It was the day before the race and I had completely forgotten about it until then. It is the slower time in the year at work so I was able to get the next day off with short notice. As soon as I got home from work I started preparing. I had never ridden in Capital Forest before and I was not ready for navigating through there, but I wanted to do the ride so I just neglected that part of my prep for lack of time and headed straight to Olympia with a vague plan. I texted a friend to see if I could stay at his house, but it was already full from others who were in town for the event. I was then forwarded a text from the ride organizer Ben with an address and a garage code “feel free to use the couch”.
I followed my phone to the location and parked in front of the house around 11pm. –I hope this is the right place– I went up the the garage and entered the code. It opened up revealing a garage full of bikes. –This is definitely the place–
I brought my bike into the garage then closed it and went inside. The lights were off and I stumbled around until I found the living room. I was tired so I laid down on the couch and tried to fall asleep. I was greeted by a cat and we cuddled for a bit before I passed out.
I heard someone coming down the hallway and I spoke up a little hesitantly. “You must be Ben?” and thankfully the reply was ‘Yes’. We drank some coffee and got our stuff together. It was freezing outside so I bundled up and hoped I had enough gear with me. We rode down to the starting location and awaited the other riders.
It was supposed to start at 5am, but we almost expected people to be a little late at that hour. After a bit of waiting, 13 of us had made it. Cue sheets were passed out with the disclaimer that they wouldn’t be too helpful if you were unfamiliar with the area. I was basically relying on others for navigation. Luckily my friend Evan was there and he had gps as well as some knowledge of the route already. I decided it would be a good idea to stick with him and I hadn’t ridden with him before so it was a good time to start.
We rolled out around 5:30 and headed straight to Capital Forest. After a short hike-a-bike section we were on gravel and the ride really began. It was dark and below freezing. My headlight was reflecting off all the frost creating a wonderful effect. This cued me to be careful of traction as we took some downhill corners.
It was slick, but totally doable since there generally is still some traction on gravel even when frozen.
We continued on a mix of dirt, gravel, and barely paved roads. Every so often we would come around a corner and the temperature would change drastically. There was an inversion today as well as the ridge lines causing micro-climates to form (or so I was told).
The first checkpoint was at a gas station just outside the forest, although everyone stopped at the neighboring coffee stand instead to get some needed caffeine. Evan and I didn’t want to wait around too long or we would start to cool down so after a few riders showed up we left with a group heading out behind us shortly after.
Going back into the forest there was a decent climb. Then some more climbing… actually there was quite a bit of climbing so it just started to blur together for me. I would have been so lost without help from Evan and his Garmin. Next time I’ll have to be more prepared.
One major downside of an inversion is hitting colder temperatures abruptly at speed. The one incident of the ride happened when cruising downhill. We came around a corner and all of a sudden there was nothing but white. I didn’t have enough time to slow down and my tires lost traction on the ice. I slid out and Evan, who was closely following me, narrowly avoided me as I was sliding sideways and went toward the edge of the road where some gravel provided a bit more traction. Nothing major happened, but made us a lot more cautious when we were riding on the paved sections of the route.
There were a couple points where I started to lose energy. I hadn’t eaten enough food so I started to eat whatever I had left in my bag just to keep myself from bonking. I hadn’t done a long ride in a month or two and I was excited for this ride so my normal nutrition habits had been forgotten for a bit. Once we hit the second checkpoint (another gas station just outside the forest) I stocked up on some food. Of course only the healthiest of options…corn dogs and cup noodles!
I was ready for the big climb now. I was in the zone and generally on this kind of ride you don’t necessarily have to talk to your riding buddies the whole time.
Just focus on pedaling.
One foot after the other and take in all the sights and sounds.
The time blurs together and then you are at the top.
After a big climb is usually a fun descent. It was sketchily fast and there were lots of large rocks on the road. Most of the riders were on something around a 40mm tire, some tubed and some tubeless. This descent got most of us. We passed riders fixing flats only to be passed again as we fixed flats of our own. Everyone had spare tubes or patches so no real emergencies here. This was actually the first flat I had had in about 6 months so fine by me.
After the descent there was some rolling hills then back into town. The only thing on my mind at that point was pizza. Food is always a great motivator. If you can just finish the ride then you can justify eating way too much. We pushed on and just tried to keep a consistent pace, nothing too fast, but we didn’t want to ride much after sunset since the roads would probably start to freeze again.
We made it to the end around 5:30 so almost exactly 12 hours for the ride. Not the fastest pace ever, but fairly solid for what the course was. Overall the event was a success with only minor spills and mechanicals. I believe only 1 rider dropped out. I hope this becomes an annual thing. If not I at least want to explore those roads some more with this good group of people.