The Inaugural Trans North California race is in the books. 14 brave souls ventured out from Reno, Nevada with the common goal of reaching Mendocino, California. Being the first ever TNCA we were all taking a leap of faith into the unknown. Ultimately, this race proved to be harder than any of us had imagined.
Immediately from the start the race jumps into a 2500’ climb that spread us all out quickly. I had to work hard to hold my inner XC racer in check and ride a sustainable pace. Once at the top of the first climb, I had a distinct advantage. I was the only racer on a full suspension bike so I was able to fly down the first descent and pass several riders.
At about mile 40 my back tire went flat. Upon inspection there was now a huge gash in the sidewall. I had to boot it and throw in a tube which was concerning with the warnings of goat head thorns somewhere after Oroville. I now had to take it easy on the descents as the tire was now quit unstable and I didn’t want to risk further damage. So the few areas I could take advantage of full suspension had now been neutralized.
The first 100 miles were a net loss of 3,000 feet. However, it felt like it was mostly up hill. The climbs are well my heavy and squishy bike were a significant burden. This combined with a nasty head cold, I found myself walking much more than expected.
We hit single track just as my spirits were starting to wane. The fast loose singletrack was a blast and I was quickly smiling again. Unfortunately, the climbing wasn’t over yet and I was quickly brought back to reality.
I made it to Burgee Dave’s at the Mayo (Weirdest name for a bar ever) in plenty time to get some food before they closed their kitchen. I found Sam, Peter, and Alice here though they all got back on their bikes before I finished my food.
Back on the bike, it wasn’t long before I was riding the Bullard’s Bar singletrack. This trail was amazing. I wish I could have seen it in daylight. I missed some of the views, but the trail was still fantastic. The trail eventually dumps out into a campground. I didn’t feel like route finding in the dark so I took this as a sign and set up camp for the night.
Shortly before 3am Michael and Isaac rolled through my campsite looking for the trail. They were more ambitious than me and found the trail and continued on.
The next morning I finished up the Bullard’s Bar trails, crossed the dam and headed up the climb and began working my way towards Oroville. I had originally planned to make it to Oroville before stopping, but the course was much more demanding than expected. It seemed to take forever to get to Oroville making me realize just how far short I had come of my goal.
Shortly before Brownsville I found Michael coming the wrong way down a big hill. He had been experiencing GPS issues the entire trip and thus was convinced he went the wrong way. The poor guy had to do this climb twice.
In Oroville, I grabbed a quick meal and then had a decision to make. Do I ride to the bike shop and get a new tire or trust that my slashed tire will last and pray that the goat heads would not be a problem. I wasn’t thinking too clearly at this point and decided I didn’t want to waste any time going across town to the bike shop. Instead I continued on the course.
The winds in the valley were insane. Steady winds of 15-20mph tormented me all day long. I made it through the Oroville Recreation Area (goat head central) unscathed. WHEW! Though I flatted again shortly after. My initial effort booting my tire had failed to hold up against the ever growing gash in my tire. My tube now had a matching gash. I broke out the duct tape and put several layers on the inside of the tire covering more area than the original boot. I sure hoped this would do the trick as I was on my last tube.
I pulled into Princeton hot, tired, and hungry only to find the Princeton Market closed. I loaded up with water at the elementary school and headed back out hoping Maxwell, over an hour away, would have something to offer.
I ran into Doug on the road so we pedaled into Maxwell together. When we hit Maxwell, we found Isaac sitting outside the store taking a break. Then Michael rolled in right behind us. After two days of riding, four of us ended up in the same place at the same time.
I left first heading up the climb towards Goat Mountain. I was barely moving, but was chanting “just keep moving.” to myself over and over. Doug passed me and I quickly pulled off the road to get some sleep just as Isaac passed me as well. I had lost my will to pedal so I was looking forward to some sleep and a new day.
The next morning I felt sick to my stomach. But still I got up and was on the bike as the sun was coming over the Sierras. I was unable to eat any of the food I had with me. I just couldn’t swallow any of it. I assumed my stomach would settle down later so I marched on. The day got hotter and the route got steeper. Repeatedly, the road would look like I was almost to the summit and then it would turn and shoot back down the mountain. This was frustrating enough, but then I ran out of water. I hadn’t seen water in any of the stream crossings for some time so I was getting worried.
I felt so sick and was so exhausted I was really getting scared. I didn’t know when/if I would find water and I had no real sense of what was in store for me on the course ahead. This is the first time I’ve ever thought long and hard about the S.O.S. button on my Spot tracker. How bad does it have to get before I call search and rescue to pull me off this mountain?
I continued on with no food or water. I walked my bike up even the most gradual of climbs. “Just keep moving.”
At this point, I realized the biggest mistake I had made. I forgot to load a base map onto my Garmin for California. A base map would have given me roads and streams that I could use for navigation. All I had was the route which was a pink line. I had no choice but to follow the line. I couldn’t take a different road and abandon the course no matter how much I wanted to.
After a few hours, I came to bear creek which was flowing with clear cool water. I pulled out my filter and refilled both bottles and my hydration bladder. Then I sat next to the cool stream drinking and refilling my bottles.
I still couldn’t eat, but at least I was getting some hydration.
The ride from Bear Creek to Potter Valley took forever. The whole time I was delirious, but motivated by some “real” food. I was starving. Yet I still couldn’t stomach any of the convenience store food I had in my bag. I pulled into Potter Valley 30 minutes after the restaurant and store closed. I couldn’t believe it.
I found Michael hanging out in front of the restaurant having just finished a warm meal. We chatted a bit and then I had no choice but to push on the 30 miles to Ukiah.
At this point, my motivation was to get to Ukiah so I could get a hotel room and quit the race. Everything hurt, I was sick, and well beyond exhausted.
I didn’t realize there was singletrack between me and Ukiah. These trails were demoralizingly steep and hard to follow. Considering my condition, I made it through that navigational nightmare in relatively quick order.
I pulled into Ukiah around 2am and got a hotel room. There was still nowhere to get food, but the hotel had vending machines. The microwave ravioli was absolute HEAVEN.
I then called my wife and told her how horrible my day was and that I was unlikely to continue on in the morning. I also texted my coach and told him I never want to see a bike again.
Three hours later, I woke up on auto pilot. It was tough to get out of a comfortable bed, but somehow I managed to talk myself into moving. I had an enormous breakfast at the hotel and decided to push through to the finish.
I was moving a little slower than usual packing up my stuff, but was back on the trail by 8:30am.
Three hours of sleep and some food made a world of difference. I felt great. Low Gap road was a pleasant climb. Once over the summit, the temperatures cooled dramatically and it felt more like home.
The town of Comptche was roughly half way to the finish. I stopped and had a microwave burrito. At the time it was the best thing I had ever eaten.
Fueled with my oh-so-authentic Mexican treat I headed up the climb out of Comptche. Doug caught up with me at the top of this climb. I had passed his camp site at night on Lake Mendocino, but I assumed he was in front of me due to my late start.
We rode into the Mendocino Headlands together navigating the challenges of the singletrack.
The trails started to remind me of home giving me new motivation. I pulled ahead as the trails were just too fun to take conservatively. I should have stayed with Doug. It turned out there were still many navigational challenges ahead. I managed to miss several turns and have to double back. I then got way off course and spent a couple hours finding the right course. Having the base map would have prevented all my wrong turns.
I was really looking forward to finishing the race with daylight remaining or right at sunset. But in the end I had to navigate the remaining bits of the course in the dark. I finished at 8:39 PM. My total time was 3 days, 12 hours, and 41 minutes. This was good enough for 5th place (6th Overall).