Erika Tarte // Big Epic

I reach the Rancho Cañada del Oro parking lot at 7am and check the weather one more time. The forecast shows clear skies and temperatures in the mid 70s, but I think it’ll get hotter than that. Nevertheless, I’m shivering as I top off my water bottles. After finalizing my food selection and tucking an extra sunscreen packet into my jersey, I head out at 7:30am just as another Epic racer is pulling into the lot. After some quick hellos, I’m off!

Warming up on Casa Loma would have been a good idea. The initial zig-zags on the Mayfair Ranch climb are a full-body workout, and after going OTB on a loose section of the initial downhill, I’m hurting. But onward to incredible views of Calero Resevior, a quick water refill at Rancho San Vicente, and the first QOM at Country View Road.

The climb up Country View Road and Coyote Peak is challenging and invigorating, but the day takes a turn after descending into Santa Teresa. My 700x35mm Teravail Cannonballs and lack of suspension are no match for the rocky Stiles Ranch downhill. I hike the majority of the loop. Then my left eTap shifter (the one responsible for downshifting) stops responding through the initial rollers on Ohlone. Knowing I’m headed towards 20% grades going up Coyote Peak, I stop and use the SRAM AXS app to swap the assignments on my shifters and move into a climbing gear. This takes a ridiculously long time, and now without the ability to downshift to generate momentum through the downhills or sustain speed on the flats, the day is looking grim.

The easy spin I anticipated on Almaden Road turns into a high cadence nightmare. Just as I consider throwing in the towel, my left shifter becomes responsive at Quicksilver Hacienda! Worried that swapping the shifter assignments back might disrupt whatever miracle just happened, I spend the second half of the race trying (but usually failing) to develop new muscle memory.

Quicksilver is easily my favorite section of trails throughout the entire day. Exhausted and suffering through every uphill stretch, I still marvel at the scenery. The absence of hikers and cyclists adds to the landscape’s desolate beauty.

After beginning the day’s second QOM up Mount Umunhum Road climb and attempting to maintain a steady tempo with the sun beating down and my water supply dwindling…I bonk. I abandon the QOM, stop at turnout to eat, and hit the mercifully shady singletrack up to The Cube with renewed energy.

The other Epic racer I’d met at the Rancho Cañada del Oro parking lot is at the summit of Mt. Umunhum when I finally reach the top. Despite refilling at Quicksilver Hacienda, we’re both out of water with no relief until looping back through Quicksilver. Amazingly, some hikers at the Sierra Azul parking lot share a couple bottles of water.

Back through Quicksilver and a quick climb through Calero, and then I’m flying along Lisa Killough and Oak Cove. These trails are fast and fun, especially now that I have functional gearing. The sun is getting low, and there’s a cool breeze that carries the scent of wildflowers and sweet grasses. My pace increases, although my goal of finishing in 8 hours has long passed. But I am going to finish! Somehow my GPS battery lasts the final stretch along McKean and Casa Loma, and I end my ride at 10 hours and 31 minutes (11:33:38 elapsed time).

I’m exhausted and still have an hour’s drive back to Oakland, so I chug a couple protein shakes and crack open some LaCroix I’ve had chilling in a cooler. This was my first time riding South Bay trails, and I’ll definitely be returning. Thank you to everyone who organized this epic event and gave my spring training focus and motivation!