This weekend I ventured up north to Ft. Bragg, California for an inaugural event called raid on Sherwood peak. The event turned out to be what I expected, poorly attended yet fun. There were only about 50 of us total to take on the day of plentiful forest logging roads. My intention of doing this event was to test my legs again after a bad flare-up at skyline a couple weeks before. I’ve been continuing my therapy visits and seeking new strategy to break my right leg free and ride strong again. Although my leg was not at its best this weekend it wasn’t as terrible as the previous race. What got me was the total laziness of my entire body from a stomach bug that knocked cold the week of the event. I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to make it up until Friday evening when I was finally feeling better.
I went onto the race website late Friday night with seven minutes left on the deadline to register I committed myself to the event. With a lack of training trying to mend my body at least I’d have a long hard effort to show for the weekend. I drove up Saturday afternoon to ride some of the course from the finish line out. Since the race was deemed as a forest road race I headed up with some WTB vulpine file tread tires and my Whisky rigid fork. My bike is super primo light set up like this, around 17 or 18 lbs! But….from the unusual rain the day before the sticky mud quickly turned my tires into a rotating mass of mud. I was descending too fast into a turn and crashed! All shaken up with my head, back, and leg aching from going down I found a one clear though and told myself I’d better throw on my suspension fork with a more grippy tread just in case. I wasn’t too bashed up and this was early on in my ride so I continued and swapped out my gear before heading back into town for dinner with my buddy. My friend Brian Neary’s wife grew up in Ft. Bragg so they had a spot to stay at his wife’s parent’s home where they graciously offered me a spot to stay. I was put up in the ultimate man-cave a woodshop/guesthouse; awesome!
The course at this event was all forest road and very remote to say the least. For those familiar with the area the single 52 mile loop goes from Ft. Bragg inland and gets as close as 5 miles to Willits. Big climbs if you know the terrain! I personally don’t know much about the riding in the area having only ridden near there south 10 miles once last fall. It’s a pretty rugged place and you wouldn’t want to make more than a couple wrong turns out there or it could be the end of you. Big confusing logging roads, deranged hillbillies, and some poached land reefer operations could get you in trouble out there.
The race started downtown with a police escort out of town. From here the neutral start was over and it was time to get the racing on. I jumped off the front to bring the pace up a little bit more to racing speed and a group of 7-8 followed. We kept on it up and down the gradual dirt roads with intermittent poorly paved sections. Not knowing much about the course, except its distance and that it climbed 6,000’, I wanted to ride steady and not blow up. This amount of climbing seemed fair for the distance and the terrain, but I didn’t expect the dose to come so concentrated.
After the rolling terrain was over we hit a sign that said 18.5 miles to summit! Now that’s a long climb, it was broken up with a few short descents, but that’s where most of the elevation was gained. I blasted off the front from the beginning before my upper and lower body were telling me to slow the pace and Brian Astell (teammate from Boggs 8-hour race) caught me. He didn’t just fly on by, but he was for sure the one making the pace and I was just there for the ride. I was stoked to see him riding strong this weekend.
Even though my body language wasn’t showing it and I was less vocal than Astell, I was also pretty amazed on how grand the views were where we were riding. Super vast peaks and valleys covered in forest!!! Another bonus of riding with Brian is he’s knew the area pretty well, giving a heads up for the terrain ahead. As we continued the day at I think mile 24 Astell broke away and I wasn’t going to chase him down. I don’t think the pace increased or he attacked me, but it was just one of those days where I needed to be cruising alone. From there the second half was just that, lonesome. Deep in the woods alone when you don’t see the course markers for a while, you begin to second guess yourself if you’ve made the right turn. About mile 35 as I was climbing and my tire began losing some serious air, so I stopped and saw a bunch of sealant spraying out the sidewall. I gave my front tire a spin and a few shakes and it sealed up, all the while another racer, George passed me. I then blasted my tire with some co2 and continued on, but never got back up to George.
At the end of the day I settled for 3rd. Given the way I was feeling, I’ll take it! It was a hard day, but pretty awesome to say the least. After the race was over we waited and cheered on other racers finishing their epic ride. Even though this was a super low-key event the post-race food was gourmet in every sense of the word. Some badass chefs came out and cooked up a feast of salmon, beef, pasta, chicken, and tons of other great stuff!