racing in my stead this year was my little brother JJ, aka prince harry, and since there's no write up from me, unless you want to hear about putting in baseboards, here's his take (un-edited) on the tenth annual sm100...
Since it is the day after and the soreness is still very present in my legs, I feel that this would be an appropriate time to shed some light on my experience at the 2008 Shenandoah Mountain 100. I realize that this guest bloging is strictly against protocol, but bear with me and you will have my brother and his section of cyberspace back soon enough. Yup, you guessed it, I am JJ Foley, AKA Joe’s Brother and Prince Harry…the latter two are the two I am most commonly addressed by.
Coming into this race I can only describe my feelings as a nervous excitement. I had heard about the SM as a race that would break you down but really make every bit worth it in the end. I was skeptical of this, due to the fact that I had a really quite miserable experience at The Curse of Dark Hollow 50 miler earlier in the summer. That race for me was one that beat me into submission and really the only excitement for me was finishing. I don’t mean to say that the race as a whole, or how it was run, or the people were not great, because they were. What wasn’t great was my level of preparation going in and I paid for it. In any case I was Skeptical coming in to the SM.
After driving down Sat afternoon I met up with Matty, Katie, Mike, Kent, Evan, Alex, Alistair, and Steve at the campsite and after getting set up went out for a quick warm up ride with Kent. Dinner that night was right on the money with pasta and bread rolls. After dinner I wasn’t too long out of bed, but I did stay up around the campsite and got to hear some intense discussion on Jeff Buckley.
5:30…I get woken up to the sound of firecrackers going off about three campsites down. Apparently these were the boys from WV (I found out later that someone had let all the air out of their forks for all the damn noise). Right at this moment I really did find things a little surreal, that the race I had been talking about for so long was actually here. I found myself scrambling a little at this point to get last minute things together. I was about to hop on my bike for the start line when I realized I hadn’t put my tool pack under my saddle and didn’t have my gloves on. I rushed to find these essentials and eventually made it to the line. City Bikes had taken on a position on the front of the start line and there must have been about ten or so of us there. In addition to those at the campsite; Eric, Joel, Jonathan, and Anna had come down.
Start to Chpt 1
The start was chaos. There were 550 bikers trying to fit down a dirt road wide enough for maybe three across. In any case, down the road and across the bridge with a quick glance back to see the snakelike stream of riders following behind, I started the ride up to cookie trail with Klas. The climb up the fire road was a good way to start the day I think. It’s not so steep that you are struggling and lets you develop a nice tempo. I quickly fell off Mike’s pace and just tried to focus on keeping it steady. About ¾ up Evan passed me. This kind of scared me a bit because he is a much stronger rider than I am, and I thought that I had maybe gone out to hard to sustain my pace. But coming to the top I felt good and moved into the cookie trail single track. This trail is great…but not with 500 other people. Inevitably I had to walk a lot of sections I would have otherwise ridden because people ahead of me were dabbing. About halfway down cookie I realized that I had been riding with my front fork locked out…good one. Anyways, I stopped quickly at chpt 1 to do a bottle exchange and then it was on down the road.
On the road section I pulled the arm warmers back up…very glad I had worn these cause it was chilly on the road…and was passed by Anna, whose saddle had broken. Down the road we made the left turn and began the slight climb on the road up to Wolf Ridge. Upon reaching the single track things came to a halt pretty immediately. I was far enough back that people were just totally walking so what choice did I have. To be honest it was probably good for me to keep my climbing legs for later in the race. I would like to go back soon and see how much of this trail I can clean. The down hill was a lot of fun, winding along the ridge top and then a very gambrel-eske, like descent back to the road. After talking to my brother pre race he had said that the road out of wolf to check three was 10 miles…this, to my relief, was not, as far as I could tell, true and I found that after a quick uphill I was passing dog graveyard and was shortly back on the main road up to Todd lake. Here I was passed by Alistair who looked strong, and was clearly feeling that way too since he pulled a great time. Into Checkpoint two I grabbed some food, refilled bottles, and begged for another heed flask as I guess mine had fallen out at some point. I threw in the I pod and started on the road to Hanky.
Chpt 2- Chpt 3
At the start of hanky, I guess I would say my legs felt ok and the bottom half passed really without incident…the top was in fact a different story. I always forget how long and grueling of a climb the top section of hanky is, but once again it hadn’t gotten any shorter and I had to slug it out all the way to the top. At this point I could start to tell that m legs were really starting to feel on the not so good side of ok and with this I headed down the dh. Sweet. Pulled into chpt 3 feeling a little better…grabbed some more food and drink and while Mike lubed my chain up. I had a feeling that the next pull up Brailey Pond would be tough.
Chpt 3 – Chpt 4
Leaving Chpt three I pull out on the the road and am passed by Steve…going the opposite way after having just pulled out of chpt four! Holy Crap I don’t know what your time was Steve and I know I am not the fastest guy in the world…but you must have been killing it. Anyways rode with a guy from Richmond up to mtn house who was also doing his first SM…I filled him in on the rest of the course that I knew and we kept it steady. Going up brailys I was really staring to feel it. This is a climb where you have to be just as on it mentally as physically because it was quite technical. I found myself getting on for about twenty yards and then having the front wheel wash out and doing it over again. The downhill was as always…Sweet. Stopped about half way through to make sure this one guy was ok. Apparently he had clipped a tree with his bar and done a superman dive off the side of the trail into a tree. As I was helping him back to the trail he pointed out the little sapling he had gotten personal with and the thing was completely up rooted…Damn man thank god for helmets right. Anyways concluding the downhill I did the usual routine at the chkpt and stuffed some extra bananas into my pockets.
Chpt 4 – Chpt 5
At this point I was really starting to become unsure if I was gonna finish the race. Although my legs weren’t cramping I was getting pretty fatigued and I had been told that this was the point in the course that would get mind numbing. I kept my head down and put pedal stroke after pedal stroke together and I kept moving. The first half sucked. But as things wore on and especially as the trail made the right hander and kicked up I got a nice second wind and was able to sort of kick it up a notch up the steeper stuff. This was a complete surprise but very welcome and I was able to keep a solid tempo into chpt 5. Side note…about 1 mile before chpt five was the best view I have seen in the GW forest, I had to stop for a minute…wish I would have had a camera with me.
Chpt 5 - Chpt 6
At chpt five I got some pizza and the usual snacks. It turned out that I had missed the cut off time for lights by five mins, so while I was strapping on all the gear, I talked to one of the aids about the amount of climbing ahead. He told me that I had “a couple of rollers”…oh man do I wish that that was true. What came next was far from a couple of rollers. These were leg burning, steep climbs, that seemed to go on forever, broken up by meadow sections (talking to mike later he said we went through 13 meadow sections). Upon finally reaching the single track of the chestnut descent I found it to be pretty demanding, but as we go to the lower sections it opened up and smoothed out and really got fun. The lower section was a hand off the brakes, screaming downhill. Sweet. Into chpt 6 and I was feeling a renewed sense of confidence…I was gonna finish. I could tell now…and I couldn’t wait.
Chpt 6- Finish
At Chpt 6 I had ditched the I pod and some excess gear that I figured I wouldn’t need between 6 and the finish. On the ride up the rode past Todd Lake I hooked up with a guy named Aaron from Ohio. It was really nice to be riding with someone at this point and after the pleasantries we made small talk ranging from college stories to his past 100 experience. At one time he mentioned that we could have been talking about Bigfoot and he wouldn’t have cared, so long as it got him over the mountain. Whether it was the fact that we just were so close to finishing or that we were kind of pushing each other I don’t know, but we really hammered it up the bottom section of hanky and over the ridge. The pace continued down the descent and through the fire road. The feeling of elation really was growing inside me at this point…I couldn’t wait to see that course tape directing me down into the camp site. Rounding the last bend…there it was, I gave a woohooo! and Aaron gave a hell yeah! And we made our turn. Out on the grass I had a huge smile across my face and then I crossed the line, hit the gong, and grabbed the pint glass. My time ended up being 12:50 approx, and I got to finish in daylight as was my goal. After congrats from Matty, Evan, Mike and Alastair all of whom were at the finish I headed back up to the campsite and just sat for a while.
While were sitting around talking Evan told us he had overheard some guy giving an analogy of the race. He said that it was like someone offering you a piece of cake, and the first time your like hell yeah…then someone offers you another piece…and you say yeah ok sure I’ll have another…then you get offered another piece and your saying to yourself I really shouldn’t but ok I guess…and then another piece and you’ve had so much damn cake by this point that you just can’t stomach any more. This was the best thing I had heard all day because it was so accurate and hilarious. This race gives you so much of a good thing it nearly kills you. It beats you down but it still gives you motivation to continue…and in the end is worth every pedal stroke, grimace of pain, and heavy breath. I can’t wait for 09.
Thanks to City Bikes Team for great times,
and Chris Scott and the volunteers for putting on such an Amazing event. – Prince Harry