Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Sadistic & Masochistic
AKA the Shenandoah Mountain 100 (SM100). For many people this is the race they train for all season. All other activities on their bike are in preparation for this grueling 100 mile race through the Shenandoah Mountains in The Commonwealth of VA.
It was that way for me last year. I "trained" for the race, foregoing rides with my buddies in hopes to finish with a respectable time. Now training really is just going for a bike ride and that is always fun, but, I did miss out on some good times with my buds. All that work resulted in a very disappointing 12:47, severe leg cramps and a year of gloating from Frenchie. This year I planned to get some official training rides in, but, with the exception of one ride with Becky and Liz (who wouldn't pass up on that opportunity?) I didn't do any "training" rides this year. I've been racing and riding the rocks of Frederick and Michaux this year. Post ride beers with the gang and really having a great time. The weather has been exceptionally nice this year and you have to take advantage of that!
As always the race started at the crack of dawn, pre-dawn to be exact. The bullhorn and gong woke up the campers around 5:30am after a night of torrential downpours. My tent actually developed two leaks, one on my feet and one on my forehead. In the middle of the night, in the deluge, I crawl out into the downpour and re-stake the fly to eliminate the puddles forming and hope for the best. Huge droplets were bouncing of the fly that now resonated like a snar-drum, but, at least I was dry. So here it is 5:30 and I have a pot of joe and some water boiling in an attempt to get refreshed before a long day in the saddle.
Coffee in and kitted up I head for the start line and hope to position myself a little better this year. I'm lined up in the first 1/3rd of 500 racers. I know all the geared guys will blow by me on the road before the first climb, but, I don't want to fight my way through the entire field like last year. The gun goes off at there is an almost immediate log jam as the pack is funneled into a narrow slot on the road. Somehow I manage to find a flow through the pack and can at least move through and onto the open road. First climb and I start passing geared riders content with spinning up the hills. My legs are a little tight, but, I have 100 miles to get them good and loose.
With the first climb over and back out on the road the geared guys catch back up and pass on the flats and descents. I know I'll see them again soon. It is the order of things. Second climb is on single track and is slippery as snot, so, I walk. It won't be the last time today. A group of WVa single rockstars is in front of me and they tease the geared guys that ride buy. We are walking at about the same pace as they are riding and we make sure they are aware of this fact. All in good fun of course. At the summit we are rewarded with a screaming descent that puts an ear to ear grin on my face. This, to, was the order of the day. Long punishing climbs that rewarded the dedicated with extended, white knuckle screamers for what seemed like an eternity. Really good stuff that made all the suffering worthwhile.
Somewhere between CP1 and CP2 I develop a slow leak that required me to top it off before the descent into 2. At the aid station I help a volunteer swap out the tube, grab some water and a banana and hit the road for the climb up Hanky. On the climb I notice that a female SSer and I seem to be going along about the same pace and we start to encourage each other up a couple of the nastier sections. The climb sucked, as usual, but going down Dowell's Draft is a blast and that got you to CP3. Quick re-fuel at the station and back onto the road for some more crappy mileage. It was here I formally met Rebbecca and we talk story for a while to help pass the time of this long road stretch. As the hill pitched up I start to open a gap, but, continue to see her throughout the day. She would end up the women's SS winner.
Once the road turned to single track the climb took a turn for the nasty. Steep, rocky and narrow....oh, and off-camber. Tough riding and I had to walk extended sections. After we topped out though the descent to Braley's Pond made it all worth while. At some point while railing through these high speed turns I thought how much I loved my bike and the feeling of freedom she provides. Damn, that was fun! The festivities were soon over as I knew aid station 4 and the dreaded 17 mile climb was fast approaching.
Quick re-fuel at 4, pop a pack of e-caps and start spinning my legs off. There is no other way to describe the section between CP4 and CP5 other than to say it sucks.....BIGTIME. Mind numbing road, gravel and dirt sections that you just have to lower your head and get through. A fellow SSer had a small cylindrical MP3 player that he cranked up the volume and we all rocked on to on the climb. I don't know who you are, but, thanks. Those tunes really helped me out through that section. As much as the music helped, the one thing I couldn't get past was the feeling in my legs. They were toast! I had a couple small bouts with cramping that I just sucked up and rode through, but, my legs were just dead at this point. I knew I'd finish, that wasn't a concern. If I had to walk every damn hill until the end I would finish, but damn, this sorta sucks.
I finally arrive at CP5 and I'm not planning to stay long. The volunteers lube up my chain as I stuff anything I can grab into my mouth. I also switch out my goo flash for the spare that is caffeinated. I inhale a double dose and head out for the final push. This was by far the worse section of trail I saw the entire day. Large puddles that extended across the fire roads, wet soft single track that hampered forward movement and hills that mocked me at every turn. I remember this section from last year and those memories were not very fond. I grunt my way to the top and am met with a loose, rocky and wet descent back down the mountain, Little Bald Knob I believe is the name. What ever it is called it was sketchy and I took it easy down this section. I opened it up where I could, but, long sections were quite loose and very wet. I slid as much as I rode.
Off that hill I knew CP6 and the finish were not far off. The last climb up Hanky was going to suck to be sure, but, I knew it wasn't going to be as bad as what I just did. I blow past 6 and grind up the road to the fire road. That was a LONG grind, however, the caffeine must have kicked in or possibly endorphins because my legs are feeling better. They have a little spring in them now and I ride the entire climb. I top out for the final time today and prepare for a well deserved screamer down the mountain. There is one last section of fire road that is something of a climb, it's only a minor annoyance and it leads to the final bit through the upper campgrounds. I bomb through this section with a renewed energy and exit onto the open field and the final stretch to the finish. Cross the line with an official time of 10 hours 20 minutes 59 seconds. This puts me at #125 overall and 26th for the SS class. It also means I shaved 2:27 off of last years time. Talk about redemption.