The short of it - I came in 4th out of a very very talented women's field and was quite happy with that as going into the race I was thinking I would definitely need a stellar race to podium at all. I finished in 9'08" which was a few minutes slower than last year which I was only ok with that given that I just didn't feel the "race" legs were there for this one, so to finish that well on a "not on" day is pretty sweet.
Hmmm....well, the couple weeks leading into this race seemed to be very hectic and busy and rather stressful, and I was just waiting to get in the car and maybe unwind some on the 7 or so hour drive to Coburn, PA (near State College) on Thurdasy. I was working near Providence morning so it made sense to just take 95 down to 80, made sense... I had tried to make a deposit at my bank en route to Providence to make sure not to bounce any checks while I was away, and my local branch was being "serviced" so I figured I would just catch one in RI. So after leaving the stable I was working at, I stopped at three different exits that looked promising as far as a lot of shopping being around for my atm to no avail. I was getting frustrated pretty quickly as I hadn't anticipated it being so difficult to find a banknorth in RI. I finally call customer service and found out they basically don't exist in RI so I had to hit on at some exit in CT. So after wasting almost an hour I hit the road and got some more specific directions to a bank in Stamford from Doug, but I missed the first instruction of taking a right off the ramp exit ramp and get lost for a bit and have a near temper tantrum as this was not the "mellow" kick back drive I so needed. Oh, and this was after already sitting in 30mins of backup... Ugh. I finally get my 'sh'' together and find one of the streets from my directions and find the bank. Back on the highway heading into NY, yup.. more traffic, Karen's favorite thing in the world. It takes forever to break free of that and finally get to 80 down in Penn and it's still spotty stop and go traffic.. what the f-... sorry... finally, break free of that and chill some and make a stop in Stroudsburg, PA to get a Starbucks coffee and some gas. I'm heading back to the highway but the signs aren't very clear which way to go and it looks like you're supposed go straight versus a left and head up this big hill away from the highway.. huh? The car in front of me has the same realization and we u-turn and go back to the now right turn and are two blocks from the entrance to the highway again only to have the road blocked for an accident... you have got to be kidding me... talk about some bad traffic karma.. geezz.. that one kind of made me laugh - it was like a 4 block thing from the gas station to the accident to the on ramp.
oh vey... I finally get off the highway and hit some very nice back country road through Amish country and get sucked out my head immediately by the beauty of the farmland and mountains and all the Amish buggies going by. It was so cool. I was attempting to take a picture on my cell phone and thought better of it for fear of running them over. It was pretty neat to see.
So, like a couple extra hours of drive time from the 7 peaceful hours it was supposed to be, I arrive at the very nice bed and breakfast about 1/4 mile from the start/finish of the race. Perfect. I put my bags in the room and then Doug, who had gotten there a couple hours ahead of me, and I went to downtown Millheim (it's a happening place, for a small little town) and got some food. I wasn't all that hungry since I had plenty of snacks in the car and it was on the late side, but I got a delicious salmon salad that was pretty light so it did the trick. Back to the B&B to hit the sack and have a total chill day on Friday.. ahh, finally.. then clip, clop, clip, clop, and another amish buggy goes by... so cool.
Friday, we wake up to rain... blah...I would have liked to tour around the farms and find more amish folks to take pictures of even though they are probably quite done with that.. and then just wade down a stream. But after eating a very delicious breakfast, we headed off to State College to wander the shops. I even bought myself some new socks just for the race :) Just meandered, got some lunch, (yes, allison, I had a turkey sandwich, ok)... and then went back to Coburn to pick up race packets and get ready to go. Since it was wet out, we wussed and didn't ride more than 10-15mins, which I think was a mistake for me anyways post long drive. Doug had maybe a 3hr drive from Pittsburgh so not so much to work out of the legs. Cam, the B&B owner, told us about this new restaurant that opened up a couple towns over that was housed in a bank and you could eat in the vault if you wanted. So we went there for dinner on Friday night and ate in the vault. It was pretty neat and decent eats, although I think I overate a bit and my chicken was perhaps a bit heavy for 'pre-race eats'.
I slept ok Friday night but I did start to get anxious about the race which I hadn't really gotten to anxious about since the email the race director sent out on Tuesday with the list of "big wigs'" showing up to this race. When I saw the women's field, I was like holy crap and emailed it to my coach being both happy to be included on the list but also like, omg, it's going to be tough to podium even with a good race day. Will did good and calmed me down with 'they're going to do their best, and you're going to do your best and you can't control them...".. it helped get my head in the right place. I didn't want to set up expectations was all. I basically had the expectation of doing better timewise than I did last year, and even altered that to, well given that it's pretty wet due to lots of rain, maybe even the same time would be a reasonable goal, even though I've dropped a good amount of time from last year on my previous two 100 milers this year.
anyway, race day I woke up feeling ok. I wasn't all that nervous but I could tell I was perhaps not quite in race mode...ate a bagel and had some expresso and ride the short little ride to the start line. The race starts out going down the road a couple miles in a controlled start, ie tight in a pack of mountain bikers ... which is very nerve-wracking to me. But it turns a corner and starts a dirt road climb that thins out the pack quite nicely, although I felt like I was getting passed by more people than I cared to be passed by, and my legs felt pretty heavy, hence the 'maybe I should have spun my legs out for real yesterday'... I felt a bit like a slug for a lot of that first hour. I was trying to not let it get to me too much, reminding myself that on my last long training ride I felt not so good for the first hour and then the legs and body came around.
There's a lot of dirt road on this course, which is not to my liking. It really pays to get in a train and draft. I worked a tad hard to get on a fast train and stayed with them for a little bit but it was too much for my legs that just hadn't woken up yet. I dropped off and spent probably most of the rest of the race on my own, which was much different from last year when I worked with a group for a lot of the first half of the race (which is predominantly dirt road and very fast paced) and then again in the end of the race. After a certain point though, I was around the same 5-6 guys but we all seemed to have different strengths or weaknesses and just never got working together. This one guy I would pass on the climbs and then he'd come by on the crazy sketchy downhills, we did that a bunch of times until after aid station 3 (~60 miles in). I felt reasonably good for hours 2-3-4 on the bike and but my bowels were starting to umm, not be so cooperative. Then for some reason at aid station 3, I thought it would be a good idea to have a big handful of trail mix (which I never eat during races) and then start this tough single track climb. I was making good time to that point but going up that climb, I was felt like crap, like I was going backwards... I couldn't pass the guy I had kept passing on the climbs. I felt very close to just stopping for a bit to let my body settle but I didn't think that would be a good idea, in that it'd be pretty hard to convince myself to get going again. That was probably my toughest stretch from Aid 3 to 4... but, then again, it's probably the toughest stretch for most of the racers too. It's pretty fast and mostly dirt road to that point... the harder trails come up in that stretch. I felt like I couldn't ride anything well. It was pretty slippery, slick, throw you around jagged rocks for a trail, with lots of roots meshed in and not a lot of "ground" so to speak. I was thinking back to my last training ride with my buddy Jeff out in Western Mass, my favorite trails are all big rock, very specific line picking kind of trails and Jeff was hailing me as the "rock goddess"... well i was no "rock goddess" today. This is my least favorite of the 100 milers, as dirt road riding is boring to me and then the trails just beat the snots out of you and the downhills that you just climbed so hard for are slow going since they're so rough, ragged, slick rocks, off camber, craziness, and I usually think of myself as a pretty strong technical rider.
Anyway, I never felt fully on my game, not completely off, but just not quite "race mode" and my bowels weren't helping me out either. I just kept plugging along and reminded myself that I was just riding my bike all day and it might take a bit longer than I anticipated and that's ok.. that's all I have today. I tick off the hours, and the aid stations...really didn't chat with too many racers, but did run into a few that I knew, which is always nice to have a distraction for a bit. I hadn't let myself think about my placing and no one at the aid stations were saying, you're the ___ women to come through, so I didn't ask. So I was kind of surprised when I finished and was told I was 4th. Very cool, since I didn't think I would podium unless I had a really good race day out there. Pua who is a superstar endurance rider won with a time of 7'43" and was 8th overall... holy moly... and then Sue Haywood and Besty, 2nd and 3rd in 8'40". My time put me in 59th place overall. Not too shabby.
I rode back to the B&B and cleaned my bike and myself. There was another race couple staying at the B&B and finished up not too long after me. I was just about to head back to the race to catch Doug finishing but he was already outside cleaning his bike too - having a 30min PR for this course (or so he recalls it that way : ), fast B&B crew :) We headed back to the venue for some eats and beer. I was able to eat some and drink a beer, but my stomach was still not entirely there yet. Did the awards thing and chatted with a bunch friends... Then Doug had convinced Lee and Brenda to go for some eats at the Bank restaurant. They staff must have thought we were odd. Post race eating is odd.. You're kind of hungry, but not.. and not sure what's going to sit well. We munched on some nachos which wasn't doing it for me. I didn't want to add hots to my already "hot" stomach.. or whatever that is.. the salad actually seemed much nicer. I was surprised to sleep reasonable well post-race as well, at least somewhat better than usual. Breakfast was fantastic, although the coffee left one needed an expresso still.. I didn't feel too wiped out from the race and stomach seemed to be doing better. I have noticed this year I don't feel the need to consume everything the next day or two post race, which I'm taking means I'm more fit and better fueling myself during the race.
It was raining again on Sunday, which was kind of a bummer. It would have been nice to just do a chill ride following the river and driving amish people crazy trying to take their picture. But Doug and I just headed back to State college, caught a movie, and ate some burritos and drank a very tasty margarita, well I had two, which was probably one too many... phew.. but it was good. Nice chill day. I woke up feeling really good this morning, not achey, stiff or sore.. I was like, huh, this is good. Had breakfast and hit the road for a nice, no traffic, drive home.
One more for sure - Shenandoah - which I'll be redeeming myself from last year for not finishing due to my knee injury. And possibly Tahoe for the series finale - yet to be determined, but hopefully determined this week.