Monday, January 12, 2009

Excursion Article Series 09.13.08: Cache-Game bike race is easier with all your gears, just ask all the 40-year old women that beat me

Caption: My friend Grant heads up Cache Creek Road just before sundown. Pushing daylight's limits, we did most of the trail in the dark, making this the only usable photo I had.

Excursion: Cache-Game bike trail
Length: Two hours by day and four hours by night (not recommended)
Distance: About 10 miles one way
Difficulty: Intermediate
Directions: Go to the end of Cache Creek Road in east Jackson and bike down road past closed gate. Follow road nearly four miles before crossing Cache Creek and heading uphill to the south. Follow trail markers to parking area on far side. Game Creek Road feeds right onto bike path if you’d like to return to town that way.

Oops. Dropped it.

I picked my complimentary Power Bar up off the ground and took a bite after hardly brushing it off. I figured during the race I had already eaten so much dust it didn’t matter anymore. I took more time later brushing off the dusty Chacos I had worn.

Yes, I wore Chacos in a mountain bike race. I guess I was a hot topic of conversation among the hardcore racers wearing their stretchy pants and clip-in shoes.

Me, I just thought I was the only one relaxed enough to wear my normal wardrobe to a race.

I did all right at the start of the Cache Creek to Game Creek Mountain Bike Race back in July. Of course, the start of the course was flat, beginning at Mike Yokel Park and up Cache Creek Road. My high gears work just fine.

It’s the low ones that have a problem. My low gear on the front crank was out of commission due to lack of precious, enabling oil.
When we hit the four-mile uphill stretch, I watched an incessant parade of young, old, male and female pass me. None were exempt from “beating Mark up the hill” status. Stationed all along the trail, helpers kept telling me what a good job I was doing. After being passed (I’m nearly sure of this) by everyone else doing the race, I got fed up when a right cheery lass urged me on and told me how well I was doing. I pointed at my race number (168) and yelled, “No I’m not. See this number? That’s the same place I’m going to finish.”

I wish I hadn’t been so prophetic.

I think out of about 175 entrants, I only managed to beat the two women in the age 50 to 59 category (one of which I passed on the downhill) and the guy that had to change his tire mid-race.

Sweet, huh?

I take solace in the fact that I entered on a whim with my brother Jeff about three hours before the race actually began. It was my first mountain bike race, my seat went wacky on me and started angling up and my low gear was out. I think under the circumstances I should be proud of dusting (ahem) all three of those suckers.

To add insult to injury, I was like the only person that didn’t win a stinkin’ raffle prize. At least my brother shared the pizza he won.

On a less bitter note, I oiled my chain recently and tackled the trail again. It was a different trail entirely. With a functional low gear, a seat that was firmly in place and friends that weren’t worried about time, I enjoyed it much more. I even felt like a pacesetter. Gone were the four or five times I had to dismount to get to the top of a wussy incline. Gone was the burn of being a gear too high with a bicycle seat up my … you get the idea. I had fun the first time I went, but I enjoyed my second trip much more.

The only problem we had was being too lax. By the time we came out, we were in complete inky darkness. It’s an interesting feeling going downhill by feel, I assure you. None of us dressed warm enough for the crisp night air either.

During the race in July, my brother had passed someone, yelling, “On your right!” to make sure she knew he was there.

The woman responded, “Mountain lion on your right!”

He was so intent on placing better than 168th that he didn’t stop to see the rare mountain lion. But beware, the danger is there, and it was forefront in our mind the next month as we felt our way out and heard animals moving in the trees from time to time.

The six miles of downhill are beautiful: very few switchbacks on smooth singletrack with only a couple water crossings to slow you down. Just keep in mind they are faster and more fun by daylight.

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