkey...a chilly 37 degrees. WTF weather.com?? You suck! It called for low of 45!
A lone red blinky light helped us find the campsite where a couple dozen people were milling around and signing in, making final preps for the ride. At one point, Allison or Justin said, "Seems like every time we start a ride in the dark, you guys are here." Haha!
I had a pretty heavy pack (18-20 lb, I'd guess) and some warm gear on (including arm/leg warmers and a vest), but right as we did our neutral roll-out my fingers were numbing up. My booze cruise light also died before we hit pavement. Drat! Once we hit Hwy. 74, they were downright painful. Luckily that faded once we were 2 minutes up the climb. A & J quickly pulled away while Dan and I were about 10 people from the back. Dan soon stopped to fix his squeaky brake, and I continued on convinced he'd catch me pretty quickly. The ascent up Little Thomas was nothing of note and pretty soon I was at Rouse Ridge, where A & J were waiting up. We debated hanging around for Dan but took off after a min or two.
Rouse had a few climbs but was mostly descending to Cranston Ranger Station, and before I knew it, 22 miles had passed. We refilled bottles, stripped off our extra clothes and snacked at the bottom. Sure enough, Dan rolled in not 5 min later, chasing after us like hell but never fully catching up.
The most daunting, in my opinion, part of the ride was right in front of us: a nearly 4000' ascent from Hemet to Idyllwild via fireroad with a nearly 10% average grade. We took off on the 74 and made our turn onto the dirt. A & J were gone in about 30 seconds, leaving Dan & I slowly plodding our way along. Right away, I knew I let my nutrition get away from me...stomach was cramping and I was feeling hungry all at the same time. Tried to keep the cranks going and going but I had to stop a couple times to rest. Reality is that I just am not a climber, especially on my 30 lb bike. I try and have gotten better but still struggle.
Dan, about to drop Ramona Trail with view toward Hurkey Creek
We finally made it to the asphalt in Idyllwild...a magical sight...and met up with two guys (one in an Adams Ave jersey and one on a SS). We navigated through Idy and up toward Astrocamp, then back onto dirt to the top of May Valley...even stopped to refuel and have a brownie...best brownie EVER!
We navigated down toward Log Pile and then finally Coffee Pot...at the end, Dan took a wrong turn because the rest of us had hauled ass to try to follow Donna. Needless to say, I figured it out and went back up from the creek to Coffee Pot to wait for him. 20-25 min later, another rider approached, and I inquired about Dan. At this point, I was thinking that if we really got separated, we'd have a hard time finishing in the daylight. Luckily he had seen Dan, and I about faced out to May Valley Road. I debated...go up, go down or wait? I figured up was the best choice and no later than 30 seconds later, he came riding down the hill.
Back on route, we picked up another rider who was having trouble with the directions and hit up Missing Link, Rage, Tunnel of Love, and back into camp.
We rolled in at 1:05, my failure to wait for Dan having cost us 30 min of race time. I was determined to soldier on...but admit it was tough for two reasons: lots of people did the first loop only and were kicked back, enjoying beers and relaxing AND two guys FINISHED the entire race as we were going out on lap 2. I figured it would take us ~4 hours which would put us arriving back at sunset.
Dan, poor guy, really was not keen on continuing but did not want me going out alone, so he sucked it up and went along. Not too many husbands would do that for their wives...I know I am beyond lucky.
Loop 2 was billed as harder, mile for mile, than Loop 1, even though it was nearly twice as short. We got onto Powerline, crossed the road, and did a ~7 mile loop out there, then continued south toward Thomas Mt. Road.
Me, about to descend Ramona Trail. Anatomy of this endurance rider: really heavy bike (check), light system in case we don't make it by sunset (check), super heavy pack (check), cue sheet tucked in shorts (check)...
At Pyramid Peak Rd. we sat down in front of some mailboxes to have a snack and plan the rest of the mileage. It was a relief when, as we ascended Thomas Mt., the road was not as steep as our climb out of Cranston. I was worn out but knew that we didn't have much longer to go. Pedal. Pedal. Pedal.
For some reason, I had the cattleguard at mile 16.4 as my goal...make it there and we're practically home free. That side of TM had some quick descents as well as lower % grades, so it felt like we were moving pretty fast. On the other hand, I never realized how slow 0.1 of a mile could go by. Ugh.
Finally, we reached the top and Ramona Trail was our handsome reward. Man, that trail is so fun. I wasn't going super fast but was flowing it pretty well. A few of the switchbacks gave me a hard time, but I was, for the only time all day, not thinking about the ride and just having fun.
We tried to haul ass as much as possible back to camp, knowing that we never caught the rider in front of us and also knowing with some certainty that we were the last riders on course. If not for getting separated on Loop 1, we'd have finished 2nd or 3rd to last. Honestly, I was surprised how few people went for the full ride...the tire tracks diminished to a handful as we kept going.
Official Garmin stats: 79.3 miles, 10,802' of ascent.
As we rode up the dirt path to camp, you could tell everyone was like, "Is that them?!" Justin sprang up and made a finish line in the dirt for us, and we got a hearty round of applause. There was even pizza and brownies left! Yes, we were DFL, but we rode hard and above all, didn't give up.
I saw the sunrise and the sunset on that ride and got to share the experience with some of my best friends. And yes, I'm ready for the 12 Hrs of Temecula now...THAT I do know :)