About a month or so back a teammate of mine sent out an group e-mail regarding a few upcoming mountain bike race/events. As I clicked through the 5 or so links in the e-mail, I happened upon an event called – Mendocino Mountain Bike Madness – “The M5”. After looking at the Eventbrite and Facebook description pages for the event, I knew that I wouldn’t want to miss it. I rounded up my posse and 4 of us immediately agreed that we wanted to race The M5. It almost seemed to perfect. Here is the event description – “Three days and three nights of MTB bliss in Mendocino, CA. Cabin camping, day rides, night rides, guided rides, a ripping-fun race if you’re so inclined on Saturday, catered meals x3 day, craft beer, hot showers, good coffee… all in a family friendly hero-dirt surrounded forest of giant redwood trees.” Wow! Sign me up.
I decided to head up with my two boys, Taylor (6) and Trevor (3) on Thur. afternoon. I wanted to get there early and get a cabin close to the food and more importantly beer. We arrived about 5:30 pm and were greeted and checked in by Emily. She had us sign our lives away, and then we were off to self select a cabin. We found our cabin, unloaded our gear and then hit up a warm pasta dinner. Serve yourself Alaskan Brew was on tap and a knew a fun weekend was ahead. That night we retired early as both the boys and I were pretty tuckered from the long drive up windy Hwy 128. Lights were literally out as soon as the sun disappeared.
Fri 5:32 am – Both boys were rustling around and getting antsy…”Is it breakfast time yet dad”? No Taylor, It’s 5:30 am, go back to bed, it’s still dark out. The attempt to get them to sleep in was pretty futile, next thing I know both boys are snuggled in my one man sleeping bag, fighting for the best dad position. That night the 3 of us had our own bed, but to paint a picture they are single beds and there is really only room for one person per bed; However I made an exception. I knew the boys were just as excited as I was. This was our first “Boys” camping trip without Mom since their birth. At first I was intrepid to bring them along, as I was not sure about the “scene”. My self doubt was soon to be squashed when we arrived at breakfast at 7:30 am and they were serving french toast and fresh fruit. There were about 40 or so campers many of which came in late Thur night. The boys founds some friends and they were right at home chasing each other around the recreation area.
My teammates Javier and Dave showed up on Fri at around noon. They got settled in, had some lunch and then we geared up for a preview of sat’s race course. To my surprise Murphy had lined up an onsite naturalist (Rain) to take the young kids on a hike around the Woodlands. This worked out prefect as it allowed me to ride and not worry about the boys in my absence. There were also a few very helpful volunteers who played with the children and did fun activities like making dream catchers along with plenty of rounds of hide and go-seek. With Murphy as our ride leader 16 of us hit the trail which started out on a fire road and then quickly ascended up very tight and steep single track. The first climb was about 1,000 feet, 500 foot drop offs on one side, mnt wall on the other. There were places were the handle bars on our 29’ers would barley fit though the trees on either side. Watch that front tire and make sure it doesn’t wander to far off the center of the trail or you’ll lose it faster than roadrunner chasing after Whiley Coyote. The decent was a blast. Berms, whoops and smooth flowy single track for about 4 miles. Then came the second 800 ft climb…and boy was it a climb. It got gradually steeper and became a hike a bike for me. A few of the strong men Javi included were able to clear it, but I got in some loose dirt and lost my traction and momentum. To be honest I don’t think I could make it even if my line was prefect. Bit much for this cat. We regrouped at the top of climb and Murphy gave us a verbal preview of what to expect on the last decent back to camp. We were all pumped! I took second wheel as we started to bomb down. Just as I let off my brakes, I hear someone back yell out “Mechanical”. Ahh shoot. I look back and it’s Javi. I yell out to Murphy who at this point has to lock it up to stop. We head back up the hill and see that Javi somehow got a stick caught up in his wheel, causing it to break a spoke, snap off his rear derailuer, bend the chain and flatten the rear tire. It was really a quite the cluster. After about 10 min of monkeying around with getting the chain and wheel off, it was apparent that Javi’s race intentions were all but crushed. He held his head low and had to walk the last 2 miles back to camp. Luckly for Javi, Jake from Humboldt Bike Repair was on site and made short order of getting him back on two wheels. I’m not exactly sure what Jake did, but he somehow jimmy rigged the derailliur, flipped the chain and sealed up the tire. Talk about lucky!. Thanks Jake!
Fri night we had dinner, hung around the campfire, sipped on a little beer/vino and meet some new faces.
Sat – Race Start 10am – Current time 8:45am – I wake up Dave and Javi are out like lights. Taylor my oldest and I decide to walk up and get some breakfast. I was thinking it was about 7:30, but to be sure I walk down to my truck and get my cell phone. I flip it on and it says 8:45 am – I freak out a bit as everyone is still snoring. I wake up Javi who is also taken aback, he says “no shit”…I’m like yeah “no shit”…We better get up and get to it…We head up to the rec area, have a quick bite and then roll straight back to gear up.
I get in maybe a 10 min warm up in and then find my place in the back of the line with the other riders who will be doing 2 laps. The pro’s and Experts head out first, and I am not envious of the 3 laps that they have to do. There were some big names in the pro category including Menso De Jong who got 3rd place in the pro category at Downieville two weeks back and another guy named Chris who recently got 3rd at Downieville in the Expert Category. Javi had some steep competition. The Sport Category goes next and we were off. My goal for the race was to keep it together and finish in the top 10. I think there was about 25 or so racing in my category. As I entered the first single track climb I was comfortably sitting 7th or so back. As I started the downhill I put in a big effort and passed two riders who had had enough. This put me in 5th which I held for the next 800 ft. I heard 5th place as I crossed the start/finish line for the first time. I looked back and had a nice little gap, but as I started up the climb for the second time I could tell I was in trouble. 3 or 4 riders gapped up to my wheel. I had a pretty good pace going but could feel the pressure to keep it going. Two of the riders were in the expert category and one was a 13 year old local mnt bike prodigy named Issah. The week prior at the Annadale race I passed Issah going up Richardson, but today he had the advantage. Long, steep, climbs. See he weighs in at about 90lbs soaking wet and I’m coming in at 180 these days. I basically imploded 3/4 up the 1000 ft climb and it was at that point were all 3 riders passed me. I wasn’t so much worried about the 2 expert riders, but I sure which I could have kept up with the Issah. My goal for the rest of race was to not get passed but sure enough on the last big climb I got passed by two more riders. I held my position from there on out and ended up getting 7th overall. I meet my goal for a top 10 placement, but was not really satisfied with how I performed. Javi ended up placing 4th overall and had a great race considering he had to feather his shifting. Dave finished a few back from me and was equally beat down by the demanding trails.
Time for a beer and dinner for fit for Kings and Queens.
Marin Pro Rider – Brian Astell Getting his grub on after the race.
After a great meal of Salmon, Steak, Salad, Pasta, Rice, Bread, shoot you name it and it was there, are group retired around 10pm. We had sweet dreams of the 10am ride the next day.
Sun 10 am – Murphy makes an announcement – 5 group rides, varying paces and lengths heading out in 5 min. Find the group you think you’ll enjoy the most and have fun. Javi, Dave and I decide to go with the “fast” group – which was lead by none other than Pro Marin rider Brian Astell. I was a bit worried as I looked around, everyone looked extremely fit and I was thinking that I may have bitten off more than I could chew…17 of us head out to ride the Epic Mendocino trails that have been touted as some of the best in Northern California. We started with about a 20 min fire road climb and the pace was comfortable. I’m sure those big pro engines take awhile to warm up…I’m not pushing the pace any as I know we are in for a 3+ hour ride. We reach at small path at the top of the fire road and hit some amazing single track. I find myself comfortably positioned about 5 or 6 back from our leader Brian. I was having so much fun and was so excited to see what lies ahead that any discomfort became a blur. We ripped up and down narrow gaps and thin half rotten wooden foot bridges. At times it felt like we were on redwood lined carpets, others times the scenery was that of the Amazon Jungle. Ferns, and greenery at every turn. The night before a heavy fog rolled in and it made the ground nice and moist. This made the trails as good as they could get. One rider in front of me say’s to me in a boyish voice tone – Two wheel slide into a hair pin turn “don’t mind if I do”. The moisture in the air was thick, my long fingered gloves were soaking wet and my hands were prunes. Sweat was dripping from my hands as I griped the handle bars tighter and tighter. Trying with all my might to not slow up the riders behind, and keep up the riders ahead. I was on the gas, out of the saddle, every chance I had. I was doing well, felling good, having fun, feeling alive! All the reasons and expectations for coming were being met on this one 3 hr group ride.
Javi after the race…
We regrouped often which gave Dave and I a chance to catch our breath. The other riders seemed to either be faking it, or possessing some super human mnt bike powers from the gods that be. I knew that we must have to climb at some point, as no mnt bike ride only descends. Sure enough we had to climb back up what we had just ridden down. It was a tough 30 min climb with hard switch backs and full out of saddle efforts to keep the wheels moving in a forward direction.As we mad our way up the last of the fire road climbs, I had a moment of reflection. I looked at the group in front as I was falling off the back with a few other who had also cracked. I thought to myself that was the best mountain bike ride I’ve ever been on. Bar non, unequivocally the best. I pushed myself on both the uphills and down, stuck with pro level riders for 90% of the ride, and thoroughly enjoyed the company and antics of the other riders and our leader Brian. Thanks to Murphy Mack, Emily, Amy, Jake, Brian, Rain, Ellen, Bike Sprite, Coca- Cola 🙂 For the great ride and opportunity to see and be part of something truly special. Next year I’m dragging up every mountain bike buddy I have. This is great event and one worth fully supporting. I wish it much success in the future and am glad to be a supporter. # M5, #MendicinoMountianBikeMadness
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