Tuesday, September 2

The Shenandoah Mountain 100: 2014

Spoiler alert:  I'll save all (most?) of the excuses for tomorrow to keep the tale as short as possible.

This is a story of boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, boy finds out girl is actually a boy, boy decides to stick it out because he doesn't see a better option available...

Boy #1 in our sad love story.
That's the kind of thing that was going through my head as I descended down Dowell's Draft.

I wake up to the sound of the gong at 5:00AM.  By "wake up," I mean that I realize the gong means I can end this period of laying on top of a sleeping bag covered in sweat and humidity and start drinking coffee and eating Pop Tarts.  I can tell instantly that I did not balance out the beer to Gatorade ratio to match my pre-ride efforts and moments of being awake yesterday.  I hear Bono cranking out "Wide Awake" over the PA... yes, I was.  Most of the night, thank you.

The coffee and Pop Tarts do their thing, and I line up for yet another Shenandoah Mountain 100 in the 8+ hour corral, based on my 9:07 from last year and my potential to actually break nine hours this year if something miraculously makes me feel awesome.

We go off after the usual amount of line-up banter and shit talking.  Five hundred riders (or is it six?) making a break for the bottle neck of twisty rutted driveway to the open road in the predawn light.  The only part of the race that makes me nervous.  A rider goes down to my right, shutting a third of the available width of the road down.  Sucks for him and those right behind him.  We hit the pavement and I know what to do... lose as little ground as possible before we get to the first trail.

As always, the lead group of "haves" get away.  Riders come by in ones and tens.  Watts goes by me.  Meh.  Why is he faster than my on the road?  Right before the left turn off the main road and onto a side road, the tandem team goes powerhousing by.  Un unh.  That will not do.  I decide I will turn myself inside out to stay ahead of them before getting to the first trail, lest I get behind the unwieldy beast when things get tight.

I put my head down and motor on.  Taking some risks in the loose corners and hammering up the punchy bits, the entire time feeling chased by the ghost of tandem past.  I can feel the sweat already dripping down my nose and a cramp coming on in my right calf.  Hmmmm...

I make it into the first trail with a decent group.  A bit too much brake on the descents from the leader of our pack, but it allows me to back off on the ups and just coast back into place on the downs.  And then the break is over.  The right turn and the slight gravel road down.

About the time that the sweat was dripping and the calf was cramping, I knew that I wasn't going to be able to "race."   Ninety-three miles to go on this bike ride, and there was no way I was quitting just because I couldn't be competitive.  With the thrill of racing gone, I was hoping to spend the next nine to ten hours in my own dark place, alone... nothing but my iPod Shuffle and me.  The plan falls apart as soon as six other single speeders coast up to me... and then leave me behind.  Chris, Scott, Bob, Wilson, Boyes... my memory is as fuzzy as Chris's quick iPhone snap.

I bridge back up to them in time to make the Conga Line Climb #1 in good company.  We commentate and gesticulate up the face of climb number one that I forgot leads to the other climb number two.  We hit the first chunky descent spread out evenly like so much chunky peanut butter on stale bread.

This is when I realize that my hasty fix to a problem that I had the day before that was caused by grabbing a bike that had sat still for three to four weeks without being ridden had made some things better while others much worse.  My reach was waaaaaaaaaay off on my brake levers.  I can barely hold on and slow down.  My forearms are screaming.  I'm gonna have to stop at Aid 2 and beg for a 2mm allen or spend the day in absolute agony.

I see Chris standing in the corner of a loose part of the descent.  I ask if he's okay... it looks like he's addressing a bike issue and not recovery from a very nasty crash that really just happened.  He says he's fine.  I finish the descent as he catches up.  The pain in my arms is surprisingly incredible... so happy that I didn't take five minutes to check the work I had done the night before.

Things will get even more blurry from here.

I stop at Aid 2 and find out how rare a 2mm allen really is. After much sorting and tossing, I am given a tool that barely gets to the reach adjustment on my XTR brakes.  I struggle for awhile before a mechanic finds a tiny ratchet with a 2mm head.  He starts going to town.  Too much, too little, too much... I'm no help.  I settle for close enough and better than it was, thank him, grab some Coke and Pringles and head back out.

I ride between dark places and friends.  I wish I could quit but know how much it will sting later.  I think about all those people that will be out there for thirteen, fourteen, fifteen hours.  I know I can do ten plus some without much ado, and what I pussy I'd be if I just give up... on what I know will be my last hundred miler for some time.  I decide to challenge myself to do the whole race on Three P's, Pringles, pop and pizza.  That and hydration products to some degree because I'm not completely stupid.

I ride off and on with Scott Smith between Aid Stations 2 and 4.  He tries to encourage me, but I know I'm not "looking good" or "doing great."  I've felt good and great before.  This isn't it.  At one point, as we are riding side by side down a paved road, he asks me if we should be taking pulls.

"If you want to do that, I'd rather just ride alone."

After Aid 4, I get to do just that.

All alone on the way up the Soul Crusher.  Pizza on my mind.  I can see Scott way off in the distance.  I let it go.  Make the turn up to Reddish Knob and the bonk hits me like a load of bricks.  I stop at the side of the road.  I make good use of my time.  I pee some kind of orange syrup and then get back on the bike.  I give up on my Three P's dream and eat a gel.  I'm dying up here.  Another rider comes up beside me and tells me a ten minute story about getting a grape lodged in his esophagus last night and ending up in the ER.  He needs a blog.

Pizza at Aid 5.  I stop and eat continuous pizza.  Volunteers keep asking me if I'm okay.  I know this means I don't look okay.  I tell them I know what I'm doing and that I'll be fine.  I've done this to myself before.  I leave Aid 5 knowing the only thing left to look forward to is the end.

Up the next slog, fatigue arm death descent down Chestnut, french fries and coke at Aid 6, and then two more climbs to the final descent.  I'm used to chasing down carrots at this point.  Today, I ride up the Sargasso Sea of dirt roads.

Painfully down the last big descent, only a double track roller ahead.  I see a rider in the distance.  I close it down and pass.  Another rider.  Another chase.

It's Trish Stevenson.  Someone I have to thank (and blame) for bringing me into this world of hundies and out of the shit world of 24/12 hour racing.  I ding my bell, scream something unintelligible, shoot by... hoping she wants to play.  She'll have none of it.

I descend down to the campgrounds, get to the final turn and look back.  She's not there.  I wait.  I want to finish with her smiling face, so when I finally see her coming, I challenge her to a sprint.  She wants none.  I hit the brakes and let her pass... fourth place women's category for her.  Just another finish for me.

I end up 16th of 48 SS with 9:47 in the woods.

All the other stuff tomorrow.

1 comment:

BUCK said...

I feel like you're still hiding from me.......