Sunday, August 06, 2006

Wilderness 101

I can ecstatically say I completed my first 100mile mountain bike race... on a singlespeed. The inaugral marathon race for me was Pennsylvania's Wilderness 101. I wound up finishing in 10hours 37minutes. 19th singlespeeder (out of 20 to 30) and 81st overall (out of 300+). It was hard, grueling and the humidity sucked. I was battling a stomach ache from the start that would come and go. It plagued me for the first 20miles and then came back around mile 45. I've attached the profile of the course. Its comprised of probably 75% gravel fire roads & jeep trails and the remaining 25% was some of Pennsylvania's finest gnarly singletrack.

Tim, Dave, Ray and I headed out Friday afternoon from NJ. Arrived around 5 to set up camp and pick up our registration info. The promoters were out at 5:30am Saturday morning with their Gong waking all us campers up. The race started promptly at 7 with a casual start, pace dictated by the motorcycles. That first climb at mile 2 was on semi-paved roads. Tim was up front. Dave and I were 20ft behind Tim and Ray was somewhere behind us. Dave fell behind me and as the climb wore on I noticed myself falling slowly off the back of the lead group. I wasn't concerned for my plan of attack was to ride within my own ability and to not let the group dictate how hard I'd go out. After all, this was mile 3 or 4 of a 101mile race. I got into a rhythm with a few other people (one guy was one of Carl's neighbor's in New Paltz NY) and we stuck together on the 1st descent. That was awesome. I flew down that gravel road descent at around 40/45mph. The flat section afterwards I fell behind very quickly for I couldn't keep pace enough to draft the geared riders that flew past me. I was on my own pedaling like mad to keep a 20mph pace on the flats. This is where my 32x18 gear ratio was making me very frustrated. Somewhere along there Dave flew past me on his custom 29inch wheeled Seven Duo with a Cannondale Lefty (yeah, he had 26 more gears than I had). Before the race had taped this airhorn his stem. I knew he was coming up behind me for all I heard was that damn air horn. Again, he was going to fast I couldn't get onto his wheel and, alas, I was left alone to spin it out.

Aid station 1 came at mile 19. I refilled one waterbottle and took off up this nice jeep trail climb. Was out of the saddle for most of the climb passing people like they were standing still. Then the first awesome trail descent. Now, the gravel road was cool because I got up to 40+mph. This jeep trail was even better for it lasted at least 15minutes and I averaged around 30mph. Just hung on and didn't touch the brakes while I passed a few more people. Going up the last climb before aid station 2 (mile 40) I began to feel awful again. Stomach was bothering me, my water bottles were empty and the heat was getting to me. Aid station 2 was a sight for sore eyes. I refueled with more Accelerade and Heed, ate some oranges, bananas and more beef jerky.. Then took off for what was the hardest 20miles of the race.

About 1/4 up the climb just past mile 40 I popped and felt like I was going to throw up. My stomach was killing me (which meant eating anything was impossible). I drank both water bottles dry before I got 3/4 up the climb. I'd pedal a 20-50ft and then walk a bit. As the climb progressed the walking duration became longer. At one point I felt my legs cramping but I was able to ward that off. It felt like I was going backwards and everyone else was going forwards. Seemed like everyone passed me going up that climb. Finally.. I got to the top and was in for an awesome, long, technical singletrack downhill. Somehow I was able to use the brakes very little while still holding onto the bike in the fatigued state I was in. Once at the bottom, it was time to climb again. Miraculously I was able to recover during the descent which allowed me to ride most of that next climb (mile 53ish). I caught up to Dave with about 100ft from the summit. He blew up on those two climbs and was right behind me going into the descent (another super technical singletrack descent) but he fell back by the time I got to the bottom. On that descent I had to stop 3 times for there were riders on their backs in the middle of the trail. They were so fatigued that they went over the bars and upon impact with the ground their leg muscles began cramping. I made it to the bottom and took off in search for aid station 3 (a MUST needed refueling). Dave rolled into aid station 3 about a minute behind me. We were both exhausted.

I drank 3 or 4 bottles of Heed and ate more bananas and oranges. Doused a few bottles of water over my head to cool me off. I took one look at where the course was going and all it did was go up (should have known). Sitting around aid station too long would eventually make my body shut down so I grabbed some food and told Dave I'm going to hike up that singletrack ascent while eating and recovering. Might as well get some miles in while I'm recovering rather than sit in a chair at the aid station. The climb was too steep to ride and just about everyone was walking. 3/4 up it mellowed out a bit and this guy on a geared bike and I got into a nice rhythm and ground it out and passed quite a few people going over the summit. Something happened to his bike and he pulled off. I kept on going. The descent was the steepest yet and scary for my brakes almost gave out (yes, I was using them this time). A couple of rear tire slides around turns and next thing I knew I was in the valley riding some more singletrack. A bee stung me in the ankle right before I headed up that short climb at mile 68 (that s ucked). I didn't see anyone from halfway down the descent at mile 63 to aid station 4 at mile 72.

Right before aid station 4 you came out on a road and rode that up about a quarter mile to the aid station. The aid station was underneath this highway bridge. Refilled my waterbottles, ate some food (stomach was feeling better after my rest at aid station 3). Said hello to this beautiful husky that was a volunteers (talked a lot like Omega does). Then took off up this insane climb. This climb hurt for I'm pretty tired and it was a very rocky jeep trail. I walked most of it until the pitch slackened off near the top. I was tired and fatigued. Almost felt like I could fall asleep on the bike. I barely had the energy to turn the pedals in and around mile 80 until the trail started going down. Having the reduced resistance allowed me to recover a bit as I descended to the final aid station (#5) at mile 89. This guy riding for a local shop in NJ caught up to me and was sitting on my wheel as we came down a pretty rocky descent. Then it opened up onto a gravel road where I sat in his draft and let him 'pull' me to the last aid station. There I refueled again and got caught up in the excitement that we were almost done! I didn't eat and drink as much as I would have liked for I wanted to stick with the group of about 4 riders leaving that aid station (1 of which was a SS'r).

The singlespeeder (Mike Browne... Editory of Dirt Rag magazine), the guy from NJ that pulled me into aid station 5 and I sat in a paceline as we rode these flat converted railroad trails. I let both Mike and the guy from NJ sit on my wheel. Figured we're all in this together by now. Then the surprise climb shows up at mile 95. It wasn't as steep as the rest but it felt as steep for I was exhausted. The guy from NJ fell off the back and I stuck with Mike for as long as I could (probably 1/2 way up). I couldn't keep his pace and resorted to my walking/riding routine as I was nursing some borderline cramps on my thighs and calves. Once through the steep parts I rode the rest and let it all go on the descent (hit 35mph again). Then it was a long, arduous, spin on more flat converted railroad trails to a short paved road to the finish line. I was sure a few of the geared riders I left on the climb would catch up to me but no one did. I rolled into the finish solo... about a minute or two behind the Dirt Rag rider and then collapsed on the grass. Tim gave me something to drink and I sat there talking to Mike Browne and my Vicious Cycles teammate from WV (Joey, whom finished 12th overall while on a geared bike).

my time: 10hours, 37minutes
1st singlespeeder: around 8.5hours
1st overall (our friend Harlan from Independent Fabrications); close to 7.5hours

No flat tires (thank you Stans tire sealant), no chain stretch like in the Vermont 50 last year, lost one chainring bolt out of 4, blew the stitching out in my new gloves and year old cycling shorts, didn't completely cramp any muscles and very sore from being on the saddle for a very long day. I met my goal of finishing between 10 and 11hours. All in all, I'll do it again! I like this type of racing better than the shorter 1.5 to 2hour races. Now I've got a month to get ready for the next 100miler....


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