Yeah! A good 100 miler... I felt good, had good legs, had a good time (even on one of my lesser favorite courses) and came in 2nd in 8:15!
So, a month off from racing was probably a good idea to regroup and get refreshed. I wasn't sure what to expect coming into this race as sometimes time off is good and sometimes not. That's the way of racing I guess. Training had gone pretty well heading into the race. I had put on some new tires, WTB Woleverines which I won at the Transylvania Stage Race, that I've been pretty happy with as far as rolling resistance and grip goes. I got back to handlebar grips I'm happy with and just other minor bike adjustments so things should be good. And the weather forecast for race day couldn't be better - sunny, dry and low 80s! Pefect!!! The past couple of years the course has been a tad wet or at least the numerous rocks have been "sweating" which make them nearly impossible to ride a good line through them.
I drove down on Friday coming off a pretty "normal" week which was nice, instead of being crazy busy and stressed out. Traffic was fine except the stupid Pennsylvania highway construction just south of Wilkes-Barre, a few miles before getting onto Rt 80, where you go from 4 lanes to 1 in oh a mile... sucko! I was about to get off the highway and figure out another way to get down to 80 but thought, oh, it doesn't look too bad... 20 minutes later, 3 miles later, I'm on 80... but I was making good time so no worries. I got off of 80 quite a ways east of Coburn and much more east than I have taken in the past but I figure I had driven enough highway by that point that a nice country highway through the beautiful farmlands would be nice and it was... drove through a couple really quaint towns... I think Pennsylvania is growing on me.
I arrive at my cabin about 3ish and check in. The crew from Bike Barn, a shop in Whitman, MA, were all staying at a house there as well so I got to see all them (buddies I rode with a lot in the winters down on Cape Cod (when they don't get hammered with snow). I then drove the 3 miles to the race site and to register and get a warm-up ride in. It was a beautiful day out Friday as well. I ran into the same group from Pittsburgh who have an adorable black pug, Mia, so I could get my "pug fix" while away from Bruschi :) I hopped on my bike and rode up the first climb of the race and was feeling, happily, pretty good. I even got a "view" shot in part way up. After getting back from my warm-up ride, I finished getting my bike ready for race day and headed back to my cabin to eat, hang out with some old friends, and hit the sack relatively early. I was feeling pretty relaxed, but it was still tough to sleep well, which is usually the case the night before a big race. I thankfully had slept well the previous nights so I didn't get too stressed about it.
Up at 5AM, eat and .... and.. wait till it's time to head to the race site and then make sure everything is all set with the bike and that I have with me what I need for tools, fuel etc. It was pretty cool in the morning and I hate being cold so I was probably 1 of like 300 who wore arm warmers despite climbing within a few miles of the start of the race. I was catching up with my competition, Cheryl, Selene, Brenda pre-race and then all of sudden we were off. It's a "neutral" start for a couple miles then we take the left up the dirt road climb that starts to separate everyone out. I was feeling pretty good still but it took me a bit to really warm up. I got up the climb pretty well sitting in about 4th place and by the top was in 3rd. I got into a good "train" to draft and hung with that group for a while and we eventually caught up to the group teammates, Cheryl and Selene were in. We were all in a group working together until the first aid station at ~20 miles in. It was there that Cheryl took off and I was back and forth with Selene for a while. I was happy with myself that I wasn't letting myself get stressed about riding so close together with my "competition". I was just happy to be feeling pretty good so far and just hanging with them and reminding myself that it was so early in the race still.
I ending up passing Selene for good when I noticed she that her saddle bag had come undone and was hanging down almost hitting her rear tire. I told her it was coming off so she stopped to fix it and I didn't see her again after that, although, I kept anticipating her catching on again at any point. From there I just rode steady and within my pace. I was feeling pretty good most of the race which was so nice compared to the first 100 milers this year. I found myself actually looking around and enjoying the scenery some. I got lucky coming off trail sections and being able to grab onto a wheel to draft for most of the first half of the race. By the second half of the race we were pretty spread out and drafting was pretty non-existent at the point. I'd occasionally get updates that Cheryl was ~2-5 minutes up. I just kept trying to ride my pace and if I caught her, I caught, and if I didn't, I didn't. She's an amazingly strong rider. I was having a good race and enjoying and that was my goal.
I was finding it interesting how much of the course I had "blocked out" or was confusing with other courses. Coming into Aid Station 5, I was like, no, it can't be coming up that soon. I must have forgotten about some other trail or climb we have to do before hitting it, but nope, I was there and in amazingly fast time and still feeling pretty. I knew there was one more pretty good climb and one technical trail section but otherwise, I was home free... yippee. I started up the climb and passed one racer who was happy to be on the last climb as well but worried about cramping. I offered him my electrolyte tabs but he didn't want them so I scurried on. I was thinking, wow, so this is what it feels like to have some legs left at the end of one of these races, but the climb kept going on... but it was certainly not the hardest in the race. I made it over the top and was trying to calculate my finish time and was pretty excited about how fast it was going to be. I pedaled hard from that point as it was a motivating factor, and thankfully so as 3rd and 4th place weren't too far behind. Brenda (3rd) had caught Vicki (4th) in this last stretch hammering it to get a couple minutes ahead of her... thankfully I had enough of a gap by that point... I crossed the finish line quite pleased with 2nd and in a smoking fast time! Yeah! I was about to say that it was the first time being quite pleased to finish there but the 1st year doing this race my legs cramped big time about 60 miles in and I didn't think I'd be able to finish and when I saw the finish line that year, I was quite ecstatic if I recall correctly...
anyway, it was nice to have a good race, the body was there, the head was there and it all worked this time. It was good to catch up with friends/fellow suffers and make new friends, get my "pug" fix... I think most racers felt this year's 101 went pretty well, mostly on account of it being so dry so that the super technical rocky trails weren't quite so obnoxious. My hands and arms were killing, don't get me wrong. I think some of the downhills took more out of me than all the climbing.
Well, hopefully everything will be "on" again for Shenandoah which will be my last 100 for the year. I've had some 'bad' luck there the past two years so... hopefully, I'm due some good luck!!! and good riding, and good mindset, and good legs..