Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Shenandoah 100 Miler Race Report

Well, it feels like a long time since I've posted to my blog - a month now...
Let me start out by saying - arrrrgggg!!!!!!

This was supposed to be an awesome race for me. I was feeling good going into it, no injuries, well rested, excited, great weather but the mechanical devils were out to get me this weekend. I drove down to Frederick, Maryland on Thursday to hang out with Doug and then head down to the race 1/2 hr outside Harrisonburg, VA on Saturday morning. The drive down wasn't too bad. I avoided 95 purposely despite mapquest telling me it was the most direct route, direct, but most trafficky... ick.. So I went out 84 to 81 which was fine, except one pretty bad accident that held up traffic for a bit. I had worked that morning and didn't leave until 1pm so by the time I arrived in Frederick around 8pm I was pretty wiped. We went out for some dinner at a local brewery and had a brewski to relax.

Friday we headed out to Gambril Mountain State park to do a mellow mountain bike. My legs felt pretty heavy and sluggish from the drive. I didn't like that feeling, but convinced myself that's standard for post-long drive, but it was hard to push aside the thoughts of how good I felt a week ago - strong, loose, ready to go - if only I felt that good for this weekend. I did loosen up by the end of the ride and started to shake out the long ride feel and the not sleeping in my own bed stiffness. Spent some time seeing the sights and got some delicious tapas at a Spanish restaurant in town for dinner.

Saturday, we were up reasonably early and hit the road for Shenandoah. The weather forecast was looking great - upper 70s, partly cloudy and dry. It had been dry for a while down there and the trails were wicked dusty. I don't typically wear shades when I mountain bike but I'm certainly going to invest in a set of clear lenses very soon...like before Tahoe (ok, maybe I'll just use my yellow tinted ones, something about any tint to them throws me off on the trails). We wanted to get to the campground that the race is staged from at a decent time to get a good camp spot up in the wooded section, which we managed to do, barely - lots of folks there already. We set up camp and then went back into Harrisonburg to wander around the town and grab an early dinner, which ended up being another local brew pub with some very yummy dishes. I wish I had gotten what Doug got, it sounded so heavy and fattening and not good pre-race food but it wasn't that bad, and certainly much tastier than my chicken pasta dish that I mostly just ate the chicken out of and had hoped for more veges in the mix, oh well.

We head back to the campground and pickup our race packs, get our bikes ready and head out for a mellow 1/2 hr ride to get the legs moving again. On the way back through the campground we stopped at my friend/best bike mechanic Brian's tent spot. He had come down to race along with Brian Jr. and Karen, his girlfriend, had come down for support. So we just start chatting and Brian notices my bolt is sticking out on the rear suspension link. We take a closer look and the bolt is gone! Ugh.. When Brian gets a certain look, I know it's not a good sign. I stayed calm hoping we would have no problem finding a bolt, right? Wrong. Of course it's a very specific bolt size etc. and he hadn't brought much with him in the way of tools and spare parts. Brian was trying to think of something to use to fix it. I went off and asked the race director if he might know of someone who could help and pointed to Thomas of Shenandoah bicycle http://www.shenandoahbicycle.com/index.php who was trying to come up with possible ideas. He wanted to see what the nut looked like to make sure there wasn't some we were missing or something special to it. I hunted around the campground for someone else with another 2009 epic and finally found one and went back to hunt down Thomas to show him the epic. It was sounding bad as far as getting the right bolt size and it holding. He said he might be able to come up with something back at the shop but it wouldn't happen until late in the evening.

In the meantime, Karen offered up her mountain bike for me to ride - it was a 2007 epic just my size and mostly set up similar to mine. I got lucky she brought it with her as she said she was going back and forth on bringing that or her road bike. Since the probability of fixing my epic was sounding too iffy and too last minute I opted to pull some parts off my bike and get hers ready to go. So off camp my seatpost, pedals, bike computer, number plate, bottle cage and pump... I would have loved to have my wheelset and tires but her disc brakes were too different than mine to get them to mesh easily. So, I was ok with and had stayed surprisingly calm. I finally got back to the tent and ate a bit of food and hit the sack, and then nerves kicked in and I had a hard time falling asleep.

Up at 5, ugh.. at least it was relatively mild out. I had being cold waiting around to start. Down some oatmeal and espresso finish getting ready and head down to the start area, one last pit stop and then it's time to get going. There were a lot of very strong women in the race. I was trying not to let it get to me at the start line. It's a long race. I just get through the start, which is a tight, narrow road dirt road start out of the campground. I hung on Doug's wheel out of the start area since he's a roadie and better at holding lines etc. It was a fast start once we got on the road and into the first dirt road climb. I was already starting to miss my bike severely when the borrowed one was feeling really sluggish for the effort I was putting out. I thought it was funny I used to love riding kenda nevegals but these sucked now, energy sucking sucked. I tried to let it go. Then somewhere on the top of that climb and first part of the descent there's some very rocky, sharp rocky singletrack that I managed to slice the sidewall of the rear tire. It didn't flat completely but was soft enough to wash some on the corners and certainly didn't want to go when you pedaled hard. I was getting passed by so many people. I stopped at the first aid station 10 miles in to use a pump there but it was useless and I had to pull mine off my bike to pump up the tire. I knew it was probably fruitless and I should just change the tube. I think at that point I hadn't seen the cut in the sidewall. I got back on and headed down the road only for it to go soft again... ugh... I stop again to put air in. Got going again, soft again and this time when I stop I see the cut and basically go "fu---" as that can be pretty race ending. I decided it was time to probably try to put a new tube in or something and thankfully Brian had caught up to me by this point, so he stopped and helped me out. I had broken a spoke too. We put a patch in and hoped it would hold. It took a bit of time, but not too bad. Back on the bike, but it still felt sluggish to me...way too much work/effort for the speed I was getting out of it. We get into the first big singletrack climb and now I'm trying to pass people walking their bikes which takes a lot of effort, after doing this a bit the tire is going soft again!!!! Brian had also witnessed the shifting issue that when I shifted into the largest cog in back it would drop the chain on the inside. Anyway, I stopped to put air again, get passed by all the racers I just got passed... tried to get going again but this section sucks in a bad train unfortunately, since it was pretty dry it was much more rideable than in other years, but not with everyone already walking it so walking it was for a good portion of it. I somehow managed to get down the mountain without totally flatting the tire and risking ruining the rim. I couldn't really go fast on the downhill without washing out of hte corners though so more time wasted. I was thinking I was done this race unless they actually had a tire at Aid Station 2.

I make it out onto the pavement road section into Aid Station 2 but it's a long ways still and I'm going now where fast on this soft tire. It was terrible. I could see my heartrate being pretty high and knowing i was expending a ton of energy but not gaining much by it. Other racers would pass me and say "looks like you're nursing a flat" and I'm like, I know, believe me I know.... I couldn't believe I was going to have dnf another Shenandoah. It would be a cursed race for me (I had to dnf last year due my knee injury). I knew I still had Tahoe next weekend and would certainly be fresh for it if I had to bail on this race now, but I didn't want my finishing the series to rely upon Tahoe, that or having to have a good finish there either. Anyway, I finally make it to aid station and ask loudly "does anyone have a tire", to which I just get mostly blank stares, and now I'm like, oh 'fu*^*&".. but one of the mechanics at the aid station holds up a tire and I'm like sweet... although I'm so far back now it's not even funny. Brian is still at the aid station so he adjusted the rear derailer limit screws so it wouldnt drop the chain on the inside of the cassette. It took forever for the tire change though. I wasn't going to complain since I was still going to be able to hopefully finish this race. Finally, 3 1/2 hrs into this race I'm leaving Aid Station 2 with Brian thinking, I didn't drop lights, like this might take me that long if that effort to aid station 2 really tapped me. I also just lost Karen's fancy tire valve cap (well, I didn't lose it particularly, but I won't point fingers)..
anyway, I was on my way again on a much better rolling tire thank god. I started to put the hammer down, well as much as one can for a 100 mile race, and got going up the next huge climb. I was feeling ok, but definitely know I expended some serious energy pushing that flat for so long. The downhill of this mountain is sooo sweeet!!! Oh so much fun. I was finally having some fun. And then I went to pass this guy who had pulled aside for me and my right inner leg cramped... oh, f*&(&( you've got to be kidding me.. so I tried to shake it out still on the bike to some degree of success and then the left leg goes... ahhh!!!! I suck it up and push through it and manage to get them to subside. I make into Aid Station 3 and quickly ask for some electrolyte tabs and down like a gazzilion and then ask for some more to take with me but don't really have anywhere to store them so I down those too.. I go hunt for my bike since they awesome aid station people will take your bike for you and lube the chain etc... it is truly nice, well run race (I'm being serious).. Anyway, onward I go. There's a long road section and I see a rider up ahead and hurry up to get on his wheel and work with him and then a small group for a bit and then they slow down so I head off on my own still trying to make up time. Next big climb is kind of a fun singletrack climb to me, although it can be a bitch, especially when it's wet, but I like singletrack better than roads. Also, this was where my knee started to hurt me last year so I was quite psyched to be riding it this time around. I've mostly been picking off riders all the way through aid station 4. I was very happy heading out of Aid Station 4 still on my bike, feeling, but not in the sag wagon this year :)

Onward to the big climb, which is preceded by this ridiculously never ending dirt road section that every time a car goes by another year of your lungs is gone and you can't see anything for a long time from all the dust that gets kicked up...and it goes on and on.. I remembered from the first year doing this race that that's what it does and it can totally break you before you get to Shenandoah Mountain. I actually get excited to take the turn up the mountain as it's something different, but after about 200 yards, it's like, oh, yeah, this sucks... but you push those thoughts out your head. I was trying to calculate my finish time based on where i was and was thinking I was doing not too shabby considering all the time I lost early on. Maybe I'd get in 10 1/2 hrs instead of the 11+ I originally was thinking this race was going to be. I make it up to Aid Station 5 where Karen had volunteered and she was like what happened... she figured something was up when i wasn't up there with the top women riders. So I gave the shortened version of what happened. She said Brian Jr was about 15 minutes up and Doug was about 25 up. I was thinking poor Doug must have thought I dnf'd getting hurt or some mechanical since I hadn't caught up to him yet. I was thinking it would be tough to gain that amount of time in 25 miles. But I got going. The top of this climb just keeps going and going... you go through a small field and think, yes, this is the last one of those and then you get to another one that looks like the last one and think this is it.. but nope... so you tell yourself not to think about it.
I passed a few more women and finally catch up to Brian Jr before heading down to Aid Station 6. He did smoking fast time -he's got a lot of talent riding that strong with like a month of riding in him this year - holy cow!!!

I couldn't remember how long of a road section it was into Aid Station 6 after coming down the big mountain but you turn out from the trail and it's like right around the corner. I was like sweet.. I needed to use the outhouse. As i pull in there's a woman just about to head out. I thought maybe i can catch her, after I go... I get back on the bike and try to close the gap but to little success...damn.. I can see her ahead the whole time on the last climb and keep thinking maybe I can catch her on the downhilll.. yeah.. I can also see a jersey up ahead that look's like Doug's. I keep plugging along, feeling pretty much to my limit. I was going to come in pretty close to 10 hrs which I was kind of amazed at but also kind of frustrated at as I would have had a smoking time without all the issues. I finally caught up to Doug who had just let the women pass. He had said before starting the race that all my bad luck was behind me... so I said to him as I passed... "my bad luck wasn't over"... and he said it was good hear my voice since he thought I had dnf'd or something. I tried hard to catch the woman up ahead. We hit a downhill singletrack and I let it rip.. even for my standards.. and she let me by but was pretty much on my tail still and then we came out on a dirt road section before the final descent and she had more legs than I did so that was the end of that... I came into the finish in 9th which was great considering the problems. I was happy to have finished the series at least and for the time being was able to push aside the frustration with all that had happened.

Doug came in a few minutes and then Brian Jr. We were all a complete mess - darkened legs and arms from all the dirt and football looking eyes.. silly. I wish I got a picture of that before cleaning up. Post-race it always kind of funny. You' just don't know what you want to do first or what you want to eat and can't seem to do anything orderly. But it felt good to kick back. I was pretty hurting from putting out a huge effort, certainly felt like the biggest effort on one of these 100 milers to me this year. I've been a tad worried about that for going into Tahoe this Saturday. After cleaning up we grabbed some post-race eats and beer. Brian Sr had just finished up and he would have had a smoking time too if he hadn't stopped to help me so many times !!! Thanks Brian!!!! and Karen for letting me ruin her bike!!!! I had to find Thomas to get my bolt back from him, kind of wishing that I had taken my chances with the fix and riding my bike, but I couldn't do anything about that now. But thank you, THomas, very much for helping me out. Doug and I had stopped in his shop when we were in Harrisonburg - very nice shop.
We decided to head back to Frederick that night which was a good idea since I had to get back home Monday and that would have meant a really long day on monday. I was cooked and starting to feel the disappointment and frustration of the days events. I'm glad i was able to push that all aside while I was out there as it would have made the day a very very miserable day otherwise. He asked me I was going to call home to see how Bruschi (my dog) was doing at my folks and I was like, I can't, I'll cry now when my mom asks me how the race went since I had wanted it to go so well and could have gone so well. But I eventually dozed off a bit. It was nice to get in a take a shower and hit the sack. We went out for breakfast before I had to hit the road home. I think I gave myself a concussion getting into his suv... i just couldn't seem to time my ducking down under the door well enough, and wump... ouch... maybe that was why I was so brain dead driving home and today. All the dust made me really congested and my eyes were killing. It was a tough drive home in that regard. So that's my excuse for not writing last night -concussion (j/k) and I couldn't keep my eyes open, and still barely can. My legs tightened up on the drive home too, I'm hoping a couple good nights sleep here and I'll be good to go again. Of course last night, I just starting ruminating about how good I could have finished. I looked over my heart rate data and saw that I stopped for ~45 minutes dealing with the tire and add on the slowed down pace... and wasted energy on the soft tire.. man.. I could have been sub-9hr race... gotta let that go, gotta let it go... mechanicals are bound to happen at some point, and honestly, I have been pretty lucky for the most part racing for 10 years, so what can you do.

I did start to get more anxious about getting my bike fixed in time for Tahoe. I basically have to have it all set by Wed evening. I called the local Specialized Rep, Jim Mercier, to ask for his help getting the bolt and he got back to me on my drive home - very kind of him, to help out a stressing out racer... he said it shouldn't be a problem getting the part through Bike Alley or overnighting it from Specialized. (I was kind of thinking worst case was they send the part to the shop in Reno where Doug shipped his bike to and put it together there Cali to Reno not so far, Cali to Mass very far..). Jim said he'd call Neil at Bike Alley and let him know I'd be looking for the bolt. I called Bike Alley to see if they were open on Labor Day, but no.. so first thing today, I called.. and Neil's not in till noon, what I can't resolve this till noon.. let it go, let it go..
But he called back in a short bit and said he had another epic in the store that he could take the part from till one came in from specialized since I needed to get going to the next race. Awesome... Doug had took a picture of the link where the bolt had to go so I sent it to Neil to make sure we were talking about the same thing and yes.. it would be all set... straight to the bike shop post-work. Thanks a million!!! Tomorrow it will be back to Brian's to get my parts back from karen's bike and then the bike packed up to fly out with me to Tahoe on Thursday. Woo hoo... I have to admit, I am wiped though. I postponed a client of mine tonight that I felt terrible about doing. I hope that my getting to sleep in these next two days is enough time to recover as I need a good race out there now.. rrrrgggg... here I come.


(sorry for typos and maybe unclear ramblings.. like I said, I'm pooped)

1 comment:

  1. Gosh, Karen, what a race. Makes ME tired. I can't imagine how you felt. Hope Tahoe was everything this one wasn't.
    Love the shot of Bruschi!