07 August 2016

Soggy Bottom 2016

Soggy Bottom race report

The Soggy Bottom is a race that has been happening for the last 13 years, this was the 14th edition of the race and we rode the same course as last year albeit in different conditions.  This years version of the race was preceded by a week of epic rain.   The soggy gets its reputation from having unpredictable some might say miserable trail conditions.  This was not going to be a problem for me though because a couple of weeks ago I ordered a mudhugger rear fender for my bike. Unfortunately due to a problem with shipping it was not going to arrive in time.  Fortunately my awesome wife called the post office and the lady she talked with actually got the parcel off the delivery truck so I could fit the fender to my bike on friday night.

pre fender install

Mudhugger rear fender installed
With all the rain, the talk at the start was guessing what the weather may have done to the trail and have install for us on the day. Luckily for us it wasn't actually raining when we started, we even saw blue sky before we started. For my ride I was sprinkled on going down devils pass (mile 60) but aside from that I didn't ride in the rain and it was hot and sunny whilst riding out of Cooper landing where we were riding on dry trails. Obviously we can learn from this. Never trust the weather people up here who had predicted 100% chance of rain all day for the race.

My race

Firstly I want to say a huge thanks to Amanda for looking after Fiona whilst she was working and arranging child care with some friends of ours. I would also like to thank my friend Oscar who gave me a ride down to Hope and stayed around to give me a ride back. Oscar was racing the team version of the event with Janice Tower and Pete Basinger, his team finished in 2nd place in 9hrs 55min and without their support with the drop bag I really don't think I would have finished.  

Hope to Coopers

The race starts in downtown Hope outside the seaview bar, we cruise up the road for around 4.5 miles before hitting the trail.  
Me joining the trail - photo credit Janice Tower

We then climb up to the top of resurrection pass (2600ft) at around mile 23.  For me this is where I knew I was struggling well actually at around mile 20. I think I went out a little to hard or didn't drink enough because I started cramping up in both of my legs.... This is not what you want to happen on a 100+ mile race when you haven't even reached the top of the first climb.  I took a salt tablet and drank some more water and hoped for the best. 

After cresting Resurrection pass we got our first taste of some peanut butter mud but it was short lived.  Next section is the descent down to the Devil's pass cabin and then onwards to Cooper landing.  Last year at this point in the course a couple friends started a new tradition of the Bacon station where they provide bacon to the racers.  This year the tradition continued and boy was it welcome. 
Ryan cooking bacon - photo credit Laura Fox
Bacon handup - photo credit Laura Fox
After some yummy bacon I descended down to Cooper landing, before I reached Juneau lake I passed a couple of racers who were repairing flat tyres.  Whilst riding past Juneau lake by far the wettest section of the trail, I was thinking back to this ride when Kevin and I rode across the lake, that was much a much dryer ride.  After Juneau lake I suffered my own tyre problem.  As it was not completely flat I either burped a little air or got a hole and Stans did it's job.  I added more air and it held to the end of the race.

The lighter effort on the descent seemed to help my legs though any incline involved me dropping into the small chain ring to stop my legs twinging.  I was also peeing what seemed like every 2 min (it wasn't) after all the extra fluid I had taken on.  

Before I started the race I was not planning on taking anything on at checkpoint 1 (Cooper Landing). Racing is all about adapting to the situation you are in. As I was sorting my gear out, Janice came over and asked if I needed anything from the bag I had with their team.  I truly think this saved my race.  I mixed myself an electrolyte drink for the first part of the next leg, swapped my gear and was off again. 

Coming into Cooper Landing - photo credit Janice Tower

Leaving Cooper Landing - Photo credit Janice Tower

Cooper to Devils

After jogging through the parking lot at Coopers I remounted my bike and headed back up to the Devils pass cabin. I mostly rode the trail up to the top, there is a section around Swan lake which although is potentially rideable in a race this long its better to save energy, walk and eat.  After this I got back into the alpine section before the devils' pass cabin.  This is where the trail is really nice. It was mostly dry or drying and there was a tail wind. When I reached the bacon station they had upped the game and whiskey was on offer.  It would have been rude not to partake so I did, I also had some more bacon.

Whiskey and Bacon - Photo credit Katie Torpy

Bacon station crew Laura, Ryan and Chuck
 - Photo Credit Chuck Mangold
Following the energy shot, I proceeded down the really fun part of the trail, we go through Devil's pass at 2400ft and head all the way down to the trail head.  The trail is fun especially the top alpine section although with this year's headwind was not as much fun. I stopped to put on arm warmers and where Will was time checking some of the lead group after the rock garden. 
Next checkpoint is Devils trailhead, though the ride in can be frustrating as it finishes on a climb and there is often a lot of stop start with riders leaving the checkpoint, riding coming uphill has the right of way. 

Arriving at Devils pass trailhead - Photo credit Oscar Lage
At the checkpoint I again sorted out my stuff and headed out as fast as I could. Two things I should have done: 
1. Lubed my chain. 
2. Applied more chamois butter.

Devils to Hope

This section of the trail starts with a short descent and then climbs back up to Resurrection pass. 
My legs were tired but I rode most of the trail which is much better than last year. The Alpine section was great, you have to love a tail wind. 
To the top of Res pass from the trail head took 1hr 50min this year, last year the same section took me 2hrs and 15min. It is an 11mile section of trail.   
At the top of the pass I had two hours and 20min to make a sub 12hr time. During my descent I lost a water bottle I have no idea where though I know it was with me at the top. Just after caribou creek I drank my last water out of my camel back, 8miles of mostly downhill trail this was not a problem and probably pretty good timing. 
Overall on this section the last part of the ride took me almost 1hr less than last year, part of this though is because I didn't run into any bears which I am very glad of but part of it was my legs didn't cramp. I arrived in Hope in 11hrs 28min and 41seconds (unofficial time). I am super happy I managed to get under 12hrs I really didn't think that was going to be possible at mile 20. 
Happy to be done :)
For my efforts what did I receive?  A cool stem cap which are given out to riders who finish under 12hrs. 
Proud of this one!

Strava of the route

Post race thoughts

The double front fender and massive rear fender kept me really clean.  

The fenders worked great
not so muddy backpack
very muddy drive train
very very muddy
Never trust weather people they don't know what they are talking about :-)
I really should have changed the rear cable and housing before this race, from the start of the ride the bike was ghost shifting. The front worked flawlessly throughout the race. 
Biggest smile I saw Ethan Greeff descending Devils Pass, he was having so much fun! 
Now its off to clean my bike and reinstall the brake pads on Amanda's bike which I took as spares. 

Once again a huge thanks to my family and friends who enabled me to complete this event. 
Finally thanks to all the other riders, organisers and supporters of this race, the smiling faces make this event a lot of fun even if you are suffering a on a wet 100mile race.  
To quote the late Jeff Dusenbury  "Why suffer a little when you can suffer a lot!"


  1. Hi Nick, cheers for mini review and 100 mile kit test, well done. Glad to see the weather people got it wrong and you weren't cursed with typical Welsh type weather for the race :) Jamie, Mudhugger HQ, UK.

    1. Hi Jamie, Yes product worked great. We were also glad of the none Welsh weather though if the ride had been a day earlier it would have been very Welsh weather. I wish I had this product a couple of years ago when I rode the Dyfi Enduro.