Resigned to the fact that I was going to ride a hundred miles whether I wanted to or not, I start going through the motions. Light the stove, get the coffee going, make the oatmeal... a breakfast I haven't eaten before a race in a long time... because, as I'm discovering now, I hate it. Two spoonfuls is all I can choke back before I hand the pot over to Colin. I take my coffee and head over to the wonderfully remodeled shitters at the Stokesville Campground and wait my turn to sit and make race weight in luxury.
photo cred: Daniel SandersThat went well. Time to head back and put myself together. Chris Scott mumbles the minutes until impending doom from the darkness. I get my bibs on without getting That Butt Stuff all over me, put on my helmet, get ready to head to the line... oh yeah, bottles. Reach in the cooler, grab two and stick them in my cages. Roll down the hill.
Line up not exactly in my expected time slot but with the people I think I will finish with.. if all goes slightly less than well. Realizing that all I've had is a cup of coffee and a pittance of oatmeal, I decide to down a half bottle of Carbo Rocket 333 to put something in me to fuel the fire. I grab a bottle and commence the force feeding.
I accidentally grabbed the bottle of chocolate milk I brought for after the race. Well now, what to do?
There's only six minutes before the start. No time to go back and grab my other bottle of Carbo Rocket 333. I'm gonna just have to go to aid station one, pitch this milk, and grab some plain water. There goes my calories... and my favorite Maxxis water bottle.
The race starts and the mayhem ensues. Out of the campground and spilling onto the road, I look down at my computer. Being that I've never done this race with information on a screen in front of me, I'm amazed that I'm spinning a 32X19 at over 23 miles and hour... and getting dropped like an anchor. I drift further and further back until we hit the first singletrack. Time to chill.
We get into some tight conga line action, and I'm around some of the strongest female riders. We're moving along and then we stop. Too far back to see why we're now just standing in the woods, we postulate on the possibilities. We get moving again only to end up standing still again. We figure it out.
A larger man (in comparison to my four apples) is stopping every time he gets behind walking riders, holding onto a tree, and waiting until he has clear trail in front of him... while riders numbering ten to twenty deep are all forced to stand and wait behind him. We're dumbfounded. We have time to talk, and the amount of shock that was shared was deep and wide.
"Who the fuck does this?"
Slowly, the group I'm in starts making it around this guy. When it's my turn, he stops dead in front of me on a climb and grabs a tree. I get off, run off the trail to the right, and smash my knee into something I don't even acknowledge due to the anger fog I'm in at the moment. The large man yells at me as I come around.
"You better get out of my way when I need by."
Holy shit. This is a real person and he is saying these words and I will have to share this planet with him for awhile longer. I ruminate on the experience for some time, and this distraction allows me to forget how miserable I am until I get to the first aid station. I toss down my bottle, warning the volunteer that I just gave them an entire bottle of milk. Basically a ticking time bomb. Grab a bottle and head down the road, once again feeling the hangover cloud roll in.
I find myself with Gary Chambers. We ride together and chat, then hike-a-bike and continue to chat. The conga line stops when the rider two people ahead of me bends over at the waist and starts to vomit. I can understand his desire to stop, so I don't judge him as harshly as the large man I'm still carrying a lot of hate for in my heart. I know I'm in for at least a ten hour day, and at this point, the only thing I can think about is if I finish, I'm heading straight to the showers and then my hammock. To sleep. For as long as I can.
On the descents, I can feel the effects of not getting enough shuteye. I'm nowhere near on my game and making mistakes aplenty. I start thinking about the fact that I know how to get back to camp from the second aid station. This is bad information to have. Bail thirty miles in? No, I made my bed, and I will soil it right proper.
Aid 2 and I grab two real bottles, one with caffeine in it, so maybe that will turn this around. I start feeling a little better, finally able to get my brain plane out of the clouds and into some clear skies. I'm able to punch it on a paved climb, and I see Carp at the side of the road.
"What are you doing climbing that fast but all the way back here?"
Not really having the time to stop and explain myself, I shrug my shoulders and keep going.
The descent into the third station was pretty ugly. On what is probably the most technical part of the entire day, I manage to bounce down the drop-offs and wreck, but all while still staying on the bike and with the wheels ending up on the ground. I didn't make that happen. It just did.
Aid three, grab food, head out. Gary Chambers and now Chris Joice are just ahead of me on the flat, paved road. I notice I'm at mile fifty just four and a half hours in. On course for sub-9 if I can keep the pace up, which seems like a really dumb notion.
Once the road turns up, I turn on the gas and hold onto 16mph for as long as I can. I get past my bearded friends and stay away from them. I start the climb I hate the most with all my heart, up the single track to Braley's. The following descent is still a shit show, and I just hold on and hope for the best.
Aid four and more bottles. Gary and Chris come around me on the flat doldrums before the Soul Crusher climb. They get in with a tiny group ahead of me, and I labor along with only my sads to keep me company. Finally, the road slightly rises and my legs are ready to go. I go past them, up into the meat of the climb, and towards aid five. I know the pizza is at the "top," and I feel as if it has gravity, pulling me the whole way. I fantasize about a slice of pizza... but not the first piece. It's a given. I'm thinking about that second and maybe even third piece.
I pass my Faster Mustache teammate BC, and he asks me, "How far to the top?"
I don't really know, other than all the way till it smells like pizza, so I tell him nothing. Wrong information either way will only add to his sads. I leave him behind. Pizza calling my name.
Into aid five and all I see is pizza. I grab some, start with piece number one, and take a look around. Shit. There's like at least four single speeders here right now. No time for a picnic when this kind of opportunity to make others feel the sads is presented to me. I pound a cup of Coke and take my slice for the road.
I roll out behind a few single speeders and next to John Haddock, someone that I'm pretty sure should beat me. We get chatty, the real top of the Soul Crusher presents itself, and I attack up to the other single speeders, basically stirring up the hive. They start going off, and I watch them pull away. Well, there's that.
"Down" Chestnut Ridge, which is one of the reasons I told myself not to quit, I start to remember that it's not as "down" as I thought. So much for my favorite "descent." I begin to wonder if we're going the opposite from normal direction. I come out at the eventual bottom, a shell of a man. The burning knots between my shoulders not so happy that I've been using way too much brake to get down all these downhills. They will not accept apologies at this point.
I pull into the sixth aid station. A volunteer offers me fries. I give him a very dumb look.
" No..." another dumb look.
"Yes. Just give me all the things you have... and sorry."
I roll out onto the paved climb feeling good about the fact that this is almost over. Not feeling inspired to chase down anyone in particular, just wanting to get this over with ASAP. Over to the climb we do twice even though for years I never knew we did such a thing, and I know I'm in the barn at this point. I catch Dan Giroux and go by him. I feel bad, but he's been chasing me down on so many descents already. He should be able to get me back before the finish. Near the top, I come around another single speeder. I go into the "final" descent with no one in sight in front or behind.
I know this descent well enough. Not too tricky and all the rocky sections are straight forward. Just hold on. No one comes around me and when I pop out onto the double track to the finish, I see a rider with a mechanical... and John Haddock just standing there. He hops on his bike and tells me that he stopped to help someone. Fair enough. I tell him that I just put two guys behind me on the final climb, and while I wouldn't attack him to the finish, I wasn't going to let them catch me... so hop on this train, son.
We boogie oogie oogie all the way to the top of the camp together, John drops into the final trail ahead of me, and we roll the last half mile together all friendly-like. A very pleasant end to the day. Rolled across the line in 9:06 and change, me not really feeling any regrets whatsoever. How can I not feel good about that?
No idea how we finished place-wise, I head straight to the showers. I came back down to the pavilion, people telling me that John and I were probably top ten. Probably, but then probably not. We ended up 12/13th on the day... which just like Watts told me the night before, "Who cares?"
Then the best part of the Shenandoah Mountain 100 happened and much happiness and joy occurred.
photo cred: DorothyThat was truly one of the best SM100s I've had in a long time. Every reason I ever came back in the past. The good times the night before, the friends, the incredible trails, the afterwards. Definitely no regrets doing it the way it was meant to be done.
And of course, congrats to Dahn Pahrs for taking the W in the SS class. Winning at the SM 100 is a big notch in the belt.