About a year ago I decided that I wanted to race the Cascade Creampuff 100. The Creampuff is an iconic one-day 100 mile mt bike race in the small town of Oakridge, Oregon. This year, the course took us up the infamous 1910 fire road with the reward of descending Alpine trail a total of three times, totaling over 18,000 feet of elevation gain. My cycling background includes a fair amount of 45-55 mile road races, a few stage races, a lot of cyclocross and some XC mt bike races. In short, this whole endurance-racing thing is new to me and I had no idea what to expect. Luckily, I found a great training partner and friend in fellow Portland mt biker Rachel Bagley.
I was a mess for the whole week leading up to the race. Because I work in the bike industry, I can’t even escape my crazy race plans at work. Everywhere I went, people were asking me how I was feeling about the upcoming race and telling me stories they had heard about how tough it is. I was excited, but mostly nervous! I’d been training for months for this race, and I just wanted to get on with it already. So, it was with a measure of relief that I rolled out of the Westfir Middle School on Sunday morning at 5 am to finally race the Creampuff.
Climbing up through the Cascades at sunrise was beautiful. It was a clear brisk morning, and the views were amazing. I felt okay the first time up the 14 mile climb, but knew I needed to go slow and save enough for all three laps. The first descent was amazing; I was almost giggling with excitement about the race and the trails. Though there was a bit of snow at the top, but generally the trails were perfect and I felt great on the first run down. My confidence and excitement got the best of me, and I slipped out on a root while going around a corner towards the end of the descent. Not a big deal crash, but I face planted hard enough to slow me down and bring out my cautious side.
I knew the second lap would be a challenge, and it didn’t disappoint. After the first lap, I found that I couldn’t stomach solid food, so my nutrition plan went out the window. I ate as much gel as I could manage, but I lingered on the verge of bonking throughout the whole lap. I was hoping to see my husband, Greg, at the aid station at the end of the lap, and just rode the lap slowly thinking about getting some much needed encouragement from him before setting out on my third lap. Seeing him, our dog Zeppo, and friends Ira and Matt at the aid station was great, and I set out on the third lap in a delusional state that I was almost done, despite having about 5 hours left to ride.
I rode way to hard on the first 10 miles of the third lap. I was excited to be on the final lap, eager to finish, and really wanted to get through the final aid station before the time cut off. Regardless of the stupidity of my pace, that climb on my third lap was awesome. I was possessed with an impulse to ride as hard as I could and it felt great. I paid for it later, but it was fun while it lasted. When I finally reached the top of the climb on the third lap, I was too tired to descend with much confidence and any punchy little climb on the way down left me walking my bike. I felt pretty good, and was riding smooth, but my arms and back were fading fast and I was ready to be done. There were some amazingly tranquil and beautiful moments in that final descent, but none were as wonderful as coming out and seeing the little red covered bridge about 1,000 feet below marking the finish line. Those last few miles were pure bliss. I knew I’d made it and was feeling really happy with my results. I wound up 8th out of 22 starters in open women in my first real endurance event and had a time of 13:20.
My tale of the Creampuff would be incomplete without talking about Rachel’s race. She was such a big part of my training that I spent a lot of the race wondering how she was doing. She crushed it, finishing in 6th with a time of about 12:50 (almost 3 hours faster that her previous Creampuff endeavor!). I feel a huge amount of gratitude for having such a great training partner, thank you Rachel!
Will I race the Creampuff again? It feels more and more likely with each passing day.
Submitted by Abby Watson