JG’s Rookie Ride

Prerides. Had never ridden St. Edwards or Thumper.  Did so previous Sunday solo.  Got lost in Thumper.  Checked out BCGB on Tuesday  with guys that knew the trail.  Or they used to before deluge.  Got lost on Sweet 16 and came out by BestBuy.  Onto Jedi and took a right ending up on cliff overlooking Sculpture.  Handed bikes down, got to fast moving creek.  Slipped from waist to chest deep crossing in clipless.  13 miles in 3 hours.  Not good.  Decided to revert to flats with 510s for EB.  Not efficient on road or ups, but better for me on slick rocky trails and super for hike and bike.

3am.  After 4 hours sleep, the anticipation has me up for the day.  Fill up the camelbak and set it on the counter only to return later to see a puddle spreading beneath it and waterfalling onto the floor.  Leaving the bite valve open and laying a very heavy camelbak on said valve can do that.  So it’s 5am and I’m using a hairdryer to dry out the now soaked camelbak, looking in the mirror and wondering if this is some omen.  Of course not, as my kids’ like to say, it’ll be the “best day ever”.

6:30am.  Meet up with Stone & Bagger in WC parking lot and enjoy a nice rollout through the creek and down to Zilker.  I knew I would not keep up with them off road.  As we get closer to the bridge, the pace quickens and I drop back.  Turning left after bridge, the dawn is breaking over the downtown Austin and I notice a guy stopped to grab a cool photo.  That is the attitude I try to maintain throughout the day, whether I stop and use a camera or not…just take snapshots and have fun.

BCGB.  Having only dropped in at 360 & HOL, this Zilker trail is all new to me.  I take a slow and steady pace as a few guys pass by, Stone & Bagger come up beside after a short pitstop but as soon as I see them we come to a detour sign and somehow I’ve crossed over the dry creekbed and am now on the left side….solo.  After a few minutes the trail becomes a path and then a mere suggestion of a trail.  I stop.  I  even shout “hello” a few times.  It is quiet.  Rather than retrace my steps, I carry my bike across the moonscape dry creekbed, through the brush and find a trail.  I pass some trail runners who tell me I’m going the right way and finally get back on the Main Trail.  Met John (Cat 2 Racer) who overslept for the EB but was out hammering anyway.  He shows me the turnoff for Pumphouse (which I surely would have missed) and it’s a good ride to the top and over to Moon Shadow.  A British chap blows past me with a smile and words of encouragement.  Later I get ahead of a couple guys I was riding with only to make a left at some point and see them coming downhill towards me.  Turn around the right way, get past Gravel Pit and down Mulch Hill to the dam.   Rather than risk slipping barefoot, I cross in my shoes.  Bad choice.  Going up the HOL my 510 Impacts feel heavier than steel toe workboots.  They weigh well over 1/2 pound each dry and felt over a pound each wet.  I walk the majority of the way up and am relieved to be out in just under 2 hours.  After a short break and refuel, I’m off to 360 with taillight and ipod.

360.  First a roadie passes me, then a EBer blazes by just killing it uphill – I’m sure he’ll catch the roadie in no time.   I’ve only gone the other way before on a roadie bike myself so going mostly downhill is a relief.  I drop by bike shop on 360 to pickup some items and see the British chap again.  He said he shredded his tire on HOL and was getting a new one installed ASAP.  I wonder how he handled 360 on a mangled tire and as I’m out the door I notice he’s still smiling.  Nice.  Crossing the 360 bridge I’m passed by 2 tri-bikes, they turn right on Courtyard and immediately U-turn and stop at the red light.  That seems like a safer bet than shooting across 2 lanes of 360 into the left turn lane so I pull up behind them and say hey.  They appear to be preoccupied with their own ride, but at least I’ll have somebody ahead of my climbing Courtyard as motivation.  The light turns green and they turn left back down 360.  Suckas.  I thought I’d go up Courtyard maybe halfway and walk the rest, but was able to grind it all the way to the top.  I stop and get a photo of the city and Lake Austin behind me feeling pretty psyched.  I get to CP road and my legs say it’s time to walk.  I listen.  Dozens of riders coming out of CP and cheers are exchanged with all.  Coming down the road near the entrance and I run into riding buddy TTodd who lives nearby and has agreed to ride some of the EB with me.

City Park.  I refuel and rest for a short period and give TTodd a brief recap.  We head out counter-clockwise which to us is backwards.  I hadn’t ridden CP in a couple years but it’s TTodd’s home course so having a navigator will be good.  Having a riding buddy will be better.  He’s making alot of ups and seeing him ride encourages me to ride stronger.  The miles seem to tick by rather quickly and TTodd even catches the Main Loop sign that Uturns back up which I might have missed otherwise.  We only see one other EBer in CP and pass her near the end.  Just over an hour and were back at the parking lot.  More fuel from the awesome Trail Angels and we prepare to hit the road.  TTodd airs up his tires and offers to do the same for me.   Sounds like a good idea, next thing I hear is PSSSSST.  TTodd is standing there with my tire stem in hand, but he volunteers to change it for me as I probably look a little haggard by now.  The girl comes out of CP and hits the road right on.  Did she even stop to take a break?  I’m now changing socks and stuffing newspaper in my shoes to soak up some of that Barton Creek water.  A truck pulls up and asks if we need help.  I walk over and meet Kent (Thumper) and ask if finishing is doable.  He says if I have not spent it all yet, then yes.  I ask about St. Edwards since my only pre-ride of that the previous weekend was solo and had me staying on the barbed wire trail on the way down from the top.  This looks like some Red Bull Rampage ride.  Who rides down this?  I thought St. Eds was relatively easy.  On the pre-ride I had to carry my bike over 2, then 3, then 4 foot ledges to the bottom.  Hikers coming up gave my strange looks.  Fortunately Kent told me to hook a right before it starts looking sketchy and follow that path down.  He said there would be a 100 foot cliff on my left and if I make it to Thumper, he’d see me there.

Jester.  I’m moving slower and it takes a while to get to Jester.  The girl from CP is ahead of us and we are not catching her.  I get about halfway up Jester and stop and hike.  I’m walking right next to TTodd, pacing him as he sits and spins.  Then it gets steeper and the pain bites at my calves like a Skrink from Dr. Seuss.  I feel like I’m still walking the same speed but TTodd is now 10, 20 , 50 feet ahead – climbing like an ibex.  I make it to the top where TTodd is waiting and we’re off.  I’ve never been on Jester, thus never on Beauford.  I feel like my brakes are fading (they’re not) and am reminding myself how I knocked out four baby teeth riding a scooter down a steep grooved hill like this as a kid.

St. Edwards.  We catch the entrance to St. Edwards and start our accent.  I had told TTodd that the up was just a slow wide climb and the down is supposedly some fast singletrack.  Somehow I missed a turn and we were going backwards.  I realized this at the moment I saw both a fellow EBer coming down towards me and the 100 foot cliff on our RIGHT.  We pass several more EBers  coming down and finally make it to the top.  Bonus points for doing it backwards I tell TTodd as we hit the down (up) and off to Thumper.  With a few Sergeant Carter like barks from TTodd at my side, I actually make it up Yaupon without walking, which was not my intention.   I’d be psyched again but I know what lies ahead.

Thumper.  $%#@#!  We pull up to the entrance to cheers and smiles from the Trail Angels feeling pretty good.  A rider emerges exclaiming 1 hour 37 minutes.  He looks beat.  He also arrived here 1 hour 37 minutes faster than me.   Unlucky for me TTodd has to turn back but having a riding buddy, even for 2 trails of the EB makes all the difference in the world.  After refueling I feel positive and drop in Thumper.  I cross a few people coming out.  Their faces are a mix of pain and hope.  I had preridden Thumper for the first time the previous Sunday….solo……and got lost.  But this time I saw the EB signs and was in good shape the first 15 minutes or so.  Go as fast & safely down and pedal up as much as possible. Then I crossed a ditch and came upon yellow tape and an EB sign that pointed left, back down and up the same ditch.  I go down the ditch but make the mistake of looking back and seeing another EB sign on a tree pointing back up a different path.  I am stumped.  I go back up the way I came and think I see a path continuing so I take it.  I pass by the picnic bench and do a loop that I realize I had just done.  Then a guy comes out of nowhere asking how to get out.  I tell him I don’t know but believe down and right is probably the way.  He says he’s been here 2 hours and is not pleased with his Garmin.  That’s the G-rated version.  He says he’ll continue climbing and I never see him again.  I do not want to be that guy.  I was that guy the previous Sunday.  I quickly find my way back to the fork in the ditch and the EB signs.  Luckily a few riders pass by and explain that the path is a shared 2-way for a short stretch and point me in the right direction.  They are all pushing their bikes.  Up and down.  I don’t think I saw or heard anybody again.  I would go long stretches without seeing an EB sign and started talking out loud.  Every EB sign I found was like a shot of adrenaline, reassuring me that I was not lost.  I was now pushing my bike more than riding it.  The pain going up some of the steeps urged me to stop but the mosquitoes that swarmed in this Dante’s Inferno seemed to attack the moment I even thought about stopping.  “Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate.”  “Abandon all hope, you who enter here.”  You guys might want to think about putting that quote on a sign up by the powe rlines.  The misery continues.  I will not even stop for a gel for fear that my legs will freeze and the mosquitoes will eat me alive.  Then I get a flat.  I feel I must be close to the end and I’m just pushing my bike around anyway at this point.  I see power lines and know the end is near.  The mosquitoes are actually there to help me, buzzing in my ear  anytime I think of stopping – Push baby, push, push, yeah!  I am out.  The Trail Angels (Cindy?) remembered me and had me set up with Coke immediately.  She said I looked like I needed sugar.  Indeed.  Valerie said I just missed 2 guys that headed in.  I hoped they could get out of there by dark and finish by 9:30.  Then a familar voice offers me his chair.  It’s Kent (Thumper) from the truck at CP and I guess he’d just done a couple loops for fun.  HaHa!  He and Valerie were a a huge help, they had my wheel and tire off before I had found my tire levers and somehow discovered a microscopic thorn stuck in my tire.  Had I changed the tire solo I would have missed that thorn and probably gotten a few miles away before I flatted again.  Out of tubes and out of luck.  But I survived that which is Thumper in less than 2 hours and had plenty of time to hit WC before dark.  I quit keeping time on my watch.

Parmer.  Got used to pedaling again and picked up the pace once I hit the first turn off Yaupon.  Parmer was uneventful.  Hooked a right on Willow Wild and off to the right the sky was turning orange and pink as the sun dipped behind the clouds on the horizon.

Walnut Creek.  Rode by Stone and Bagger who were tailgating.  Invited them for a bonus lap around WC.  No takers.  They both looked like they were ready to do it all over again on Sunday.   Slapped my headlamp on my helmet and they pointed me in the right direction.  Still alot of dusk to be had so I figured to get on it while I could and slow it down once the light was necessary.  The WC hardpack felt like Hockenheim and the blue squares guided me well.  Once darkness fell I saw a few lights bouncing around in the distance from fellow EBers. Walked the root drop.  The Tangle of Trails and Severe Consequences were fun at night.  Then I’m crossing under the lights in the parking lot.  Very cool to have so many riders and others still hanging out cheering.  Got in the car and wondered if I could get the clutch pedal down.

Post ride.  Thanks to The Board, volunteers, trail angels, Cindy, Valerie, Kent (Thumper) and others whose names I’ve forgotten for putting this together and keeping it fun.  Thanks to the fellow EBers and non EBers I ran into that offered directions and motivation.  Thanks to Eric.  Huge thanks to TTodd for coming out and riding CP thru to Thumper entrance.  Sunday morning I said it would be quite sometime before I was on a bike again.  Monday I took a short spin.  Tuesday I started thinking about next year’s EB.  Time to get training.

“Best day ever”?  Nope, but certainly one of the best days ever on a bike.