Monday, June 18, 2012

Test of Endurance 50

This past weekend was the TOE 50 race over in Blodgett, OR.  I haven't done this race in over 5 years so it was nice to be able to fit it into the schedule this year.  I have to say that any race/event that is well known by it's acronym is a pretty damn good event.  The Test of Endurance 50/100 is better-known to racers as the TOE 50/100.  You have the option of completing either 50-miles or 100-miles.

The 50-milers do 2 laps on a designed course, and the 100-miles do 4 laps on the same course.  If you are familiar at all with Blodgett, OR (near Corvaillis) you know that there is lots of forest land; which means dark, lush, muddy trails.  This year, however, the weather leading up to the event and during the event was very nice (although pretty humid and muggy this year) keeping the trails in excellent condition.  There were only a few sections on the course where there was some wet dirt.

I opted for the 50-miler.  My days of riding, yet alone racing, for more than 4 hours are over.  I've come to realize that over the years, my mind begins to drift as I reach the 3-4 hour range on the bike.  No longer am I able to stay focused enough to push my body hard beyond the 4-hour mark.

The TOE 50/100 is a Mudslinger Events event; which if you are familiar with that name then you know the race Director is Mike Ripley.  By far the best race director in Oregon, he always puts on the best events and offers the best swag post-race.  He definitely puts on races for the racers.  Some other mudslinger events include the High Cascades 100 (now part of the NUE Series), the High Cascades 24-Hour, and the Mudslinger (an all-out mud fest every year).

The TOE 50/100 course consisted of many miles of steep fireroad climbs and tight singletrack.  There were definitely more fireroad climbing on the course than I remember.   I opted to bring the full-suspension bike which turned out to be the wrong decision.  The climbs no doubt took some energy out of me during the 2nd lap, and slugging a 27 lb bike rather than my 22 lb hardtail didn't make things easier.  Knowing that I would be at a disadvantage on the climbs, I knew I would have to really let it loose on the rolling singletrack and descents.

After a few miles of a neutral roll-out the race began on doubletrack.  Around mile 4, I realized I had lost a bottle that had fallen out of my rear-post cage.  I knew this wasn't going to be good considering the warm temperatures.   I upped the pace and quickly began to open a gap.  I was joined by about 6 other riders and continued to set a tempo pace.

Slowly myself and 2 other riders (Will Sullivan and John Merrill) pulled away from the rest of the group.  At the start of the 2nd lap we had roughly a 4 -min lead.  Merrill made his move around mile 30,  attacking on one of the fireroad climbs.  I wasn't able to match the acceleration and continued to settle into my high tempo pace with Sullivan on my wheel.  Shortly before the Aid Station Sullivan had fallen off my pace and I was now trying to chase down Merrill

I could feel my energy beginning to get low and was starting to struggle up some of the steeper sections.  Fortunately, with having lost one of my bottle on lap 1 (and lap 2) I wasn't cramping at all.  The humidity was climbing along with the temperatures and making some of the exposed fireroad climbing difficult.

I was eventually caught by John Weathers a the start of the final descent down Panama Canal.  After the sweet 4 mile singletrack section we had the final 2-mile gravel road to the finish.  In classic Ripley style, he added an extra bit of excitement by adding in a timed .1 stretch to the finish.  The fastest timed speed would win you a Garmin GPS.  The winning time was clocked at 22mph, pretty impressive.  I couldn't out-sprint John to the finish and ended up taking 3rd place with a time of 4:02.  Merrill won with a time of 3:58.  The course record is still held by Carl Decker at 3:38.

After the race there were huge-ass burritos waiting for all racers to fill their empty stomach's with.  Ohhhh did it taste so good.  After hanging out watching some of the other racers finish, they did the awards and then the swag raffle.  They were even raffling off a brand new Specialized bike (valued at $2500).  Just about everyone who stuck around walked away with some sort of swag.

Full results here

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