Sunday, August 05, 2007

Wilderness 101

The 7th Annual Wilderness 101 went off without a hitch.

I was freaking out in the days leading up. Why? Worked 10hr days in an effort to take Friday off for travel to Coburn. As a result, I wasn't getting much needed sleep to recover from my weekend at Camp Jeep (weekend prior) and from long days at work. Then the thought of dehydration showed up. I didn't want another Mohican experience all over again. Hmm. Go camelbag or bottles?

Drove down to NJ Thursday night. Got a good night's sleep at my parents' house. Friday morning I headed over to pick up Tim. Borrowed his landlord's air compressor to seal my front tire. Couldn't get the Crossmark to seal so I threw on the Ignitor, which worked. So, the 101 would be seen with a Maxxis Ignitor up front and a Maxxis Crossmark out back. Heard some people on the mtbr forums are doing this.

Hit the road by 11am. Wound up being the navigator for both Dave and Bert. Seems that Tim and I were the only ones who printed out driving directions. Somehow they both turned onto PA45 heading westbound instead of eastbound. Little traffic on I80 going into PA. Stopped to get some food and then jumped on PA45 heading eastbound. Arrived in Coburn around 4pm.

Picked up our numbers and immediately changed to go for a ride with Harlan and Dejay. Rode a nice easy pace down the rail trails to the end of Fisherman's trail. Upon returning we set up camp and then headed off to dinner. After dinner it was bike maintenance time... Had to switch out the 34x21 for an easier 32x20. Also swapped in a new front brake rotor and put a handpump on the frame (didn't have enough CO2s in the event of multiple flats). Decided to tape my spare tube to my stem so I can use my middle jersey pocket for waterbottle #3. The other two bottles were on the frame.

Asleep around 10/10:30pm. Another humid night so falling asleep wasn't too easy. Awake around 5:15/5:30am. Munched on some oatmeal and took care of any nature calls.

Race was on at 7am! Lead out on the road by the police, but it was really one of the two tandems racing that lead us all out. First climb the pace seemed to pick up a bit. I immediately lost sight of Tim as he was hanging with Wes. Caught up to Topher and rode up the first climb with him. At the top he outspun me and disappeared. I desperately tried to hang onto the little paceline he created but couldn't. And so my solo adventure began...

From that point it was undulating short climbs and flats on the fireroads. Would try to latch onto geared riders as they came up on me in their groups but I couldn't. One very large group caught up to me around mile 10. I was sucked in, hung out a bit pedaling like mad, and then quickly got spit out the back. Frustrated I did my best to keep my cool and told myself "I'll get 'em on the climbs."

Rolled into, and immediately through, aid station 1 without stopping. Ah ha! First doubletrack climb. I love this climb. stood up and just pedaled away passing everyone who passed me on the fireroads. Got to the top and it was a nice long descent. I was paranoid of flatting so I kept the weight back and stayed light on the front wheel. Opened it up (read "no brakes") and bombed the descent. Onto more fireroads climbing back to another descent. This continued for a while as I'd pass people going uphill and hold onto, and maybe open up a gap, on the descents.

Eventually got back to flat fire roads and everyone caught back up to me. Huber caught up at some point and the two of use spun into aid station 2 together. Buck was kind enough to help refill our bottles (had my baggie of accelerade mix) and get our drop bags. Downed one bottle, refilled 3 for the bike, and grabbed two bananas. Huber and I were off for the first monster climb of the day just past mile 40.

My knees were bothering me. Hmm. Something's not right. Near the bottom there was a beer stop. Huber stopped for a beverage and I used that time to raise my saddle a tad (lowered it when I reset the gears the night before 'cause I moved the ECC to the bottom). Agh! Much better on the knees. Climbed some more together and I eventually couldn't hang with Huber and he slowly pulled away. Chris from Philly showed up and I rode with him a bit. Chatted about riding fixies brakeless through city streets and he, too, pulled away from me. As much as I was a bit frustrated for seeing them pull past me I was still excited for riding the vast majority of the course AND this climb (walked a bit of this climb last year).

At the top and bombed a tight singletrack descent. Partway down I started thinking of why I'm riding rigid. My forearms and wrists were killing me. Eventually found the bottom (after minutes and minutes of desending). Onto the next climb. Caught up to Tomi on the fixie and Skip Brown caught up to me. Both eventually pulled away when I stopped to excercise some minor cramping in the quads. Maybe a minute later I was back on the bike climbing up the 2nd steep fireroad climb. I knew once I got to the top of this the race gets easier (in my opinion). A while later (20mins or more? i wasn't paying attention) I got to the top and bombed another rocky singletrack descent. Again, fighting the pain of holding onto the brakes and riding rigid. Every now and then I heard the sound of rims coming in contact with rocks. Looked down and realized my rear tire was somewhat low. Not good. I don't want a flat of any kind.

Rolled into aid station 3 with some minor cramping and a slight headache. Refilled all 3 bottles but didn't have my baggie of accelerade (left it in my drop bag for aid staation 4). Went with two bottles of Heed and one of Gatorade. Popped 1000mg of Ibuprofen for my head and pumped my rear tire up with a floor pump they had. Ate some Pringles for the salt and grabbed two bananas. Chatted a minute or two with the moto guys and then headed up Sassafras trail.

Sassafras trail is daunting. I got about 100ft in and realized I didn't rest enough and my legs were cramping. Time to rest. I pulled over and sat there eating my bananas and drinking a whole bottle of Heed. Saw a few people come past me, maybe 2 SSrs. And also saw Gary from High Gear come up the trail looking good. Got back on the bike and took the last spot in the line pedaling up Sassafras trail. Since I'm SS and everyone else was geared we were going a bit slow for me. The two SSrs who passed earlier pulled over to walk (they obviously weren't feeling good). I eventually got around most of the geared guys as each one eventually stopped to take a break and walk a bit. Bottom line. I rode most, if not, all of the trail. Maybe not the fastest but I rode it (another personal best given I walked a bit of it last year).

At the top another nice descent. This one was very steep and off camber. I was on the brakes (as were most other people) the whole way. Passed a few people. About halfway down there's a sharp right turn. I used this as a place to stop and let my wrists rest. My brakes also heated up a lot. Enough to expand the mineral oil within the lines (later found out a common problem with XTRs because of the small reservoir). Probably 30sec later I'm back on the bike heading down. Eventually got out to the bottom in some awesome singletrack. Feeling pretty good I picked up the tempo a bit. Passed some people, a few SSrs.

Eventually had to climb back up a bit on a fire road into some nice singletrack (did I say the singletrack is fun? its so tight that you can't even walk it with your bike beside you). Came across Keith (Topher's teammate) on the fire road. he wasn't looking good. Stopped to see if he needed anything and then kept on going. At the top it was time to descend an off-camber shale (nothing but rocks) descent. I'm on the brakes a lot for my arms were killing me with the rigid fork. Just as I was thinking I'm riding a decent pace and playing the 'how few times can you put your foot down' game I hear another rider behind me. Pulled over to let them by. Turns out it was a singlespeeder with a front suspension fork. Passed me like I'm standing still. How demoralizing? I eventually got to the bottom and knew it was a short fireroad out to a paved road, down the paved road maybe 1/8 of a mile to aid station 4. Knowing this I spun my ass off.

As I'm spinning up to the road to the aid station I caught back up to that singlespeeder. Rolled into the aid station to refill my 3 bottles, get my aid station bag for my gels and ate two bananas. Just as I was getting ready to leave Keith rolled in and layed down on the ground. He looked beat. Looked like three singlespeeders (including Keith) were in the aid station so I took off knowing I have the second to last grueling climb infront of me. How about that? a singlespeeder infront on the climb. Didn't see him earlier. He got off to walk and I kept on riding. Rode up the bottom section and did the walk/ride thing on the upper section.

Now the heat was starting to take its toll on me. There was a slight breeze in the race all day up to this point, and most of the course was in shade. This climb was in shade but I felt no breeze. It was also a doubletrack climb with rocks sandwiched in between grass. Hard to keep your momentum going when you're tired after racing for 70miles. I fell into the same place I did around mile 75 at last year's Shenandoah Mtn 100: mental breakdown. Not good! I just wanted to crawl into a ball, lay down on the side of the trail and take a nap. Somehow I pushed on albeit very slowly. Slower than I wanted to. Slower than my pace all day.

Eventually got out of that climb and onto some fireroads to recover. Needless to say I lost a lot of precious time. I was shooting to be around 9hr 9hr 30min overall but that was fading fast as I saw 9hr creep up and I'm only around mile 75. I knew at the top of these fireroads it turned to singletrack, then doubletrack through some old campgrounds, and back to some very rocky singletrack. Looked like someone bought some land 'cause an electric fence was up where part of last year's course went in. We were rerouted around the fence in a counterclockwise direction (right up against the fence). It was hot and in the sun. I moved through this as fast as I could to avoid direct sunlight.

Onto the doubletrack as I did my best to pedal as fast as I could while keeping a decent pace and not slacking off. Mentally I'm back in the game (found that near the electric fence.... and I didn't even have to touch the fence to find it!). Heard some chainslap behind me... geared riders.... and decided to play a little game. How fast could I ride through the rocks and roots and not let the geared guys catch me? Silly game to play since all day I've been concerned, and paranoid, of flatting thanks to my last Michaux race. Played it anyway. Whoa hoo! I flew through that section super fast. Eventually didn't hear any chainslap. Rolled up to a gate, and went around it. Then hopped onto a fire road knowing aid station 5 (the last and final one) is a short skip down the road.

Not long as I was on the fire road those geared riders caught up to me. Exchanged a few nice words to the tune of "nice negotating that technical section!" and "props to the rigid singlespeeder" we rolled into aid station 5 together. Somewhere between aid stations 4 and 5 I lost my m&m mini container of endurolytes. I popped five at the aid station and put a handful in my jersey pocket. Refilled my 2 bottles (lost one when I flew through that rocky double/singletrack) with Heed. The next mile or so was an old converted railway so I desperately needed to sit on someone's wheel. That worked by l
atched onto the rear wheel of one of those geared riders I rolled into aid station 5 with. The rail trail ended by going through a tunnel and onto some fireroad. Two very attractive women were sitting trailside watching the race (guess they were waiting for someone). I said hello as I rode by. Sometime after that a hard left turn was made onto the last, and final, climb. A grueling jaunt up this fire road. On most days it isn't that bad but at mile 90/95 its insane!My quads started cramping at the bottom (where the grade is steeper). I pulled over and downed a water bottle, gel and more endurolytes. Now I'm over 9hrs so I set a new goal of doing it in under 10hours (last year's time was 10hr 37mins). Back on the bike!

Rode up the rest of the climb slowly. Wish I could have gone faster but I couldn't. Each slight turn I would trick myself into thinking the top is there. Then I'd come around the turn and be crushed. However, I'd combat that crush by playing the same trick on the next upcoming turn. Strange games but its 90+deg, very humid and I'm over 9hrs into a grueling bike race. Eventually got to the top and I rejoiced by pointing it down the backside (fireroad descent).

At the bottom we're on fisherman's trail. A technical section along a riverbed. I rode it conservatively hopping off and running through tough sections. Didn't want to cramp my legs and I knew I was tired and weak. Out of that and onto another converted railway. I spun my butt off trying to keep a decent pace. No one infront of me, no one behind me. I was all alone. The converted railway had dense tree coverage so it kind of looked like a tunnel. It never seemed to end even though I knew every foot of this section having ridden it the day before. The end was marked by a narrow bridge to ride across. We were making fun of Dave the day prior for not being able to ride it for his handlebars were too wide. Rolled across that into the second tunnel. This tunnel has some big rocks so you have to be careful. Its pitch black and you can't see the rocks. Got through it cleanly and onto the road for about a mile to the finish line. I pedaled my butt off on my way to the finish.

Into Coburn we're on the main street and then a sharp right into Coburn park for the finish. Typical sleepy PA town, all the houses are right up against the street. As a result, the turn into Coburn park was somewhat blind. I'm taking it fairly fast working from outside to inside to outside of the turn. Well, there just so happen to be a car pulling out leaving the park. I find this out as I'm halfway through the turn. Not good! Quick slam on the brakes to scrubb speed and pull tight inside the turn narrowly missing the car. Then a sprint to the finish.

To sum it all up:
9hours 58minutes was my official time. A whole 39minutes faster than last year! Last year I was on a 26er with front suspension. This year its 29er with a rigid fork. Probably could have been even faster if my bike had a suspension fork.

Took 19th singlespeed out of a huge field of 40 or more singlespeeders. Same finish as last year but with a faster time and a more competitive field. So competitive that Wes Shempf ( took first singlespeed setting a course record of 7hr 49min and taking 7th overall! I was 1hour 33mins behind Tim who took 5th SS. My time was also
73rd overall.

Very HOT day. Don't know what the temps were but I'm willing to bet somewhere in the 90s with high humidity. Hmmm. Similar to the Mohician. The good news! No dehydration like the Mohican 100. I didn't even get much of a headache after the race either. Guess 3 bottles and drinking every 15mins worked well.

No stomach pains. As much as oatmeal is a 'heavy' breakfast I ate well over an hour prior to the start. Think that helped.

Maxxis tires are the shit! The Ignitor up front tracked very well in the sandy turns and such. The Crossmark out back had plenty of traction for the dry course.

Starting to rethink this riding rigid thing. Every muscle in my arms was super sore at the end of the race. So sore that it limited me in my climbing on the last two big climbs (had trouble pulling on the bars for leverage). I definitely couldn't ride as fast as I wanted to in certain sections because of the rigid fork. Gotta figure out what I want to do.

32x20 worked well for the steep climbs but, as expected, I spun out early on the flats. Perhaps next year I'll be a bit stronger and can rock a 34x21 or a 32x19?

Thanks to Chris Scott and the Shenandoah Mountain Touring Company for another quality venue. Thanks to Curt for letting me use his air compressor to get rid of that tube in my front tire and go back to tubeless. Good to see everyone again. Great to see Bert out rocking the enduro races again. Been a while for him but he had a blast and is looking forward to the 101 next year. Good to see Dave back after some issues in last year's 101. Way to be back in the game!


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