Part 2 - Wilderness 101
I had initially meant to include this all in one report with the Epic 8 below - but time and space had some disagreements with that plan. So - Five days after the Epic 8, after mostly a week of rest, a couple light rides and a lovely paddle to a remote island the next adventure in adversity loomed large. Disco Stu and I were heading down to Coburn PA for Wilderness 101 (hundred miler). Well the adversity hit 2 days before the race even began. Wednesday night while tooling around tuning up the bike I got stung by a wasp...which as of last year I have discovered I now react to fairly severely. My leg was swelled up, itchy as hell and a bit painful. Next...Thursday night as I decided I should used my old mtb shoes until I could figure out a way to resolve the “plastic buckle” issue. This entailed changing cleats, well low and behold, the very last cleat screw I tried to unscrew was completely seized !! I eventually tried to drill it out but to no avail. Next option, change pedals so I can still use the old shoes and cleats, however after the 24 hr and the thread stripping of my crankarm, some threadlok was applied to my new pedal threads...well it did it’s job and after fighting with this for too much of Thursday night it would just not come off. Option # 3 try to put some appropriate padding in my new shoes and pray to dog that it would alleviate the issues I experienced during the 8 hr. So all told it was about 1:30 before getting to bed Thursday night, not ideal given that I knew Friday would be lucky to bring me 4 hrs of sleep before the early start Saturday.
Friday night down at a brew-pub near Coburn, which was filled to the brim with those godless mtn biking hordes trying to cram in reasonable nutrition and a pint or two. We sat beside Jeramiah Bishop, who I met last year at Intermontane and started chatting. I was already a bit concerned that I would not be recovered enough after 7 days from the 8 hour race and he asked me “How I finished?”...when I told him of the excruciating cramping he shook his head saying that “that did not usually bode well”. One more thing to think about...but in this business one must be adaptable AND manage expectations. So I just took it in stride and my game plan was to go as hard as my body let me without destroying myself for nothing. After all I was here in a new place and race for me so told myself to just “do what you can and enjoy it”.
Race morning saw me up before Stu...not sure how that happened...but I felt good, even had half a coffee ! We did fiddle around a bit and soon the almost 300 racers were lined up at the start. Stu shot over just in time for them to roll out (2 km on the road neutral start). I caught the back end about 5 rows behind Stu. Started riding up through the masses, looking for Stu as my plan was to stick to his wheel as long as possible, but as fast as I was moving up, he must have moved up faster or sooner as I never did see him. This is the problem with having to pass 250 people en masse !
After having moved up quite a ways on gravel road I figured to be in the top 40 or so then we hit a ridge where a dude ahead of me was spewing out every last bit of fluid in his gut....someone else also had their adversity issues apparently...Then we hit the first rocky downhill double track. Things were going great then....kathunkathunkathunka....flat. Tried to get off to the side as much as possible while about 50 racers zoomed by me at 50+ kph. For some reason my pump was not working and I think I bent the valve a bit fighting with it as I also lost 1/2 my first CO2. Then after struggling for way too long used the other to finally fill the tube as much as possible but still too low. On my way again feeling rather discouraged, however passing tons of people again I started to fell like maybe I could get back into this...then about 20 minutes after the first flat....again...kathunkathunkathunka. Now I was screwed, pump not working properly, no CO2 left. I had to wait for about 25 racers to pass me before someone offered up some help (Thanks to Peter). So after lacksidasically replacing the tube off I went again....again passing people. But now we were in more technical single-track, and lets just say the skill level at this end of the pack is not quite so high as that at the front end. One girl seemed to be going along slowly but steadily so I was waiting behind her for a safe opportunity to pass when she slammed on the brakes in a abrupt stop at a narrowing and little wooden bridge. This stoppage threw me (literally) for a loop...more adversity as I was a stuck and tangled mess. Finally I got myself going and I vowed to get the hell outta the timid end of the pack. At aid station 2 there was great tech support fixing all kinds of peoples probs. I tossed my 2 tubes and cannisters on the ground thankful just to get one replacement, but the guy asked me if I wanted 2...”yes sir thank you very much !” I can’t say enough about the volunteers and support at this event - they were outstanding in every possible way ! Also pumped up my rear tire (the one getting flats) to 32 PSI for good measure.
Now I was feeling less pressure, (but more in the tire) loaded up with 2 new tubes and CO2s, knowing that I was so far out of it I was no longer racing, it was time to just enjoy a hard ride in a new place. The hills were pretty long and steady which seemed to work well for me - check the map and profile here. But the vast road sections were sparse pickings looking for someone to work with, everyone that I passed on all the roads was in no shape to work with me so it was an ITT on all the road sections for me - that must have cost me 15-20 minutes easily over the course of the race.
The next rocky section we had to go down was pretty killer and I was very gingerly trying to pick a line down the rocks, but in these trails there really is NO line, just a bunch of copious and randomly scattered baby-heads and pointy protrusions. Then wouldn’t you know it....pfltttttttttt.....again. By this time I am laughing at the sheer odds of 3 flats halfway into the 163 km race. After finally getting out of there and onto a road, there was another guy looking in need of help with a flat - so in the spirit of “paying it forward” I stopped to help him out. Getting going again I started to feel hungry and was looking forward to my V8 (thanks for the suggestion Stu), and more importantly my pickled sausage at aid station 3 !! Some dude was riding along all chatty and “Whoop-de-doooing”, and asked those around him for a “Whoop-de-do”, as I was the only one to respond, (albeit with a rather reserved Canadian Whoop-de-do), he seemed impressed and we rode together till aid 3. Felt really good finally with another CO2 pickup there, pumped the tire again - this time to 36 - that’s gotta hold - and the eagerly sought after pickled sausage...damn it was good ! The ensuing single-track rocky climb was going well for me - it was work but again passing people and feeling strong. I seemed to have recovered well enough from the 8 hour and the terrible cramps I had experienced then did not appear to leave any residual ill effects...tho again, I was not really in “kill myself race mode”. Funny as Stu was telling me later that he did not feel good on this section at all. Shortly after this was a killer dusty/sandy steep technical downhill....no traction! One guy was riding my ass and I was just about to tell him to leave some room as my tires were pumped high and had no grip, then I saw a sharp right turn with a little space to the outside left. So I pulled off and all of a sudden (next adversity) this guys slides right into me totally out of control on the inside, his bar-end caught my helmet and dragged me along with his bike by my head - NOT pleasant, and then catching my bike frame or wheel with his pedal both of us sliding in an uncontrollable mess. I was sooo pissed - this was just stupid - and there are people coming behind us. After getting my bearings, assessing the bike, body and helmet, and shaking off the disorientation I told him to go and I took my time getting back behind him.
Some more road then a crazy rocky downhill where pretty much everyone had to walk a little section. At this point I was not going to do anything crazy stupid for where I was going to be ending in the results. As I flipped my bike over to walk all of a sudden all my tools were all over the ground. Somehow my tool bag was either left open or got opened in the crash prior. I picked up everything right there except my CO2 trigger - that I NEED ! So went back uphill searching for it - after a couple minutes a guy mentioned that he saw a red handled CO2 up the hill a ways....a few more minutes walk and I found it - finally. Back down and on the go again after another 10 minutes delay.
Somewhere between aid 4 and 5 a guy actually caught me after a long climb and stuck with me for a while. It was great to have some company and chat - tho there were no opportunities to actually work together from a drafting perspective at this point. Eventually I did pull away as he was not terribly confident on any downhill sections. Then came one more rock garden - and guess what - flat number 4 !!! How much adversity can one guy get in a race?!?!?
In the end I came in just ahead of the 50th percentile and about 1:15 behind Stu. I figure that we would have been right about together had I not had the mechanicals, had people to ride with on the road sections, and had not lost the “racing drive”. Still I was not wreaked like the last race, Stu was there at the finish as was the beer, and I just accepted what the day had handed me.
As far as the race is concerned - it is an excellent event, but for me perhaps not enough real “fun” mountain bike sections to warrant doing it again. There are lots of gravel roads - which I had thought would have been double-track or dirt fire roads. The rocky sections were not like Quebec rocks that you actually “use” and work with in your ride, more just a jumbled minefield of bucking rumble strips. That said I think some of you guys would really like this race and probably do reasonably well. Though it is a very strong field here with a bunch of pro and endurance elites. Even with Stu’s good finish he just made it inside the top 25% overall and in cat. The evening consisted of burger eating, beer drinking, and racer cheering as the sun went down. A pretty sweet finish to a day full of adversity.
Well in the end I’ll attribute much of my adversity to 1) Operator error, 2) Poor tire selection, 3) Plain old bad luck....I guess that’s 2 out of 3 against me !
Front tire choice here good...
Rear tire choice here bad.....very bad....
Again for a more race oriented and less adversity perspective, check out Disco Stu’s race report here. On a team related note - at both events I got a lot of comments and compliments on the team kit...feather in the cap of Will Thom, Matt, and whomever was involved in selecting the design and colour scheme.
After all that I think it is time to put the mtb away for a bit and take a break from racing and traveling to races. My mind is simply out of the race zone and I need to refocus, do some swimming, running, paddling, hiking and rollerblading. The three intervening weeks should be just what the doctor ordered. Next up - most of y’all will be D2R2ing it while I’ll be at Lake Placid for XTERRA off-road triathlon Aug 22.