Here is my write up as a first time EB rider.
The 2012 Enchilada Buffet – or my little piece of it
Weather looked to be decent as we were getting ready to roll out of Walnut Creek – mid 60’s with high humidity and fog. A friend had forgotten her Camelbak bladder so we were making plans for Micki to get one and meet us at Barton Springs Pool. In all of the confusion and coordination I forgot to get my water bottle with the energy drink out of the car. First major mistake of the day.
There were a HUGE number of riders; I heard it was around 130. The trip through Walnut was ‘interesting’. Getting that many riders through the gate, down the trail, across the creek was crazy. The gate to the service road forced everybody to go through one or two at a time so it stretched the crowd some. When we got to the main creek crossing several people missed the climb out and it was chaos. We locals rode through without a problem but we had to go through the deep part to avoid the people stopped and standing in the shallow line. So I got my foot wet at the first creek crossing so before the ride even started. During my training rides I was having foot pain on the top of my arch after about 50 miles. At a friend’s suggestion I had got some thick wool socks. Now these socks held that water like a sponge. Second major mistake and we haven’t even started the easy road section.
The huge pack of riders made to Barton Springs without incident. But the leaders took us down some narrow rock stairs to get the pool house. I was amazed how many people got off their bikes and walked down the stairs. If they were walking these stairs I suspected they would really struggle with the green belt, City Park and Thumper. I wanted to pass them and keep going but I needed to check that Micki and Andrea had connected and hopefully get my water bottle from Micki. When I stopped, Micki had texted me that Andrea didn’t need a bladder after all. What? Had she found hers in the car or something? Any way – no water bottle, no energy drink. As I am about to leave Andrea rides in and says they stopped at Tony Fryer’s house and got a bladder. So that’s why Andrea didn’t need the bladder Micki went for. I turned on my Garmin at the trail head at 8:08 AM.
I started the Barton Creek Greenbelt (BCGB) in just about last. There might have been 5 riders behind me that stopped to use the restroom. I try to set a steady pace that just burned up the miles at minimum effort. I found that point in my training rides to be in the 140 to 150 heart rate range with bursts up to 165 on short hills. As I cruise down the first part of the BCGB there are an amazing number of dog walkers but very few EB riders. I think I passed only two riders before the climbing areas. Most of the walkers seemed a bit annoyed that I was there. You would think they had just dealt with over 100 riders interrupting their walk 😉 I finally started seeing EB riders after the second creek crossing. The first two were fixing a flat. The next three were lost already and were checking a map. Those three jumped on my wheel to let me navigate the trails. Two of them couldn’t keep up and had dropped before we got to Sweet 16. I passed Tommie and Rachelle turning onto Sweet 16. Finally, some familiar faces.
The one rider that had stayed with me was a good rider (call him G/W for green jersey / white helmet Monday after the ride I find out his name is Adam R) He stayed right on my wheel through everything. We picked up several more riders who need navigation help through SW16. It was just like the previous group – one or two stayed with us and several got dropped. We passed Clark Stringer on one climb. I thought Clark would join the train but I didn’t see him again. We pass Dennis Lanning who has stopped and doesn’t try to jump onto the train.
We ran up on some others who needed to know the route but these guys wanted to stay in front of me. I passed one when he dabbed and the other crossing under Mopac. He took the straight across line and I turned down the creek bed. He seemed surprised when his line doubled back to me only I was in front of him now. I will see these Blue/Black guys (B/B) guys many more times thru the day. The G/W guy was fit and a good rider so he stayed right on my wheel. Later he tells me that he was picking them off just like I was. He watched and stayed on my line and passed on anything they bobbled. He got hung up by the guys that wanted to stay in front. I pulled away from everybody but slowed down so they wouldn’t get lost. Sure enough G/W was the first to catch back up. We went back to my cruising pace and dropped the B/B guys.
Leaving SW16, Valarie was waiting at the exit taking pictures. John G. was there talking to her. I said hi but kept riding. There were several riders along the dirt road but I didn’t pay much attention to them since I was talking to Valarie and John as I rode past. When I was turning into Pump House there was nobody in sight in front or behind me. What happened to G/W? When I start down the first downhill on Pump House I hear a familiar male voice saying they thought I said I was taking it slow on the EB. I though John had caught up but the voice wasn’t quite right. A little later I finally place the voice – Paul Burslem! I haven’t seen or heard from Paul since we were doing the regular Thursday group evening rides. He would be a good person to ride with – if I can keep up. We bomb down Pump House making good time. I missed a shift on the first climb and pull off to let others have a clear shot. Paul almost makes it up (I slowed him down a lot) and G/W has caught up again! We pick up some more riders and have a good train going again. At the bottom of Pump House there are still more riders who need to know which way to go. I showed them the creek crossing to the left where there is still orange caulk visible from last year’s EB. Me, Paul & G/W ride through the creek crossing and out the other side. Somewhere behind G/W somebody doesn’t make the climb out and we lose part of the train.
I go back to my cruising pace and the three of us ride to the dam. After crossing the dam my tires are wet and I can’t climb out of the creek crossing. I spend a lot of energy getting going again. This isn’t a good way to be starting Mulch Hill. At the bottom of Mulch I pull over and tell everybody to pass as I’m going to walk up the steep part at the bottom. Five or six riders pass me including several I have never seen before. Just like me, most of the group rides part of Mulch and has to walk part. Only I planned to walk the steep part at the bottom to save energy. There are several more riders sitting on the side of Mulch resting or eating. Part way up Mulch I get back on the bike and ride the rest. At the top it is just me, Paul, G/W and a new guy (#30) who is going slow but riding just about everything. A couple of riders climbed right up Mulch and are gone. Most of the rest are standing by their bikes and panting.
The 4 of us keep moving but are going pretty slow while we recover. We keep going and passing back and forth as somebody bobbles a climb or ledge but Paul, G/W and me stay together fairly well. The other two are better/more fit riders but I know the trail. Some where we lost #30 – I don’t know if he dropped us or we dropped him.
About the top of Jedi, we run across Hoss who is working on his bike. Hoss said he has broken his derailleur and is done for the day. I ask if there is anything I can do. He says he will convert his bike to single speed and ride out, but he is done. I’m sorry to see Hoss drop out especially this early in the EB.
We see Valarie again at the top of Power Line. G/W asks which way and starts down. Paul says he needs to stop a minute but I should keep going – so I do. I’m in recovery mode so I’m not moving all that fast. I hear Paul catch up just before we hit the tree line. G/W is just ahead of me so we are back together. When we get to the ledge drops near the bottom of Power Line, G/W steps off his bike and walks the first ledge. I slow down and let him clear so I can ride them. I hear Paul right behind me so I think Paul rode them also. I take the right after the second ledge and make the main trail at the bottom of the hill before anybody gets close. I holler back to take the right and they respond from well up the hill. Something tells me they hadn’t seen that part of the trail before. We regroup where we crossed the creek and I send Micki a text that we are approaching the HOL. My phone says it is exactly 10:00 and we are about ¼ mile east of the Hill of Life.
I find Micki almost at the bottom of the Hill of Life. She has made signs and walked almost to the bottom to greet me. I walk and ride the Hill of Life just like I was planning to except I walk the top portion that I always try to ride. I talk to Micki as we walk up that top part and she fills me in on who is where, etc. Casey has posted signs on the Hill of Life – “Do or Do Not. There is no Try – Yoda” and “Pain is Weakness leaving the Body”. What a fun group! At the top; Valerie, Casey, Charley Ramsey and several others are waiting and cheering for us. Paul has waited for me but G/W has gone on. There are about 10 people at the top of the hill in various stages of resting, recovering or giving up. This is about 30 miles into an 85 mile ride and there are already riders in trouble. Darlene makes it to the top and figures out she has cut the entire Mulch, Jedi and Power Line loop. She asked some riders for directions at the bottom of the hill and was told to climb out the Hill of Life, so she did. We ran across Darlene several more times during the day.
360 over to Courtyard was uneventful. Paul didn’t have a big ring on his bike so I left him on the down hills. He is in much better shape to he would catch back up on the long climbs. At one point I hear somebody behind me and think it is Paul. But there is a new guy in an orange jersey behind me and Paul is a good ways behind him. As we go up Courtyard Paul and orange guy leave me behind when I hit my heart rate redline (160) and get off to walk. We regroup at the top and fly down the other side only to have to stop at the stop sign on City Park Road. Then grind up the City Park hill. As we are going up, what I think are the leaders are coming down the hill. I recognize Josh DeB in the first group and Ron Acuna not far behind them. We also pass George Dawkins climbing out of City Park road. Since George planned to start at 5:00, he has a pretty good lead on us. For a guy that is 72 year old and riding the EB – George is my hero.
We make it into City Park with no problems. Micki and Valarie are waiting for us. I wanted to stop and rest a minute before we started City Park, but a minute turned into about 15 minutes. Sarah Ginsbach passes us leaving City Park and there is a big discussion of what happened to Cindy. Cindy had gone into City Park with about a 15 minute lead over Sarah but now Sarah has at least a 10 minute lead on Cindy. I make a mental note to be looking for Cindy next to the trail in City Park. Rachelle caught up to us before we started the trail. Actually Rachelle started into the trail before Paul and I did but she got snagged on the first climb and we passed her. It didn’t take long for Paul to drop me. I was trying to hold the steady cruising pace and just make my way through with minimal energy expended. City Park has enough punchy climbs that I couldn’t just cruise up, so it was constant cruise, hammer, cruise, and hammer. But I’m making good time and not killing myself doing it. At the top of the Bench Climb I see Paul just ahead of me and I try to catch up. When I get to the top, there is a big group of riders resting and Paul is nowhere to be seen. But a green bike like his is next to some trees like he stepped behind the tree to pee. I figure he will catch me and go on. At this point I’m starting to notice two things. First, there are a TON of new, fresh, well worn cheater lines. Even the cheater lines have cheater lines now. And they have been ridden enough that the dirt is brown, not the white dust like everything else at City Park. Second, there a LOT of riders that can’t deal with the terrain at City Park. I bet these are out of towners who don’t see much less ride City Park. I pass B/B guys stuck on a drop. (Yep – those same guys. How did they get in front of me?) One walks down it just ahead of me and stays in the line like he is waiting for me to get off the bike. I tell him if he will move I will show how to ride it. He steps back; I drop down it and keep riding. I figure this will be last time I see B/B. Silly me.
I have a really good uneventful ride through City Park. After the first mile or so I don’t see anybody. I don’t get passed even once in City Park. I think to myself that is unusual, I always get passed at City Park. Then it dawns on me all the fast riders are way ahead of me so I’m not going to be passed as much. Near the end of the lap I meet Theresa who has walked backwards on the trail to take pictures. She gets a couple of pictures on the last climb out of City Park. I turned a one hour lap of City Park! At the parking lot I wait for Rachelle. Actually, that was just my excuse to rest a bit before starting out. Micki tells me that Paul has gone on so somehow he passed me.
We make it to Jester Mart where Barb Fryer has set up a water & taco stand for us. Barb, Karen and Paulette had all kinds of food and refreshments for us. EB Angels! While we are at the lunch stop Hoss rides in! He rode his bike over to Texas Cycle Works and got a derailleur installed and got back in the route! Talk about commitment to finish!
We stop and get food and water, etc. Rachelle takes a taco and starts walking up Jester. Paul has waited for me there. Turns out it wasn’t his green bike I saw on the ground but another guy who is stopped with us. After I down three tacos (!?) and too much water, Paul and I start up Jester. I’m full and stone cold so I walk almost all of Jester. Near the top, Paul’s wife and kids meet us on the road. Paul has been trying to coordinate with them every time he could and finally connected.
As we turn back out on to 360 Paul says he is good spirits since it looks like he will finish this year. He dropped out at Thumper last year when he took a wrong turn and wound up on a golf course. It is about 2:00 and I made the *STUPID* mistake of saying “from this point I think we could bonk really hard and still finish since we have so much daylight left”. We start up Spicewood Springs Road and pass Yaupon where it starts to look like rain. Sure enough we hit a little shower just about that point. And the shower gets heavier and heavier and heavier. The little light shower turns into a heavy rain before we reach St Ed’s. Both of us have to stop and take our glasses off because we can’t see. When we turn on to the St Ed’s trail there is water running down the trail like a creek. Near the bottom I see a rider huddled under a tree holding his Camelbak over his head for some shelter. The rocks are slick but we just keep climbing up the hill. Near the top, the rain backs off to a light drizzle and the sun comes out. At the top we turn right and start down the fence line. The first time I grab my brakes – nothing happens. I keep squeezing the levers and finally the brake squeal starts and I slow down a little. Ok, the brakes are still there they are just wet. I warn Paul that the rocks are slick and I have no brakes. I think I heard him drop back a little as he said he had the same problem. Once we turn off the fence line trail, there are mud and deep puddles everywhere. We just keep slogging forward. When we turn back onto the rocky climb we pick up a good bit of speed. There wasn’t much choice because the rocks and brakes weren’t slowing us down much. We pass some guys coming up the hill who tell us we are going the wrong way. One of them is one of the organizers (James?) who tells us we should have turned right at the top of the hill. Paul tells him we did and followed the fence line and turned right after the first big ledge. He says that was right but we missed a left turn somewhere. Paul and I are about to turn around and follow them back up when he says don’t worry about it. So we continue down the hill.
The rain stopped by the time we got back to Spicewood Springs Road. We made it over to Yaupon talking about the condition Thumper will be in after the rain. After we walk / ride up Yaupon, we rest a bit and listen to the riders who have just finished Thumper. Most tell us it is slick so be careful. Cody says it is slick, so don’t use your brakes. I’m most concerned about wet slick off-camber rocks that point you down a cliff. Rachelle comes in just as we are leaving to ride Thumper. It turns out she was on the part of St Ed’s we missed. As Paul and I start into Thumper it starts a light shower again. I had to open my big mouth and say we would finish!
Thumper was bad. I normally love that trail but not today. I expected to have more trouble than normal since I would not be fresh when starting Thumper, but the slick rocks and mud made it incredibly tough. We would ride 40 – 50 yards and walk 40 – 50 yards. All the getting on and off the bike started to wear me down more than riding. I tried staying on the bike more but I just slid off the side of the trail where I got stuck in the mud. Both of us were having trouble getting clipped back in when we would try to ride. We started walking more and more of the up hills just because we couldn’t get going again. I started having thoughts of ‘just what was I thinking?’ and ‘I’m too old for this’. Then we run across B/B again. They are near the 2 way section of trail trying to figure out where to go. They say that they should be near the finish since they have been in Thumper for about 2 hours. I point them to the trail and tell them NOT to follow us because we are on the way IN to Thumper and they should be on their way OUT. Once again I think how did these guys pass me without me seeing them?
Fortunately, about half way through Thumper the trails dried up! It looks like that side of the canyon hadn’t gotten any rain. We started riding again and I was thinking I could finish after all. We ran across Micki who was cheering for us and yelling “There is NO quitting”. How could she know what I was thinking?
After we rode a ways we get the part of Thumper where it is mostly switchbacks and climbing. I tell Paul he should go on I need a Gu and some recovery time. He does and I have a Gu and walk slowly. I know better than to stop completely. After a good 15 minutes of walking slowly I’m feeling better and start trying to ride again. But the mud is really caked into my pedals/shoes and I can’t get clipped in. I finally stop and dig the mud out with a stick. Once I could ride again I start feeling much better. I’m still tired but I’m moving forward. Near the end of Thumper I run into Micki and Theresa and Ann (I think?). They said it was less than 5 minutes to the end of Thumper! I made it out of Thumper but I am TIRED!!! I sit at Cindy’s rest stop for 15 – 20 minutes and eat and drink like a pig. Thanks Cindy – you are a life saver.
When Paul and I are about to leave, Paul tries to call his wife again but can’t get the phone to work. While we are dealing with that, Rachelle comes out of Thumper. She grabbed a drink and followed us up Yaupon for the road back to Walnut Creek. I am REALLY dragging at this point so even the little up hills on the road are killing me and my legs are starting to cramp. It is getting close to dark so I don’t want to stop. Finally I raise my seat about an inch at the Oak Knoll stop light and keep riding. Hoss has caught up to us so it is me, Hoss, Rachelle and Paul making the final road stretch to Walnut. It is getting near sun down and one of my goals was to finish before sundown (without lights). I started picking up the pace after we pass 183. I hear somebody behind me so I think everybody is on my wheel. When we get to Parmer, Hoss is with me but Paul and Rachelle are not. I look back for them but don’t see them anywhere. I soft pedal up Parmer hoping Paul and Rachelle will catch up but I never see them again. Hoss has pulled away while I was soft pedaling. At Mopac, Hoss makes the light and I don’t. I hope the other two will catch up but I don’t see them with the light finally changes about 10 minutes later.
I get into Walnut and Micki is waiting at the maintenance shed to ride Walnut with me. It is still light but close enough to sundown I have to take my glasses off. I tell her we need to hurry so I can finish before dark. We pick up Hoss and Paulette who are also going to ride Walnut together. We all cruise together until Root Drop. Micki and Paulette drop off so we can try to finish by dark. At Elvis I pick up two more guys who need somebody to navigate but want to lead. I end up passing them by Waterfall Crossing and pick up – (who else?) B/B going into Log Loops. Once again they want to lead while I navigate from behind. They slow down on a turn and I pass both of them *again*. (Now where did they pass me this time?) As I pass them I hear somebody else get around them and I think it must be Hoss. Part way through Inner Log Loops, ‘Hoss’ says something to me – but with Paul’s voice! Paul had caught back up! It is getting close to dark and I’m hammering to finish before dark. I blow a shift climbing up on to the dam and both B/B go by me. I drop into Mark’s Art with Paul on my wheel and we are flying. It is just about dark so in the trees the visibility is getting low, but there is plenty of light where there are no trees. We flew through Tangle of Trails and run into – B/B again going the wrong way. We tell them to get on my wheel and follow us. They tried but we dropped them again going into Severe Consequences. The last I saw of them Paul and I were finishing the technical section of Severe and they were standing at the top of the drop.
Now it is starting to get dark enough that I think I will have to stop and get my lights out. I’m to the point where I can find the trail but I’m really not seeing anything but the path through the trees. The actual trail surface is too dark to see. At the end of Severe, Paul turned his light on. Now I could see enough that I just kept hammering. We pop out of the tree onto the Service Road and climb the little hill to the parking lot. At the finish, they said we finished in just over 12 hours – so I just missed the 12 hour goal. (The posted results show that Paul and I finished in 12 hours 12 minutes.) After the finish, Paul said that Rachelle needed to stop and they lost us on the road.
Thanks to everybody for all the work putting on the Enchilada Buffet. It was my first time to do it and I learned a lot. I need to be in much better shape being at the top of the list of lessons learned. The second is that the commitment to finish is crucial – Just ask Hoss or John who broke derailleurs, fixed them and finished. Thanks to Barbara, Cindy, Karen, Paulette, Valerie and Micki for cheering us on, feeding and watering us and keeping us moving. And a special thanks to Micki for putting up with all my training and following me around knowing just when to tell me to keep going (there is no quitting).