Monday, August 3, 2009

wilderness 101 (105) race report

Wow. That was hard.

While the elevation profile did feel eerily like my rendering:

From Drop Box

I'll include the real thing for reference.

As we rolled out of Coburn at 7 am, the fog was thick and the day looked dreary. I still don't think that my brain had processed that we were about to ride 101 miles, and I had never even ridden 90. When the moto pulled off and ending the controlled start, we were slammed with the first big climb of the day. I got out of the saddle and started to roll by the riders around me.

Down the other side, the road alternated between pavement and super smooth gravel. I stayed in my lame mountain bike aero tuck and tried to save as much energy as possible. Every few minutes, a train of 10 geared riders would come chugging by me at 30 mph. I attempted to latch on the the back of their paceline, but I can only spin my 32X18 up to 24mph, so each and every effort was thwarted. The ease with which they passed me on that flat section was comical.

I hit the first aid station in 1:20 and blew right through it. I had hardly touched my water to that point. After the aid we hit another big climb and I caught most of the geared guys that had toasted me on the flat. 20 miles in the terrain was finally starting to feel like something worthy of fat tires. I was keeping up with my nutritional needs, and other than the incessant fogging of my glasses, I felt great.

Down the first single track decent of the day we went. The trail was smooth, straight, and fast. I spun my bike up to almost 30 mph and let it coast over the smattering of rocks and roots as I neared the bottom. Suddenly, I felt something jerk my handlebar to the side, then I was rolling on the ground.

"Shit. Holy shit. What the f#$k?!" I exclaimed

About 20 riders went buzzing by. I looked over and saw the catalyst of my crash laying in the dirt a few feet up the trail. "You ok man? Need anything?" I said. " bad, I'm just gonna lay here for a little...." he replied. I got up and dusted my self off. My elbow was bleeding profusely, and my hip hurt like hell, but my bike was unscathed. "Ok. Well it could have been worse." "Yeah.. except half of my f#$king bar is gone." he held up a disconnected brake lever. I asked him if he would be ok one more time, then continued down the trail, a bit slower than before.

On the next climb I re-caught many of the riders who had passed me while I was laying in the leaves. "Shit dude. That was a hell of a crash. I didn't expect to see you again." said one guy. All I could think about was how hard I was going to have to work to make up that lost time. Before long we rolled into the first section of technical singletrack. My bloody elbow (i mean that in both the literal and british way) was throbbing harder and harder every time I hit a bump in the trail. I failed to clear to the first boulder field, but I could not have cared less. I was in pain, and the rocks were wet.

From Drop Box
photo credit bob

A group of four of us soon bunched up. We turned up and ridiculously rocky trail and started to hike our bikes. The same question was on everyone's mind. "I wonder if the top guys like Eatough and Tostado and riding this.." We hiked for half an hour, and we hadn't seen anyone come from behind us. I assumed we were just out hiking everyone. The trail got rockier and steeper. It was a crazy glute and hamstring burner.

Finally we reached the top. There were no arrows. No tire tracks. Shit.

The four of us consulted each other. "Did we miss something?" "No way man, there were four of us, and we were all walking. We couldn't have." "Yeah but we were all staring at the guy in front of us." We rode up the fire road to the top of the hill just to make sure. There were no markings up there either. "Yep. We're screw." I verbalized what we were all thinking. We turned back and rode back down the trail. It was a crazy fun and technical decent. It almost made all the walking worth it. Almost.

We didn't see the turn until we were all the way to the bottom of the trail. We should have just rolled onto a nice smooth fire road. Instead we had hiked the whole way to the top of a ridge on what we would later find out was a local downhill course. The trip had cost us 4 extremely hard earned miles, and 45 minutes. I rode with the only single speeder in our four man expedition group. "Well that screws any chance I had of getting under 9 hours." he said. "That's kind of a demotivator."

I had to agree.

When I reached the second aid station, (yes all that crap happened before the race was even half over) I grabbed a gel flask and banana, and explained what had happened to the lady bear and my padre (i strategically left out the part about the crash.) I was informed that I was now an hour back from the lead pack. Which meant that before my grand adventure, I was only 15 minutes back. Damn.

I started up the most painful climb of the day, and in fact, of my life. It was frigging torturous. My knees are still hurting from that one. Fortunately, half way up the trail there was a man clad in the garb of a spartan warrior shouting and beating a gong.

He said something to the effect of "Huzzah for single speeders and orange bicycles!" and began to push me up the hill. "Hells yeah dude." I said. "Just keep goin to the top"

At the top we were rewarded with a nice view and a ripping singletrack decent. I was loving the the downhill, and I passed at least five nervous descenders.

At some point coming down the mountain I lost a bottle. Of course I lost my full bottle, and not the one that I had already drained. I tried to ration what little water I had left. The rest of the miles to aid number 3 were lovely rolling singletrack. I was really enjoying myself. But I knew that I would soon be hitting the only big singletrack climb of the day.
I grabbed a fresh bottle and a sammich at the aid and headed up the trail. Before long I was off the bike and hiking. When I can only ride 4 mph, and I can hike at 3, it makes a considerable amount of sense to just hike. It was a long walk to the top. There was another single track downhill on the other side that started out nice, but soon morphed into a "holy christ are the promoters trying to kill us?" type of trail. It was insanely steep, 12 inches wide, and covered in loose shale. And there was a big drop off on the right side. Good times. At the bottom of the death section there was a nice section of smooth flowy trail, then more of the death descending. I rode all the slippery rock descents, but there were plenty of guys walking their bikes down the trail.

Finally we were spit out onto a fire road that soon turned into pavement. We rolled out onto the side of a hi way and into aid station 4. I asked how many more climbs. "Two big ones. One before aid 5 and one after" was the reply. "Dammit. Thank god for that." I muttered.

The climb out of that aid was a big one. It was rocky, rutted, and very steep. Half way, the road goes downhill for a bit, then turns right back up. I had to get off the bike and hike a few times just to give myself a break. The rest of the path into the fifth aid was an ever narrowing section of single track that got more rocky and technical with every turn of the pedals. It started to get extremely draining. It was by far the worst part of the race for me. I was just feeling beat up and ready to be done with the day. I think I cursed the course designers and vowed to never race again a few dozen times on that section.

I rolled into the last aid station with a huge sense of relief. One more climb to go. I took off down the road and turned right onto a rail trail. I rode with two other SSer's for a while, and we soon disappeared into a surreal unlit tunnel. I could see the light at the end, but everything else was dark. It was a little unnerving when I was almost to tired to balance.

The final climb was much easier than the previous hills. I grunted up it then coasted down the other side. At the bottom, there was a ridiculous section of un-ridable single track that I stumbled around on for a few minutes. All I could do was laugh. I was to exhausted to be angry.
The singletrack ended and I was spit back onto the rail trail where I spun the last few miles to the finish. I never thought I would be so glad to see Coburn, PA.

Results are up I finished in 10:08 hours, 119th out of 347 overall, and 32nd single speed.

For my first century, I'll take it. If I wouldn't have gotten lost, I would have definitely beaten my 10 hour goal. I guess I'll just have to take another stab at it next year.

I'll add some pictures later today


Raymo853 said...

The guy dressed up as a Spartan was a local cat named Chip. Winner of the East Coast Single Speed Chmapionships a few years back, CAT2 road racer, top ten finisher of previous W101, all around good guy, great rider and cancer surviror.

the original big ring said...

nice work man - good meeting you

Anonymous said...

Hope the hip and the elbow still work...

Peter Buckland said...

Chip was awesome. I yelled something at him about the Battle of Thermopoli. It was rad.
Nice ride and write-up. Were you wearing the Metal jersey by chance?

Montana said...

Yes indeed. I was wearing the metal

Anonymous said...

Shit, you hiked up Spruce Gap trail? Wow, that is a brutal hike withOUT carrying a bike up. Bummer.


Peter Buckland said...

Spruce Gap sucks man. So sorry you did that. Made everything worse I'm sure. But hell yeah to you finishing. And metal...I love the metal.

Peter Buckland said...

Big time.