Monday, July 28, 2008

wilderness 101

So, this past weekend I did the Wilderness 101 again. It was my third year in a row taking part. This has got to be one of my favorite 100mile mountain bike races. The terrain in Pennsylvania is gnarly and relentless! The race promoter (Chris Scott & the Shenandoah Mountain Touring group) does an impeccable job putting both the W101 and the Shenandoah Mtn 100 on. Kudos to them.

The week prior my body decided it did not like 95-100degF heat and quit on me while trying to navigate through the rough and rocky 50mile course for Michaux's Curse of Dark Hollow in southeast PA. 25miles in just about 5hours I called it quits. Always a decision not worth following through with but my legs had nothing and I was looking out for the W101.

Fast forward a week (of resting) to this past weekend. A few persuasive words and I'm out of work on Friday to travel out to central PA. TimmyD and I got there early. So early the only vehicles we saw in Coburn park were the race promoter's (Chris Scott & Co) and DeJay & Fuzzy's caravan (top singlespeeders). A nice relaxing afternoon was met with a 1hr bike ride, good food and early to bed.

All the top guns came out to play on Saturday (Fuzzy, DeJay, Gunner Schrogen, Wes Schempf, Topher, Matt Ferrari, Tommi, TimmyD, etc..). The SS field was stacked and pushing 50 deep. Last year I opted for a 32x20 on my 29inch singlespeed but this year I wanted to gain some time on the flats early on so I dropped down to a 32x19.

Course Profile:

The start:

courtesy of

courtesy of

Some nice rocky singletrack around mile 25:

courtesy of

Lots of spectators here for it was a huge rock garden with rocks the size of bowling balls and bigger right after the wooden bridges. I cleared the whole thing no problem.

courtesy of

Felt good in the first few climbs out through aid station 2 (mile 30/35ish). I was on a pace for about a 9hr race which would have been awesome in my book (even though the winners were really far ahead of me). One can't really get a good gauge of how fast they are by the first 50miles. The second 50miles are really where the race starts. Lots and lots of climbing. My legs were so used to spinning at such high cadences that when the first big climb came at mile 40 my body was confused. As a result, I slowed down a bit but regained partway up the mountain. The singletrack descent saw me passing just about everyone that passed me near the top of the climb. I somehow forgot about the next big climb at mile 50 thinking aid station 3 was before it. Needless to say all 3 of my bottles were empty and the muscle cramps began to set in. The bottom of this climb was painful but somehow I recovered and caught back up. Classic game of leap frog with the other singlespeeders and geared guys around me. I'd blow past them on the descent, blow up on the bottom of the next climb, recover and catch back up [and pass] near the top of that next climb.

Trying to catch up on hydration and food at aid station 3 was met with dire consequences. My stomach twisted into a nice knot and I walked the better part of the bottom of Sassafras trail which was a singletrack climb leading straight up and out of aid station 3 (mile 58/60). I lost some ground here but kind of held my own and enjoyed the singletrack to the best of my ability. Aid station 4 was a beautiful sight (mile 68ish). I dreaded the next climb but forced myself back on the bike and on up the next mountain. A few minutes in I rode past a huge rattlesnake and it freaked me out (not a snake fan). My demise for the day was the upper portion of this climb. My legs were twitching bad so I backed of on intensity (ie: walked a bit). This brought my pace to a nice crawl. I should have paid more attention to hydration and fueling during this race but for some reason I wasn't. It brought about some stomach aches which brought about the urge to not eat which brings muscle fatigue. Damn.

My walking did help for once I was near the top I had quite a bit of strength back in my legs. Bombed yet another descent setting pace for a few geared riders. Out of courtesy they insisted I pick up their draft and they towed me down a few fire roads into aid station 5. From here on out was some [flat] carriage roads and one good sized climb up and down a gravel fire road. As I got dropped by a few geared guys I left aid 5 with and mindlessly spun my ass off down the carriage road I was dreading the last climb. Did I have enough energy? Would I crack? Going into that last climb I stood up and kept on pedaling. Ignored the pain and kept telling myself "just around the bend". Passed all those geared guys like they were standing still (one of the beauties of climbing with a hard gear) and was able to hold off quite a few of them in the final [flat] miles to the finish. The last mile (out of this tunnel down a paved road into Coburn) was more or less a mad sprint at the fastest cadence I could pedal. My watch was closing in on 10hrs and I wanted to be under 10. Last turn I caught up to Ben Yoder (only SS I saw from aid 4 to the finish) but my enthusiasm couldn't get him to pick up his pace. He was done and just surviving the last few pedal strokes to the finish. My time: 9hr 58mins (27th SS) with no mechanicals. Turns out it was the same time as last year but I've been riding [and racing] a whole lot less this year. I am stoked. I felt pretty good. Rode a harder gear than last year and still got the same time despite not preparing much for this event.

If I paid attention to my nutrition I could have probably moved up 30mins. Does it matter? Not really. I gave it everything I had at the time and am pleased with my performance. Had I been training and preparing a shitload for this then I'd probably be upset. All in all, it was an enjoyable weekend and I recovered fairly quickly.

map and profile of this year's course

As we were leaving Sunday morning, Harlan decided to affix used Poland Spring gallon jugs onto his sandals and run around Coburn Park. 'Ohio' Rob Krantz wanted a crack at it. DeJay and I suggested he gets pulled behind one of our vehicles. With the help of Fuzzy's driving skills and some extra rope we did just that.

Good times! Isn't that why we do this?

I guess I have recovered fully. I felt great in my yoga class on Tuesday. Wednesday's 2.5 hour mountain bike ride was awesome! Lots of climbing and I was off the front of our group the whole time. Felt great and my legs felt awesome. I felt perfect in today's yoga class. I'll probably go out for a 6-7 hr mtb ride on Sunday. It'll be fun.

Monday, July 21, 2008

it is a Curse alright

I can't seem to finish this race. Last year I was bitten by rocks slicing my tires only a mile or two into the race. This year I just didn't have anything in the legs. Was it the heat? Most likely. Racing in the mid to upper 90degF heat is not fun. Was it lack of sleep/rest in the past couple of weeks? Sure thing.

As soon as it started I didn't feel right. I noticed myself slowly falling back. I'd regain on some of the descents and rolling [rocky] singletrack but as soon as things pitched up I had no strength to turn over the pedals. I was seriously considering quitting around 10miles in but somehow had a run of energy that allowed me to climb and ride well. I felt good so I kept on going. This lasted a few more miles and by now I'm thinking "Where is that 25mile mark with food and water?". By now I had finished both my bottles and my camelbag was emptying quite rapidly. The heat was unbearable. I knew I was running into problems when I was dripping with perspiration and had goosebumps. Oh, and when you can't see too straight and make a wrong turn only to find yourself on the ground with a cut-up elbow thinking "What just happened?". Yup, the heat was not on my side.

20miles in, my legs were starting to cramp so I wound walking a lot (as if I wasn't walking a lot to begin with). In fact, I probably walked everything from mile 20 to 25. Around 100oz of fluids consumed in the first 25miles and it didn't feel like enough (but I felt better post-race than I have in other races so I was probably doing pretty good with fluids).

Got to the aid station and they were out of water. It was also 1pm (we started shortly after 9am). Yeah right am I going to ride another 25miles to finish this thing. I waited for water to show up and all the cars going back to the start/finish were full of riders calling it quits. After drinking more water I decided to ride back to the start/finish down the forest service fire roads. Probably was out for about 30miles when all was said and done.

Turns out I was not the only one that DNF'd. The vast majority of the racers, including the singlespeeders, did not finish. Made me feel a little bit better but still its never a good feeling to not finish a race.

I do have to say my bike was flawless. That new suspension fork was a godsend and allowed me to ride much faster than I ever have in Michaux. Its just a shame my body couldn't keep up on the climbs.

Here's the course map:

Congrats to those that finished! Someday I'll be able to finish 'the Curse. See you at the W101!