I was hopeful for a good race and had one. I may write a more comprehensive write up in the next couple of days, but for the quick and dirty update here goes.
As I rode out onto the course and up the first few climbs I had hope for a 10:30 finish, and personally I was hoping for a under 12:00 finish, but as fate would have it my body actually felt, might I say it, good. So riding, especially early on was fun and fast and me hopping in groups that would pull me along.
And to a point this was great, and to a point I decided that I don’t understand why a cyclist would cut you off going into some single track who cannot ride the rocks of State College. Personally I am not great at it, but I am getting a bit better and where this cyclist that cut me off got all pear shaped and in way over the cyclist head the cyclist didn’t hop off and let the faster riders by, the cyclist persisted in forcing those behind to try to avoid hitting the cyclist.
Well, in one of my attempts not to crush this cyclist I rode up a big old rock and came down and freaking pinched my sidewall between two rocks and tore a small hole my tire. Stan’s couldn’t seal it, and try as I might not to think about it and keep riding until I could get off the trail on the tire that was dying I didn’t want to destroy my rim. So I stopped, fixed it, got covered in Stan’s goop and lost my fast train. This was before Aid 2 and now I had to chase down this fast train to get back on the group.
Aid 2! Woohoo! I planned to stop and grab my food and relax for like five minutes and get going again, but the flat ruined that idea. I rolled in, grabbed my drop bag, stuffed in my my jersey and kept going. Being sure we had a good long gravel road climb coming up I planned to grab my food from the bag, put the trash in my camelback and just keep going, until I saw the beer aid station…. Yeah, I wanted a good time at the finish, but I also wanted to have fun, so I stopped and had three beers, watched forty people turn down the beer and look to serious, and then thanked the unnamed people several times and was off again. Wasted 10 minutes or did I?
After Beer Station I just rode and rode and rode as fast as I could catching folks, saying nice stuff to people about how great they look… they don’t, and I roll into Aid 3. All I remember is Coke and cold water and cold HEED. Two bottles, drop two and move out. I must have left everyone who passed on the beer at the Aid Station wishing they had a beer. It was also at this point I put my camera inside my pack and took only one more picture.
Aid 3 to 4 was uneventful, really. I remember a couple sections of rocky single track, oh yeah, it was the sweet freaking trail that just rolled out in front of me like the most awesome, fun and enjoyable bit of single track I’ve ridden in a long time. It was great. I passed folks on rocky sections, I past folks on the slow climbs I past folks on rocky descents and got dropped down one descent like a chump, but all in all I had a ton of fun. Real life fun, 60 some miles into the race, I was grinning and smiling and truly enjoying myself, then Aid 4 showed up!
The climb right after Aid 4 sucked the life from my will to ride. I walked and walked and walked up that sucker. It was bad. In hindsight maybe I could have ridden more, but at what price? Burning out my legs? Yeah I don’t know. I didn’t ride and I think I lost 15 to 20 minutes with the decision to walk. Bad idea, but still what price would I have paid later? I’ll never know unless I go back next year.
So Aid 4 to 5 had one memorable moment, the descent down Panther Mountain. I don’t curse in my reports often, but if I did, I would have an entire paragraph of words that my mom wouldn’t be proud of to describe that descent. It was bad, it was worse than that, it was AWFUL, and maybe it made the race just hard enough to separate those willing to suffer a bit and push through what isn’t fun and fast to finish a race. The descent was late in the race and really killed the will of a lot of people that I saw at Aid 5.
I was in and out after dropping two bottles and getting two new ones. No stopping for me, it was time to blow out the legs. What followed was worse on my single speed than the descent down Panther Mountain, 4 miles of rails to trails! Sit and spin single speed guy and I did. And I got passed by three people, two I would catch, one would just fly by. I grabbed his wheel right after we got onto a gravel road and followed as fast as I could…. This guy and I wish I had seen his number or something, just pulled me along at an amazingly fast clip for a couple of miles until we hit the last climb. He stood up, shifted to a bigger gear and dropped me like a stone. I felt like a total loser, but pushed through until my legs just didn’t turn over again and I walked very briefly. It was the last steep pitch of the race and I bailed. If I had known where and what was left on the course I would have pushed through the pain, but alas, I had no clue. Oh well, I did walk again.
This was the last bit of trail. I walked, so did everyone else I saw. I feel okay with that. After we left the boulder field we hit some pretty buff single track and I had some rabbits…. two I could see and I chased hard. I had ridden (mostly) 96 or 97 miles and was spinning my single speed at 16-18 miles per hour! I felt great. After I past the first two guys I caught onto another SSer that had passed me early on in the race. He was riding a nice Walt Works and I told him to grab my draft. He said he didn’t have enough left and in hindsight I should have offered water or something, but instead I told him to finish strong and moved out. Then I caught the last rider, a geared woman. As I went by (I would have done this for anyone) I told her to grab my draft and sit in. I would pull her to the finish. I recognized where we were as we had walked Willie there the night before the race and put my head down. The woman held on until we hit the bridge in Coburn. She either gave up or didn’t want to pass me on the way into the finish. Either way she could have dropped had she tried, I was dead on my bike.
So where does that leave me? The Wilderness 101 was fun and really challenging and I finished in 9:48 for fifth in the Clydesdale category. Overall, no clue. Am I happy with the result? No. I could have ridden faster, at least I think I could have and I left a lot of time on the course. I did stop and help a couple of riders and that cost time, but in the long run helping out is a much better idea than leaving someone stranded. Will I go back? Not sure. It isn’t an Iron Mountain 100k which is a must do, but I think I can break 9 hours at the Wilderness 101….