Matt Scott // Mini Epic
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” - Mike Tyson
This ride was a comedy of errors, elated fun, and silly mistakes. I suppose it all begins with the preparation. Calculating estimated ride times, calories, fluids, repair equipment, and bike settings, the ride started the day before. I cleaned and waxed the drivetrain, added some sealant to the tires, and gave the whole bike a nice wipe down to start with a fresh machine. I estimated that the ride should take me around 5hrs, which meant I needed approximately 1200-1500 calories while riding to avoid the dreaded bonk. I brought two large bottles and planned to max them up at the Quicksilver water spout both times I passed it (foreshadowing doom here). I then spent far more time than I should have ensuring my GPS was at max charge, could load the route, and provide the turn by turn navigation I knew I’d need. I felt confident, excited, and ready to go.
The morning of the ride was crisp and breezy. Worried that there’d be no cell service for my phone to push the strava route to my Garmin, I loaded it early and hit the “direct me to the start” button. This turned out to be the first mistake. Arriving at the parking lot, I was greeted by the gobbles of turkeys, and the rhythmic clicking of woodpeckers in the distance. The skies were clear and it was set to be a perfect day for a ride. After changing into my kit, applying sunscreen, and stuffing gels into any available space of my jersey I was ready to ride. I knew the ride started with a climb, so I opted to ride down the road for a few and turn around as a brief warmup before officially starting the Epic.
And we’re off! I planned to keep my initial effort well within myself knowing it was going to be long day in the saddle. And then I look at my GPS as I nearly miss a turn about 20 minutes in…. Wait, didn’t I spend far too much time prepping this thing, ensuring it loaded, and actually had it working in the parking lot? Yes. Was it working now when I needed it? No. Thanks Garmin. I had to stop, pull out my phone and confirm the route, all the while stewing at the wasted prep work and lost time to constantly route check. And what does any pissed off bike rider do from a stop? Burns a match of course. After rage-accelerating, I settled back into tempo and guess what! Another junction. This is how it went all the way to the top of Del Oro. Fortunately I knew the route after that point and was able to confidently ride through all the next turns. However those few stops and subsequent unregulated efforts would come to haunt me in a few hours.
It was a blast descending Del Oro into Calero and heading out toward Almaden and turned my frown upside down. I was making good time and having a ton of fun. Feeling fresh I checked my bottles at the bottom of quicksilver, and still had one of them ½ full of mix. Rather than dilute the calories and electrolytes, I decided to leave that one be (Mistake 2) and only refill my other water bottle. The ascent up Quicksilver was simple and uneventful. After a selfie at the mine I continued on toward Um. Going down the little descent, I lost traction in my rear wheel at one point and tensed my whole body to avoid going down and felt the dreaded “TWANG” in my left quad. What? A cramp? It's too early and this shouldn’t be happening. I sucked down a gel and continued on at my previous pace,
All was well up the Unumhum KOM and onto the single track. Up and Up I went, already looking forward to the reprieve of the upcoming descent. And then I reached down for my bottle and it was empty. No problem, I’ll check the other one. Oh crap, it only has about 5-6oz left and I’m 2+ miles from the top. Ruh Roh. Rationing what I had, and about 1 mile from the summit, my left leg decided it had enough and seized with a debilitating cramp. Ugh. As it turns out the phrase “The wheels are falling off” applies both metaphorically and literally here, as I noticed my front skewer was working itself loose and I wouldn’t have noticed if I didn’t stop for the cramping. All that planning and I was just “punched in the mouth.” Finishing my bottle and taking another gel I prayed I could get to the top in decent fashion. I did get to the top, but not in decent fashion. After about a half dozen other stops, some impromptu hiking, I emerged at the summit. Begrudgingly taking the second selfie I then remounted and started descending to water.
I’ve descended Mt Umunhum many times on my road bike (with rim brakes) but never on my gravel bike with disk brakes. My goodness does the extra stopping power inspire confidence. I was like a kid on a roller coaster for the first time. Just ripping down the hill rolling into turn after turn while grinning ear to ear. At the bottom my smile vanished as my leg cramps started acting up, but I got some relief rolling back into Quicksilver for some much needed water and a quick break.
The rest of the ride was just minimizing the losses from non stop cramps in both legs and eventually both arms. I made a few wrong turns which I tried to take in stride, but with my legs in bad shape I was looking forward to the finish. Once off the trails, and only looking at a few miles of road to the finish, I couldn’t wait to be done and start working on recovery. Finishing just a shade under my goal time of 5 hours I was happy to still achieve my goal despite the setbacks I encountered. Reflecting on my time in the saddle, it's hard to ever be upset about a bike ride (even when fighting through 2+ hours of leg cramps), and I certainly was not upset at all with a ride as epic as this. Many thanks to the organizer for this fantastic event!
Start of the Ride. I was so optimistic!
So many gels. I had the pockets of my jersey stretched to max capacity
Still feeling great at this point
The top of Um was closed, but my facial expression shows how I was feeling inside
Finished and back at my car. Where’s the nearest burrito!??!?!?