Thursday, May 31, 2012

Epic or Apocalyptic?

'You should get a will made out before you do that race', Jonny says to me on the drive back home from Wyoming where we've been checking out the bike course for the Xterra Curt Gowdy triathlon.  I've been looking forward to this race since last December or so when I signed up for it.  IMBA (International Mountain Bike Association) gives the trails at Curt Gowdy an 'Epic' rating.  After riding them today I realize that by 'Epic' they mean 'Apocalyptic'.  Jonny rates them 'Crazy Technical'.

Though the trails are mostly rated Intermediate level and I'd heard nothing but good things about them I became concerned when people on the Facebook page for the race started posting things like,

Time for some input on Xterra Curt Gowdy bike course.
OK...I agree that it's not mountain biking unless there's blood, but . . .  I rode the course last week and all I can say, prepare for carnage. There's "IMBA advanced" and there's "Xterra advanced" and that is one major difficult, technical and long course. Beginners are gonna freak. 


Checked out the course this morning, there is going to be carnage on race day.


  Anyone who doesn't pre-ride and has less than advanced skills is going to do a lot of hike-a-bike.

and so forth and so on.  I figured these people were being over-dramatic but started to think I'd better get my butt up there to pre-ride the course sooner than I was planning.  So Jonny and  I took a vacation day for a little road trip up to Wyoming.  It's only a 1 hour, 50 minute drive and somehow we (and by we I mean I) had to stop twice and drag it out.  One stop was to fuel up on coffee.  The other stop was to deposit said coffee.  In other words, I needed a rest stop and what better place than a welcome center with a cool bucking bronco statue?

We got there eventually after driving forever down a lonely road full of antelope and wind farms.

The trails started off innocently enough with some challenging but ride-able hills.  This trail is a lot steeper than it looks.

To be fair there were some nice smooth parts.

But just beyond the smooth single track was a rocky drop-off that no way was I riding it.

And this was the problem for me.  Nice smooth trail then some unrideable obstacle that I had to get off for for maybe 2-3 steps then back on the bike for 30 seconds then back off then back on for maybe a minute if I'm lucky and so on.  I must have gotten off at least 50-60 times and that's probably an underestimate.  So frustrating and exhausting.  And that was on the 'Intermediate' trails.

The Advanced trails were practically impassable even on foot.  Here are some photos from the Mo Rocka trail.

Looking downhill.  Hard to convey how steep that is and you can't see the drop-offs.

Here's the same trail looking uphill.  Now you can see the drop-offs.

Even Jonny wouldn't ride down it and he's got some serious skills.  I could barely walk down it in my bike shoes with my bike.

Here's another crazy hill.  You're supposed to go over the top of the rock coming downhill, not to the side where the branches are blocking off the dirt trail.

I couldn't figure out how I was supposed to walk down that so I cheated and came down the dirt part that was blocked off.  I know, naughty, but I didn't want to end up like this guy.

There were some nice views if you could get over your exhaustion and frustration enough to enjoy them.

By the 5-6 mile point I was wondering what I'd gotten myself into and by the 9 mile mark I'd had enough.  The total bike portion is 14 miles but when we got back to the car my cyclometer said 11.7 miles.  This took me 2 hours 5 minutes and I was mentally spent by the end.  To add insult to injury on the drive home I took another look at the map and realized we'd left out a 2.4 mile loop at the end, half of which was Advanced trails with a climb that the race director describes as 'a real kicker'.

Then after all that I have to go back on the same trails and run 5.3 miles.  Never mind the swim which is listed as 1200 meters/1312 yards on the website and 1500 meters/1640 yards on the course map.  Either way, not a trivial swim by any means.

Granite Reservoir though this isn't the bank that we swim off of.

So I have some soul searching to do.  That bike course is hard enough on its own, not sure I want to endure that again plus 2.4 more hard miles.  Let alone as part of a race.  The bike could take 2 1/2 hours, the swim 26-33 mins. depending on the actual distance, the run?  Who knows, could be over an hour if I'm spent after the bike.  Could be a 4 hour race, maybe even 4 1/2.  This is not tempting.  I could eat my entry fee and spend another day down at the USDAA trial that weekend instead.  Or I could plan on a DNF and only do the swim and bike.  Or maybe do the run if I feel o.k.  I should probably go up there one more time to check out the part of the course that I missed and to give it another go but the thought of doing that course 2 more times let alone just the once on race day makes me want to crawl into the fetal position.  I'm not one to take on things that are hard just for the sake of them being hard, they also have to be fun and for me this course is definitely not fun.  I don't mind working hard at something for work or something that will make the world a better place but I'm not willing to torture myself just for the sake of some stupid hobby.  On the other hand all my other races will seem easy peasy by comparison so maybe I should just gut it out.  If only this was later in the season and I had more time to work on my skills and strength.  It's going to take longer than 3 weeks to be in the kind of shape to do that course justice.  In the meantime all I keep thinking to myself is, 'Mo Rocka My Ass!'.


  1. Yikes!!! That sounds like a rough course!

  2. I have the same trouble trying to take photos that show the steepness of trails. Unless you can include hikers who are using their hands and feet, hammering in pitons, like that, the paths always look so pretty on film. Your concerns about the race sound like my reaction to reading about a recent ascent of K2 in National Geographic last night: "That does not, by any definition in my mind, sound like fun." On the other hand, you don't get into National Geographic or have stories to tell your granddogs without trying the crazy things. Good luck on the decision making!

  3. OMG, thats crazy. But I dont ride bikes so, maybe its just me. LOL

  4. No, it's not you, it's crazy.