Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The 101

The Wilderness 101, which starts and ends in Coburn, PA, is one of the better ultra endurance mtb races around. I think this is true because of the promoter, Chris Scott, and the amount of work that he and all of his volunteers do to prepare the course and everything they also do to help all of the racers during the race. The support they all provide is unmatched. Additionally, the terrain of the race is both beautiful and challenging. There is some gnarly rocky single track on the course, but primarily many fire roads and jeep trails that take the racers on one big loop in the mountains east of State College, PA.
Since the 101 is one of the longest standing 100 mile mtb races around and because it also has such good support, the race usually has a really good turnout and also a strong field of fast riders show up. This year 280 riders started the event, with pretty much all of the NUE Series Point Leaders in attendance, too. My goal, was to finish in the top five, especially after how good I felt at Nationals the weekend prior to this race. Not much time had elapsed after the start, though, when I knew that my goal would not be achieved.
The race has a controlled start out of Coburn to the first major climb of the day, about 2 miles into the race. A funny note about the controlled roll out was that SteveO was yelled at by some mountain biker chick for not riding smoothly in the large pack of racers. I was riding next to him at this time and had to chuckle, knowing that Steve has probably more current pack riding experience than most of the riders in there and because what the girl was yelling about made no sense. So, anyway, we get to the first climb and like last year, Gorski and I go to the front to set tempo up the climb. I like to do this early because it does help get rid of my I’ve gotta pee feeling that I typically have at the start of many races.
It was probably about part way up the climb that Christian Tanguy decided to take control of the pace that Andy and I were riding. The speed increased from like 11mph to over 15mph on the climb real quick. Soon after Tanguy’s move, Jeff Shalk made the decision to throw his horsepower into the front of the pack also. I did my best to hang-on to the pace, but it was way too much way too early and so I backed off to watch these two riders along with about 6 others ride away. I ended-up in the next group over the mountain, which contained about 10 racers. We all worked pretty good together and at about ten miles into the race, I actually saw a glimpse of the lead group ahead and had hope that maybe we could catch them. Unfortunately, our group of ten started to splinter pretty quickly in the single track and on the climbs that followed, so catching the leaders would never occur.
Then, to make matters worse, I noticed that my rear tire was going flat as I rode into check point two. It was definitely a convenient place for the tire to go low, but the repair still cost me valuable time and also the ability to work with other riders. After the repair, I left check point two alone and started to chase down riders in front of me. Unfortunately, it was probably less than 10 miles after the check point that my rear tire went flat again and this time required a slower in the woods tube change. The repair was definitely made easier, though, by a nice concrete patio at a camping cabin that I found along the course to use for my change. I figured that by doing this that I would not lose any parts and that it would also give me a convenient step to hold up my bike while the wheel was off. Strangely enough, after changing my second flat, my legs started to feel like they finally wanted to race and so one by one I started catching riders before check point three. I did, however, have to stop one more time before the third check point to fix another mechanical….a loose bottle cage. Luckily, the bolts that had completely come unscrewed did not fall out all together along the trail someplace.
Soon after leaving check point three, I caught my friend and the Bronze Medal Winner at the US Cycling MTB Nationals for the Master Men 35-39 Age Class from Mt Snow, Justin Pokrivka. After that, it was not until check point four that I saw another rider, Steve Cummings. Disappointingly, my friend Steve did not hang on to the pace very long and so I was left alone again. It was not until right before check point five that I was able to catch another rider, Andy Gorski. Since Andy is my teammate, we worked together for a little while after check point five. We were told that another rider was about two minutes up on us, so we put the hammer down to catch him. The next rider we caught was another NUE Series Contender, Michael Simonson, at the base of the last major climb. I ended-up getting to the top of the last climb alone, did the final descent and then rode into the finish in 10th place overall and 9th in the open men’s class, finishing in 7 hours and 37 minutes.
I was definitely a little bummed about my flats and bottle cage mechanical, but in reality the repairs probably only cost me about 10-15 minutes of race time…not enough to achieve my top 5 goal anyway. I soon forgot about my race problems when the post race cookout started and the conversation with many of my friends at the race starting flowing. It is always interesting to hear everyone’s personal battles and race stories, especially for such a demanding course like the 101.
I am going to the beach this weekend with my family and probably will not be racing again very soon because of my work schedule, but I will be sure to post some stories on the blog anyway. In the meantime, happy trails to everyone. - Gerry

1 comment:

Jason said...

Great finish Gerry. Nothing like a rattling bottle cage to drive one insane.