This was my best 100 yet. After four times riding this race, my focus for the fifth ride was on the fun- try to ride with folks, and keep myself out of the pain cave. Going into the race I had no agenda and no time goal, rather I had a strategy to ride within myself and not suffer by chasing anyone or getting too close to the 'red zone.' With that in mind, I was only 3 minutes off of my best time (last year) coming in at 10:20.
For the duration of the race I rode with or very near CB teammates which really made the day. At the start I got caught off guard by the slightly false start- again, no worries, no chase, just ridin'! I caught up to JJ, Alistair and Mike on Bear Trap Farm Rd., just before the turn into the fire road. They seemed to be debating where I was in the pack, Mike seemed convinced that I was in front of them. We made the turn and my rear wheel immediately gobbled a branch and a bunch of it got jammed in my cassette. I had to hop off and clean that up, again, no worries! I'm just ridin'! Wheaton showed up around the time when I finished cleaning out my wheel, we rode to the first climb together passing Anna wishing her a happy birthday! She was cheery and seemingly enjoying herself, although wishing for a 50 mile version!
Wheaton and I caught up to Mike, passing Alistair and JJ again, and Mike and I rode for a bit, passing Joel who was enjoying the his new Niner at the very top of the climb. We headed into the cookie trail/Narrow Back section together. Riding that section with Mike totally rocked (no pun intended). We both enjoy the technical stuff, and were riding along encouraging each other, laughing, joking, etc. just like a regular weekend ride. We got separated by some fools popping off their bikes on some sketchy sections, but the gap didn't amount to much and Mike rode back to me just after the turn off of Tillman Rd. on the false flat to the Lynn trail. We also rode the Lynn section together, hamming it up with Roberts from Cannondale and laughing at some dude in the woods taking a dump. I followed Mike's wheel up Lynn for a good way, again, we were taking it pretty easy, chatting, track standing at some sections due to some slowness ahead but managed to stay on the bikes right up to the hard left turn in the shale section where the hike-a-bike regularly starts. Evan passed through at that point, motoring up the path but getting hung up in some traffic that inevitably occurs in that part of the course. Although I didn't get to ride with Eric, he did report that he had a clear shot through this section this year and somehow managed to ride it- nice!
Wolf Ridge was a blast, with the minor exception of two clowns on single speeds who poorly attempted to pass through a line of 8 of us on the descent. We weren't going slow either... one guy in his attempted pass around me crashed into the mountain laurel and ended up across the trail taking me out as well. "What the hell are you doing!?" response "Just trying to keep it moving." idiots. I ran into Kent at this point who was changing out a flat. The remainder of the DH was rippin' as usual- then the big splashdown at the bottom into some creek and onto the long road back to Aid Station Two.
I caught up to Evan on this section and we rode together for a bit, bitching about the two SS guys who also drove into him on the downhill. He eventually pulled away and I was not up for following at that pace. Incidentally, this was the section where I cramped massively last year, no desire to revisit that.
Into and out of Aid Station two I crossed paths with Kent and Wheaton. The three of us traded places up the Hankey climb. I caught up to Wheaton at the top, at the start of Dowell's downhill and he kindly let me go ahead, thanks Jonathan! Another wicked descent. My wife was the first person I saw at Aid Station #3 - she was checking in riders, I was psyched and in a great mood, and seeing her made it even better. We didn't get to talk too much, and I was focused on moving out ASAP, but it was a great quick break- stuffing food into my face and trying to talk a little.
On the road from #3 to the start of the Mountain House climb (to the Brailey's downhill) I happened into a pace-line containing Kent and 8 or 9 others. This was the one point in the race that I really pushed it to hang with this group. I came very close to backing out of it since the pace was higher than my liking, but the draft was great and worth hanging onto. I was relieved to reach the parking lot which led to the next singletrack climb with the group. The climb turned into a march of attrition. Guys who were strong on the road bobbled and faded and a smaller group, Kent, Jason Berry, and some others ended up in the folks continuing. Once again I didn't clean the climb. I bobbled in one of the shale gardens, dismounting for a short walk. At some point on the climb I sucked in a giant clod of poorly mixed energy drink. I hadn't shaken up the bladder well enough. This totally nauseated me and it represented the low point in the race for me. At the top of the climb I stopped briefly to evaluate the merits of hurling- I saw none, so I didn't. Kent came walking out of the woods from a 'natural break' and we hit the downhill just ahead of big clod of riders about to arrive. I think we caught 5 or 6 people on the downhill, maybe more, all of them let us pass, kindly and safely-I wasn't about to mimic the behavior of the two retards on Wolf Ridge.
The brief rest at the top of Brailey's combined with the downhill shook away the sickliness and I was back in the game. After getting stopped by a volunteer at AS #3 to let an ambulance pass (which ended up not passing since the victim was not all the way loaded yet) I caught up with Kent and we joined forces to conquer the miserable stretch to AS #5. We had a great time yacking away but maintaining the pace and avoiding getting sucked into the mental monotony of the 10 mile gravel forest road two #5. One highlight was a SS dude who showed up on the steeper climb to 5 with a mini boom-box in his jersey pocket. The music choices, Sublime, 311, some reggae, M&M really kept me moving and motivated me to stay in contact with this guy. At station #5 I realized that I wasn't likely to beat my 10:17 from last year. I didn't care, I hadn't cramped, was having fun and felt good.
Kent took off a bit before me and I was unable to catch him up the final climb to Little Bald Knob. I punched it past an NCVC guy on this climb- Paul Mica, who was getting a bit pissed that we were still climbing. "Does it ever go down?" I responded "NO." to which he said, with all honesty "Are you F'ing kidding me? all that for no descent?" I laughed and rode past (to ensure that I got in front of him for the descent) explaining that there was a huge 7 mile descent around the pile of rocks that we were passing as I passed him.
Another ripping descent, I caught up with Kent again, but didn't stick on his wheel when things went up for a short bit. Somehow the muscles weren't motivated to pick up the pace, so I rode on my own. On the approach to AS #6 I assessed the fluids- plenty of drinks left, plus I had a banana in my jersey as well as gel (banana in my jersey- sounds slightly perverse) and I decided to blow through the aid station. No need to stop when so dangerously close to the finish and feeling good. Kent was eating at the station and I waved as I passed through, hoping he would jump on and catch up.
The road to Hankey felt solid, I got the food I had into the system and took some solid swills of gatorade and secret camelback mix in prep for the final climb. On the early slopes of Hankey I noted that my shoe was sliding around in the pedal strangely. I unclipped flipped the pedal and re-clipped with no improvement. After a bit more it got worse. Putting the evidence together in my endurance-malaise brain I deduced that the cleat had come loose. Off the bike, pulled off the shoe and screwed the cleat back in. Kent passed by asking if all was well, it was! Things were fixed and I chased after him but didn't catch up enough to ride in with him.
In all, a solid day. Riding with friends and avoiding the cramps made it a great ride. I'm pretty well recovered, aside from a chapped ass- not sure if there's any avoiding that...
Great job to the rest of the team and to my buddy Alex who broke the 12 hour mark with an 11:50 this year. Thanks to Evan for the energy drink advice and a huge thanks to my wife Katie for volunteering and supporting the gang at the campsite!
Maybe I'll set a goal for next year, but with all the fun had this year, maybe not!