Race Report submitted by Chad Dexter.
“I’ll be back.” This is what I told myself as I crossed the finish line at the 2011 Park City Point 2 Point (http://thepcpp.com) mountain bike endurance race. Dusted from the day’s dirt & caked with the tell-tale salts of dehydration, it’d taken me a little over 11 hours to ride the 78 miles of mostly singletrack & climb the 14,000 feet of countless trails along the way. Leaving from one point (Quinn’s Junction). Arriving at another point (the Forum @ Canyons Resort). In the middle, an amazing network of trails that takes racers up, down & all around three of the areas world class recreational resorts (Deer Valley, Park City Mountain & Canyons). I looked, felt & was completely wiped out at the end. “I’ll be back.” Rolling into the finish at the likes of the Butte 100 & the Laramie Enduro in the past, my immediate thought has always been, “never again”….swearing off doing anything this remotely difficult again…ever! It’s only during the cold drudgery of a cabin-fever induced off-season, when the pain, suffering & commitment that an endurance race demands fades away, that I begin to start thinking about the next big challenge. “I’ll be back.” Getting into the PCP2P isn’t easy. In mid-February the 350 limited slots filled up in just 3 minutes. Race director Jay Burke calls it, “a boutique event” and adds, “That’s what makes it so important to people. You’re part of a small group who set out and do the same thing that seems nearly impossible.” Finishing the PCP2P isn’t easy. Actually, it’s tough enough to be included in the Kenda National Ultra Endurance Series. Very organized & well supported, PCP2P wouldn’t be what it is without the efforts of Jay and his crew of fantastic volunteers. It’s the trails that bring racers back, however. The unbelievable trails. Like coming off a Disney ride & immediately getting back in line for another turn, when I finished last year’s I wanted to go again. The long wait is over. I’m back…
Start to Deer Valley Resort
“Woke last night to the sound of thunder” is the Bob Seger line playing in my head at 4:30 am as I lay in bed listening to the rain steadily come down outside & hear the thunder playing catch-up with the with the lightning. It’s the first day of September & Park City is getting soaked. In the room with me is my brother, Jason, and friend, Keith Waring. I talked these two into coming to Utah from New Hampshire & Billings respectively with the promise of a fun 3-day weekend in the beautiful Wasatch Mountains. All that was asked in return was a bit of support while I suffered through Saturday’s race. Now, with these wet conditions, I wasn’t even sure there was gonna be a race today. Months of training washed away. Fortunately, the rains stopped at around 7:00. PCP2P organizers pushed the start time up to 8:00 & eliminated the 11-mile prologue loop through the Round Valley trail system. This year’s course would be shorter, but it’d also be muddier.
Leaving the Quinn’s Junction almost immediately at the start, racers fired out under sunshine & suprisingly warm conditions…something nobody had thought possible 3 hours earlier. It was a fast start as everyone tried to get to the singletrack that began just a couple miles away at the entrance to the Skid Row trailhead. Of course, what this meant for most of a us was a dead sprint that quickly becomes a dead stop as we wait, one racer at a time, to get onto the trail. No problem…I used this opportunity to show off the track-stand skills I’ve been practicing all summer as I waited my turn…nice! Once onto Skid Row it was wheel-to-wheel racing through a 4-mile rolling gauntlet of mud & speed. At one point, my glasses were so caked I was simply looking over them in an effort to keep at least one eye (full of mud) on the rear wheel in front of me. Some relief, albeit not the greatest alternative, occurred when, changing gears on a step pitch my crusty chain got sucked in behind my crank. Stopping to get things unstuck, and wipe off the glasses, I had countless rip by me. Waiting for just a slight gap in this procesion, and losing one position after another in the interim, I was able to jump back into the mix & continue on through to the Prospect Shafts Trail without further mechanical problems.
Getting on toward the 1st station at Deer Valley’s Silver Lake is a bit of a “Parade of Homes” at first. Rippin’ through the great singletrack, you periodically find yourself riding by, around and (at times it seems) right through some posh cul-de-sacs & yards containing some extremely nice houses & condos. Both Robert Redford & Mitt Romney have places in the area. In other words, no matter your political leanings, all parties come togther and agree on at least one thing…if you got the $$$, Park City, Utah is a great place to live! Anyways, eventually, as the climbing continues up Deer Valley, these fine lodgings give way to the mountain and rise above the politics…and everything else for that matter. Snow Top, Deer Crest & the tight switchbacks of Four Points are the three trails that eventually deliver racers to the Silver Lake area & the 1st station @ mile 18. Jason & Keith had taken the Silver Lake Express chairlift that Deer Valley Resort offers to racer support teams & were great helps at getting me ready for the next stretch of racing.
Deer Valley Resort to Park City Mountain Resort
Leaving Silver Lake, racers get on the Mid-Mountain Trail & then climb Team Big Bear all the way up to the open meadows of Deer Camp (9,100’). From here, up’s up, up some more to Bow Hunter (a trail on a narrow, technical single-track with great views of the Heber Valley and Wasatch Mountain State Park)., then the Flagstaff Loop, followed by a rocky & bearmed descent down Boulder Trail. Then it’s back up by way of the Tour de Suds & Moose Bones before dropping down via the TG trail. This last one is a black diamond technical section that winds through a forest of aspens. When a trail has aspens to the left & right, it’s almost a guarantee that the trail itself will be full of above the surface roots. Wet roots are a challenge for bike tires & can drop even the best of riders quickly. After a full day of practice dealing with these nasty things in Park City, both uphill & downhill, the best advise I can give is treat wet roots with the respect they deserve! Try to hit them perpendicular when possible. Take it easy on your pedal pressure when going uphill, & even easier on those brakes when going downhill.
Park City Mountain Resort to Canyons Resort
John’s 99 Trail (aspen trees throughout again) is the route that welcomes racers into the Park City Mountain Resort. From here, it’s down John’s Trail, then a monster climb back up via the Drift Road. The Drift Road goes straight up the mountain. Yes, those little moving dots WAY up there are the riders ahead of you. Just when you think the road will never end it does…it turns into the singletrack Apex climb that takes you even higher. After about an hour (well, the day’s winner, Alex Grant actually did it in 33 minutes), you’ve ridden 5 miles and climbed ~1,300 feet. From the highest point of the day’s race (elevation 9,256’) take the Keystone Road to the Shadow Lake Loop. After a clock-wise loop around the lake, you plunge down the Powerline to the Crescent Mine Grade descent until you reach the base of the Park City Mountain Resort & the 2nd aid station @ mile 44.
With 6 hours of riding already in, I was starting to feel pretty lousy at this point. Seeing the familiar faces of Jason & Keith here at the aid station was beneficial to my cause. The fact that, later, I was informed they’d been back at the hotel hot-tubbin’ the past couple of hours would not have been beneficial to the cause, however! As a matter of fact, had I known what was in store for me the next 90 minutes at this point, I have joined them in the tubbin’ I think. As it was, I began my long journey back up the mountain via the Armstrong/HAM/Spiro trail system.
It started to sprinkle a bit about half-way up the Armstrong as I passed a couple of racers that had stopped to put some rain gear on. At HAM, the rain picked up & I decided to stop & put some a rain coat on. By the time I hit Spiro, it was no longer a trail…it was a river! It was at this point that I had to make a decision…keep going forward, or turn around & head back to the 2nd aid station. Forward or backward. I was not going to stop & wait things out under a tree as some others were at this point. Keep moving. My decision, for better or worse at that point, was to press on. By the time I reached the Mid-Mountain trail, the rain had turned into something harder than sleet, yet not really hail either. Every now & then one would get through the holes in my helmet cleanly & sting for sure, however. The thunder & lightning returned as well. Being exposed as I was on Mid-Mountain, there wasn’t anything to do I felt other than to just keep pedalin’…as fast as I could! Strangely, it was when the weather turned its worst that I started to feel my best. Working out of this mess felt great. The rains had cleaned off the mud & muck I’d been carrying on myself & the bike from that first stretch through Skid Row & Prospect Shafts earlier in the day. I also knew I was putting some distance between myself & the others behind me that had decided to stop, or return to Park City Mountain, to wait out the storm. With less than 20 miles to go, there was a good chance, regardless how strong they might be, they wouldn’t all catch me if I just kept pressing forward. Just when you thought the rain would never stop, it did just that. The sun came out again by the time I reached the Canyons Resort section of the race. I was still feeling great at this point & knew that the difficult part of the day was now behind me.
Canyons Resort to the “Fabulous” Forum Finish
From the Mid-Mountain trail, it’s downhill via Rob’s trail, then around Rosebud’s Heaven & up Ambush. The turn onto Ambush is a heartbreaker, because you can see the finish line from this vantage point. Unfortunately, you turn right and start climbing again…away from it! I knew of this heartbreaking “turn of events” from last year’s race, so I was prepared for it this time. It was on this climb that I passed a number of riders that had been stronger than me all day…except for now they were off the bike & walking. Eventually, after 1.5 miles of climbing, you turn onto Holly’s Trail & start heading back down toward the finish…the grandiose Forum of the Canyons Resort. At the end, I was awarded my finisher’s “I Did It” knit beanie. Officially, I finished the race in 9 hours, 28 minutes & 25.8 seconds. 198th racer across the finish line.
Along with my awesome support team of Jason & Keith, waiting for me at the finish line was Sean Ostrowski, my riding buddy from several past Montana cycling events. I had tried to hang with him a couple times out on the course today, but he was riding like a beast throughout it…even with a broken pedal at one point! It was at last year’s Butte 50 that Sean told me he’d gotten into the 2011 version of the PCP2P, but couldn’t attend due to a conflict. He graciously offered up his spot to me & I’m still indebted to him for this. I told him that if I got into the 2012 PCP2P & he didn’t that I’d return the favor. Fortunately, we were both up early in February & got registered.
It’s the folks like Sean, Jason & Keith that remind me how much being involved with the sport of mountain biking has given back to me over the years in so many ways. As well, it’s the challenge, and reward, of a race like the Park City Point 2 Point that keeps me on the bike. As the season starts to wind down (with all due respect to those dedicated cyclo-cross racers out there), I encourage everyone to think about all the possibilities out there for taking on a big challenge next summer. Find one (or two) & commit yourself to it. Get signed up & start training. I think you’ll find the the journey, experience & results will be worth it. Do it soon.
Learn more at http://www.strava.com/runs/16789503.