Sunday, July 24, 2016

In My Wilderness 101 Dreams

He said let's get out of this town
Drive out of the city
Away from the crowds
I thought heaven can't help me now
Nothing lasts forever
But this is gonna take me down

I’m actually struggling with what to say about this one. Ten years ago I learned that a national series of 100 mile mountain bike races existed, and I thought it sounded exactly like something I needed to do. Seven years ago I dropped out of my second attempt at the Lumberjack 100, and then, lots and lots of stuff happened. That I have lost half my pancreas, won an OVCX series championship, and am now married to a completely different person than the last time I entered a 100 mile mountain bike race is not insignificant. Of course, the most influential change is that I moved a couple of states over and ended up with a NUE series race right in my back yard. One year ago I rode my ‘cross bike alongside Wilderness 101 racers up Alan Seeger, and decided I might just want to join them this year. Finally, yesterday I had my first successful finish of a 100 mile NUE series race.

Taryn and I doing our "What am I getting myself into?" faces

I wasn’t feeling very confident leading up to the race because I hadn’t hit some training milestones that I’d hoped to, the forecast was 94 degrees, and I was feeling like I had mistimed my taper. My confidence wasn’t really inspired as we started the first climb about ten minutes into the race and I settled into my pace, which resulted in my being literally DFL for a lot of it. I went back and forth with a guy for last place until the first aid station, which I arrived at not very long before the 9:00 a.m. cutoff. We caught and passed a guy on Thickhead and then I passed him for good up Bear Meadows. When I hit the second aid station I saw several people still there and realized that I wasn’t *that* far behind.

As horrible as Greenlee is, it was where I actually started to feel like I might be okay. Although I had to take a stretch break and shift to my small ring not long after the steep grades started, I soon began seeing guys walking or just straight-up sitting on the side of the road. It sucked and I was going much slower than what I’m capable of, but I was still pedaling when other people were cracking. The same thing happened on Seeger, and by the time I reached the third aid station and saw Frank for the first time of the day, I declared my intent/expectation to actually, really finish.

From that point on, it was just a matter of setting it up and knocking it down through each segment of the course. I didn’t worry about the fact that I was going well below my normal PR speed and just kept moving as fast as I could. Even though my hands, back, and most of the rest of my body were killing me, I was determined to tolerate it to the end and make my pain worth it. I spent a lot of time purposely checking out mentally to try and deal with the pain and pass the time. Part of this included mentally writing a Ghost Trails-style flashback story of how exactly I came to be suffering there at that moment, except that mine was a musical with Taylor Swift songs. “Wildest Dreams” was the opening number…

Approaching aid station 4

Once I reached the top of Stillhouse with all of the singletrack and the “big 3” behind me, I focused on my goal of reaching the final aid station before 6:30 so that I wouldn’t have to do the final part of the course with lights on my bike. (I already looked like I was going on a freakin’ bikepacking trip with all of my food and water accoutraments.) I ticked off the miles, passed a lot more blown-out riders, railed Panther Run, and then hammered to the final aid station with plenty of time to spare. I left feeling good and easily knocked out the last 13 miles with just a little bit of struggling and stretching on the final climb. I rolled into the park, banged the gong, and relished my well-awaited Wilderness 101 finish.

Although I was more than an hour and a half past my 11-hour goal, in the end I was pretty happy with my performance, considering the heat and that I didn’t feel that great in the days leading up to the race. This year has been an interesting learning experience for me, since I’ve now had three big races where I started off slow and then picked off people as the race wore on. I guess it’s partly good pacing and perhaps I’m actually better and riding through the pain that I thought. (At least when properly motivated.)

Now that I have finally got two big goals knocked out this year (TrailMix Long Course and the W101), I finally get some time to relax and play around on my Camber. It came on Thursday and I took it on a very successful first ride, but I’ll give it a full review when my butt heals and I can ride it again. Of course, while I’m exploring and having fun, I’ll probably be starting the recon on my next big goal: the 2017 Transylvania Epic.

The after. Taryn did great in her first 100 miler and ended up 6th.

1 comment:

Kristen said...

You had a PR - you finished a 100 mile MTB! That's a "best" in my book!