Sometimes you’ve just gotta stick your neck out and MAKE things happen. I’m really torn these days on the topic of just what kind of racing is going to provide the most satisfaction, and, more importantly, entertainment… The Ashland 12 Mile Super D has always been on my list of important stuff to do. This year it looked like I’d miss it yet again as I needed (and wanted) to be in Colorado Springs for a stop on the US Pro XC Tour. But wait! The Short Track was on Friday and XC on Saturday. So, if I could find a flight from Denver to Medford, OR (like the 8:15 departure, midnight arrival I found for cheap on Alaska) I could feasibly race 12 miles of alleged radness in the Siskiyous on Sunday morning.
Fortunately, the race organizers in CO must have known what I was up to as they shortened Saturday afternoon’s XC race to four laps. I’d totally have time to take a shower on the way the DIA… And wouldn’t have to get quite as tired… I cleverly finished off the podium so as to avoid waiting around to receive “awards”. Felice was kind enough to ride shotgun while I drove to the airport, we had plenty to talk about in the form of the obligatory afternoon thunderstorms circling the high plains. I was pretty sure the biggest, blackest one was attacking the airport region. It was. Have you ever ducked when hailstones hit your windshield? I did about seventeen times in the last few miles on Pena Boulevard. The odds against my flight departing on time were confirmed when I stepped out of the car in driving hail to hear the wail of what could only be a tornado alert siren. Awesome. Somehow though, DIA pulled through and by the time my flight departed on time two hours later the skies were clear and a beautiful sunset had commenced. Bullet #1 dodged. My half-hour layover in Seattle was just enough time to grab a delicious Veggie Burrito with Pork and a secondhand newspaper. Then, the inevitable pilot’s voice over the intercom asking one of the flight attendants to “Check the latch on the rear service door.” Evidently the Door Ajar light was on in the cockpit. This took Maintenance 45min to sort out. I finally landed in Medford at about 12:40 in the morning. Fortunately, my roommate and weekend time travel enabler Chris Moor was there with the Thule truck to pick me up. In the truck was the freshly built Trance X he had sorted out while I was screwing around in CO. High Five, Chris.
I was going through a pretty serious internal struggle as I tried to fall asleep in the face of residual XC race caffeine at about 2am. To wake up in a few hours for a dawn patrol practice run or just give ‘er blind at race time? An hour of illogical circular deliberation I fell asleep with no concrete decision. The call was made when I woke to the “non practice schedule” alarm at 6:45. A boiled egg from the Best Western and we were on our way up to the Mt Ashland Ski Area, elevation 6800’ or so. It was foggy. Real foggy. Good think I wasn’t up there a couple hours earlier, it would have been COLD… I got the new bike all set up and learned that I would be starting behind my favorite Bend Local, Timmy Evens. This led to some good-natured banter about which side I’d overtake him on and such.
Turns out it was the left, a little while after I almost died on a right hand turn. The second on the course, to be exact. Fortunately, the Sam Hill approved inside line approach I’d envisioned (without any actual information to base said vision on) left just enough room to skid outside, hook up and rail out at speed. Rad. Timmy had warned me about the first turn on the track and a Miles Rockwell crash in practice but not the second turn. This got me to thinking for a moment about the next thousand-odd turns I had to figure out in the light fog… Ah well, I signed up for it, might as well pin it. And pin it I did. Pedaling really hard when I could, which was often, and trying to use my trail direction sensing powers the rest of the time. This, as I’d hoped, worked out really really well, which is a testament to just how AWESOME the trails around Ashland are. On a well-built trail you don’t really need to know the lines, they just sort of present themselves just as you see each section of trail. Stay loose and don’t over-analyze and things will work out just fine. This approach was helped by a perfect amount of moisture in the soil enabling late braking and over-committed cornering, and not hindered THAT much by 40mph foggy fireroad corners and lack of knowing anything at all about things coming up. In all, a perfect ride down perfect trails.
Eventually, after freezing up and portaging around an obvious rock gap onto a fireroad I got into a completely different ecosystem, the moist forest trails of the ridgetops gave way to a brushy Oak forest that HAD to be near the valley floor. The trail became a steep affair riddled with switchbacks and cute little tabletop jumps. Super fun to flick, air and skid down at speed. Just as this section spit me out on another old road bed I buzzed under a tent that must have been the finish line and asked “Am I done?” to which someone replied “Yes”. Fair enough, guess I made it. And without blowing anything or dying. Amazing and a whole hell of a lot of fun. Jason Moeschler and Myles Rockwell, the two guys I was expecting to get beat by, were standing there looking pretty fresh and rested, as if they’d been there a while. Jason was pumped with his run, “My legs felt just how I wanted them to and I hit all my corners perfectly, GPS says 33:47!” I figured he’s fast and didn’t blow it, so he probably got me. Ah well, at least I had a better time than I recall ever having and didn’t die…
We bench-raced for a while as finishers trickled in every minute or so and eventually hitched a ride back to the top with Ashland Mountain Adventures. My old buddy Mike West swung by to see about riding some other trails down the mountain while the rest of the racers did their runs. He didn’t have to ask twice. He, Cannondale Kevin and I set off walking through snowbanks to Time Warp, a very appropriate trail for me to be riding at the end of this fairly ambitious weekend. If I only knew how rad it would end up being. Everyone, go to Ashland and ride Time Warp right now with someone who pins it. You’ll have fun, I promise. Then you’ll turn RIGHT and head back to more sweet trails. We went LEFT and on a tour of the Ashland Creek watershed. Scenic and eventually let to some secret trails and the Hitt Road Chainless race course but not before ten miles of “how lost are we getting” traversing on old logging roads… Every race day should have an adventure, right?
We made it back to the top tired and happy for the third time that day and I jokingly asked the first person I saw, Kiwi Paul, “Did I win?” To which he replied “Yeah, mate, by two seconds!” Sweet. Guess that worked out. Unfortunately I had to beat Moeschler (one of the nicest, smoothest, fastest guys I know) to do it, but that mean my time of 33:45 a new record for the course by almost two minutes. The dirt must have been faster than I gave it credit for…
The ski lodge was packed for the awards ceremony and raffle, which I’m used to being a sparsely attended formality for those who got prize money. Not the case with the 12 Mile Super D. The place was packed and almost every raffle winner and podium finisher was present and stoked when their name was called. Good to see.
Sam Koerber (3rd on the day) and I thought we had a crew together for a victory lap down the race track (with some detours for jumps that were bypassed in the name of speed earlier) but everyone wilted with the afternoon rainstorm. We kept it EAST COAST and shredded sloppy wet dirt to the valley floor once again, vowing to race this kind of thing somewhere on the Right Coast in the near future. Good times.