Sep 5, 2007

SM100, the Looongg of it

Shenandoah 100

I tried to carpool, but I had an agenda. Agendas can cause war, or increase carbon footprints. It was a goal to get to the campground on Friday, relax all day Saturday and then race Sunday. No one was able to swing a Friday departure. Then Reuben called and said to meet him in Gettysburg Friday, and we'd go down together. It would cause a slightly later arrival time, but I could flex that line. Of course it didn't work out since he had a lot more traffic than me, and at the end of the day I drove past G-Burg and turned south on ol'interstate 81. Sorry mother earth, but if it makes any difference, I drafted a couple semi's and a trip that normally needs a full tank, only cost me 2/3rd's a gas bladder.
US-81 runs through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia like a 100 mile hotdog, down the middle of a 100 mile bun. It's one of my favorite places to drive slow along backroads.
Awaiting me was my most anticipated race of the year. In case you didn't know, the 2006 Tour De France winner, Floyd Landis, was to be there. He seems to have returned to his roots of mountain biking while waiting for the final verdict on his doping controversy. If you don't know what I'm talking about, I'm sorry, because as Landis joked, he does have the most famous urine in history. And joke he did...For someone who's life has been turned upside down, he has managed to keep a sense of humor. I got to learn about this man when the race promoter called me Saturday morning and asked if I wanted to take Floyd on a pre-ride of part of the race course. umm yeah, duh! I called Reuben and asked him how soon he could get down here. No slow driving on backroads for him. Buck was on the same path so I called him and we all met to do the Braley Pond loop from aid station 3 to 4.
What do I think of Landis? Funny, self deprecating, smart, fun to hang out with and ready to rumble with the WADA or the UCI. Awsome! I love dirt. Every one had a great time. Especially when Buck's front tire "dun blowed off" the rim in the middle of a down hill, and his tube came completely out, but didn't pop. Just tuck that baby back in and go!
Ah good times.
Racing. This race was important to me. Last year I kind of let it slide and didn't really come out to throw down. This year I was ready to throw up to come out tops. I felt that because my first race of the 100 milers went so bad my placing all season wasn't a true representation of where my fitness was. I needed another good win to prove that one was a fluke, and to solidly take 2nd place. Also beating Landis, and Eatough in one day would mean a lot. Then there were other guys like Jeff Schalk, Mike Simonson, Chris Beck and Todd Helmick who have all beat me here or other places in the past. My mother, stepfather and sister came to volunteer at an aid station and support me as much as possible, while supporting everyone. A big thank you to them. Also to Mark Russell at station 5 who had watermelon waiting for me.
From the start you could tell this race was going to be electric. Generally I don't worry to much about being at the front of the start line because the first few miles are good for moving into position. That approach was a mistake for this day. From "GO!" things were splitting up. Simonson and Schalk were at the front driving. I realized I was being gapped by a group of 40-50. The usual chit-chat was out, and it was all business as I moved up to position. Once I was in the top ten it was easier to relax a little, but nothing was slowing down. These initial efforts sort of put a fear into me when I realized that the legs weren't feeling their best.
All the names mentioned above were there, as we rolled the unused jeep road with it's loose downhill corners, and short steeps. Schalk went into the singletrack first then Eatough, Landis and myself. Schalk and Eatough attacked when they saw the trouble Landis was having in the technical stuff, and I went around the Floyd to keep them in sight. Unfortunately I got a little stalled by Floyd and by the time I got to the road it was Sam Koerber and I chasing. Not closing the gap but at least we were keeping it even. Sam was a power house, but when it was my turn to come around I wasn't willing to keep the same pace. There was a long day ahead and he was burning his candles quick at mile 15.
We chased up to Lynn trail and the start of the hardest singletrack climb of the race. I could still see Schalk and Sam ahead but next thing I knew Eatough was on the side of the trail with a rear wheel that wouldn't spin. I hate to see a competitor out due to a mechanical, especially E, since I like a fair fight.
As the climbing continued I was able to keep Sam in sight while Landis started creeping up from behind. The rough stuff was keeping him off my wheel but he sure knows how to lurk. At the top and left hand turn onto the Wolf Trail descent, I launched my second of many downhill attacks on Floyd since he had the gravel road climbs to his advantage. Before the bottom I caught Schalk and Sam and we rolled from the bottom to aid station two together taking turns keeping Landis at bay.
Coming into aid station 2 Schalk rode through while I grabbed a couple of bottles from my sister and Mother, which would have gone smoothly but I got caught between Sam and a bottle which gave Schalk a gap. He launched an attack up the next roller and I let him go thinking Sam and I could catch him, and that he was working too hard for the day. My mistake. I underestimated what he had in those legs for the day.
Up the next climb, Hanky Mt., I dropped Sam and when I turned around to see where he was, Landis was in his place. It was like some sort of magic trick. He was climbing the narrow single track with his arms draped over his bar in a stage 17 time trial tuck. Crazy! His pace wasn't crazy but I had to work harder to stay on his wheel than I would have liked. As the climb kept kicking up, one false summit after another, I asked him if it would compare to a category 1 from the TDF and he said "hell yeah!" Cool.... It was only second the biggest climb of the day. But that means it had the second biggest descent of the day! Hello, goodbye.
At the bottom of that 15 min drop back into the valley was my bag, at aid station 3, but as I came through I still had a bottle so when someone just handed me another I took it without a pause. From there it was a 5 mile section of road before the next climb up Mountain House and down Braley's. Schalk had 2 minutes on us at his point according to the peeps at the aid station, so I kept the pace high. About a mile from the turn off to the trail, Landis finally edged his way up to me. I had been watching him creep for about 5 min from way back, so I knew he wasn't moving that fast, and when he came around I was able to keep his wheel for the next mile, with a little extra effort.
I turned into the single track first, cleared the river bed, then jumped off and hoofed it up the river bank on the other side. I knew if I kept the pressure on in the Single track climb I'd probably hold him off to the top. Which I did despite bonking 10 minutes from the summit.
I haven't bonked in a race in awhile, and I knew it was because I was forgetting to eat due to the intensity of the day so far. I shoved a bunch of food down before the top, hoping to recover on the descent. Just before going over the edge I look back and see Landis coming from 30 ft back. Crap! But again the downhill is mine!
If you ever find yourself looking for places to ride in this part of VA, ask the boys at Shenandoah Bicycle Company how to get to Braley's or look at the National Geographic map of the region. This is pure gold.
The transition through Aid station 4 was flawless and I probably didn't stop more than 20sec to make the bottle grab. The volunteers were on their game. They could feel the tension in the air and totally pulled through.
Between Aids 4 and 5 was my most anticipated section of the day. It's the maker of a persons day, good or bad. Almost 12 miles of a false flat climb with progressively bigger rollers, until you make a right hand turn for a solid 4 mile climb to aid station 5, and then you think its down hill for a minute. But no, it goes up again for another couple of miles, dual track to single track. And ends at the longest descent of the day. Floyd caught me about 6 miles into the gravel road section. We exchanged sighs about not feeling great and I told him I was still recovering from a bonk and not wait for me. I was surprised when at the top he was only 4 and a half minutes up. That gave me hope for catching him by the bottom. In my eagerness to make time I blew a couple of corners, but stayed upright to the end.
Coming into aid station 6, I was just looking for a bottle hand off, and was experiencing a bit of tunnel vision thinking Floyd was still up the road. Coming into the roller that Schalk had escaped on earlier in the day I was startled to suddenly see Floyd coming from behind. What a magician. From that point on I just wanted to stay with him, because I figured if I could get to the next down hill into the finish my day would be made. And sure enough at the top we were together and he gave me the hole shot, knowing he'd just be holding me up. That would seem to be it, but before you get to the bottom there are a couple of climbs and false flats, that were taking everything out of me, to get over in a panic.
And that was it. I felt like throwing up as I rolled the last section through the campground, but it was all right when I crossed the line about a 1:30min ahead of the man with the bionic hip. Definately the hardest 100 miler for me for the year.
My mom was there to give a hug, and my sister was at the hospital, with a racer she had helped get out of the woods, on a 12hr journey.
Thanks to Indy Fab, Mike Bush at Stan's, who hooked me up with great wheels, and a new rim (which I built a new rear wheel with two days before the race), Wilderness Trail BIkes, for the tires and saddles, Cannondale for the Lefty, Formula Brakes for the stopping power, Smartwool for socks, and my friends and family and all the people who yelled my name as I rode by.

Sorry this is so long!