It’s been three years since I last attempted Billy’s Epic Training Loop, but with less than a week before my race in Tasmania and a forecast for beautiful weather, I figured today was the perfect time to do it again. After a 5am wake up call, I locked my kayak at the Loma boat ramp and started riding from Westwater at 8:15am. Although it was a little chilly to start, the morning was gorgeous with clear blue skies.
I rode for almost two hours to Rabbit Valley before seeing anyone. The peacefulness continued all the way to Salt Creek where I saw five guys climbing up from Troy Built. Salt Creek is a gnarly descent and these guys looked like they had felt every foot of technical elevation gain. I think they were more surprised to see me coming down than I was to see them.
About to head down Salt Creek overlooking the Colorado.
I finished up my 40 mile ride to Loma in 3 hours and 40 minutes (5 minutes faster than last time) and then quickly transitioned for 25 miles of paddling back to Westwater.
Before I knew it, I had paddled 11 miles and was feeling good. At about hour three, I noticed I slowed a little bit and was ready to be done. I pulled up to the boat ramp after exactly 3 hours and 40 minutes of paddling – the exact same time as my biking leg. Weird. Although I felt a bit slow for the last five miles, I still managed to drop 20 minutes off my paddling time from three years ago.
I made it home in time for dinner with kids and Juniper was excited to tell me that she rode her bike a long way today as well – six miles all the way down the bike path to the Harvest Festival at Rock Bottom Ranch. She was so proud. I love it when an awesome day just gets better when I return home.
All week I had been considering racing in the Desert RATS 25 mile trail run on the Kokopelli Trail in Loma but didn’t make the final decision until Friday afternoon. Although I really wanted to race this course after hearing so many good things from my friends Mike and Joy, I wasn’t sure I was up to 25 miles after the last month of being sick and very little training. Finally I decided to get out there for a training run and just enjoy it. After all, I know every rock, incline and turn on the course from years of mountain biking in Loma and figured this was a great place for my first marathon, trail or road.
Even though I tried to persuade against it, Joy decided she was going to come and cheer me on just two weeks after having her first child. No wonder we get along so well – we are both very stubborn and motivated. The wake-up call at 3am came quickly but I needed to get to the start in time to register and get organized.
Having Joy and Selah with me kept me relaxed and my mind off the race which prevented the typical pre-race jitters. Both the 50-mile racers and the 25-milers started together at 630am with a short countdown from the organizer. I chatted with Keri Nelson for a few minutes before she stepped it up a notch and dropped me on Moore Fun. Despite tripping and banging my knee on a rock in the first 4 miles, I was feeling well and looking forward to the remainder of the race.
Todd Kennedy (left) passing through the first aid station.
I continued to run well and steady for about 17 miles but started to slow a little at this point. I was very aware of the large hill (I always make a point of biking down it and not up it) we had to climb and was trying to save a little energy to get up the hill and finish the final five miles. Despite feeling well, the lack of training and preparation was kind of catching up with me. My mind, lungs and muscles were feeling great but my hips, knees and ankles were becoming sore. Maybe I’m just beginning to get old.
- Finishing Troy Built Loop around mile 18.
My friend Todd Kennedy passed me at this point and normally this would have motivated me to push harder but this time I was very content to run my own race. For the first time that I can remember, I had no interest in being competitive with the other racers and learned what it was like to race just for me. I finished the race slightly slower than I had been on target for but was happy to have experienced my first marathon on such a beautiful course. I think my time of 4 hours 13 minutes was good enough for sixth place. Next year I hope to train a little for the race and get out there with Joy and Elinor (her baby is also two weeks old). Maybe I’ll even try to drop a little time since I doubt I’ll be able to stay uncompetitive again. Results are posted here.
Finished and ready for some lunch.
Todd & I at the finish. I think was his fourth time finishing this race.
Years ago I was riding in Fruita and I ran into my friend and fellow adventure racer Billy Mattison riding solo on the Kokopelli Trail. He had started his ride a few hours earlier at the Colorado River boat ramp at Westwater, UT. His plan was to finish his ride at the Loma put-in, get in the kayak he had stashed there and then paddle back to Westwater. This was one of Billy’s favorite training routes and I’ve wanted to try it ever since. Yesterday was my day.
Loma Boat Ramp - Swap the bike for the boat
I headed out early Sunday morning, dropped my kayak, life jacket and some food at the Loma boat ramp and then continued driving to Westwater. When I got on my bike at 8:30 a.m it was just 22 degrees so I rode hard to try and warm up. The ride started with a few miles of pavement before turning onto some great rocky jeep road through spectacular desert sage and juniper. After about 10 or so miles the trail dropped into the Rabbit Valley area, which I’ve ridden many times. It was nice to be in familiar territory since I hadn’t seen a soul in over an hour of riding. After a somewhat boring section of buffed dirt road, I dropped into Salt Creek. Salt Creek is burly singletrack – definietly a few miles of hike-a-bike if you’re headed in the opposite direction. After some more great riding on the Troy Built loop I jumped on the final dirt road down to the river. All in all, it was about 40 miles of riding, which took me 3:45 to complete.
Looking down Ruby-Horsethief Canyon from Salt Creek on the Kokpelli Trail
At the Loma boat ramp, I ate some food, locked my bike, changed into paddling gear and then got started on the 25-mile Ruby-Horsethief section of the Colorado River back to Westwater. I paddled this stretch about three years ago but it was completely in the dark and it took almost 5 hours. This time I got to enjoy the spectacular scenery and watch the mountain bikers ride above the canyon walls on Rustler’s Loop and Horsethief Bench above me.
The paddling went by much faster than I expected, just 4 hours this time, which means one of two things: I am in much better paddling shape now or I paddled in circles in the dark the last time.
Anyway, it was great day of training and I’m looking forward to more days like it with my teammates in Moab this weekend.