They say there is 1,000 feet of climbing each lap on the Alpine Valley WEMS course. Well my Garmin recorded just shy of 6,000 feet of climbing in 7 laps. The eight mile laps are up and down nearly all of the time making my 7.5 hour effort feel like 10.
We had beautiful weather and the trails at Alpine Valley have some really fun elements. I'd say these are more fun than the not-too-distant areas of John Muir and Emma Carlin. Not nearly as much trail but at Alpine Valley there are no dull moments.
My race plan was just ride as much of the 9 hour event as my body allowed. As it turned out I stopped when my mind gave out instead. After seven hours on the trail you'd think one would get more conservative, taking the easiest lines and passing on optional challenges. Instead I found myself accelerating toward jumps and rock challenges on my seventh lap -- even testing alternate lines which look harder in some places. Sure I was tried but I think it was a punchy fatigue that made me decide to call it quits after 7.5 hours.
I like to go out fast. Not really that smart a move for endurance events but I'm still on a learning curve with these. On the first lap too much speed cost me a lever. I jumped a log at a good clip but failed to account for the slight turn in the trail immediately after and slammed hard into a tree. I didn't fall over but the impact broke the bracket holding the left break and shifter in place on the bars. Fortunately one of the fabulous bike patrol guys was nearby, had duct tape and we managed to get me rolling again with my buddy Sam now well up the trail. At the end of the first lap I stopped to improve the tape job with the help of the person setup next to us along the course. We did such a good job it held for the remaining 6.5 hours.
Later in the day I was smiling widely as I rolled through the start finish area to see my buddy Sam sleeping soundly at trail side, having called it a day after 3.5 hours. Toward the end of the seventh lap I had the good sense to recount to myself how I sprinted for a jump which I chose not to ride the previous six laps. A bit too much speed, a slight bend to the trail and a rough landing combined to send me toward a tall fat tree which I hit with a glancing blow, bounding off the saddle and unclipped from the pedals I came to as stop at trail side straddling the bike. The person riding behind me said, "nice save," in an incredulous tone. Yea, one more lap with the foolish meter set to high, best not. I was certain stopping when there was time for another lap would put me among the last few in the finishing order. When I checked the results the next day I was surprised to discover I had finished third overall men. Honestly I never imagined I'd earn a podium finish at a WEMS event even when there are only 7 starters. So what would have changed had I completed an eighth lap? Absolutely nothing -- the two riders finishing ahead of me completed 9 laps of tough single track. The riders at WEMS are truly amazing and the top finishers are incredible.