2010 Enchilada Buffet… wow, this one hurt.
I also don’t like forks. Why don’t I like forks? Well, because the forks represent how many times one finishes the Enchilada Buffet. Only the folks that finished the inaugural Ride received their second “fork” on the back of last years finishers’ t-shirt in addition to every finishers’ t-shirt moving forward from what I understand. If you think doing this kind of a ride to have the opportunity to buy a finishers’ t-shirt is hard, imagine doing a ride because of some overwhelming desire to not break a streak. That stupid fork is both a blessing and a curse.
That all being said and with my third finish behind me, this was by far the hardest Enchilada Buffet I’ve done. The idea behind this ride is to push oneself beyond their comfort zone. The first year was way beyond my comfort zone in that I had only been mountain biking for about eight months before I jumped feet first in the deep end. The second year as a little more seasoned rider I looked to just improve my time from the previous year even with the addition of St. Edwards Park.
This year I truly got out of my comfort zone by choosing to ride on my newly built True Fabrications rigid single speed. After over a year of being mocked for crashing all the South Siders Single Speeders United rides on a geared full squish, I had commissioned this bike to be built to put all that to rest and to have something “different” to ride when I got bored. Going from 4.7” with lots of gearing to no travel and one gear was an eye opener.
Anticipating how much this year was going to hurt I did do a bit of training mostly in the form of long road rides, hill repeats, and intervals. Looking back on it, I’m certainly glad I did as I attribute my finish to taking that time.
So enough back story, on with the ride report…
I woke up at about 4AM after two hours of sleep to eat my breakfast and have my morning espresso with time to let it settle as I loaded up the truck. I was running a little behind schedule and was glad that everything had been laid out the night before as I was pretty much on auto-pilot packing and rushing out the door.
Once again, I over packed my bag, which I did make an honest attempt to lighten this year, but once everything was loaded I was carrying north of 13 lbs of food, water, gps, batteries, lights, clothing, tubes, pump, and video camera. It seems that there was some good natured ribbing behind my back about the weight of my bag as Leif would eventually come over and ask to hold it to see how much it weighed.
The sight of so many cars and folks getting ready in the parking lot was pretty impressive. So many more than the first two years parking was almost an issue. I got out and started getting my stuff ready as Cody started to give the run down on how the day was going to go. Maps and the sign in sheet were passed around as I darted around saying hello to friends some of which I hadn’t seen in almost a year, yes you Shannon. As the speech was winding down I followed Travis over to the starting spot and was quickly joined with the rest of the folks. Cody took his spot at the front and then we were off.
I tucked in between Cody and Dave Espers through the short Walnut Creek trail to get out on to the road. It felt pretty damn cold that early in the morning and I was dealing with a little bit of weather-induced asthma, which was not fun. Popping out onto the road, Cody asked if I knew where I was going as he was going to wait and watch all the folks roll out of the woods. I did and took a group out and around onto the main route down to Zilker.
I didn’t intend to sit at the front of the pack for as long as I did but I was giddy to be riding with 60 other crazy mountain bikes in a much more civil albeit rugged looking “Critical Mass” peloton. Time was spent dropping back then riding back to the front of the pack chit chatting here and there and trying to capture some video of the parade as the sun was coming up. We passed under 183 and caught a glimpse of the poor folks stuck in traffic due to a tanker truck that had caught on fire and we all remarked how lucky we were to be out riding instead of sitting on that upper deck.
With the light picking up, so did the pace. Greg, Druber, and I broke away shortly before the Far West bridge for a quick bio-break. This proved to be a good strategy as we wouldn’t have to stop at the pool house where there is usually a big bottle neck. Evidently, others caught on as we were racing to reconnect to the group, we saw others lining the side of the road as well. I stuck to Greg’s wheel all the way down to Zilker and started to try to stay way in the front.
I need to mention that I never intended to race the Enchilada Buffet but by the time I got to Zilker, I found myself in the position to actually be in it for the first time so I grabbed the bull by the horns and punched it into the single track. I figured that I’d just go until I was naturally passed or asked to move aside. The pace was much faster than I could have anticipated and was just plowing through the rock gardens with out much of a care in the world. I held the lead up to the first creek crossing where I bobbled and was passed up by the leaders. I wouldn’t see them until City Park Rd.
The Greenbelt was a little longer this year and by my estimate would take me about 3 hours to complete. I kept a pretty steady pace and stayed towards the front of the pack until somewhere in Sweet 16 I ran out of talent in a rock garden and went down hard over the bars. I muttered something about “glad I got that out of my system” and continued on up the trail to Travis Country where I decided to stop, shed some clothes and chew on my now semi-frozen Clif Shotblocks. As I was getting changed, I saw a group that had passed me earlier exiting mentioning that they did some extra credit. In the back of my head I was glad that I knew the entire route like the back of my hand, something that probably saved me a few minutes here and there.
Craig and some other guy caught me going down Pumphouse and I let them go only to see them stopped at one of the only forks on that trail. They asked which way and I let them know as I laid out a small rock arrow to point the way, I hope it helped. Once again, at the bottom of the trail they weren’t sure which way so I told them to just follow me.
We made our way up to the dam at the Hill of Life where Leif and Jim were waiting to get pictures of the crossing. From there, we headed up the Mulch hill at which point I dismounted to take my bike for a hike. I heard someone behind me and it turned out to be Wells catching up. I didn’t realize it then but we would be leap frogging for the rest of the ride.
Jedi backwards is fun but it was my first taste of humble pie for the day dragging the bike up and over sections that I’ve cleaned many times before. It was mostly uneventful up to the Powerline trail at which point I got a severe case of shaken baby syndrome. I don’t think my teeth ever stopped chattering from bombing down that trail. Towards the end I saw Claire heading back up to Travis Country saying something about needing to get home.
Crossed the creek again and got Craig and friend turned back around in the right direction and we all started hiking up the Hill Of Life. I thought about doing a cyclocrossesque run up to get out in front of them but figured I’d save some energy and just watched them walk then eventually ride away. A short stop at the top of the hill and I was on my way to City Park.
Matt caught me at the light on 360 and we chit chatted for a bit until I ran out of gearing and he moved on. Dave Cambell caught me next and was telling me how he had lost his saddle bag somewhere on Sweet 16. Once again, I said thanks for the chit chat but to get moving as I was going way slower than they were. Off they went into the distance until we regrouped right before Courtyard at which point we parted as they rode while I walked… again.
I could hear someone behind me as I neared the top of Courtyard and it was Matt Harold who was also pushing his singlespeed up. We rode together over to City Park Rd and then he rode away. I figured I was solo until I saw him and Shannon on the side of the rode. I briefly considered just moving on but decided to stop to see what was going on. Shannon was cramping and Matt gave him some of his advils, seeing he was taken care off, I took off again trying to get a little bit of a lead.
City Park Rd is one of my favorite parts of this ride as it’s one of the few opportunities that you get to catch a glimpse of the ride leaders as they are heading back up and out to the rest of the ride. I saw Sergio blow by head down flying followed by Espers then Greg and Keith. Cody and Travis were just turning onto City Park road and I gave them a “what the hell” look as I was expecting them to be up with the leaders. George “Original Badass” Dawkins was right behind them.
Once in the parking lot I just made a b-line for the trailhead and just tried to knock my lap out. There was quite a bit of hike a biking on some sections but I was feeling pretty good for the most part. Some poor kid was over on Cheesecake Challenge with a broken saddle as I was heading into the upper loop. He asked if I had a wrench which I did but told him to go ahead and wait there until I finished my loop. Sorry kid, I gotta keep moving. I made my way back and caught him and he said that someone else had helped him out. Eventually, I caught Wells again as we exited the park and he continued on while the film crew interviewed me for about 30 seconds or so. I caught him again on City Park Rd and we rode over to the Jester food mart.
There were quite a few folks at the food mart and I darted in side to order a ham, bacon, cheese sandwich, refilled my water, changed my socks as I was getting a blister for riding and hiking in wet ones for so long. From there with the bike in one hand and the sandwich in the other I hiked on up Jester. Down Beauford, and out onto 360, Wells and I made our way over to St. Edwards Park.
St. Edwards was pretty straight forward and aside from hiking the exposed cliff section (I’m not keen on heights) it was pretty uneventful. I got passed by someone and let Wells go as I exited and made my way to the hellhole of a trail called Thumper.
If you’ve read any of the reports from this year or any other year, you’ll know that Thumper is kind of the highwater mark of trail beatdowns handed out over the course of the Buffet. The exit is the covered bridge in Sleepy Hollow and you’re Ichabod Crane only you’d be more excited about turning around and taking that flaming pumkin to the head.
Needless to say the easiest thing is to just rip that bandaid off quickly and dive right in stopping briefly to stuff both bars of Twix that fellow Tender Gooch Racing teammate Tim had left for the racers near the entrance down. It wasn’t even worth cursing at the trail as any vulgarities had been used up on that trail the last two years. I ran across a deer licking its butt in the middle of the trail and it wouldn’t budge even after I started yelling at it. Towards the finish I could hear two riders at the top of Criss-cross-crash doing the “f-that” talk looking down it. As I was exiting the same two guys came out on the other side of the trail. I politely told them that they couldn’t have finished the trail if they came out there and that they must have got turned around. I felt like an a**hole telling them that and I hope there’s no hard feeling but they manned up and headed back in to finish. I think that’s pretty tough. The worst part of that whole adventure was hearing a rider behind me catch then over take me like I was standing still which in my defense I was. I asked if he was doing the Ride and he said no, just out joyriding. I hate chasing fresh rabbits with no skin in the game.
I bought a bottle of water from the oh so kind family at the top of Thumper and made my way to Walnut Creek. Someone else had exited right behind me so I just ramped up the pace to just below my FTP and held it all the way to Walnut. On the way I gave Casey a call with my ETA at the finish line of 6:45pm.
Once I hit the trail head I got my second wind and went for broke fearing that I was going to get caught. I could see the rider behind me through the trees as the trails wind close to each other. Hauling arse through Walnut is quite enjoyable on a singlespeed which was nice. I saw Greg hiking with his daughter not too far from the exit and he handed me his Miller Low Life for a beer up. I exited and made my way to the picnic area and was done for the day at 6:23pm after 11 hours and 55 minutes in the saddle. Casey showed up about 20 minutes later with my celebratory bacon cheesebuger that I get every year.
All in all I feel that I was fortunate to be able to finish the ride this year. I had been fearing a DNF for the months leading into it as I thought I bite off more than I could chew choosing the rigid singlespeed. As of today the legs feel fine but the fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, and lower back are still pretty achy. Big thanks to Cody and Travis for setting up this ride which is my yearly litmus test to measure how I’ve progressed and HUGE congrats to all that finished this year!