Susan Butler at the Cascade 100

Susan Butler trades 40 minutes for 9 hours at the Cascade 100. © Shane Young @ Oregon Velo

Portland Elite crosser Susan Butler brings us her report from the High Cascade 100, a 100 mile mountain bike race held on August 7th. Can’t wait to see you on the ’cross course, Susan!

by Sue Butler

With the impending cyclocross season just around the corner, I somehow thought it would be a good idea to do the extreme opposite and compete in  a 100-mile mountain bike race. With no sponsor for the mountain bike season this year, riding for the most awesome bike shop, River City Bicycles, I was unable to afford the epic mountain bike stage races I love to do, so this was the next best thing. My husband and I call these “fun hating” events — you take something you love and do it until you hate it.

But the High Cascade 100 was anything but a suffer-fest, it was a pure fun-fest. Granted, 9 1/2 hours of mountain biking in one day is a bit extreme, but the trails were great, the weather was perfect and now I can check one more event off my list.

So, how different is a 9 1/2 hour race from a 40 minute one? About as different as you can get. First, we started at 5:30 in the morning. Using every bit of sunlight available for riders, it was important to be on the go the minute you could “kind of” see. Lining up for the mass 200-person start in the dark was a bit ominous. A feeling not without some accuracy, it turned out, as many mountain bikers blitzed the not-so-neutral-start with their bars banging. Yikes! But at least I didn’t have to go for the hole shot.

I managed to enter the singletrack in the top 20-25 riders, as it was my plan to not get dusted out. I had been keeping my eye on the veteran 100-mile racer and NUE series leader, Cheryl Sornsen, as to not let her get out of my sights. We rode together for most of the first loop, 41.5 miles, and then entered the staging area. Since I had done one of these silly races back in 2006, I had learned one trick. I had put a flag on my cooler so I could find it easily. I rolled up to my cooler, the amazing volunteers grabbed my bike and lubed my chain, I grabbed hydration and fuel, and off I went.

Butler receiving her reward for 100 miles of dirt. © Shane Young @ Oregon Velo

Granted, I was a bit slower in the transition than my competitor, so I was back in chase mode, but not for long. I rode with Cheryl for another 20+ miles, until we entered the “wall of pain.”‘ My wall showed up on the switch-back climb out of Tumalo Falls, called the Farewell Trail. Quite appropriately named, as this is where I said farewell to Cheryl. Although I did not know it, I had put a small gap on her and was climbing well. I decided with just over 30 miles to go, it was like horses to the barn. It was the homeward stretch and I would try to pick up the pace and I started thinking that I could win the race!

The trails were sweet, so I put a smile on my face, continued to drink and eat and reminded myself to have fun. The next time into the pits, I underestimated my fueling and hydration needs, but it was only 12 more miles. It was a long 12 miles. I had ridden it the day before with Ryan Trebon and Mark Matson, so I knew the first part was the fun part and then I would have to climb my way back to the finish. I wasn’t sure if I was happy to know this or not, but I kept plugging away, keeping it smooth, standing up as much as I could because I’d had enough saddle time.

Crossing the finish line, I punched the sky! I had finished. And I had won. I surprised myself this day. I had no idea how my body would react to this kind of effort. I had no idea if I could finish! I had set a goal of under 10 hours. I finished in 9:31, 15th overall. It was a proud moment and now I have had my fill of mountain biking. All in one day. 40 minutes is sounding better and better. Bring on the mud! It is time for cross! Thank you Mike Ripley and Mudslinger events for such a great race – hats off to you for the organization and support. It was phenomenal. I just may do it again!