For those of you who have busy lives and would like to skip all the gibberish, 9:45 (something close to that anyway) was my time for the 100. I felt pretty good the entire time and never hit the dirt.
In all actuality, Palmetto Solo’s late arrival at my house caused me to be more prepared for a race than I ever had been before. Kristin, Toby, Shade, Buddy and I all got to the whitewater center around 8:15pm for registration. I paid close attention to the cheat sheet BrouSSard had given me. It was an elevation profile of the 100 with the aid stations marked on it. I packed my three sag stops and realized I had forgotten my extra tube I was going to leave at the fourth aid station. I didn’t make the effort to walk back to the car (about 200 yards) for the tube, I was confident that there would be no flats for me.
Back at the cabin, I stared at the back wheel that was already on the bike and almost said the heck with setting up my new wheel. Toby had brought the newly re-built Bontrager Race Light wheel from the shop and I needed to throw my old Exiwolf on tubeless. After a little help from Cook during the pumping process and a lot of laughing we got the tire mounted on and I was good to go. I announced to Cissy that I was so confident in my set up that I wasn’t even going to test ride it and just threw the bike back on top of my car.
Lying in bed that evening, I didn’t fall asleep until the rain came pouring down.
After Bruce let the entire Tennessee valley know who the big names were at the race we were off. A couple friends of mine had let me know that the start would be crucial. Normally in an endurance event of this magnitude I would let everyone run away and then try and catch up later after I had warmed up. Not today, I wasn’t in the red but I was damn close as I tried my best to pace line and draft off of some gearies. As we made the turn onto the forest service road I saw Luis cutting some folks off as he vied for a stronger position into the single track. I tried my best to do the same and ended up one person back from him on the dirt.
This was my first time being in a large group of skilled riders during an event of this caliber and it was awesome. I was in the perfect spot. The single track flowed so perfectly through the trees. Just barely tight enough for me not to spin the 34X22 out and nothing ever steep enough to force me off the bike. I kept pace line rolling until it got flat enough for a few to pull away. I let one person around and then had nobody behind me so I slowed and brought my heart rate way back down.
Out of the twisty single track, we were dropped down by the river onto a flat section of trail. Three or four geared riders passed me here as I was spun out. We came around one corner and there were roots everywhere. I was not prepared and nailed the roots with both wheels. I thanked my lucky stars for having the tubeless set up and hammered on.
Right before a gnarly creek crossing, I saw a photographer taking pictures and heard “on your left.” I looked up and thought “Who the hell is going to pass me in this creek.” Then heard “heads up, heads up” as the guy realized this was not the best spot to pass. There was a large bridge and I heard “slippery bridge” being called out as I spied Danielle sitting in a chair wincing in pain from an apparent fall on the bridge. My heart went out to her as nobody wants to be taken out like that. After I rounded the bridge, I saw multiple riders pulling tubes and changing flats.
I knew I was getting close to the end of the first section of single track when a huge pace line of 20 or so riders started to catch me. I put the hammer down one more time to keep from getting passed and before I knew it I was at aid station one. A quick bottle fill and I was off.
This was to start 70 or so miles of gravel. In true Zen fashion I didn’t think about it. I donned my sun glasses that I had specifically bought for the gravel and rode. Eventually Danielle caught back up to me. Casually I asked her if she was the one who had fallen on the bridge, she said “yes” and I asked her if she was alright, she said “no.”
I rolled along with multiple people as we yo-yo’d down the gravel. I talked with another fellow riding a Karate Monkey from Harrisonburg for quite a bit. Eventually I saw Stephen come along, he was pacing behind Danielle and another girl so I hopped on and we chatted for a bit. Stephen informed me that he was trying his best to stay between 10 and 11 mph. I asked how he was doing and he said “10.8”. I was surprised and secretly happy as I had internalized a sub 10 hour goal. We were headed from aid station two to three and I knew a long climb was in store.
I felt good all the way to aid station three. I grabbed a peanut butter honey sandwich and ate it as I walked the bike up the last steep pitch from the aid station. Up to this point, fifty something miles into the race, I hadn’t had any problems. My nutrition was spot on I hadn’t let my heart get out of control, I knew I was ready.
I started pushing it harder and harder up the climbs. The flat spots would cause me some pain from spinning so much but then the climbs were like magic. Every now and then I would walk but only briefly as to shake out the legs. This is a spot in the race where I thought about Kristin and my life and how incredibly lucky I am to be in a position where I could ride my bike and be happy. I thought about Harvey and how badly he would have wanted to do the race. All these things provided me extra strength and well being.
When I made it to aid station five, I saw Luis again. He said Rich (on his ultimate bad idea mission of riding fixed) had just left. Before this sentence could come out of Luis’ mouth my chain had been lubed, cleaned and I had already filled my gel flask from my zip lock drop bag. The volunteers in this race were OUTSTANDING. You would have thought every single racer that came through was royalty. I kept waiting for the red carpet to be rolled out as I headed back onto the course.
I took off ahead of Luis after I had upset him by commenting “the beer is getting closer.” There was another long flat section and then I knew a climb was coming up because everyone was talking (fearing) about it.
This was prime time for me, miles 70 – 90. I was hitting it up all the climbs and not having any problems sitting in the saddle grinding. I probably passed somewhere between 20 and 30 people during these miles. There were a lot of hurt faces. In the middle of one climb I saw Rich looking defeated. I spoke of the space time continuum trick Eric likes to use and carried on.
Those previous miles were too good to me. When I hit the last section of single track I hit the wall hard. I was still able to pedal but cramps and a weaning ability to turn over the cranks came crumbling on top of me. I knew I was getting close but I suffered. I was able to maintain composure and keep a straight line through the downhills. Any potential climb that might cause me to cramp, I walked. About 10 of those previous 20 I had passed, passed me back.
After what seemed like an eternity, I was dropped out onto the one mile flat that would take me to the finish line. I slowly spun my way down along the river, smiling from ear to ear knowing that my three year long dream of riding 100 miles on my mountain bike was coming to a close. The Undead Drunken Monkey and I shined duly with mud caked on every bit of us as we crossed the line.
Awesome organization from every aspect at this race; I would recommend it highly to anyone. Our cabin rocked it out. We had two single speed finishers in the 100, a second place for Toby in the SS 65. A second place in the women’s 65. We also had two finishers in the 35.
Did I mention that Kristin is now a fully rigid SS 29’er? Yah, she is so hip to the game.