I am definitely not up to par with blogging as I was last year. I knew I should have just written the race report when I got home Sunday evening, as that is usually when the recounting of the race weekend flows best. But, I procrastinated. And well, it's a week later.
This racing year has been a bit off for me. I was feeling a tad burned out from the long season last year and to keep things fresh, I had hoped to do all new races this season or at least mix it up a bit more but that was not in the cards. And life has been very busy this year, all in good ways for the most part. I also had hoped I would come off my disappointing crash at the stage race and be on fire for the rest of the season since following up on the Stoopid 50 race I have had month to get some good, hard training in.
My training had gotten better finally despite seeming to be burning the envelope at both ends for too long. My last big training weekend a couple weekends out from the 101 felt great. It was a lot of hours in the saddle, hard rides with lots of climbing and hot and humid conditions to boot. I felt great pretty good Sunday evening, but then I started to go downhill. I ignored the signs until Tuesday I could my throat was so sore it hurt to drink or eat anything. I had a fever and felt like crap :( I went to my doctors and got tested for strep, which came back negative but my doctor still had me go on antibiotics since my throat looked so terrible. The drugs helped a lot but I was more wiped out then I cared to admit. So it was all easy riding if any at all coming into the 101.
I find it semi ironic that I got sick before this race as it's my first 100 of the season. I thought I made it through the spring for once without getting the pre-race season sickness. Guess it just got delayed this year. It also felt a bit odd to finally be getting around to my first 100 of the season. I was hoping to be 'fresh' but the lack of ultra long endurance in my legs had me a bit worried.
I drove down to Coburn PA on Friday and stayed with some friends right around the corner from the race venue. It's such a beautiful, tranquil setting - a gentle river across the street, horses in the field out behind the house. I felt really relaxed which was awesome. Brenda and Lee Simril were staying there as well and they had just come back from a warm-up ride when I arrived. I settled in quickly and hopped on my bike to stretch the legs out. They didn't feel good at all. I tried to brush it off as a post-massage day and just driving for 6 hours feeling. They'll be ok tomorrow...I hope. It was very muggy out but I like the heat and humidity so it didn't bother me too much.
I got back and picked up my race number and fixed up my drop bags for the Aid Stations. I ran into a bunch of friends in line and chatted for a bit until some very intense dark clouds came whipping and I hurried back to my friend's place. I showered up and decided it was dinner time, which I had brought my own food so as not to be tempted by the tasty beer at the local brewery/restaurant. I chatted some with Brenda and Lee and then just rested in bed finishing up a Harry Potter book (finally getting around to reading the series). I was in bed pretty early but fell asleep and had the best night's sleep before a 100 miler. This was great. The 5:00 a.m. alarm wasn't annoying. Although, I did finally get that, holy crap, what am I about to go do feeling, but I know how to do this now and I know I can get through the race. What I don't know is how much fun or how little it will be until I'm out there.
I eat a couple pieces of toast for breakfast and drink some espresso. My stomach felt a bit off which was disconcerting but what can you do. I finished getting ready and onto my bike. I rode down the street a bit to get the legs moving and headed over to the start. I stayed close up to the front of the pack this time so the mass start didn't feel quite so hectic although it is still nerve-wracking riding in a tight group of mountain bikers. It's a neutral start for the first couple of miles and then we take a left and start up a gradual dirt road climb and the pack starts to spread out and form small groups by the top. I felt ok here at the start. I kind of had in my head to try to go hard and see how long I could sustain that but that's always a fine line or maybe a thick line but once you go too far over it, it can be a tough to come back.
As I neared the top of the climb I eyed a few guys ahead of me to hop on their wheel to take advantage of drafting for the long dirt road opening of this race. I eventually caught up to another woman, Kristin, and she was trying to get the group organized into a pace line to keep the speed high. It felt like way too much work and never quite panned out. We caught up to Vicki as well and she hung on the back of our group playing it smart and not pulling through. I took some turns up front feeling semi-obligated since Kristin was pulling a lot but in the back of my head I knew it was foolish and I should be saving my legs for the much harder climbing coming later on. We kind of backed off a bit but it was still a pretty good effort.
We made it to the first aid station together and up the next long climb and descent together trading positions. But once we popped back out on a dirt road climb that gets a bit steep my legs were already started to fade and Vicki and Kristin rode away. It was hard not to feel sorry for myself at that point. I do tend to start strong, fade and then finish strong. How strong I finish depends on how in my head I get in the middle of the race. I just kept pedaling as that was all you can do. I was bummed with already feeling it though.
Eventually I make it to the first singletrack section. I am all fumbles as it is slick from yesterdays storms and the humidity was super thick so not much dried out. I usually like singletrack but it seems to take me a some time to remember how to ride the ragged, rugged tough trails in Central PA. I got it down by the end of the race. I forgot how hard some of the climbs are in this race. They are super steep, even the dirt roads. I felt like I was going backwards on some of them. Not even half-way through, a couple men passed me and warned me that Brenda was lurking. She and Lee passed me on a tough singletrack descent. Man I wish I had a dualie with a drop seat post too :) But I have my nice fast, light hardtail. I have at least learned to ride the descents so that they don't kill my hands quite as much. My triceps were still probably as sore as my legs though post-race.
More long dirt road sections in the middle of the race. I mostly keep out of my head but somewhat by giving myself an out for the 100s. I know I need a break from doing these. I dont' have to go do Shenandoah even though I'm signed up. I know I can't make that decision while I'm out there not feeling great. I plug along, and along. Funny, but for once I actually stay near a single speeder racer who I was with from early in the race. Usually that's not the case, but it makes for some new 'familiar' faces on the race scene.
While I didn't feel terrible, I didn't feel great. I figured the fact that finishing up antibiotics the day before a 100 miler probably plays a factor in that even though I did sleep well. I finally get through Aid Station 4. I dread the next long climb out of there but just tell myself again, all you can do is keep pedaling. Finally the top is near and I descend towards the bridge that took me out at the stage race. It is not as slick as it was that day but man seeing it again, I realized how hard I went down and how far I really did slide across that thing. Pretty crazy.
Not too long after that I notice my cable rubbing on my front tire. I'm like, odd?! And try to figure out if it got pulled through funny. Then I realize my fork is feeling really hard and rigid and it's not locked out. I look down and it's completely compressed. Uh oh. I figured I blew it out. So now I'm riding leaning forward too much. I keep pedaling figuring I was 80 miles in and could hopefully make it to the finish, albeit probably really beat up. I still had the Panther Run Road downhill ahead of me which sucks even with a working fork. This is the dirt road I tore my tire on last year so I already had bad vibes about it. I finally stop to see if I can pull the fork out some and least not be leaning over so much. I manage to get about half of it back and lock it out there and thankfully it stayed there. It was a harsh ride on the short pieces of singletrack.
As I approached Panther Run, I decided I would try unlocking my fork and see if it might by luck work. If it didn't, I would just stop and pull it back out and deal with it rigid. It thankfully worked but was only using about 1/2 the travel. It was better than nothing. I made it down. That's a terrible section. I get into the last aid station and ask for a shock pump thinking I lost air in the fork, but it was at the correct pressure so something else had gone in the fork. I know I can make it 11 miles from there.
I worked with the same singlespeeder until the last climb. I tried to push it up the climb for a bit to stay with him but he pulled away. I was definitely feeling my legs then. I get over the top and it's one more nasty trail section, Fisherman's trail, which even if I were completely fresh, it would still be difficult to ride the entire trail. I tried to ride it still and crashed, not hard, but I just couldn't unclip. So I hoof it a ways and then get back on and manage to ride the rest of it. It's flat rail trail from there pretty much but it feels like forever. And I could hear some rumbling and the sky darkened. A few minutes later it's pouring. I didn't care that much as I was totally disgustingly sweaty all day. My new race kit usually dries out pretty fast but not in today's humidity. The rain just motivated me to work harder to get this race done and I did in 8'21" in 5th place.
The women's field is definitely getting more competitive. For how I was feeling, my time was faster than I would have anticipated finishing in. I was kind of bummed being in 5th, but all the women ahead of me are super fast, in great shape and just excellent racers. That's racing. I can't beat myself up too badly about, 1st 100 for the season, coming off of being sick, fork issues, just a busy busy year and some serious lack of motivation to go out there and keep suffering as such so those are my excuses :) But 8'21...is really pretty good.
I enjoyed myself post race and had a few delicious beers. I chatted away with all the amazing people you meet at these races. It really truly is a great community of people. I eventually wandered back to my friends and caught some olympics. I watched as Michael Phelps came in 4th to Ryan Lochte and how much I could relate even not being anywhere near the superstar status as Phelps. It is the interesting aspect of racing, the drive, the motivation, the training, etc. There is more to it than just pedaling...but in the end, you can only get to the finish line by keeping pedaling.
Couple more 100s on tap this year and some fun local races. I think next year, to keep my sanity, will definitely be shorter races - like 50s or 6hr races. That's just about when it all starts to hurt more than you want it to.