Trans Cascadia 4-Day Enduro
This past week was the second annual Trans Cascadia 4-Day enduro, held in the back country near Oakridge, OR. This race adheres to a blind format, so riders have no idea what they’ll encounter. We also camped every night, moving after each day of racing.
I was fortunate to have participated in this event; I missed out on early registration, as it booked up in short order. I signed up to be on the waiting list, but I figured getting selected was a long shot.
About three or four weeks prior to the event I received an email stating that a spot had opened. After some deliberation, as well as urging from friends & family, I decided to go for it.
This wasn’t an easy decision for me since I had just lost my wife in June, and that was still weighing on my mind. Also, my training had dropped off in the spring while I cared for my wife. So I really wasn’t all that prepared mentally and physically.
In preparation for the event, I called on my friend Matt Miller to get me setup with a training plan that would prepare me (as best as possible) for the short time that I had before the event. I had been riding for several months prior to this event so I wasn’t in too bad of shape. Matt set me up with a 2 week plan that shocked my system so that was a little more prepared.
A couple weeks before leaving for the Trans Cascadia I reviewed the rider list and noticed a name from Delaware, Curtis Miller. I realized that I had seen Curtis’ name from some of my rides at Brandywine Creek State Park on Strava. I reached out to Curtis and he wound up shared his trip itinerary so that we could travel together. It was great to have Curtis as a “travel buddy” and to ride with during the event.
Arrival Day – Blazin’ Saddles Bike Shop
Arriving at our pickup point, we still had no idea where we were going or what we were in for. And, we also lost cell signal! The event organizers wanted it this way!
A couple hour bus ride along some beautiful mountain roads, with one break to stretch our legs, was a great setup for what lay ahead. This was a chance to get to know a few other racers.
Arriving in our first camp at Lake Timpanogas, we were met by the event staff and directed to spots where we would be sleeping for a couple of nights. Spots were not assigned, they were claimed on a first come, first served basis. This turned out to be a lot of fun, as it allowed us to meet new people.Our first camp was fun. No ice breaker needed, we had already signed up to be a part of something big, and have all been through a lot of riding to prepare for this event. I was inspired by everyone that I camped with, each with their own story and experience. I’m sure each of us from this first camp will take credit for Geoff Kabush’s win, since he did spend the first two nights with us.
Emmye, Katie, Alison, Julie, Curtis, Sebastien, Dave, Nate, Isaac, Geoff, Tim, Elaine, Barry and Paul were all great camp mates! I think most riders took some time to get on the bike for a little spin up to Spring Lake. I got a late start on that idea and wound up riding solo. I later would meet up with The Nomads aka Chris Johnston & Dylan Wolsky at the lake, and would have a wild ride back down in limited light.
Food is an important thing when you are camping and spending a lot of time on the bike. Trans Cascadia event organizers had Chris King cater the event and it was nothing short of amazing. Gourmet meals three times a day, can you imagine that? A typical day of meals at the Trans Cascadia enduro consisted of a big breakfast, a sandwich, that you carried with you, and a big dinner. They never seemed to run out of wine or beer which was nice. I quickly got used to the wine with dinner!
Day Two – First Race Day
Excitement was in the air as we anticipated heading off for our first day of long climbs and incredible descents. A typical day on the bike had us riding up a long steady climb then pushing your bike up the last 1/2 mile of trail to reach the top.
The first stage was a short one with one left hand corner that we were told most would blow through. Sure enough, I made it through half of it, then had to get back on the gas to finish out the stage. This had us all talking as we pushed up to the second stage. The rest of the day was filled with some of the most beautiful views and trails I have ever experienced.
Day Three – Second Race Day
Today we’d race just about everything we rode on day one, only backwards.
My body was feeling day one’s adventure, but I warmed up during the first climb. Dropping in to stage one at the top of a ridge line, we’d hit some tight switch back turns. I wound up flying over the bars superman style after the first left hander, as my front wheel caught a rock. I hustled up and got back on the bike to finish the stage. On the liason to the next stage I realized that I had knocked my brand new Wahoo Elemnt GPS device off of my handle bars during the crash. Unfortunately, it was never recovered.
That crash was a prelude to what turned out to be a rough day for me. Later in the day on the liason from stage 9 to 10 I’d wind up going over the bars again on a silly mistake. Not a big deal but I did get a taste of the beautiful Oregon soil!
After a bus ride back to the top of Moon Point for stage 10 we had a nice little warmup ride to get to the start of stage 10. I was feeling good and ready to go. After flying down some more incredible trails I maneuvered towards a left hand switchback but my front wheel washed out. I would smack my face on a large boulder embedded in the hill side. This was the hardest I’ve ever hit my head and the sound of helmet meeting rock enhanced the experience a bit. As I got up to check things out, I realized that blood had splattered on the inside of my goggles. I got off of the trail and gathered myself as I felt OK, no concussion! Fellow racer Nat Pellman would stop during his run to make sure I was OK, this is a rule of the race. We were out there to take care of one another. Thanks to Nat for stopping!
I would wind up riding down the rest of the way but stopping at the medic’s location to get my cut looked at. The cut on my right eyebrow could have used one or two stitches but Nick, the medic, cleaned me up and sent me on my way. I’d later get the cut cleaned again and super glued closed.
After making my way down stage 10 I almost called it a day, but after talking to Lars (Transition bikes), I’d stick around to ride stage 11 and finish out the day. That was a good move as it allowed me to put closure on the day.
Day Four – Third Race Day
Today I’d wake up after a rainy night with some extra soreness. I really didn’t want to miss a day of this event as it was a goal of mine to finish the entire thing in Susan’s honor. She’d battled late-stage cancer for 19 years and went through way worse than what I was dealing with. Surprisingly my eye was only sore to the touch. It was my neck that took the brunt of the crash, as well as other body parts. I had a tough decision to make and ultimately decided to rest and get back to racing on the last day.
This really sucked: to come all this way and miss a day of riding. We were racing on trails that we hadn’t seen before so there is an edge that you are riding on. You want to go fast but also not go overboard. I didn’t want to wind up in worse condition if I had raced in the condition that I was feeling.
Day Five – Final Race Day
After hearing about the previous day’s grueling liason and incredible descents from so many of the other racers, I knew there was no way I was missing the last day of riding. I wouldn’t race it but I’d ride the stages fast. Since I skipped a day, my times wouldn’t matter anyway so it was about finishing what I started and having some fun!We’d climb up to the top of the O’Leary trail where we encountered cold rain mixed with snow! As we reached the starting gate, they told us that there was a 15 minute hold in place, this news was met with a few grumbles. After standing around for a bit, racers started heading out onto the first stage of the day. I decided at this point to change out of my cold weather gloves and into some thinner gloves, I wanted a better grip on the bars.
After changing gloves, I reached down and grabbed my grips, my hands were now wet and cold! This would make for a difficult ride during the first half of this stage, I could barely hold on to the handle bars! Sure enough, I would wind up on the ground while executing a turn early in the stage. Good thing Paris Gore was there to capture the moment! The final stage of the day was the most amazing roller coaster-esque trail I have ever ridden. So fast! There was a well worn line in the trail, that I believe most of us used, where you could let off of the brakes and enjoy a ribbon of golden soil after each turn. At the finish of this stage you were greeted by Lars, Darrin, Nick and other riders with a beer and a high five!
The organizers of this event deserve a lot of credit for what they put together for us. They really showed us a great time and great trails! They had a good group of volunteers helping to make sure we were safe, fed, clothed, wined & dined.
The tough part of this trip for me was that I no longer have Susan here to talk to about my experience. I found myself thinking about telling her about the amazing views or the people I met. I wish I could tell her about it.
Thank you to my friends & family who encouraged me to do this. I needed to get away as part of my grieving process and this was the perfect event for my situation. I was forced to do something new. Meeting new people isn’t hard for me, it’s the moving on without Susan that is hard. This trip helped me move on a bit.
I especially want to thank Tamara Haviland and Greg Geyer for offering generous donations so that I couldn’t back out of this trip. I have an amazing family and extended family!
I came away from the event with an amazing experience, new and renewed friendships as well as a feeling of accomplishment. I think I’m going to try and register for the 2017 Trans Cascadia. Wish me luck!
Some Photos Along the Way
2016 Trans-Cascadia: Day 1
2016 Trans-Cascadia: Day 2
2016 Trans-Cascadia: Day 3
2016 Trans-Cascadia: Day 4