Written by Brandon O'Neal Monday, 01 August 2011 16:12
Now in my second year of mountain bike riding/racing I have gained an enormous appreciation and respect for elite cyclists that race hard, race often, and don't make excuses. This is what I thought of on the morning of my 1st 100 mile mountain bike race. I did not sleep the night before, literally. I had caught some sort of fever and had cold sweats all night. Luckily by 6am my nausea had subsided and I was able to stomach a banana. Thoughts of not being able to race due to my physical condition were there and real. I pictured myself lollygagging all day in bed wondering what it was like to race 100 miles and having to tell my friends and family back at home that I couldn't do it because I was ill. Miraculously what I thought was going to be a 24hr virus subsided at 6am and I felt better. I dressed quickly, applied liberal amounts of Assos Chamois Creme, and dashed outside to meet the others and prepare for the race. Jumping on the bike and filling my lungs with fresh air gave me the feeling that everything was going to be just fine. I felt tired but excited to start the race and fulfill the goal of completing the 100 miles along with my friends Karen Potter, Doug Milliken, Brenda and Lee Simril and ~ 400 other dedicated mountain bike fanatics.
The 400 person group was upbeat as a group can be at 7am. We were congregated in the town park awaiting the OK to start the controlled start to the first climb. Nerves seemed to be minimal and there was not a whole lot of pressure for me personally to get a good start since the long climb would separate out the group.
The weather was warm at 7am but by midday it was expected to climb into the 90's. Luckily, we would be in the woods for the majority of the race and have cover of the trees providing partial shade. The 90% humidity from the day before subsided.
The course is one loop in the Rothrock and Bald Eagle State consisting of single-track, double-track ridge riding, fire road, and some pavement totaling over 10,000 ft of climbing. There were 5 aid stations complete with food, beverages, and support. Also, the organizers had a drop system so that we could arrange to have supplies left at two of the aid stations of our choice. Most racers chose station 2 an d 4 to drop their bags
The organizers did a fantastic job running the race. The aid stations were fully stocked and the volunteers were extremely helpful. The signs on the course were great with the exception of one poorly placed sign that caused myself and at least 5 others to go off course climbing an extra 1000 feet at mile 90 and causing us to lose 30-45 minutes of time.
I really liked the location of the race, in a rural setting with minimal traffic and thousands of acres of pristine wilderness. The anticipation leading up to the race and the camaraderie before, during and after was in my mind more enjoyable than the race itself - this in my opinion is what really separates these endurance races apart from their shorter XC oriented brethren. It's a big commitment in time, money, and training to prepare and participate in these races but without a doubt it is worth it.
My friend Karen Potter of Shrewsbury MA had put the bug in my ear several months back about the NUE series. She is a very strong rider and has been doing these races for years so I knew I would have a good mentor and training partner. I was intrigued and decided to sign up for the Wilderness 101 and Shenandoah before they sold out as many of the events do. The Lumberjack was going to be my first but that was sold out by the time I tried to sign up.
Karen and I hit the road from Central Mass for the 7 hour ride to PA. After an enjoyable ride with nice scenery including open cornfields, old barns, and Amish families on horse drawn wagons, we arrived at a nice bed and breakfast in Coburn, PA. There we met up with some of Karen's friends; 2nd place female finisher Brenda Simril and her husband Lee of Chattanooga Tennessee, and Doug Milliken of Maryland, who had recently completed the trans British Columbia race. We stayed with a wonderful couple who were friends with Doug and extremely hospitable.
This race consisted of a LOT of climbing, unlike anything I had formerly ridden. My longest training ride with the most elevation completed prior to this race was in Amherst Mass ~ 5.5 hrs and 5000 ft of climbing. This race was double that with much more taxing extended down hill sections.
My intentions for this race at the beginning were modest - I just wanted to finish at this point regardless of time since I was still a bit nauseas and was unsure if I was going to have the energy to endure the 100 miles. I took it slower than I wanted initially and kept hydrated and fueled. Being my first NUE race and longest ride to date I was not sure how my body would respond so I was erring on the side of conservative. I spun a little easier often times in my easiest gear combo on my 1x10 drive train, 32x36. The goal was to ensure I conserved enough energy to finish with reasonable strength in the end. I was hoping to come in between 8-9 hours which I was able to do (theoretically), so I am pleased overall.
My outcome goals for this event in the future would be to finish in the top 20 in the open men or in the top 10 in the single speed class. The times for this would be sub ~ 8 1/2 hours for single speed and sub ~ 7 1/2 hours for open men's. In the future I will not take as much time at the aid stations and hammer the hills a lot harder. I imagine in order to achieve these goals I will need to lose 5-10 lbs by eating smart and incorporate a lot more long hill training climbs, racing hard and often, and peaking for races.
Again, the volunteers at the 5 aid stations were fantastic. Spaced ~ 15 miles apart they supplied food, water, heed, electrolytes, ibuprofen, cold rags, bike mechanics, and encouragement. No gel packets were allowed on the course so litter was virtually nonexistent. Most people filled their hydration packs with a mix of endurance mix and water. Racing at this distance one is best to minimize solid food but rather take in large amounts of gels and liquid nutrition to avoid stomach distress. Each racer was allowed two 1 gallon drop bags that could be filled and delivered by the volunteer to any of the aid stations. I filled mine with Powerbar Ironman endurance mix for my Camelbak, a tube and co2, Clif bars, and gel flasks. In the future I will probably stick with this approach but it is time consuming stopping to fill a Camelbak, although admittedly I appreciated the time off the bike and helped myself to PB&J sandwiches, bananas, fresh oranges, Coke, and M&Ms's all of which were merely precautions to avoid bonking but not necessarily needed.
Good brakes, tough yet light tires, and a well tuned bike are essential for completing this race. Also, being prepared with plenty of emergency repair kit items is the right decision since the risk of a mechanical or sidewall tear increases exponentially with endurance racing since the body and mind will eventually tire and mistakes in line selection will increase. I carried a multi-tool with chain break, spare chain link, tube, two co2 cartridges, and a tire lever. A tire patch kit or 3M tape will be in my kit in future races in case of tire sidewall tears.
My fellow riders all did well with Karen Potter of MTBRacenews.com on her Zaboo bike taking 3rd place in 8:41 (suffering a torn sidewall which she repaired with 3M frame protector strips and later had replaced at an aid station); Brenda Simril of Motor Mile taking 2nd in 8:17 on her Gary Fisher full suspension; Lee Simril also of Motor Mile placing in 35th place at 8:16 also on a Gary Fisher full suspension; Doug Milliken of Bike Doctor of Fredrick on his Eriksen Ti bike in 89th place at 9:33, and myself racing for BIKEMAN.com in 91st place at 9:34 (officially) on my Niner Air 9 Carbon purchased and setup at Bikeman of Maine.
Karen Potter, Brenda Simril, and Vicki Barclay; Jeff Schalk in 1st, Christian Tanguy in 2nd, and Mike Simonson in 3rd.
Final Numbers: Average heart rate 151 bpm; Average moving speed 11.2 mph; Time 9:30; Elevation gain 11,096 feet; 104 miles 10,000 calories.
I hope you enjoyed this race report. I am excited to race Shenandoah (possibly Single Speed) in September and many more NUE races in the future.
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