The Race: Kicking off around 9AM on July 14th, the Suntop 30/50 is one of the NW Epic Series self appointed toughest races of the year that includes some technical terrain. I chose the 30 distance knowing that would be plenty for my abilities so close to getting back to training.
- The race is based at Buck Creek Campground. I really dug the grassroots vibe, and noticed the turnout was light compared to previous races I had done back in Southern California. Right around 100 racers milling around. The 50 mile racers took off about an hour before us and the leaders were coming through the start finish area after the initial 9 mile section prior to our start.
- Got the bike prepped and rode around a little bit before getting to the start area about 10mins prior. When it was go time, we took off down a dusty and rutted fire road to the initial rise and climb on the inner loop. After settling into a decent pace up the climb I was probably sitting about mid pack.
- The first descent was sandy with loose rocks and gravel in certain sections. There was a ATV blocking the trail about halfway down, forest service lost control and had the ATV winched and cabled to adjacent trees to ensure his rig didn’t tumble down the hillside. We dismounted and handed our bikes around the ATV and got back on the singletrack on the opposite side.
- After the initial 9 miles and coming back through Start/Finish, Miles 9-14 run along the river and are fairly flat with a ton of rocky and tree root sections that made it impossible for me to get any rhythm or feel good. Just felt like I was getting tossed around, and not in the shape to be doing this. It definitely was frustrating, and I didn’t enjoy these miles along the river with how much I was off the bike and walk/running.
Miles 14-21 were the roughest I can remember having racing bikes. 14-15 takes you up from the river at a mild incline to the start of the 6 mile road climb to the Suntop lookout.
- Miles 15 to 18 where there was some much needed water, was becoming pretty rough. I felt OK but after climbing out of the canyon you are just riding a constant incline that gets steeper and doesn’t let up. The fire road mostly exposed to the sun and no breeze whatsoever.
- Miles 18-21 were my absolute slowest. Lots of breaks and not a lot left in the tank. No fitness or anything to carry me through and saw a few people turn back and abandon. Took down some Haribo gummies and kept pushing to the top. I really did want to turn back and bag it, chalk it up to fitness and just training, etc.
- Made it to the top and spent about 10mins at the aid station, ate an oreo, got some coke, and filled the empty camelbak bladder with HEED (which is just terrible, hate that shit) which was all needed.
- After descending the for 5 mins from the lookout on some loose technical you cross over the fire road section of the course for the final steep and singletrack climbing sections through the trees. I did a lot of the steep stuff hike a biking.
- I was worried about the last 7 miles or so of descending to be rough and technical, as the race announcer at the start mentioned this being the “most sketchy” part of the course. I was definitely pleasantly surprised, as it was the best part of the day (with mostly only downhill left helping in the mentality arena too). I really enjoyed the section between the last climb and joining up with the descent from the 9 mile inner loop. ATV was still stuck nearly 4 hours later, rough day for that guy.
- Was glad to get down to the air strip and hold a good clip to the finish and if nothing else, look like I finished strong even if it was at the back end of the field and most of the cars were gone in the campground.
- Loaded up the bike and changed out of my gear and grabbed a Rainer before hopping back in the rig for the drive back to Seattle.
Overall, I have only been back riding my bike for 4 months from basically no training, exercising, or fitness since 2013. First race since 2011 cyclocross racing. I wanted to sign up for something to push myself, and use it as a good day of training. That is exactly what happened, but it definitely felt weird not being competitive in the slightest, and it just being so damn rough to finish the race. Definitely some humble pie served up, but a lot of lessons learned and a cool introduction into the endurance MTB community here in Western Washington.
Until the next one!