Wednesday, September 5, 2007

SM 100

This weekend found me in the hills of Southwest Virginia participating in the Shenandoah 100. This is one of my favorite races of the year. The atmosphere is great, the trails are just perfect. So going into this the only thing I wanted to do was beat my time from last year which was 12:15 minutes or so. I didn't have too many doubts about finishing since this would have been my fourth race doing 100 miles or more on the mountain bike, plus I'd bee riding around Harrisonburg a lot with my singlespeed.

5:00 AM Wakeup Call

I'm laying in my tent and I have to pee. I don't know what time it is but it's cold and I can't put it off any longer. I crawl out my sleeping bag just in time to hear the famous gong going off. So my timing couldn't have worked out better. I put the coffee pot on and go find the nearest porta potty. I get back, do some last minute checks of my gear and get suited up for a long day of racing.

The Start

I think this was the biggest race yet, almost 500 people I think I heard someone say. I line up somewhere in the middle. Chris Scott is giving some last minute instructions but I can't hear a word he's saying, hopefully it isn't anything important. The next thing I know we are starting to roll out. It's slow going at first until we hit the pavement. With this many people I figured it would be best just to find nice group going my speed and hang in until the first climb.

I break this race down into individual climbs in my head. Here's how it went down.

Climb #1

The first climb is a rolling fireroad up to the Narrowback trail system. We are still bunched up but passing is easy because there is so much room. I settle in to a pace I like and start grinding it out. I see guys that start to look like they are hurting I think to myself that they are in for a long day. We finally get to the top and hit the first bit of singletrack. It's bottle neck just like I thought. I have to dismount and walk a bit, some guys are getting upset but I try not to let their negative vibes get to me. Too much racing to do for that kind of nonsense. We spread out a bit on the downhill and I hit Tillman Road without incident.

Climb #2

The next climb is a hike a bike up Lynn Trail. Some of it's rideable but I don't even bother because of all the traffic going up. There was some bad mojo on the road leading up to the climb as well. First I pass Tim Dougherty, who was in contention for the Single Speed overall win, with a blown up chain tensioner. I stopped and offered help but he said he was good. Second I pass a guy in Trek gear stopped at the side of the trail. I thought to myself, that looks like Chris Eatough, nah can't be. Turns out it was. His rear wheel blew up and he was out for the day. Luckily I make it up to the top unscathed and start the descent. This one is bumpy and I'm taking it kind of easy since I'm on fully rigid bike. I'm seeing a ton of guys with pinch flats and I'm thankful for my tubeless setup. I've already nailed my rear tire hard enough to feel it hit the rim several times. I make it to the bottom with no problems.

Climb #3

I blow through checkpoint #2. I have enough water and food to get me to #3 and I figure I can shave a bit of time off here. At this point Andy passes me on his fixed gear. He's looking pretty strong and I let him go. He's riding a touch faster than me and I tell him that I've found a pace I like and want to save myself for the climb up Hankey. I think this is the hardest climb, it's long and it pitches up steep in a couple of spots. The other thing that sucks about this climb is that there are several false peaks. This is where knowing the course helps. A couple of guys in front and behind me are asking "Is this the top?" Each time I say no. But finally we do reach the top and start probably what is the 2nd best downhill of the course. It's pretty smooth and I can open it up for a fast descent down to CP#3. I re-fuel, get water and start out on what seems like a long paved section up to Climb #4 but I think it's only 5 miles.

Climb #4

The climb up from Mountain House is my weak point, it's not that long but it does pitch up in a couple of spots. I know I can climb about 80% of it because I've done it before but on fresh legs. It's also tough mentally because it's bench cut into the side of the hill and you have to pay attention to your line or you'll ride off the trail. I struggle up the thing and make myself ride the last .5 mile or so but I felt like I walked more than I rode. At the top I stop for second to get my head together to start the downhill. This one is the best of the whole course. Fast and smooth for the most part. I love all these downhills because they are free miles. At the bottom is short ride on mostly flat stuff to CP#4.

Climb #5 Part 1

The route to climb #5 sucks big time. It's all false flat fireroad (try saying that five times fast). False flat in that it has this slight uphill kick that really gets on your nerves. It's long too, not sure how long but it seems to go on forever. This thing really puts the whammy on me mentally and just in time to start grueling fireroad climb up to CP #5. I reach the turn to start the climb and stop to pop some Advil and slam some caffeine laced hammer gel and start the climb. I feel like I'm starting to get my climbing technique dialed in on the single speed. I've figured out that I can alternate between sitting and standing until it gets really steep. When I do have to stand for long periods, I really concentrate on my breathing. I try to get a rhythm going between the down stroke and my breaths. It helps distract me from the pain I'm feeling. I also try not to look up the hill too much, I just concentrate on what's in front of me. All of this helps me make it up to CP#5 with out getting off and walking and that feels good. I slam a bunch of watermelon, top of my waterbottle and camelbak and take off to finish the rest of the climb.

Climb #5 Part 2

Some people probably think of these two climbs as separate but I consider them to be the same climb since it never really backs off. Anyway the climb leaving CP#5 destroyed me last year. It's not that steep but when you have 80 or so miles in your legs it really hurts. This year was completely different. I cleaned the thing without getting off and walking. That felt good. Once again time for another fast downhill. The top of this one is kind of sketchy and I'm on the brakes a lot for the first mile or so. It eventually lets up and I can open it up a bit. There is a cruel joke on this downhill however, two kind of nasty climbs that I have to get off and walk. It's a big surprise if you don't know they're coming. I get to the bottom again incident and I blow past CP#6. With only 12 miles from the finish I have enough stuff to get me to the end. I'm afraid if I stop I will stay too long. I'm already going to miss my 10 hour goal. Maybe 10.5 is still possible.

Climb #6

Climb #6 takes you up Hankey for the 2nd time. The only good news is that you only have to go half way up. I'm using my new climbing techniques and I'm slowly making my way up it when I notice that my handlebar is starting to rotate back on me. This isn't good. I get off and find that it has loosened up on me. This is blessing in disguise as the time it takes me to snug it down lets me recover for a bit. I know I'm getting close to the top because I'm recognizing my landmarks but I'm suffering big time. I finally reach the top and make the left hand turn to the finish but I need to stop because my hear rate is so high and my legs are burning so much that I can't go on.

The Finish

The finish is mostly downhill. I say mostly because there are a few spots where you need to climb a bit and they are pure pain. The first is a short but steep section that I need to walk up. The 2nd is a slight up hill grade that I ride but I'm hating life the whole time. The good news is that once you get past these nasty little buggers the finish line is close. I'm never sure much further it is to go until I see that first campsite pop up out of nowhere. It's the best feeling in the world. I weave my way thorough the camp and roll in at 10 hours and 30 minutes. I finished 22nd out of 60 in the singlespeed class. I think I came in 129th overall. I ring the gong get my beer sit down. Another race in the books.

Next up Terror of Teaberry

60 days until La Ruta

Thanks to:

Vassago Cycles
The Bicycle Escape


Tom said...

Nice work Kevin keep it up! Only 60 days until your racing bikes in the tropics with the spider monkeys.

gmr2048 said...

nice write-up, kev. congrats on another strong finish.


Hmmm.... said...

Hey Kevin

Congrats on the race. You're awesome. :) Hope you had some fun too!

Kevin said...

If I'm suffering I'm having fun :)

namrita o'dea said...

congrats kevin! great read.

Mike said...

As always, great write-up.

gwadzilla said...

good luck at La Ruta

great finish at the SM100!