Idaho Smoke ‘n’ Fire 400: Day 2

2As I awoke my attention was quickly directed towards my left hip which was sore and a throbbing Achilles. A quick look at my watch showed the time as 4:37am. I sunk back into my sleeping bag trying to get just a little more sleep, my persistence was without success. At 5:10a.m. I started getting dressed for Day 2. I didn’t hear Greg’s alarm, but I heard him stirring and we started visiting which woke Gary up. Soon all three of us had our tents down and gear packed up. We mounted our bikes and started the 4 mile steep climb of Dollarhide Summit together. As we cranked our way up climb Greg and Gary slowly pulled ahead of me. When I finally reached the Summit I found both of them ready to start the long descent into Warm Springs Canyon and Ketchum. Now, I normally look forward to downhill miles, but the temperature was only 23 degrees. To complicate things further the sun slowly creeping up the horizon and was creating a strobe like flashing between the blackened trees blinding me when the road turned to the east. The combination of the cold and blinding sun made for a stressful descent and dangerous ride. When I finally reached Ketchum my hands were numb up to my wrists and my feet numb to the ankles. I opted to eat breakfast at the Kneadery with Greg, Gary and Ken Runyan, our trip photographer. After breakfast, Greg and Gary headed to a bike shop and the post office. I headed back to the route and started up the Harriman Trail towards Galena Lodge. The trail surface included parts that were packed with dirt, loose gravel, and soft sand that sucks the speed and energy out of you. It is a steady grade with many rollers thrown in. It was on the first part of the trail that I realized I had ridden too hard the day before. My legs were heavy and I didn’t have the normal pedal pushing power. After several miles my lack of sleep from the night before had caught up with me. I pulled off the edge of the trail and took a nap lying in the grass surrounded by wildflowers. At least three riders passed by me because they all hollered at me to make sure I was okay. After a few minutes I continued the ride to Galena Lodge and ordered a hamburger to eat there and a sandwich to go for later. Greg and Gary set out after finishing lunch while I lingered trying to avoid the 6 mile climb to Galena Summit as long as possible. Doug Lamott showed up and we rode from the Lodge to the Summit with me trailing behind. It was a relief to finally reach the 8,700 foot Galena Summit. The course left the asphalt on the summit and we descended on the Centennial Trail road. At the bottom there was another huge herd of sheep grazing near the willows along the Salmon River. I had to harder again to make my cut off time 5:30 for starting the Fisher Creek Loop. I didn’t t want to get caught on the Fisher Creek single track in the dark. Doug and I made it through in time, and started the loop at 5:23pm. By the time we completed the loop and got back to Fourth of July creek the only thing dropping faster than the sun was the temperature. Doug elected to push on to Stanley so he could have a hot shower and sleep in a warm bed. I wanted to but didn’t have the energy left. I called it a day at mile 107 choosing to camp on Decker Flat Road next to the Salmon River. The temperature dropped to 17 degrees during the night, making it cold enough that I woke up and put more clothes on in an attempt to stay warm. I hadn’t helped things when I slipped on Rock while I was filtering water and soaked both feet. I knew the next day would be an adventure.

 

Idaho Smoke ‘n’ Fire 400: Day 1

blog 1Idaho Smoke ‘n’ Fire 400

Race day finally arrived and there was a lot of excitement and enthusiasm among the riders and supporters. I was surprised and pleased at the number friends and family that showed up so early for the start at Hyde Park. The pack of 33 riders rolled out right at 7:00am. I led the race until we crossed Fort St. two blocks away. It was a leisurely ride with a lot of chatting between the riders as we wound our way through downtown Boise and on to the Greenbelt. Race founder and organizer, Norb Dekerchove rode at the front of the group until we reached the Idaho Shakespeare Festival when he blew the air horn and the race was on. That is for those who were actually racing…

I was able to control my pace and resist the urge to chase other riders in the early miles. It didn’t take long for the ride to become challenging after we climbed the face of Lucky Peak Dam. The road/trail to Bonneville Point is steep, rocky and rough. It wasn’t long before the riders were spread out and I was riding alone. It was on one of the switchbacks that my training partner, Doug LaMott hollered hello from above and that was the last I would see of Doug for several hours. One of the things I discovered during my training rides is how much I enjoyed the solace of rolling down the dirt roads alone enjoying the fresh air and scenery. The first few hours I was occasionally passed by a rider moving at a faster pace. Usually, only an exchange of names and where you were from was the limit of the conversation.

There was a lot of climbing in the early part of the course as we followed Black’s Creek Road up and over the mountain to drop down the Neal Bridge where we crossed the South Fork of the Boise River. Immediately after crossing the river the ride made a steep climb out of the rocky sided cliffs of the canyon. After a few miles on the plateau above the river another steep climb brought us to the Y Store a couple miles before the small community of Prairie. I stopped to refill water bottles and buy some snack foods for later in the ride. The store owner recognized me from when I was in the store two weeks previously on a training ride. The weather was perfect for riding. Clear blue sky, crisp cool air, and no wind. Riding by Prairie I heard the familiar voice of Doug Lamott as he rolled out of the Restaurant where he had stopped for lunch. We rode together across the flats before starting the last big climb of the first section. The climb to the top of the summit took us through a badly burned area from the forest fires of last summer. There is a surreal sense of barrenness in the areas that experienced the hottest fires. The earth is bare and scorched black with skeletons of burnt trees. Eerily quiet as there is no sign of animal life or birds. Doug and I took a break together at the summit and then it was a very fast descent down the other side. After a few miles the course drops down alongside Anderson Ranch Dam. We get a brief respite from the washboard dirt and gravel roads with a few miles of pavement as we roll into Pine. I was feeling good and riding strong, so I elected not to stop in Pine and push on to Featherville.

I was riding alone again as I had descended on the last downhill section. We crossed the South Fork of the Boise River at Pine and turned upstream to parallel the river for the next 70 miles. My thoughts wandered from one subject to another and the world becomes a lot simpler. Living in Idaho is truly a blessing as we have the most amazing mountains, rivers, and lakes out our back door. Riding along on a bicycle is a great way to experience the beauty. The more level sections of the course are where I am the strongest and I started regularly passing some of the riders that had passed me on the climbs earlier. Lost in thoughts I was surprised when I glimpsed a rider ahead that looked familiar. My surprise deepened as I closed the gap and recognized the rider as Rob Adams another Boise Aeros member. This should have been a warning that I was riding faster and harder than recommended for a long endurance event. Rob is a great athlete and a very strong rider. Catching him meant I wasn’t doing a very good job of pacing myself.

Coming into Featherville I had completed the first section of the course, 89 miles.Sheep Hurder I was two hours ahead of the schedule I had roughed out for the first day’s ride. Several riders ended up in the restaurant eating and ordering sandwiches to go. Rob ordered a sandwich to go and bolted out the door, anxious to get on the road. He was shooting make the 159 miles to Ketchum the first day, which he ended doing. Doug rolled in and we ate together and then rode out of Featherville together. I decided to take it easy as I was ahead of schedule and was not going to have any problem making my goal of 130 miles the first day. Two other riders caught Doug and me as we rode along the river, Greg, who works at REI in Boise and Gary who is from Bend, OR. All four of us were amazed when in the middle of nowhere we found a telephone booth in a turn out between the dirt road and the river. What was more amazing is that we checked and it actually had a working dial tone. Several miles later I was riding alone again when I came to a massive herd of sheep being pushed up the road by a sheep herder on foot with a staff and Great Pyrenees herd dogs. I slowly rode my bicycle through the sheep as they parted around me. I was riding with one hand and holding my phone with the other videoing the sheep running and jumping out of the way as I passed through the herd. It was a little startling when one of the big white dogs ran up beside me and starting barking at me. Soon after passing the sheep herd I turned left at the junction to start the long uphill towards Dollarhyde Summit. During the climb, Gary and Greg caught up with me. We ended up camping together at mile 130 at the foot of the really steep Dollarhyde climb. The three of us chatted about the day’s ride, gear, and riding experiences as we set up our tents, filtered water from the stream and prepared for bed, As it got dark Rob rode by with his head light bouncing on up the road headed for Ketchum. After riding 130 miles it doesn’t take long to fall asleep. About thirty minutes after falling asleep I woke up wide eyed in excruciating pain from leg cramps. It was confirmation that I had ridden harder than I should have the first day. At the end of Day 1 I was tired but jubilant as I had the best day of riding I had ever had. I had ridden 130 miles which was 6 miles more than my plan called. Even better was that I had done it 2 1/2 hours faster than scheduled. Yahoo!

 

 

Idaho Smoke ‘n’ Fire 400 Begins!

img_2588-1280x960On Wednesday, September 10th at 7:00 AM, I begin the most physically and mentally challenging event I have ever attempted. It is the inaugural race of the Smoke ‘n” Fire 400. It is a grueling self-supported mountain bike race that covers 420 miles with 40,000 vertical feet of climbing. This will be my first self-supported mountain bike race. The past few months I have been blogging about the preparation. I had to develop and maintain a training schedule to prepare for the long miles and hill climbs. My past biking adventures have included traveling to amazing places like Yellowstone, the Colorado Rockies, Washington Coast, and Asia. This endeavor starts and ends in my home town Boise, ID. The views will include backcountry forest roads, parts of the Centennial and the Harriman Trail, famous single track sections. The course parallels several of Idaho’s beautiful rivers and spectacular mountain lakes like Red Fish Lake and Stanley Lake. Both lay at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains. The days will involve long hours of pedaling and short hours for sleeping. The unpredictable Idaho weather in the fall makes having the necessary clothing and gear to survive a challenge. The weight of the gear, clothes, water and food adds approximately thirty pounds more than the normal day mountain bike ride. Water is the most critical requirement and will require filtering water from streams to have enough in some portions of the race route. During the training rides I have seen a bear, coyotes, deer, and snakes in the day and listened to wolves howling at night. The race starts in Boise’s historic Hyde Park. The map of the race is below:

map loop

My goal is to finish the entire course in between 3 ½ and 5 days. The website  has a tab labeled “Sign Up/Start List that shows the names and cities of the 33 racers. The list has already dwindled down from 37 before the race has started. In addition to Idaho there are racers from Alaska, California, Washington, Oregon, and Montana.

You can follow the progress of all the racers by going to the link: http://trackleaders.com/smokenfire14

If you are interested, come to Boise’s Hyde Park, located at 13th and Eastman Streets at 7:00 AM Wednesday September 10th. Cheer the racers as we do a group start and ride out together, not knowing how long it will take nor who will return.