This was the first year of this race, and boy was it a good one. Ended up being 55 miles but we are talking 8000+ ft of climbing! So it hurt, but what goes up comes down :-)
Chis Scott ran a great event, with good rest stops and great signage even better then SM100 I think.
So I went down to Damascus the day before with Jonathan "sweetone" Wheaton on my team. We left got a sub in Harrisonburg, and then got to Damascus around 6:30pm. We then actually ate again at the pizza place, I had some good beens and cornbread while I was there. Then set up camp. There were only about 10 of us sleeping in the public park in Damascus. We got up nice and early and I put down two hard boiled eggs and then had the two left over pieces of pizza from the night before. We got to the start line to hear the final directions and then we were off.
Great idea doing a parade lap behind the motorcycle but then I saw that my crank was loose, and I had a bolt missing. So I stopped tightened the one bolt and caught up with the group. Then before the first climb I stopped again to cut a ziptie that was holding a cable too tight, and Chris gave me an extra bolt off his own bike (shows his heart).
So I start the race in dead last with the sweeper. I am thinking well there aren't too many people here so I should be able to get through people pretty well. Jonathan was in front of me, and I figured I would catch him around aid station 1. There had been rain on Friday night so wasn't sure how the trails would be. The trails turned out fine, there were some muddy spots but nothing that stopped you from climbing anything but the steepest hills. It was more an issue of what trails had mountain run off, with some being totally dry. The first climb is steep. I was prepared since Chris said it would be. I was passing the experienced, steady riders and catching up to people, but no Jonathan. I actually caught a guy on the downhill to aid station 1, but lost major ground to a guy in chucks and shorts with a double crown fork on the downhill. The downhill here was a blast like going through a green tunnel of fun. At aid station 1 they said Jonathan was about 2 minutes in front of me.
I was going really fast and caught the people who passed me at the aid station. I finally caught the guy with the chucks and shorts and freeride bike. I was making some good ground I felt on this section, then went up into the singletrack section of climbing. I was climbing ok, just sticking to a steady rythym. The next big downhill was off-camber with every root or rock pushing my bike off the trail. There was several sections where the trail had eroded from storms, so you had to be on your toes. I didn't make any ground here I was sure. I got into aid station 2 and they said that Jonathan wasn't too far in front of me, I ate a PB&J and was gone.
I had determined if I didn't catch Jonathan by the next aid station I wasn't going to catch him. This was the hardest part of the course, reminded me of the 18-mile part in the SM100 from aid station 4-5 where it is a fire road that goes on forever. My seat was not agreeing with me too much either, my seat bones were hurting from sitting on it. I was then getting out of the saddle more to help with that. I realized that the climbing wasn't steep enough for me to catch Jonathan. If he was able to turn over his gear (he was on a single speed) he would be alright on this climb. I might have slowed down a little too much then as well since I was all by myself. I finally got to the downhill to aid station 3.
So Jonathan had pulled more time on me, so I decided to not sweat getting him. I had packed some extra socks in the drop bag so I got those out, and put them on. I also got two cups of Coke, which really helped. I then went off knowing that the hardest climbing of the race was done. I rode and did a ridgeline at one point, let a guy use my pump to pump his tube, but his tube was busted and I was running 29ers. As I was doing the downhill, I was thinking about not being able to catch Jonathan, but was thinking too he is the "sweet one" and he gets that name from tech skills. I was doing fine on the downhills, I was comfortable, but these downhills where the kind that you could get some speed on, and if you had balls some real speed. I got down to aid station 4 and found out that Jonathan's lead had maybe even grown on me.
So the rest of the race, was playing the waiting game of when is this race going to be over. We were climbing this Jeep road that would go up and down, and I knew we had to go down eventually. On the trail was a little upset cause there were not many vistas to look at, just looking 50 yards off the trail and seeing how fast the ground was dropping. We get back to one of the uphills we had done earlier so I knew we were getting close. Then we went up again to a different downhill then the one we came up! This downhill was pretty steep, got my rotors really hot (they squeal when they get hot) and I felt like I had no suspension with all the rocks pounding me. I got the pavement and got my time.
Race time: 6:23
Ride time : 5:54
So way too much stop time!
- I was happy with my ride time, I think I can do the same time or better and do like 10 minutes in stops for a 6:04 or better. But Jonathan would have still beat me with his 6:01.
- I didn't feel as bad about Jonathan's time considering he did a great ride and got 9th over-all so he had a great ride out there.
- To race this I think my 70 oz camel back and a bottle that I refill once or twice. Maybe only stop at Aid 2 and maybe 3.
- Make this into a vacation and stay for 4 days or something too far to drive for one ride/race
- Their course was awesome, like a more technical SM100. With the climbing less steep (but more of it) and the descents less steep as well.