Conquering the Big Bear 50-Miler Series Finale
By Ryan Clark (Surf City Cyclery)
I didn’t know what this Father’s Day Sunday was going to bring, as I made the trip up to Big Bear with the family in tow. We contemplated the different feed zones and where they were. Not knowing the course that Team Big Bear and US Cup had in store for us this weekend, my wife decided she was going to drive to feed station three and four, which at the time I didn’t realize was the best decision of the day. At the start line I was scanning the group for the guys I knew were fast and who I needed to watch. All week I had been adding up the numbers and analyzing what needed to happen if certain guys showed up to race in order to keep my second place overall standing, or to move into first overall in the series.
As I scanned the group that was about to embark on this epic 50 mile race, I noticed Eric Bostrom (Sho-Air), Romolo Forcino (Chains Required) and Jon Nobil (Bear Valley Bikes); three guys I knew I had to be with at all times, or at least have in my sight. I started doing the math with Eric Bostrom and realized that I had a lot to lose and he had a lot to gain depending on how the day turned out.
Going up 2N10, the opening climb, the group had already dwindled down to five guys. Bostrom was up front with Peter Smith (Sho-Air), Nobil close behind, and me Forcino close behind. I wasn’t too worried at this point knowing it was going to be a long day on the bike. We all started coming back together. Peter Smith put in an attack and opened up a three to four minute gap on our four man group at the top of Clark’s Grade, a nine mile decent down to the Seven Oaks area. Bostrom led the charge down with Forcino and me in tow. We caught up to Smith about five minutes into the descent and never saw him again.
The three of us stayed together all the way to aid stations two and three. At aid station three, Bostrom and I proceeded to pick up the pace a bit knowing that Forcino had slowed down to get water. We both took turns pulling. It seemed I always found myself doing the pulling at the windiest times.
I wasn’t really sure how Bostrom and I were going to separate from each other. I knew I had to beat him to stay in second place overall in the series, which kept going round and round in my head while I was racing. We were side by side and I looked over and said, “Man we gotta be turning soon on to the singletrack (Santa Ana River Trail),” and bam! We hit it less than a min later. As we made the sharp right hand turn I knew I wanted to lead the charge down this amazing bit of singletrack. No more than to minutes into it I noticed a gap forming between us. I felt right at home on this section of the trail. It reminded me of all the singletrack I grew up on back in Colorado. I kept my cool and relaxed and let the trail do the work.
By the time I hit the pavement and made the sharp right hand turn to climb back up to Big Bear I was out of water. I had no idea how far the next aid station was and I could tell I was getting slightly dehydrated. It seemed this pavement section was going to never end. Once I saw aid station 4 up ahead I got excited knowing my wife was there with water and my boy there cheering me on. I rolled threw and grabbed my mussete bag and headed up the road, not knowing what was in front of me.
It turned out to be a seven mile climb called Radford Road that was steep as steep could be and rocky too. My heart rate stayed up in the high 180s throughout the climb. Leading the race was weighing on my mind and I started doubting myself. It’s not a place I am used to being in, but I tried to stay confident knowing that my training has been going good and I was feeling the strongest I’d ever felt.
As I approached the top I was getting excited, but was fighting the start of cramps in my quads. I kept looking over my shoulder for signs of anyone chasing up to me. I caught a glimpse of Bostrom on the next switchback down, which I figured to be about a two minute gap.
I hit the top of the massive climb and was relieved to be done climbing, but at that point, I still had no idea where I was going next. Then, there it was: A section of singletrack that leads you to the Fall Line downhill trail. I settled in and just started praying to God to protect me, guide me and show me the way to the finish line. Fall Line came up fast but there was still a chance to be caught from behind. I put everything I had into the descent and was pedaling every chance I got. The rolling section before the finish line just kept going and going. I made the sharp right hand turn and hit the finish line exhausted.
At the end of the day it was a great day on the bike, a blessing to be alive and a well fought battle had been won. God had a plan for me today and all I had to do was trust in him, with the training and the abilities that he has given me.