standing on the starting line on sunday morning i honestly wasn't sure what this year's shenandoah mountain 100 had in store for me. i'd been feeling pretty good for the last couple of weeks with a couple of big rides under my belt and a couple weeks of good rest and recovery. this summer had already been great - lots of cool rides with friends, an epic stage of the tour de 'burg, singlespeed worlds, wednesdays at wakefeld, the 24 hours of big bear and more - and this day could be the icing on the cake.
i'd driven down the day before with matt and his wife katie, set up camp with the MORE contingent in a nice and shady part of the campground that scudamore had managed to reserve, and got a quick ride in to make sure my legs were loose after the drive. the order of business for the rest of afternoon involved a strict regimen of eating a lot, drinking a lot of gatorade, a little bit of bike maintenance, and a lot of socializing.
back to sunday morning and the starting line... a quick reminder from chris scott on the course markings and as soon as it's light enough the moto pulls out, leading us down to the driveway of the campground and towards the road. pretty chaotic at the start: 350 riders, most barely conscious but with adrenalin flowing. onto the roads towards the first climb of the day i'm taking it easy, just trying to get warmed up. my sunglasses are stuck in the vents of my helmet since it's still too dark to see with them on. joel gwadz and mike scardaville both pass me as we make the turn onto the road leading to narrowback and soon we're turning onto the fireroad. the road rolls up and down along the ridge, slowly gaining altitude and i'm trading places back and forth with a couple of riders, some of whom look like they're working way too hard for this early in the day. once the fireroad turns more concertedly uphill i was passed by evan and then frank from mt. nittany wheelworks and larry camp on their singlespeeds. saw chris redlack for the first of many times.
riding up towards reddish knob welp and ezra fly past me in a paceline and i try to hang but soon give up (too much work too early in the day) and find myself riding with larry and frank. just as we're coming to the turn towards reddish knob a large pack comes up behind us led by andrew from wooden wheels. knowing that the turn is coming, and not knowing if the rest of this group does, i decided to get to the front of the pack to make sure that there are no problems with the turn. lynn trail was less painful than last year and with the size of the group that i was riding with there was a bit of groupthink going on about when to ride and when to walk. the wolf ridge downhill was a blast. i wasn't a big fan of this trail when i first rode it last year, but the more i ride it the more it grows on me. the top section is a great ridgeline downhill and then in the lower section becomes rocky chute that makes your arms scream and your hands lock up. on the road leading to aid station 2 i caught up with frank and larry again and then went ahead of them as the road turned downhill and i could hammer in the big ring for a while. larry caught me again just before the aid station and we talked about how we felt. he was feeling good and i was worried that, since i was keeping up with him, i'd gone out too fast.
jon wheaton was still in the aid station as i stashed my arm and knee warmers, got my camelbak filled up, grabbed my extra hammer gel flask from my drop bag, and refilled my container of endurolytes. i was back on the road pretty quickly after eating a pb & j and a banana and i was heading towards the bottom of the hankey mountain climb. larry and frank come by me once again, but i was feeling pretty strong. after making the turn to continue the climb up hankey towards dowell's draft i caught sight of jon up ahead and started shrinking the gap between us. we rode together for a while and he mentioned that mike scardaville was just up ahead. i was climbing pretty well and soon i was ahead of jon and closing in on mike as we approached he top of hankey. as we got to the top i came by mike, then a little while later he got back in front of me as the trail rolled along the top of the ridge before starting the downhill. the hankey downhill goes on forever, weaving along the contours of the side of the ridge on a tiny ribbon of trail sometimes as narrow as 9 inches wide but so well made that you can hold a lot of speed. this is one of the only downhills i know that seems to get longer every time i ride it. i passed matt along the downhill as he was fixing what turned out to be his second flat of the day and then passed mike as he bobbled on the downhill and pulled to the side of the trail. i followed by almost doing the same thing 2 minutes later as my front wheel got too far to the outside of the trail and started to slip down the side of the hill. rolling into the aid station i saw joel for the first time since the start just before he hit the road. another quick fill up and mike and i hit the road for the ride out to mountain house and the braley's pond loop.
on the road i made a quick time check. i was just about on track for my goal of 11-12 hours, perhaps even slightly ahead. mike and i swept up 2 riders into our group and the found ourselves closing in on a bigger group. we we caught the group and i settled as mike and another rider from our group kept charging down the road. up untill this point in the day i'd had no problems with cramping, but i was worried about the climb up from mountain house to the top of the braley's pond downhill, it's a steep climb and has a couple of sections where the pitch kicks up and forces you to put a bit more power down to keep going. i had a twitch of cramping in the quads on the lower section of the climb so i stopped for a second and took a couple of extra endurolytes and a couple swigs of gatorade and made an effort to keep my gearing a bit lower and keep spinning. this climb wasn't the monster that it was the first couple of times that i rode it, but it's still a long and slow climb. thankfully though the reward for that climb is the sweetest downhill on the course. the downhill starts out a little sketchy, kind of loose and rocky, with some really narrow sections, but as it makes it way down to the bottom the surface improves and soon you're slaloming through the trees faster than you think you'd ever be able to. at the bottom of the downhill i see that jon wheaton was right behind me on the downhill and we ride the mile or two into aid station 4 together.
jon and i headed out of aid station 4 just after matt and in pretty short order we picked up another couple of riders and were setting a pretty quick pace - a bit to fast of a pace for my legs. jon and i dropped off the back of that group and took it easy for a while. as we made the left turn to start heading to the climb up shenandoah mountain my legs were starting to hurt and soon i was well behind jon and lots of riders were passing me. up untill this point i'd been close to a ten hour pace and i thought that i might be paying for setting to fast of a pace. around this time i couple of decisions i made at aid station 4 came back to haunt me - my stomach was a little off coming into the aid station so i had the volunteers top up my camelbak with water and for some reason i filled my waterbottle with water as well as i was leaving - as i realized that i was running out of endurolytes. i took what i had left and tried to keep a pace that i could hold comfortably untill i got to the turn onto the climb.
once i hit the climb things started to turn around. i was able to get back into my climbing mode, shift down into the granny and spin my way up the five miles to the next aid station. it was a long climb, and at times i felt like i was crawling, and even got off the bike to walk a couple of steps to break up the monotony a bit. i got to aid station 5 a little ahead of the goal i'd set for myself on the road and decided to take a longer break than most than i had at the other aid stations. i refilled with gatorade, re-stocked my endurolytes from my drop bag, and had some food. joe penano, markie, and mark wigfield came into the aid station while i was there and after about 15 minutes i left with joe & jon to finish the climb up to little bald knob. the three of us rode together for the flat section and short downhill after the aid station but got dropped as the climb started up again.
the chestnut ridge downhill from little bald knob was a lot of fun. last year it seemed like it was full of little climbs but this year they didn't seem as bad. once i hit the skid road i was flying and it looked like it was going to get to aid station 6 a little earlier than i'd guessed at the top of the downhill and i might have a chance to finish in under 11 hours. when aid station 6 my stopwatch was reading 9:50 and i grabbed a couple of ibuprofen and banana and a red bull and was back on the road by 9:53.
i rode as hard as i could on the road to hankey and then set about setting a good pace up to the turn on lookout, in the little ring but a couple of cogs down from the 34 in the back. somehow i managed to dig down and find something to keep me going on the climb as i counted down the turns and then made the left turn onto lookout and started down the trail towards the final downhills. i hadn't remembered this section of the trail being so long so i was a bit worried untill i saw the turn arrows pointing onto the stribling springs trail. i rode the downhill fast - brakes squealing like i've never heard before, but that just made me use them less - and onto the fireroad. i pushed as hard as could on the fireroad and then saw the turn onto the downhill into the campground and weaved down through the tents and crossed the line with seven minutes to spare before 11 hours.
after the race i had some great food, several great beers, and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening relaxing, hanging out with friends, and waiting for more people to finish. after the awards (where i got a mention for cutting over 4 hours from my time from last year and a trip to the swag table) i ran into brian nutter, who i'd finished the race with last year. he'd finished in just over 12 hours this year, cutting 3 hours off last year's time.
thanks to all the great volunteers for keeping me going at the aid stations
thanks to all of the friends that were out there racing and volunteering
thanks to all of my city bikes teammates
thanks to all of the other racers for making the vibe at this event so cool
thanks to all of the shenandoah mountain bike club crew for keeping these amazing trails in such great shape
and of course many, many, thanks to chris scott for putting on such a great event...