photo cred: Garrett HughesAfter the '05 Trans Rockies, I sought out my next challenge. Stage racing became my thing to do at the time, and although there weren't as many of them out there as there are now, most if not all of them had still yet to be single speeded. I wanted to be the first to do all the things. I found Iron Bike: Italy on the internet and sent the promoters an email (that lost something in translation).
"Has it ever been done on a single speed?"
"What is a single speed?"
"A bike with only one gear."
I signed up.
But then the National Ultra Endurance Series was announced (despite promoter Ryan O'Dell's occasional claims in interviews that it started in '07 or '08), and I had to make a decision; a once in a lifetime, almost two week trip to Italy to do yet another stage race OR travel the country doing hundred milers. Although I'd gone over a hundred miles in multiple 12 and 24 hour races, I'd never done a true hundie. I got a refund from Iron Bike and signed up for Mohican 100, Lumberjack 100, Wilderness 101, Park City E100 (back then you needed at least one race from the other side of the country to qualify for the series), and the Shenandoah Mountain 100. I was also already signed up for the Cohutta 100 which wasn't part of the series yet.
Even though I gave up a little bit on the dream, I'll never regret the decision to stay stateside and spend the summer playing with friends in the woods. I met so many people that year and had such an incredible time.
Cohutta: 1st place SS... nice start
Mohican: A strange 3rd place SS, as most everybody got lost, thus tossing things sideways
Lumberjack: Quit after two laps. Didn't sleep a wink the night before, due to the fact that I was camping next to my drunk, snoring childhood friend in the back of my Honda Element. Actually fell asleep while riding and woke up in the dirt/sand. Good times.
Wilderness: 14th place SS. Double flat and lots of running. Much sadness.
Park City E100: 6th place SS. Nothing learned from W101, two flats, one tube, lots of running.
Shenandoah Mtn 100: 1st place fixed gear, 12th SS. All I needed was a finish to get third place SS overall in the NUE. That seemed stupid easy, so I went 34X16 with 26" X 1.7"/1.5" tires on my rigid Dean. It was one of the scariest and stupidest things I've ever done, mostly because I'd had very limited experience riding a fixed gear in the woods.
All that said, I've returned to the Cohutta 100 in '08 (fixed gear on the day of my dad's funeral), and the Mohican also in '08 (I was going for the four minimum NUE races that year). I also returned to the Wilderness 101 in '15 to see if was everything I'd remembered (and avoided) for so long (it was).
All that said, I've been back to the Shenandoah Mountain 100 every year since '06. When I met Trish Stevenson at the Trans Rockies back in '05, she told me that it was the best thing ever. The course, the camping, the party, the people, the atmosphere. Nothing came close.
I have to agree. The only race I've done more consistently is PMBAR, which I've done every year since '04 and plan on doing until I dead or no longer moving my body about on two wheels. It's different enough every year and with an occasional teammate swap, there's always something new there. You should try it, really.
Anyways, the SM100 '06-'16.
'06: 1st fixed gear, 12th SS ~ 10:27:46
'07: 2nd SS ~ 8:46:09
'08: 3rd SS ~ 8:43:34
'09: 12th SS ~ 9:03:38
'10: 18th SS ~ 9:30:38
'11: 10th SS ~ 9:02:37 (only time other than 2016 with a suspension fork)
'12: DNF ~ (I quit because... burrito)
'13: 9th SS ~ 9:07:33
'14: 16th SS ~ 9:48:14
'15: 13th SS ~ 9:07:01 (I thought I went 9:03 with a hangover, who knew?)
'16: 9th SS ~ 9:05:25
I am, if anything, consistently inconsistent.
There's no chance I'll ever win it. It's been a long time since the SS field could be dominated by a non-athlete. There's just so many truly strong and dedicated (and sober) people racing the SM100, and as I've said before, I'm no athlete.
As far as setting a PR goes, I heard something on a podcast regarding PRs and endurance mountain bike races. Course changes (no matter how slight), trail conditions, weather, field size, mechanicals... there are just too many variables to ever really have a true PR. I'm pretty sure that in '07 or '08, I was fortunate enough to find a pack of geared riders going at just the right pace on the many miles of pavement on US 250. Things like that can make a world of difference and are pretty much entirely out of your control.
I know that next Labor Day, I'm going to miss being there. Hard.
But that sets me up for coming back someday, which I look forward to... not now tho. Then.
Although last night, after a few beers... I was thinking mebbe next year.