As the Willamette Valley baked in the first heat wave of the year, I spent about 4 hours Saturday afternoon meandering from peak to peak throughout the Macdonald Forest. My wanderings had a specific purpose: to get me in good shape to ride 50 miles and climb 9,000 feet of the Fritter 50 race in Oakridge, this August.

Let me get something straight right away: I love fritters. Specifically apple fritters from Nutcakes. Those face-sized, sugary, doughy concoctions of perfection have just enough grease and lovely little apple chunks, leaving my hands with doughnut dust that usually ends up in my bike glove, having most likely eaten it on the way to some trail head.

My spirit doughnut - THE FRITTER
My spirit doughnut – THE FRITTER

So…..what better race to go for, and what better weekend to start a new training regimen?

Since I began mountain biking, I’ve ridden a handful of races for the experience, but nothing that made me question whether I could complete the course. Not that I don’t think I can complete the Fritter, but I’d like to at least finish by rolling, rather than hobbling in. And I want my face to be equal parts smile and grimace, if I can swing that.

This morning’s inaugural training ride started much later than I planned (I blame it on the cider the night before), and after loading up a new bag, I hit the Oak Creek trail head shortly before 11.

My hot new fanny pack. I've tried 4 packs this spring and this one doesn't hurt my back or bounce around, and it has a reservoir! A winner!
My hot new fanny pack. I’ve tried 4 packs this spring and this one doesn’t hurt my back or bounce around, and it has a reservoir! A winner!

As I pedaled past the initial crowd of hikers always found on Homestead, and up the virtually empty old South Road, I smiled at the thought of my specific purpose on the bike for the next couple of months. I had a focus to improve my endurance, and a motivation for those days ahead when I won’t be feeling as excited as I am now. Also, it doesn’t hurt to know I have five remaining days of the school year. Even with my odd jobs throughout the summer, gone will be the long days spent in the classroom, replaced by long sunny, hours in the saddle!

I climbed up to the “Wall” below McCulloch Peak. Surprisingly there wasn’t a gaggle of riders at the bench, which is what I expected on a sunny Saturday. Alone, I made my way down Tin Can Alley and Brown’s Nose for my first descent. Another goal I made this year was to better familiarize myself the trails, but as I got back to the road, I started wasting a bit of time and phone battery trying to find the way to Funnel Cake, a trail I’ve never actually ridden. So I decided to stick to what I know, and eventually made my way down the Plunge to Sulphur Springs.

Sign at the Extendo trail head - at least we now know that the logs won't be removed until late summer!
Sign at the Extendo trail head – at least we now know that the logs won’t be removed until late summer!

Sulphur Springs is my favorite place to ride on hot day – it just seems a bit cooler, and there’s always the sound of water that surrounds you. It’s too bad that logging has taken out Log Bridge, messing up a perfect loop, but today that didn’t matter as I was focused on making it back up to Dimple for the third leg of my ride.

The lovely Baker Creek Bridge
The lovely Baker Creek Bridge

Following a route of Rheannon’s, I rode down the road until I got to the lovely Baker Creek bridge, which leads back up to moderately challenging Alpha trail.

By this point I was hot and tired. I had lagged a bit earlier, waiting for the map to load on my tiny iPhone screen. Repeatedly pulling it out of my bag reminded me that I need to get a proper GPS or stop relying on technology and just ride. A wrong turn before Alpha took me to a confusing network of Betas and Gammas that leads back down the opposite way I was headed, so I turned around and could barely push my bike back up to the right trail.

Alpha alpha'd me this day.
Alpha alpha’d me this day.

Once I got onto Alpha I was tired enough to just stop in the middle of the trail. This was when I realized I wasn’t passing anyone on the trail because it was, indeed, an unpleasantly warm day.

When I finally arrived at the top of Dimple, I felt far more spent compared to my regular Quimple up Dan’s or Horse. I stopped long enough to drink the rest of my electrolytes, look out over my Corvallis Queendom, then hit Two Face and Hocus Pocus for a bit of fun before I arrived back at my truck at the Oak Creek gate.

My stats: 3, 734 feet; 16 miles. Not bad for my first training ride, but I need to get to 5,000 feet in a single ride pretty soon if I’m going to get the doughnut glory.

Afterward I felt pretty tired, but laughed at the thought that the next day’s ride was going to be an “easy” ride up to McCulloch. Just a few months ago that was my hardest ride, so I’m happy with how far I’ve come with endurance!

A simple Dimple shot.
A simple Dimple shot.

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