When Saturday, August 1 rolled around, I finally got to ride in my first “A” race, the Fritter 50 in Oakridge – a challenging 50 mile endurance race with almost 9,000 feet of climbing and some really fun singletrack. 

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I had been training for the Fritter since May, when my brother and Rheannon encouraged me to sign up for the race after we rode about 70 road miles through the McKenzie Pass and back. I remember them encouraging me to sign up for endurance races a year or so ago, but the idea of riding even 30 miles sounded daunting. Nothing like completing something you thought you couldn’t do to create new goals.

It’s nice to have a focus, so I actually enjoyed how much mental energy this race has taken over the past couple of months. Training and preparing always kicked up a flurry of questions each time I got on my bike: am I riding too much, too little? What should I eat? How much should I rest?

The big book I ignored. But seriously, I will eventually need to train better for longer races.
The big book I never cracked. I will eventually need to follow this gospel if I intend to train for longer races.

True to my form, I ignored the strategy of training by the book and instead used Jim’s and Rheannon’s advice coupled with some sporadic, light Googling. I definitely think that if I plan a 100-mile race in the future, I’ll have to be more considerate of my body and it’s needs, but I spent many hours in the saddle this summer, so I was pleased at how prepared I was for this race.

How I would handle this ride was a big question mark all summer, but on Saturday afternoon I rolled up to the finish line smiling and feeling good and properly tired. I hadn’t hit a wall, experienced no “bad” misery, and never felt like I was in over my head. No Ragrats. Not even one letter.

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Party and rest time!

Race morning started out on a positive note, much of this because of my lovely No Apologies teammates Rheannon and Stephanie, and the thoughtfulness and awesomeness of my teammate and race co-director Michelle. Michelle and Derrick fed us well before, during, and after the race, and honestly, I don’t think there’s a nicer bunch of aid station volunteers than those at the CCP. Steph and I arrived in Oakridge early on Friday to help out with registration, and we observed how much heavy lifting, running around, and lack of sleep this race takes to function.

Stephanie shows off her race swag at the Mercantile on Friday.
Stephanie shows off her race swag at the Mercantile in Oakridge on Friday.

After a good breakfast we got some final bike prep from Jim, then my teammates and I rolled across the covered bridge onto the road with a few dozen other riders. Because this was my first endurance race, I stayed steady at first. I had ridden most of the course before and I knew how much climbing lay ahead of me so I was cautiously saving my legs.

Last minute bike prep, compliments of the official No Apologies! support crew - Jim Blount.
Last minute bike prep, compliments of the official No Apologies! support crew – Jim Blount.

We soon funneled onto the North Fork river trail, where it wasn’t as bottlenecky as I thought it would be. Still, I rode hard to keep from holding up the riders behind me, even though there was plenty of hike-a-bike for most of us. Soon enough, we were back onto the road for the Long. Climb. Up. At this point team No Apologies formed an evenly spaced parade of coral-colored jerseys with Stephanie in the lead, followed by Rheannon, then me. Following Rheannon helped me keep a pretty moderate pace up the road; I made a new plan to finish that part of the climb a bit faster than I was comfortable with, and slowing down for all the switchbacks and climbs that followed. There were moments when I could see a flash of Stephanie about a quarter of a mile ahead of me, but I lost her on that climb and didn’t see her again until she met me at the finish line, wearing flip flops with a beer in hand.

Rheannon and I pre-riding the road climb a week before the race.
Rheannon and I pre-riding the steep road climb a week before the race. Our smiles should not belie the unpleasantness of this section.

I reached the top of the climb – Windy Pass – and noticed that Rheannon had sailed past the aid station onto Chrome Toilet, the first singletrack of the day. Naturally, I forgot to unlock my rear suspension, but I had a great time on Chrome, which I’d never ridden before. It was especially cool to follow my brother, who had met up with Rheannon on the road climb to support her ride. I don’t get to follow him very often, and he’s quite fast.

I lost those two on Chrome and exited back on the road, where I had to climb back up and out to the aid station. I wish I had ridden Chrome Toilet before, because I wasn’t prepared for such a long slog out of it. Anyone who has completed a race in a rural setting can relate to the anxiety that crept up on me as I pedaled up this lonely road, wondering if I was going the right way. These situations leave you three options: power ahead, either being rewarded with a confidence arrow/sign or risking a really big detour, turn around and figure out where you are, or wait for another rider to put your mind at ease. I actually stopped at one point to fiddle with my GPS, but soon heard the reassuring spin of a wheels coming up behind me. Another rider = right direction!

About halfway through that climb I spotted the confidence arrow I was looking for. Still, that road climb was longer than I expected. I had the U2 song “Zoo Station” stuck in my head, only I kept singing “Aid Station” because that was what I was hoping to see with every turn. Eventually I did, and I stopped for a bit of PB&J and a chat with the volunteers. This is where I ran into Julie, a rider from Hood River who found our blog online and let us know she was going to race. Julie and I stayed within site of each other for about half of the ride, but she ended up beating my time by about 20 minutes.

After a some salt and carbs I descended upon Alpine, which is breathtaking in its scenery and just a shit-ton of fun.

Another amazing trail view brought to you by those lovely G.O.A.T.S.
Another amazing trail view brought to you by those lovely G.O.A.T.S.

I loved listening to my music on this section, pushing myself to ride faster than I’m comfortable with. It was funny seeing photographers embedded in the grass and behind trees. My facial expressions (the “Blount face”) are the humorous – either I’m descending with concentration, mouth agape and slack-jawed, or I’m climbing with a sort of incredulous look on my face, scrunched-face and squint-eyed.

The mountain-bike-Blount face on a long hot climb. No apologies.
My ubiquitous mountain-bike-Blount face on a long hot climb.

I’m fairly new to Oakridge trails so I took lots of photos during this section…

Selfies with seriously the NICEST aid station volunteers I've ever met.
Selfies with seriously the NICEST aid station volunteers I’ve ever met.

One inspirational log on the Cloverpatch tie-in trail had me stopping in my tracks and backing up to take a photo.

Just what I needed to hear.
Just what I needed to hear.

After Cloverpatch, I ran into Jim and Rheannon and some watermelon at the final aid station, right before a lovely, final climb through what Derrick described as a convection oven during the pre-race meeting. This is where I realized it was probably hotter than hell below 4,000 feet where I had spent much of the day, but I took it pretty slow and steady and just zoned out to my music.

Rheannon is one of the main reasons I signed up for the Fritter. That and the excuse to eat "training doughnuts."
Rheannon is one of the main reasons I signed up for the Fritter. That and the excuse to eat “training doughnuts.”

I got back on Alpine and rode past Buckhead shelter, which signifies a descent for the remainder of the ride. This part of the course reminds me of Bend, with a flowy section before you really get going with switchbacks all the way back down to the finish line in Westfir. This is my second time riding these switchbacks on a full-suspension, and I would have liked to take advantage of that and ridden faster, but I was really feeling the fatigue at that point. This is also when I suddenly began experiencing a little “bike shaming”, as I call it – squeaky brakes broadcasting throughout Central Cascadia just how slow I was taking each turn.

Some dude in polka dots flew past me towards the end, which initially confused me, since I had either pulled well ahead or fallen behind any competition at that point. Then I realized he was racing the Cream Puff and was on his second lap. Beyonce’s “Move Your Body” helped me down that last section and I got to the finish line in 8 hours and 3 minutes, with some gas still left in my tank!

In addition to being an attractive addition to this rural scene, spotting the Office Bridge signals the end of the race.
In addition to being an attractive addition to this rural scene, looking down onto the Office Bridge signals the end of the race.

This year’s Fritter was all about finishing and seeing how well I did with training. I want to use this experience to set some training goals for next summer’s races and see how well I can improve my time.

Like I said earlier, I met Stephanie at the finish line and together with Jim and Rheannon, we rode back down to the river to take a little therapeutic dip.

An après-ride dip in the North Fork of the Willamette felt GOOD but was hard to climb back out of.
An après-ride dip in the North Fork of the Willamette felt GOOD but was hard to climb back out of.

At 6 p.m. Michelle officiated the Fritter awards ceremony. Stephanie had ridden hard and took 2nd place in Open Women’s at 7 hours 3 minutes. She beat me by a full hour, so I was pretty shocked when my name was called for 3rd place!

High-fives for second (Steph) and third (me) place for open women's.  Michelle made the after race fun with the awards ceremony.
High-fives for second (Steph) and third (me) place for open women’s.

Dear women mountain biker/readers – this is an open invitation to get involved with the CCP Fritter next year! I plan on improving my time and I won’t be taking selfies so watch out!

Michelle made the after race party fun with fun prizes, including my new CCP cycling cap.
Michelle made the after race party fun with fun prizes, including our new CCP cycling caps.

All in all, this race was exactly what I expected – a challenging and rewarding experience. I have a lot of gratitude to my friends and family who encouraged me to pursue this and went on lots of rides with me this summer. I can’t wait to ride the Fritter again in 2016!

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For me, race day wasn’t over on Saturday – I had to drive home, pack for a work trip, and leave for PDX at 2:30 a.m. for an early flight to San Diego. After a big experience like that, I like to debrief and share race day stories. My fellow teacher and lovely friend Kristina was patient as I began every other sentence with “during the race…”

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