The Ashland Watershed

The Friday before the wedding I took a ride around the Ashland watershed. It's around a 25 mile loop that follows the Spring Thaw race long course. It runs roughly the opposite direction of the Cat III course looping up forest road 2060, the Horn Gap trail and around the watershed, intersecting with the Catwalk trail that meets up with Caterpillar and then the BTI.

I used to ride these roads and trails years ago. I think the last time I was on them was maybe 1996 when I was working at the Shakespeare Festival. Unlike most wilderness dirt roads around Oregon, these aren't used primarily for logging. They've been thining the forests here and doing controlled burns for decades so the land has a more diverse ecosystem and is much more interesting to ride through.

The long ride up 2060 was humbling. I could ride it easily enough but I used to interval train on this road and could crest the first summit in 25 minutes from the gate at the bottom. Now it's more like 40 minutes. Some of the time lost is a result of my slowing down ahead of my surgery. I'm done racing for the year and I'm not pushing like I was even a few weeks ago. I've noticed an increasing anxiety riding technical sections which I narrowed down to my not wanting to get hurt and complicate the operation.

Really though, I'm 49. I'm 13 years older than I was at my peak. Even after two years of riding I'm still 8-10 lbs heavier than I was then. I'm just slower. And there's the weight of time, if there is such a thing. I felt like I was wandering the halls of my high school riding up that road. I knew the place. I knew what was around the next corner, yet it was all different. My memory of flicking up that road was just that. Like high school and all the memories of that time, good and bad, this place is still here and I can still ride up it but I can't relive it.

The back of the watershed loop is just beautiful, a slight downhill with views of Mt Ashland and some lovely upland prairies. The wildflowers were in bloom and it felt good to be so far away from the loony tourist rush of downtown Ashland.

I started down Catwalk but upon hitting the first rock garden, just froze up. It was quite rideable but I wasn't up for it. Tomorrow was the Mt Ashland Super D. One of the longest downhill races in the country. Everyone was pre-riding the course and I was just going to be in their way, so I stopped and watched some of the riders on their practice runs. Just amazing. These people flew downhill! They rode with skills an order of magnitude better than I've ever had. They cleaned the section I bailed on at maybe 30 miles an hour, barely touching the ground. I cut back to the loop road and rode it to Caterpillar thinking the climbing would slow them down. I had a guy call for a pass, run up the bank to my right, do a 4 foot hip jump and drop down in front of me like he does it every day. He probably does. As soon as I got back to the road I just bailed and coasted back into town. I could crush most of these riders on a climb, but this was their day. It's good to be humbled and reminded that there's so much to learn.


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