Wednesday, July 7, 2010

soggy bottom

Jon crossing a snowfield above Devil's Pass Lake.

Earlier this year, my friend Wendy said she wanted to do a race this summer and she wanted to do it as a relay. All she needed were two other riders to fill out the team for the 100-mile Soggy Bottom. (You see where this is going...) For some reason I must have said "yes." Or maybe I said something like: "that would be fun" or "I've thought about doing that." Well, Wendy has more initiative than I, and pretty soon I was committed to being on the team. Just a couple weeks ago, she told me she'd found our third team member. Now it's a go. I'm doing the Soggy.

I told her the leg I preferred is the final stretch covering just over 30 miles from the Devil's Creek Trailhead to Hope. I biked the route last year over the Fourth of July weekend with my friend Jo-Ann. It was a leisurely ride with plenty of breaks to snack, hang out in the sun and look at the wildflowers. This past weekend, I did the ride with Jon.

Rain was spitting as we drove to the trailhead. I wore knickers and started the ride with a jacket layered over a wool baselayer and jersey. I brought other warm gear as well. The descent at the beginning of the ride chilled me but I knew I'd warm up when I started to climb. A few switchbacks later and I was looking at my first unobstructed view up the valley. Clouds hung low in the mid-afternoon. Sprinkles dotted my riding glasses. These are conditions we expect later in the season, such as during the Soggy, rather than on the first weekend of July. I guess I've been spoiled the last couple of years...
Feeling pretty good!

Jon and I continued toward the pass, through creek crossings that ran deep and cold with spring runoff. Across snow fields that reached down from the high slopes into the valley. Through splattering mud; through rock fields. We passed some hikers and a couple dogs. The trail climbed and dipped, then climbed some more as we made our way up to the first pass. Wind blew, cooling us, so we didn't hang around for very long. We met two cyclists who gave us a trail report: It would get better when we got onto the other trail. First, there would be more snow to cross.

We pedaled between two small lakes nestled in the bottom of the valley. Last year, according to Jon, the lake water was warm enough for a swim. This year, our toes were chilled from the snowfields and creek crossings. My thoughts turned to the sauna in Hope...
May I just say that the cycling bolero is a wonderful
little invention? Sleeves that also cover the shoulders.
I was mighty happy I brought this - and it takes up so little room!

About 20 miles to go...
Jon, why are the fenders still in the car?

We turned north onto Resurrection Trail, where a thin, slick layer of mud on a relatively new section of trail made the turning climb a bit of a challenge. Then we pedaled more of the rolling trail to Resurrection Pass, with a tailwind to help us along. After a sandwich break, we continued north where we met our friend, Art, who would shuttle our car back to his cabin in Hope. He was completely dry with nary a speck of mud on his legs!
Wearing nearly everything I packed, even my ear band!

I kept thinking about the conditions. About my condition. Whether, during the race, I'll be able to get to Hope before darkness falls. I thought about how much time it will take each rider to pedal her leg; how much time it will take me. I admit, I'm not that fast. I normally ride at a comfortable pace; not overly slow or particularly fast on the climbs. But I don't give up either. Considering there were a few places - not many - where I had to dismount and walk; a few stops for photos or snacks, or to remove or add a layer of clothing; I still did the ride in under six hours. It's a month out and I know I can pick up my pace just a bit. I'll be able to ride more of the trail which will be clear of snow; I won't stop to chat. To be on the safe side, I'll carry a headlight. I'll hope for not too much rain in the days leading up to the race.

I now feel more mentally prepared for the trail than I did a week ago, but knowing I'll have to train in order to ramp it up even a little just goes counter to my personality. I don't have a racer's drive. I'm more inclined to stop and gaze at flowers and the views than at a heart-rate monitor. And while I love mountain biking, I'm not in it just to see how fast I can go. On Saturday, I remembered once again why I love to ride here: because biking can take me to some of the most beautiful places on the Kenai: the wide-open high areas of Resurrection and Devil's passes. I could hang out there all day. But in a race, that's not quite the idea. For this ride, I'll have to push myself and save the viewing for another day.
Looking southwest on the Resurrection
Trail, just after Devil's Pass junction.

No comments: