9/6/09

2009 Shenandoah Mountain 100

For any Mid-Atlantic mountain biker, the SM100 is a goal to do either for the first time, a personal best, or to beat your teammates. I had done the SM100 previously in 2007, and had an amazing ride, pulling a 9:33. In hindsight I wish I would've done worse the first time out, because it sets your expectations pretty high. For this year, I was training to beat the time I had gotten in 2007, but although I felt strong going into the race, I wasn't sure I had gotten enough miles in.

Pre-Race

I was able to hitch a ride down with Mark W. since Sara was to join me on Sunday coming from PA and I would go back with her. We got down to the site and found the DCMTB crew and set up our tents, eventually doing a pre-ride shakedown on the bikes. The bike was good, but the suspension felt a little slack, so I pumped up the shocks a little bit (looking back, I should've just left it the way it was). We had some good times talking that night and I was able to get to bed pretty early for the start the next day.

I got up with the usual SM100 tradition of the gong and somebody setting off some black cat firecrackers. I did not want to have happen what happened to me last year with the bathroom, so I made sure to get coffee as soon as possible to ensure that the system was flushed out. As I was going to get coffee, I saw somebody coming towards me. She looked like Sara, but Sara wasn't supposed to get there until later in the day, so I thought, "Who could this be?" Then as she drew near, I found out it was Sara, so I was shocked and pleasantly surprised. She had decided that she wanted to see the start, so she drove through the night from Pennsylvania, got to the campsite around 3 a.m. and slept in her car until I got up (she is racking up the bonus points).

As usual, I had forgotten something--this being my DCMTB jerseys. Mike K. was nice enough to lend me one of his, which would mean that I would have a jersey, but I wouldn't be able to change it mid-race like I did in 2007.

The Start

This time, compared with 2007 when I started as one of the last 25 people, I was in a good spot with all my teammates. We went down the road with lots of dust, and I was just spinning out the legs going at a pretty good clip. I was going pretty fast up Narrowback and rode well until I went through the only mud puddle on the course. I was able to ride a lot of the Cookie Trail because I was with the faster people and didn't get caught behind slow riders. I was dismayed going to check point 1 that the old Jeep road had been turned into a logging road, which made the trail not as fun as it used to be.

Check Point 1-2

I hooked up with Matty and Kent after the downhill, and we were riding a good paceline to the bottom of Reddish Knob. Once on the Reddish Knob climb, I was off the pace with Matty in front. I slowly made up ground to him and by the time we got into the Lynne Trail singletrack, I was a good hundred meters in front of Matty and Kent. I felt going up the climb that I was burning some matches, and I was not really feeling on top of my game; I felt a bit outside of my comfort zone. On the Wolf Ridge downhill, I was riding better than I ever have before. I got stuck behind a non-technical rider who had about ten of us bunched up behind him. He finally pulled over, and we went on our way. Towards the bottom, Matty caught up to me. Once we got on the road to check point 2, Matty, Kent and I got to ride together again, which was nice. We were going at a pretty good clip, but I still wasn't quite feeling myself, so I had to go my own pace. When I got to check point 2, Kent was still there, but Matty was long gone. I exchanged a bottle, ate some yummy oranges and had some pretzels, and then I was off to Hankey.

Check Point 2-3

I caught up to Kent and passed him on the climb. Then we regrouped after the downhill and rode the gravel road to the Hankey Mt. fire road climb. Going up the fire road climb of Hankey turned into me going through the rings of Hell from Dante's Inferno. I started off okay, but yet again I still wasn't feeling myself, and I had to keep gearing down. Then the mental implosion was underway when more and more people were passing me on the trail. Previously I had ridden up this climb without dabbing, and I knew that if I was going to break my 9:33 I needed to ride the climb at least as well as I had before. I started thinking about quitting once I got through 3/4 of the climb. I stopped at the top of the climb to get my wits about me, and still had it in my head to quit at aid station 3, where I knew Sara was working. I went down Dowel's Draft not even really caring if I was going too slowly or not. I got into aid station 3, and Sara looked happy and supportive, not knowing what nightmare I had just gone through. I was eating food and Kent tried to lift my spirits and cheer me up, but I was still floundering. Kent was sitting in the camping love seat and he said "Come sit down here next to Uncle Kent." Maybe he slipped something in the vanilla Coke that he'd slipped in his drop bag, because boy it sure tasted good. Kent then left and after talking to Sara I decided that I would go do the Brailey's Climb because the route would then return to aid 3 so if I wanted to quit at that point I could.


Check Point 3-4

I was going up the road climb at a pretty good clip and I had a couple guys pacelining behind me for a few miles. I decided to unhitch myself from them and just went my own speed, knowing that I was not going to get my 9:33 and that I just needed to do the race at my pace. I caught up to Kent at the dry riverbed crossing. He had stopped for a second before starting the ascent up Brailey's. I then prepared myself to go up the Brailey's climb; in previous years I have cleared the whole climb without dabbing. I didn't take the climb too fast--just a steady tempo. There was a singlespeeder and another rider who I was ping ponging with back and forth. I ended up pushing into the guy's nuts one time when he had stopped during a rocky section and I tried to go around him. I got hung off and pushed off with my hand, but what I pushed off of was actually his crotch. He was none too pleased, but at the same time I felt that if he hadn't stopped that wouldn't have happened. To return the favor, I let those guys go in front of me on the downhill. I ended up riding the downhill pretty clean. I had a guy behind me at one point who wanted to pass, but there was traffic in front of us, so we kinda went down together in a group of 7. I got down the climb and into the aid station, picked up my drop bag. I looked up to see that I had caught up to Matty somehow, but then I realized something was wrong. He was walking around in a daze, with bandages on his leg and arm, some blood seeping out of it. He said he crashed hard going down Brailey's and he was thinking about quitting (I found out later that he was really out of it there because he had already talked to the race official by that point and quit). I waited for Kent to ride the death march from 4-5.


Check Point 4-End

This is typically the hardest mental part of the race, but this year it was not for me. I ended up not being able to ride with Kent, so I went off ahead of him at my own pace. I was now riding faster than the people around me, so it was nice that now I was catching people instead of getting passed all the time. I must've passed about 20 people going up the climb. As usual, you think you're almost there, but still the rest stop doesn't appear. Finally got to the rest stop, changed my socks and ended up taking some more time, since some of the people I'd passed came into the rest stop and left before I got my ass in gear. After the rest stop, doing the Chestnut Ridge, I caught up to those people I'd passed earlier and ended up actually passing them at the very top because they knew that they weren't that technically proficient and didn't want to hold anybody up. I was doing the downhill a lot better than I did 2 years previously. This is one of the more remote trails to get to, so it was actually only the 2nd time I had ever ridden the trail, whereas Brailey's I have ridden 6 times. So I had a good time on the downhill, wasn't as scared out of my wits as I was in 2007, and got down the mountain--passing four riders (a first)--without any mishaps. For check point 6, I was just going to do an on-the-fly bottle exchange, but for some reason the little kid who was doing the bottles didn't quite understand how to do it, so that did not work out. But that was no issue since I knew I probably had enough water in my Camelbak. The second time up Hankey was not as bad as the first for me--just a lot of out-of-the-seat climbing because my nate was feeling the hours in the saddle. I had to walk up a few parts on the way back to the campground (did not have to do this in 2007), but I got down to the fire road quicker than I thought. Then it was just the ride on in to the campground and over the line to see a cheering Sara looking very happy to see me back safe and alive.

9:28 ride time 10:12 race time

Notes

  • If I knew that I was actually going to do a 9:28 ride time, I would've taken my head out of my ass, paced myself a little better and done a 9:45 race time.
  • The race is long, so there's no need to kill yourself in the beginning. Next time I'm going to make sure I leave it for check point 4-5; if I have extra energy, that's the place to burn it.
  • I should've kept my suspension a little softer so I could've enjoyed the downhills more...especially my front fork, since it has a lockout.
  • The Crossmarks 29er tires tubeless on my Crossmax 29er wheels worked great aside from the loose gravel, which I don't think any tire can do well at while being fast on smooth sections.
  • The bike worked great--no issues--besides some squeaky pivots that I'll need to replace over the winter.
  • The race support was excellent as usual, with NASCAR efficiency.
  • The post-ride food was great--gotta like them Scud fries.
  • It was cool talking to Jeremiah Bishop after the race to hear how his race went since I didn't know how the pros did. What other sport has camaraderie where you can talk with a pro as an ordinary Joe?
  • It was really good seeing my teammates at the race and watching some (Roy--Raul's brother from Costa Rica, Tyler and Mark D.) finish their first 100 mile mountain bike race.
  • Lastly, it was especially nice that Sara came to encourage me and partake in the event that is the SM100.

Aftermath

Sara and I left that night because she needed some sleep and my back had started to seize up (go figure, I think I went too deep). So we decided that it was best if we slept in real beds for the night. I rode for the first time on Saturday the following week to give my body some time to rest and to somehow to even find some motivation to look at a bike, let alone ride one. It's funny how the mind works...I said the whole weekend I wasn't going to do the SM100 in 2010, but not even 3 days later, you start thinking "If I just do this or that, I think I could do better next year....."

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2 comments:

Sara said...

I'm very proud of you :) It was very much worth the sleep loss! Still not sure who is competing with me in this points game, but thank you for the bonus anyway...

ChrisJ said...

Good deal man. Personal bests are always a good thing. And i'd hang on to that one. You got a keeper there.