September 11, 2010
Having done the 50-mile Tahoe/Sierra race last year, I was a little familiar with the terrain and course. Well, maybe half of the course anyway. I was really nervous going into the 100-mile this year because I knew how tough it was, and I have never ridden that far at one time before. Sure, we ride 95-100 miles at 24-hour races, but that is with a teammate and swapping laps each time - never riding more than an hour or hour and a half at a time, and spread out over 24 hours. This was a little different. For one thing this is a solo-only race. My usual partner in crime had another important event to attend, so it was just me flagging the Team Trail Hounds colors. Two buddies from last year were there again for the 100-mile this year, and we really enjoyed hanging out at the cabin where we stayed.
The weather was *perfect*. It was cold in the early morning, but warmed up nicely by late morning and never got over about 72 degrees. Crystal-clear blue skies the entire day, which made a perfect backdrop to the scenic mountains. Problem was, there was never really any time to enjoy the view.
The course...well, where do I start. There was a lot of beat-up fire road, some REALLY beat-up single track, a little pavement, some smooth gravel roads, and some sweet single track. Oh, and climbing...there was lots and lots of climbing. I was chatting with one guy that said "they managed to make the entire course UPhill!"
There was heavy logging in some areas, which made for very powdery roads with lots of rocks. Rocks, rocks, rocks...everywhere. Big rocks, little rocks, and rocks in-between. Some sections were hike-a-bike due to the roughness of the trail, some were just too steep and/or too loose. Maybe some of the pros rode that stuff, but I sure didnít see anyone that did.
I crashed very early on - within the first mile which was nice. It was hard to see in the crowd, I hit a big rock right in the middle of the trail and down I went. Nothing serious, scrapes and scratches, and I didnít lose much time. Other than that, I had no real physical problems - I did have a slight cramp in my left hamstring, it would move down to the upper knee, then back up, but was not unbearable. That stayed with me the entire race.
The aid stations along the way were TOP drawer. The Mad Cat Road 43 aid station, which we saw twice due to the course layout, was the best. They took absolutely wonderful care of all the racers...lubed chains, filled water bottles, even had special "tacos" with bacon and potatoes. I can't say enough good things about these folks. I think the race would be nearly impossible for most people without these aid stations.
At one point on a long smooth section, a roadie-looking rider pulled up next to me and we struck up a conversation. We chatted it up a little while, then he zoomed away, saying over his shoulder "Well I'll see you on the next dowhhill!". I wasnít sure what he meant, but a couple of hours later, I found that same rider standing on the side of the trail, at the top of a particularly nasty, narrow, rocky chute-like descent. He looked terrified. I asked if he was okay, he just said "Yeah, I'm just really tired". I offered some words of encouragement and bounced on down the chute. I did see that rider at the finish, maybe an hour after I got back. That course was definitely *not* for everyone.
I felt pretty strong toward the end - after about mile 40, I did some math and figured out I should have no problem beating the 14-hour cutoff barring a mechanical or major crash. After that, it became a matter of ticking off the miles - passing the halfway point around mile 47 was pretty big. Then for some reason mile 70 was nice, but at mile 73 I could say "LESS than 20 miles". After mile 80, I started counting backwards ("13 to go...", etc).
The last aid station was at the bottom of the last climb, and 10 miles from the finish. At that point I started really hoping for a sub-12 hour finish. It would be hard, but possible and I still felt pretty strong, so started hammering the climb as best I could. I also started draining my Camelbak into the dirt because I knew I wouldnít need to drink it, and wanted to shed weight. I passed several people huffing up the hill that were not happy campers, and finally hit the last 2.5 mile single track through the Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Area. It was going to be close! I thought I needed to get back by 6:30pm, but we had an extra 2 minutes as the 50-milers went off at 6:30am exactly, then the 100's 2 minutes later. I rounded the last corner and had the finish line in sight, and just sprinted with every ounce of whatever I had left. Crossed at 6:28pm! Sweet. Dale & Bud were waiting for me, which was a tremendous site for sore eyes (sore eyes, legs, back, arms, etc etc).
12,985 feet of climbing
11 hours 4 minutes in the saddle (well, mostly)
Official race completion time: 11:56
11th place out of 38 in my category
Garmin profile: connect.garmin.com/activity/48774788
Bike: Specalized Stumpjumper FSR 29er, running WTB Wolverine 2.2 on the front, Specialized Captain 2.2 on the back, both at 34 psi pressure.
For me, I could not possibly do something like this without the support of my family. Thinking about my son really kept me going, and seeing him and Dale at the end was huge. This event is very, very physical, make no mistake, but there is also a huge mental component. Keeping your spirits up, attitude straight, and just keeping going took everything I had, but I can safely say I left it all out there.
Next year? I donít know yet...ask me in a couple weeks.
Next up - Whiskeytown 24 October 2.
Written by Cris Flint, Team Trail Hounds