the puff.

the sun is shining. the files are sharp. my mountain bike is covered in dirt.

i spent last weekend racing the cascade creampuff 100 mile mountain bike race in oakridge oregon and i didn’t die. dave hemming picked me up in his deluxe sprinter van with water, power food and espresso maker and we headed south to oakridge to  start racing sunday morning at 5:05. having a chance to talk to dave for a couple of hours was great. born in london, he raced as a professional down hill rider for years and has the skills to prove it. seeing someone do a nose wheelie around a switch back that everyone else is walking proves that some people just have the skills on the bike. i am not shy about describing my mountain bike technique as being similar to trying to put a cat into a bucket of water. arms locked, eyes fixed on the log, rock, etc. and fully locked brakes. after a long talk about how to go downhill faster, i had a handful of tips to help my downhill skills the next day over the 100 mile race.

we arrived in the tired logging town in time to grab some food and register for the race. nervous racers with baggy shorts walked around commenting on each other’s carbon full suspension rigs while dave and i tweaked our own machines to be ready to roll out the next morning at 5. we caught up with cd who works at chris king and was wearing his own t-shirt exclaiming “i suck at riding bikes” around a sketch of himself in a typical cd pose. dinner and off to bed. a little nervous flutter made it hard to fall asleep but the stars above the mountains and trees made for a pleasant night’s rest once i finally closed my eyes.

woke up to the sound of the promoter yelling as he walked through the campground “you can sleep when your dead. get up!” it’s too early for boot camp but hell, we all paid money to do this race. chamois cream, pop tarts and espresso felt strangely normal and we filled our bottles before ambling over to the line. after a couple of minutes of prerace comments we rolled out behind the motorcycle for our 3 mile neutral start. the pace was quick for a long day in the saddle but the race quickly split up once we hit the 12+ miles of climbing up 1910 logging road.

we would do this climb twice with a half loop up on top of the mountain with single-track, double track and logging roads. settling into a nice pace proved a good move as it saved energy and kept the moral high as groups formed and riders chatted with each other about the race, food and the impending doom of a hot day later on. the sun hadn’t peeked over the hills and the cool morning made for a perfect climate. we passed the first aid station and i rode on with my water bottle in my back jersey pocket, my ipod motivating my with some hip hop i was sure i wouldn’t find in the mountains.

by the time i made it to the top of the climb to start the single track, the groups had split up  and we had ridden up and down along the top of a couple of peaks. i think we climbed as high as 5,300 feet but all i had was my watch to keep tabs on time. the fire road ended with a short hike a bike section up single-track where we would do two more loops through the saddleblancket trail area. the single track was perfect and almost everyone was able to ride every section. perfectly buff trails from top to bottom made for a fast race this year.

some rocky bits but flowing and smooth was the bulk of the trail. as you get tired, the lines get faster as you realize that braking and slowing just make your back and arms hurt more. there were climbers and downhillers and i was happy to rally the down hills and catch the rider who’s only trace was the dust hanging in the air around a dusty corner. i wished i had brought my camera on the ride to capture the beauty of being on the top of the world on the most amazing single track in oregon.

photos of the riders at the puff can be seen at the oregon velo site.

after taking too much ibuprofen, my back mellowed a little and i was able to make it to the top of the alpine trail without loosing my place too much. the loop over saddleblancket mountain had fast rolling descents on logging roads before some stiff climbing back up to the trail head. what goes down must come up, right? stopping briefly at aid station 2 to refill bottles before starting down alpine trail to the 60 mile mark at the bottom. alpine trail will give you forearm pump or a feeling of spiritual awakening (sometimes both).

i took my time down alpine because i was a little unsure about the trail conditions but soon found myself maching along the side of the hills heading towards the red bridge and the eventual finish line. refueled at the bottom with a huge shit eating grin on my face before starting out along the river trail to do one more loop up 1910.

i caught up with james on the trail who was stopped next to the trail. his rear rotor had come off his rear hub and i simple told him he should take it off and continue to climb up to the next aide stop with me. the temps were in the mid 80’s but the sun beat down on my back as i unzipped my jersey and turned up the gang starr. i picked off riders slowly but surely and made a good push to keep the pace up. it is key to have a good head space. regardless of the race or not, i was very happy to be riding the trails on such a perfect day.

the sun nearly beat me down but i made it to the top of the single-track and realized i was on the home stretch. being tired made the down hills faster as i rode the saddleblancket loop for the 3rd time and loosened up over the rocks. by the time i made it to the top of alpine, i was ready to get it over with. i cued up some justin timberlake and punched it down alpine for the second time. hoots and hollers all the way down for 12 miles. technical sections just turned into tunnel vision as i worked harder and harder to make the corners feel like the speeder scene from return of the jedi. elbows out in every turn made the curves fast as i blew past 5 riders on the last sections.

making it to the bottom and seeing the red covered bridge proves the finish is just below you. finishing the alpine trail after 100 miles of mountain biking is like the best dessert ever. i finished with a huge smile on my face to a time of 10 hours and 40 minutes. i finished 6th in my category and 45th overall from 219 starters and 179 finishers. the winning time was something crazy like 8:33 but i am pretty sure they didn’t take the time to notice what a great day it was to be in the mountains.

some real food, a beer and a dip in the river to cleanup before dave and i headed back to portland that night. all in all, i had a great experience and got to meet some amazing folks who love riding bikes.

back in the shop today with a sore back and working on a fork, rando rack and stem for  jeffrey’s bike. on the docket for this week are road bikes for jack, clay and chip.



4 Responses to “the puff.”

  1. bikeiowa Says:



    Great write up Ira, great day out there, thanks for sharing the goods with all us flatlanders. One more piece of advice to ya, keep your music selections secret, don’t want others to know what makes you go!

    Must buy lotto tickets…

  2. Tony Pereira Says:

    Awesome job Ira. Sorry I bailed on you. You’re much more a man than I. Gang Starr–top choice!

  3. Margi Says:

    Great job at Creampuff, Ira. Scott and I were so impressed when we saw the results. You crushed it! I just got a chance to read your lovely write up. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Michael Alan Bielat Says:

    That sounded like a good time. Tough break on the back pains.

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