With the recent mid-season lull in racing, training has ramped up to 14, 16, and 18 hour weeks of a mix of group rides, intervals, and long endurance rides. The feather in the training cap was yesterday’s One Lap of Memphis, a charity group MTB ride that visits each trail in the Memphis area in one long day in the saddle.
Since Ryan hadn’t ridden a 100 on his MTB, and the course is, as far as 100s go, an “easy” 100, it was the perfect introductory opportunity for him. I took it upon myself to pace with him to make sure he didn’t go out too hard, eat too little, or finish too slow.
Almost 40 riders started out from the ride organizer’s house in Lakeland and headed towards the short, steep Lakeland Trails just a few miles away. We rode near the front and hit the trail in the first 10 or so people. Unfortunately, Ryan had a mis-shift and stalled out on the first hill. We’d decided ahead of time that in case of a mishap, we’d meet back up in the parking lot after the lap, so I continued on at a steady pace. Ryan ended up catching back up to me at the end of the lap when I stopped to tighten my headset, and we hit the road with a group of about 20 people to paceline out to Herb Parson’s Lake.
At Herb’s, we entered the trail a few seconds behind a few hammerheads that were chasing Boomer Leopold. We had a nice group going through the woods when Ryan had a stick jump up into his rear derailleur. Luckily, the derailleur hanger did its job, and, after a quick replacement, we were back on our way.
The group thinned out a lot on the next road section, and we entered the Collierville gravel greenline feeling good. The flat gravel was a little monotonous, but would soon get much more interesting when it ended at 4 wheeler trails for the last couple of miles to Houston Levee road. Even though the trails have seen relatively little rain lately, the trail was rutted out with hub-deep water/mudholes. Some were rideable if you could balance on the middle berm between ruts without losing a wheel into a rut, but others were giant holes that forced you to hike-a-bike in the thorn bushes next to the trail.
Eventually, we made it out to Houston Levee road. Our drivetrains were covered in mud and sand, so my first priority was to find a way to clean them off. A mile or so up the road, we found a hose spigot behind Canale’s grocery store and washed the debris from our drivetrains. The next “trail” after a few more miles of road riding was the unfinished greenline paralleling Macon Rd. It’s basically an old railbed with the tracks removed. Further in town, it’s been finished and paved over, but from Shelby Farms east, it’s somewhat loose and very overgrown. We passed a lot of riders who were being broken by the extra few watts required to push through the rock and plants and found the turn-off to the last section of singletrack before the mid-ride aid station.
EDIT FOR CLARIFICATION: At Germantown Parkway, we also passed some guys who were much faster than either of us on a good day, but had stopped at a nearby pizza restaurant since some in the group had run out of water. The restaurant owner was apparently gracious enough to let grimy MTBers in the store (I heard they tipped well). I’m not totally clear on if/when we passed each other again because I saw some of them at the aid stop, some of them left the course around that point since they’d ridden to the start from their homes ~10-15 miles away, and I think that Ryan and I were 4th and 5th to finish.
Other than a little hike-a-bike through a gully, that trail (Shelby Farms North Blue trail) was generally uneventful. We rolled in to the rest stop and took a little break to refill our water, eat some snacks, and lube our chains before heading back out for a steamy lap of the Tour de Wolf trail before moving on to the Blue of the Wolf River Trail. The next real challenge was the yellow trail, which was hit hard by the recent spring flooding a few months ago. The flood washed some trail out, knocked trees down, and covered much of the trail with seemingly bottomless amounts of powdery river sand. The south part of the trail was passable in most places, but the north end after Walnut Grove was in rough shape. With all of the sand hiking and detouring around trees, our average speed was 4mph for those few miles.
Once we reached the next road section to get to Stanky Creek, we knew that the worst was behind us. At Stanky, we refilled again (I had my first Mexican Coke… damn, that’s good) and went out for our last piece of singletrack before the finish. Ryan entered the trail ahead of me. I could tell that he was starting to feel the effect of the long day in the saddle by the amount of speed he was scrubbing down the hills. About halfway through, I took over the pacing to try and encourage him to keep off the brakes so we wouldn’t have to work as hard to get up the subsequent rollers.
Soon enough, we were back on the road and covering the last 6-7 miles before the finish. We traded pulls until we caught up to a couple of riders a couple of miles out. I was indifferent and figured we’d just ride in with them, but when one of them took a stupid turn into traffic on Germantown Parkway and the other jumped around us to catch up once traffic cleared, it was obvious that they wanted to finish ahead of us. Being the competitive-natured individuals that we are, we gave them the roadie treatment. Rather than chasing them wildly, I paced us steadily to their rear wheel, where we rested briefly until we reached the bottom of a hill and attacked around them and held the hard effort until the final turn, where we looked back to see that they were nowhere in sight. Ryan and I pulled into the finish at 9 hours and 45 minutes.
We cleaned up, socialized a few minutes, then headed home to relax and eat some Mexican food before laying around and watching the Tour for the remainder of the evening. I’m very proud of Ryan and happy that I could help him get through such a tough day.