An individual TT of the 100-mile White Rim

The White Rim route in Moab, UT you could say is on any endurance mtb athletes to-do list. For me, the timing and/or motivation has never been there to simply go pound it out. After all it’s a “dirt road”….which when in Moab, there are plenty of super trails to ride….so why spend it on a “road”. This past Saturday, which also happened to be my 37th birthday, the window of opportunity was as wide open as it gets. The weather was perfect with sunny skies and temps in the mid-60Fs. The timing from a fitness building standpoint was ideal with the up and coming early season races. Lastly, the motivation was super high to get in a BIG ride and push the effort a bit. A 100-mile pre-race test if you will. Even though this route is 100% on a road….it’s a Moab road. Which anyone will tell you can be super rough and slow going. I rode my Canyon Lux CF and glad I did. The terrain is unforgiving.

There are plenty of people who have taken on the White Rim. Times of completion range any where from a blazing fast 6 hrs 44 minutes by an endurance racer I respect, Jesse Jakomait, to the more casual 2-3 days fully supported tour. Those of us nut-jobs who choose to ride it in 1 day are in it alone. This route is 100% out there. In the boonies. Views for days. No supplies or services. You take it with you…..or you don’t have it. I have to say, the desert is a scary place, especially if things go not as planned. What if I run out of water? What if I run out of food? What if my bike has a mechanical and I have to walk? There is no cell coverage….and even if there was, getting retrieved would take some time. Needless to say, I prep’d my equipment well. I took more food than I really needed and worst case, I could have spent a miserable night out there if need be. Not going to lie, I went into it with a big fat X on Jesse’s 6:44 time. Having raced against Jesse numerous times and given how the the style of the route suited my riding ability, I felt I could come close to his time. I also played into consideration the time of other riders from CO and UT who I know are stronger riders. When they are putting in 7.5-8.5 hour times you have to wonder which side of the clock will be in your favor. Fitness, conditions, and luck would all be the determining factor for a faster finishing time.

I started my White Rim In A Day (WRIAD) adventure at 7 AM from the intersection of Mineral Bottom Rd and Hwy 313. The chosen route was clockwise…..simply because this was the general “best way” via the voices of the internet and prior WRIAD riders. Along for the day long ride was the following….Ergon BX1 backpack with 100 oz of plain water, 1 large water bottle filled with concentrated mix of GU Brew, 8 packages of GU Chomps in assorted tasty flavors, 20 ELETE Tablytes pills, 5 other various sports nutrition bars for variety, 2 spare 29er tubes, 1 large CO2, Topeak mini tool and pump, Black Diamond headlamp, iPod, GoPro, 1 small 2 oz. bottle of Stan’s, and a super tiny space blanket.

The ride started with a nice 8 miles of pavement before dropping down the iconic Shafer switchbacks. The road was dry, but the soil was super soft. It felt like I was riding with 10 psi in the tires. This worried me a bit. Was the other 90-miles going to be like this? Lucky for me, it was just the Shafer switchbacks that was like this…..likely from not seeing any motorized traffic since last Fall. Once to the bottom, the road firmed up and I settled into my planned pace. I treated this like a 100-mile race……except I was very much alone. Just me and the beats in my iPod.

The terrain was rolling with a mixture of rough slickrock, choppy rock, sand, and “gravel”. The first half went quick, even though it was a false-flat climb. The Canyon Lux CF was the ideal tool….lock it out when the going was fast. When choppy, open up the rear shock and keep on putting power down. The Lux CF was an efficient machine for this route…..almost scary perfect. Personally, this is a FS route. Leave the HT at home if you want to be able to sit down the next day.

The second half was a bit different from the first. I now had a small headwind and the terrain started to get rougher and looser. Line picking was needed in parts…..as was a few fast-walk up hike-a-bikes due to steep terrain and my lack of early season strength to turn over the SRAM XX1 34T chainring. If I did it again, I would choose the 34T. Just in a few spots did it feel like I bit off a bit more than I could chew. Once the White Rim route started to parallel the Green River, I knew I was getting towards the end. This section of trail/road doesn’t get much warm winter sun because it’s so close to the mesa/canyon walls, so it was soft and peanut-butter-like muddy in a handful of sections. Luckily, the mud was not debilitating. It stuck to the bike, but I did not have to stop to scrape it off. I dodged a huge bullet here…..especially if you the reader are familiar with desert mud. The final miles to the Mineral Bottom Rd switchbacks seemed to go on for ever. I kept looking at my GPS, the time on route, and the miles to go…..trying to see if I had a chance at a 6 hr 45 min finishing time.

At 5 hours and 40 minutes into my ride, I hit the last obstacle, the Mineral Bottom Rd switchbacks. This is the climb out off the White Rim. It was 15-miles to the Ergon sprinter van and the end of the loop. I had 1 hour to do this……and it was all uphill. The climb up the switchbacks was a grunt, but I was distracted by the views. Once to the top, it was a moderately smooth dirt road to the car. Of course, up-hill and into a slight cross headwind. I kept my effort. There was no need to push hard….as I would red line come to a crawl. I just pedaled and watched the time tick away as I stared at my surroundings passing by, looking into the distance for a hint of the green van.

The van finally came into view, when I was about 100 yards from it. I had left my mark on the White Rim loop in 6 hours 54 minutes. Yes, I am super happy with that! For me, I executed a perfect long day on the bike, paced it perfectly. At the van I crawled off the bike and just sat there with a confident relief from the effort and prep. Honestly for February….or any time of the year for that matter….it went about as good as it could. Not sure route conditions get any better! Equipment and nutrition worked flawlessly.

The ride data can be seen and downloaded at Strava.

Once I returned back to Moab and Karen, it was time to kick off the 37th birthday celebration!! Karen treated me right……4 cupcakes which are now gone :) I could have used another 4!

Now, need to pencil in a time to give the Kokopelli Trail a try :)

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