Save The Trails Challenge

My buddy Jon had been hounding me for months. “Are you signed up for Save the Trails?” “Are you signed up for Save the Trails?” “Are you signed up for Save the Trails?” The answer each time was “No”. I didn’t do it last year, when most of my mountain biker friends were. And I really wasn’t that interested in doing it this year. Jon is the ride organizer for what is a worthy cause.. funds raised go towards supporting the trail system at DuPont State Recreational Forest, which I have mentioned numerous times over the years and which does indeed have an excellent trail system. But I still wasn’t that interested. Why?

DuPont makes me tired.

That may seem like a strange thing to say. On a road bike I’ve done more than a century of century rides, most of them over mountains, and the more mountains the better. I’ve done 100 mile time trials. I’ve done double metrics, 160 mile cross state rides and one double century. I’ve done a bike tour of 700 miles in six days. I’ve ridden the 461 miles of Blue Ridge Parkway in 5 days. I’ve done 12-14 hour mountain bike adventure races. I’ve done an Ironman and multiple half irons. I’ve done a 100 mile mountain bike race – the Shenandoah 100 is the only single day event I’ve found so far that was harder than an Ironman.

So what’s so hard about DuPont and why is it so bad about getting tired by riding a bike?

Well… it makes me tired in a way that doesn’t feel like I accomplished anything. Other than getting tired.

I don’t know what it is or why it’s different than other places, but the reward factor just isn’t there at the end. That doesn’t mean DuPont doesn’t have a ton of fun trails to ride and that I don’t have a good time. It just means that I’d rather ride 15-20 miles out there and call it a day. 50 miles? Screw that. I’d rather ride 50 miles in Pisgah, even though that’s actually harder and slower than DuPont.

“But Dobo, there’s a 25 mile option in the Save The Trails Challenge! Just do that!”

Nope.

If there is a 25 mile and a 50 mile option for this particular event, I’m not doing the shorter one when (nearly) everybody I know is doing the longer. Not when just a week earlier during the Blue Ridge Breakaway (road ride) I quipped to a friend that, “I don’t get out of bed for anything less than a full century.”

I wasn’t bragging when I said that, it’s just my preference. I haven’t registered for a metric century road ride in over five years. Or maybe even longer than that. I honestly can’t remember. I figure if I’m going to fork over a bunch of money and get up at the ass-crack of dawn to go do something I could do for free on any other day, just for a t-shirt, a half a banana and a couple cookies, then I’m damned well going to do the longest mileage option available. Most miles for the dollar I guess.

Same goes for mountain bike rides. Never mind that 55k or Swank or whatever. Gimme a PMBAR, a Double Dare or something that’s going to last all day.

OK, so enough about that stuff. Jon’s badgering worked. Besides, most of my friends were riding the 50 mile route (either that or volunteering for it), my money was going to support a local event on local trails and the weather forecast was looking damned good… I’m in.

A short time later I found out the 50 mile was cut to 45 because some of the trails were closed.

I didn’t mind that.

Then I found out it was actually shorter than that. Different people were saying different things, most commonly 42 miles. Jon himself told me that it was 39.

I didn’t mind that either. As long as that’s what everybody else was doing, the longest route is the longest route.

Just for kicks, I set myself a time goal based on an assumed average speed. Now, the average we use in Pisgah is 5 mph. But that’s for social rides and includes stopping and BSing along the way, water crossings, food breaks, flats and mechanicals, etc. A challenge ride should be quite a bit faster. When I ride Bent Creek solo, without stopping, I generally average anywhere from 8-11 mph, all depending on trail conditions and the ratio of singletrack to gravel roads. DuPont is harder riding than Bent Creek and easier than Pisgah. The route – as far as I knew – was optimized to pack as much singletrack and as little gravel as possible into one big loop. 8mph seemed ambitious but doable but ultimately was a total guess. 40 miles (ish) at 8 mph.. 5 hours of hard riding, pretty much non-stop riding and I’d be done.

As it turns out, I finished in 5 hours and 5 seconds.

BUT… I let the watch run for a minute or two before I started the ride. So we’ll call that a goal achieved.

“But Dobo, you’ve done all this rambling about ancient history and whining about being tired. What about the ride itself?”

Oh.. it was pretty great.

I don’t really feel like writing out a trail by trail, turn by turn description of the day. Guess you’ll have to sign up for it next year and find out for yourself.

In short, I felt pretty slow and sluggish early and then went through alternating periods of feeling stronger and powering through the trails, then weaker again. I had to push the bike up a few places I’d never push up ordinarily, again feeling the muscle fatigue and the impact of running affecting my riding abilities. I didn’t care much, because the route was awesome, the trails were in good condition and despite the fatigue I was having a great time. I didn’t really get to ride with anybody I knew… most of the time in fact I was riding alone. The exception to this was about 5 miles in the middle with my buddy Chris, who I had caught up to by virtue of him missing some turns and doing extra mileage.

And here’s the funny part…

Despite doing 10 more miles than any previous ride out there, and at a much harder effort level, DuPont didn’t make me tired. I mean yeah, I was fatigued at the end, especially after hammering the last three miles trying to finish in 5 hours. I was chafed and sore as hell in my backside (shoulda rode the full suspension) and I had a pretty nasty gash in my right arm from a branch that cut into me (the DuPont gods demanded a blood sacrifice). And to add another little bit of pain, I was stung by a wasp or something about mid-way through the ride, up on the top of Cedar Rock. But despite all that I felt pretty damned good at the end, and it felt like an accomplishment afterall.

Maybe I’ve been doing DuPont all wrong these past few years – not enough miles. Just like everything else I’ve done, I guess it’s better to go big… or stay home.

Jon, make it a full fidy next year!