First, a video collage of the first 20 miles or so heading out of town is on youtube here. The unofficial gps file I poached from the MC website is here
My rides the month before were generally only commuting, and not going for any long rides. Too hot. No hill climbing up Houston Rd to build some muscle. And if there's one thing about the MC, well besides it being mostly in the dark, is that there is tons of climbing. I thought it was possible I could do better than last year's 8h15m, but figured I'd be lucky to break 10 hours.
After the flat fast ride to the state line, the course starts climbing and climbing and climbing the hills above Liberty Lake. I fell behind Eric E and the group we were riding up the hills with, but I figured I would catch them on the downhill. But my legs felt like mush, I fell too far behind and lost track of them - until some hours later when I think I came across part of the group after they took a wrong turn.
Here's a typical view, maybe out on Belmont Rd:
It wasn't all pitch black, as we rode by various farms, homesteads, small communities.
Some blathering about gear:
Bike/Tire Talk: I was riding me Salsa Fargo, and appreciating the tubeless setup. Passed quite a few guys on skinny tires fixing flats along the way. Or maybe it was just the same one or two guys fixing flats I kept passing.
The Race King 2.2" tires roll surprisingly well on pavement, but there were lots of miles on the paved roads where I thought the tires might be overkill. But then there many sections I was glad I had them. Like the gated off summer road (a road in name only), the downhill dirt Bruna Rd, and all those washboard gravel roads in the last half. Took the sting out of the bumps. Had 30+psi in them and maybe could've gone lower.
Garmin talk: This year I had the course loaded on a Garmin Edge Touring model, and I could just follow the purple line. The screen would tell me when to turn. This was working great except for a few spots like around Liberty Lake when the screen went dark. I thought maybe I lost satellite reception but I couldn't read a message at the bottom, telling me we were off course, so I think I missed the same turn before LL we missed last year. Darn fuzzy contacts. We soon were back on the course and riding with a larger group again. Took me awhile to get the Garmin back on the course, but once I did it was back to following the purple line. Helped a few riders find the turns along the way,
Later on I got the Garmin off course again by tapping on the wrong spot on the screen, and it decided I wanted to go where I tapped. Then it would tell me to turn around, make a u-turn but I could see the purple line going the other way. Luckily one time when it told me to go the wrong way, there was another guy who knew the right way to go. At least now I know more about working the Garmin.
Shoe talk: my trusty, sturdy heavy duty 5-10 Freeriders. After 80 some miles these were feeling heavy - next year if I do the ride (well of course I will if I'm in the Spokane area) will wear something lighter like the Chrome shoes. I was having trouble with the hills and once or twice even thought maybe I should've gone clipless - gasp. Around 3am I got a second wind and started just mashing down on the pedals on the uphills - that seemed to help. No spinning in tiny circles for me.
More cell phone pictures time:
|Sunrise some miles before Spangle|
|a welcome coffee/cookie stop|
|they really don't want people getting past the|
end/beginning of the new pavement on the Fish Lake Trail
Downhill talk: I'm always surprised my heavy steel bikes coast downhill about as fast as most light, skinny tired bikes. Noticed this first at Spokefest some years ago riding my Marin Muirwoods with its smooth 42mm tires and it continues with the Vaya and Fargo. It helps on gravel roads to have the fatter tires give me a little more confidence and not hit the brakes as much. I like going fast downhill, but after awhile thought maybe it's not smart to I push it too fast, especially when by myself out in the middle of nowhere. Thinking I was a downhill racer in another life.
food: brought trail mix and some Bobo Oat bars that looked similar to my favorite no-bake cookies. Except they weren't: they were dry and not much flavor. Didn't feel like eating much, think next time will bring some cookies, apples and a sandwich. Don't like the sport bars and gel-packs.
picture chronicling: think will fix a regular camera to the handlebars or rack next time, or carry a good small camera. Attached the gopro to my front rack with a ski pole attachment, but I had to build up the rack tubing with duct tape because it was a little too narrow. Made for a wobbly mount. The gopro battery died quickly and I need to get a new battery. Not that there's a lot to take pictures of in the dark, but it'd help with a proper ride chronicle.
For all the tough uphills in the first half of the ride, the last 20-30 miles are the toughest for me, even though they're the flattest. Especially the last few miles on the Fish Lake Trail - just wanted to get to Spokane. Stopped a bit extra more in the last third to re-group, but I wasn't in any hurry. Finished up at Central Food and chatted a bit. Almost fell asleep trying to talk myself into riding home but hoping for a lift. No ride was available, so I took an easy meander home.
The MC is a great ride and I'm glad I finished. There's something about riding in the middle of the night on the back roads, sometimes alone, sometimes with a group of strangers and friends.