'Stupid fun' races don't need trophies or timers — they just need friends
Big-name, organized rides and races aren't the only venue for pitting yourself against outdoor challenges. It can be purely for fun.
Special to The Seattle Times
To learn more about a wide variety of Wenatchee-area outdoor activities — including next year's Battle of the Bikes — see www.justgetout.net.
When it gets right down to it, all that's really needed to make a race great are a starting point, a finish line and participants motivated to get from one to the other. You don't need to give away swag bags or pint glasses, offer computerized chip timing or an age-group podium ceremony, or even to ask participants to fork over their credit number including the three-digit CID code on the back. Heck, you don't really even need a racecourse.
Just a start. A finish. And that's it.
Such was the case earlier this month when 40 folks of the two-wheeled persuasion took part in Battle of the Bikes, a free and informal, largely word-of-mouth race starting in Wenatchee and finishing in Ellensburg.
It was a choose-your-weapon (mountain bike, road bike or cyclocross bike), choose-your-own-race route affair. While roadies opted for the Highway 2 to 97 up-and-over-Blewett Pass route, those of the knobby- and fat-tire persuasion climbed up Mission or Naneum ridges, then dropped down the south side toward Ellensburg via a variety of trails and rough forest roads.
"Wenatchee has all these different bike cultures — roadies and triathletes and mountain bikers and cyclocross guys — and we thought it would be really cool to bring them all together in one event," says Andy Dappen, who, along with mountain biking the Jumpoff Ridge down to Coleman Creek Road route, co-organized the event with Wenatchee physical therapist Michael Hansen. (Dappen is also the content editor of www.justgetout.net, a Wenatchee-area outdoor-recreation website.)
"Everyone was intrigued by which route was the fastest, too."
Because the race offered no aid stations, one of the few requirements (OK, suggestions) was that participants ride and stay together with at least one teammate should mechanical or physical issues arise.
"The appeal for me was that I was doing it with a fun group of riders who knew how to push it, but who also made just having fun the real priority," says Wenatchee's Alison Haug, whose team of four mountain bikers, dubbed Alison's Chains, finished third.
"It was really an adventure in the truest sense; we were completely unsupported and had to rely on each other."
Which route proved fastest? Well, the first rider to make it through the doors of The Tav, the Ellensburg watering hole that served as the finish line, was Seattle's Brig Seidl. Pedaling a road bike (actually, a time-trial bike), he completed the 74-mile Highway 2 and 97 route in exactly four hours.
"Fortunately for me, Tyler Farrar [a professional cyclist who grew up in Wenatchee] was at the World Championships in Australia that day!"
But how does one know if his route was the fastest or that Seidl, no matter which route or bike mode, was the fastest? You really don't.
"It'd be interesting to put the same guy on different routes," Dappen says. "Maybe next year we'll require that riders ride a different route. But really, I'm more interested in it just being a fun outing as opposed to a competition."
Keep an eye out for next year's Battle of the Bikes, which will likely be held at the end of September or beginning of October.
Expanding the concept
While Battle of the Bikes was a race, informal though it may have been, outdoorsy folks are forever coming up with crazy, nonsensical adventures just for fun. (Or Stupid Fun, as Dappen categorized the Battle of the Bikes event on his blog.)
Running around one of Washington's volcanoes, paddling a circle around the San Juan Islands, skiing every single named trail at a ski area in a single day — really anything that one's imagination can come up with — would qualify.
In fact, just two weeks ago, your intrepid (that is, admittedly, stupid) author joined a trio of Bellingham friends in an attempt to mountain bike all 72 trails on Bellingham's Galbraith Mountain in one day.
Despite hitting the first trail at 7:30 a.m. and riding for 10 hours, I made it through 60 trails before failing sunlight forced me to abandon. Another rider, Steve Vanderstaay, had to head down when his knee protested after about six hours of riding. However, two in our group — the ones smart enough on this stupid excursion to bring headlamps — continued riding for another two-plus hours and finished the deed.
"It was fun to ride the last set of trails blanketed by the moonlight under a beautiful starry sky," says Cathy Crouch, who along with fellow Bellinghamster Steve Hindman, completed the ride.
Planning your own
Want take part in your own nonsensically fun and potentially epic adventure? Here are some suggestions. (Huge caveat here is that these are not for couch potatoes. They're strenuous and potentially dangerous, require special equipment, and participants need to be in good physical condition before attempting them.)
Run and bike Mount Si, Rattlesnake Ridge and Mailbox Peak
Park a bike at Mount Si trailhead, then run or hike up and down the Mount Si trail, about eight miles round-trip with 3,400 feet of climbing. Ride eight miles to Rattlesnake Lake, stash the bike, and run or hike up and down the Rattlesnake Ledge Trail, four miles with 1,100 feet of climbing. Next up, bicycle the eight miles to Mailbox Peak and hike or run up and down its six miles with 3,900 painful feet of elevation gain. Finish by riding the eight miles back to Mount Si, or wherever you parked to start the adventure.
Roger Michel, a Redmond adventure racer and race director, uses this route for both a workout and as informal, semi-epic adventure.
"Things like this are just fun because you can just do them with your friends and since you didn't pay anything, if you can't make it all the way, it's no big deal," he says.
Some other of Michel's faves:
• Running around Mount St. Helens via the Loowit Trail (30 miles) in one day;
• Running to the three highest points on Tiger Mountain from Newcastle Beach Park (also about 30 miles);
• Circumnavigating the San Juan Islands via kayak.
Conquer the King
... over and over
At Crystal Mountain Ski Area, the Silver King is ... well, king.
"It's the definitive gnarly peak, kind of our premier run," says Justus Hyatt, communications coordinator for the ski area. "Hiking to the King is kind of a rite of passage. But it's definitely for experts only."
To get there, skiers and boarders take the High Campbell Chair to the top of the Silver Queen, then traverse to the Throne, then hike up to the Silver King, at 7,012 feet, the highest point at Crystal Mountain. From there, they ride or ski down Avalanche Basin to the bottom of the Forest Queen Express Chair. It's arduous and strenuous as heck but that doesn't stop some burly types from seeing how many times they can do it in a day. The current record is 14, held by snowboarder Kyle Miller.
For those who'd rather not hike, but are still interested in getting in some laps, this season Crystal is unveiling a new bottom-to-top gondola (topping out at 6,872-foot Summit House). For fun, they'll be keeping a running tally of skiers/boarder who can get in the most vertical in a single day.
High Divide ski / Mount Baker Highway bike ride
Along with being a terrific mountain biker, Steve Hindman is a noted Nordic skier-instructor and author of "Cross-Country Skiing: Building Skills for Fun and Fitness" (The Mountaineers Books). One of his favorite past adventures combined his two passions.
Loaded up with skis and bikes, Hindman and pals drove to Church Mountain Road, at Milepost 39 on the Mount Baker Highway, where they stashed their bikes. They then drove six miles east to the Welcome Pass trailhead, where they parked the car and begin the 3,000-foot climb to High Divide.
From there, they skied the 5,000-plus-foot ride west for six miles to Church Mountain, where they eventually descended to their bikes at the bottom of the road. Skis now attached to their backs, they pedaled back to their car at Welcome Pass trailhead, but not without an almost incident.
"We had to avoid a bear in the middle of the ride back to our car," Hindman says.
Another of Hindman's favorite adventures was to ski and hike up the west side of Mount Baker via the Coleman Glacier, then ski down from the top via the Park Glacier on the mountain's east flank. After traversing several ridges, Hindman and party ended up at the Mount Baker Ski Area.
Ride all the trails on Galbraith Mountain ... at night
OK, so maybe I didn't make it through all of Galbraith in a single day. That doesn't mean that, properly equipped with headlights and plenty of extra batteries, I can't do it in a single night.
I'll keep you posted.
Mike McQuaide is a Bellingham freelance writer and author of "Day Hike! Central Cascades" and "Day Hike! North Cascades" (Sasquatch Books). Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. His blog is mcqview.blogspot.com.