First time I have taken off work since we were married, so waking up Friday morning on my own was kind of strange. Got in a little dink ride and loaded up the rig to head out west to Coburn. I asked Mitch if he had an address to where we were going; bikereg just says Coburn.
He confirms the town is only 4 blocks wide and we can’t miss the event. Fair enough. Show up around 4:30, set up camp next to the Cadre boys who were kind enough to show us how these 100 mile races went.
Reg’d, drop bagged and set up shop.
The bike is ready, hopefully I am.
The rest of the night was spent sitting in a circle and laughing the entire time. Time flew by and suddenly the sun was set and shit was getting real. One by one we shed the group to the tent.
Mandi and I have camped before, but never with a large surrounding group. I also never camped where I wanted a good nights rest before burying myself before a 100 mile race. I had no idea how I would sleep. At some point it starts to pour hard. Or so I think it does.
The tent makes any sort of rainfall sound like a downpour. In reality, it was lightly drizzling. But it was a nice cool sleep, Temps where in the high 50’s. Beautiful.
We wake up to the sound of Chris ringing the gong and I imagined he would have been a douche and just hit it really loud, but he rang the gong nice and softly. I slept reasonably well. Mandi wipped up some pancakes in the light drizzle that were DELICIOUS. She got that recipe down pat.
what may have been the last known photo of the three of us, together.
Okay, all lubed up and geared up. Goals.
Not many people that I know do these kind of races, making the goals kind of hard to start from. I’ve been using Jeffs times as a benchmark. I wrote all his climb times on the top tube and were my goals. I’m sure I could hit some of them in the beginning, at the end it was just a meter of how long I will suffer.
At the Six Pack I got to chat with Jocelynn and Shoogs about this race. The knowledge between these two is very deep. Heard rumors of the first 42 miles being a gravel grinder.
Just kidding about the last known photo, Mitch wanted to wear a garbage bag for another photo in the drizzle.
My Game Plan
Hit the first half of the race hard. Try and find a group to ride with and keep a steady pace. After that, whatever happens happens.
Finishing 8:30 would be a first place finish for me, in my rankings, 9 hours would be my goal.
So we head out of Coburn and onto the roads, covered in water. Gross.
I’m glad I put my cap on. It was still drizzling when we left but I knew it would let up. I see Joe Johnston and Mandell up ahead and jump in with them. I see Joe jump to another group, but I don’t go with him, I stick with where I am and grind away up this first climb at a steady enough pace and in the right spot in the group; I’m not being passed or passing anyone. Eventually we get to the top of this section of road and I start to look around. Ryan and many others told me that I need to find a group for this first part of the race. I ended up riding with one guy for a while. Bigger crit looking guy from VA. We take turns putting in some tempo-ish pulls (well for me anyway) and we eventually pick up some other riders. We go from 3, to 5, to 7, to aid station 1, 11 people deep. Everyone seems to be pulling together and we are making some serious time. At least I think so anyway. We get to aid 1 and half of the group disintegrates, the rest of us push on.
Still taking the same amount of pulls, giving kudos when we come back into the group. Before the last climb at mile 31, we all shatter and I’m on my own with the guy I started with, VA Crit Guy. Sorry I forgot his name. We pace each other and get some small talk going. This is his second one.
I originally looked at Mandells time to aid station 2 at mile 42, it was 2:40. I figured that would be a good way to see what kind of shape I’m in time wise. I roll into aid 2 at 2:38. Sweet. I heard it was a big monster climb from here, so I grab some food, refill and head back out. I run into the VA Crit looking guy and another gentleman that we have been chasing into Aid 2 and talk before the climb at mile 42, Greenlee.
I go to shift into my small ring and notice it isn’t moving into the small ring. I figure it just needs another go at it, so I hit it again and nothing changes. I look down to see the cable moving, but the FD not reacting. I can’t stop and fix this now, I need to keep moving.
Sadly, a 30 minute climb is ahead that I could really use those gears.
I try to tough it out as long as I can, but my legs are not having it.
I get about halfway up but I’m pushing way too hard and using too many muscles I do not want to use. I end up saying goodbye to my two fellow riders and grind away. I have to stop and see if I can adjust the limits to stick into the small ring.
Now I didn’t goto front derailleur school, but I know enough that I should be able to release the tension from the cable and it SHOULD fall into the small ring. I do this and nothing happens. My hands are shaking and sweaty as hell, and I’m having a tough time. I hear Jeff pass me and tell me he is a horrible mechanic. Me too, me too. Couple other nice fellows check in on me. I adjust all the limits in all various situations, and I come to the conclusion that this thing does NOT want to move. I have to ride it out in the big ring, at least until the next aid station. I jump back on, grinding 39×36 and now I feel like Nibali passing about 10-20 people on this climb with a mix of sitting and grinding and standing and mashing. Eventually it flattens out and I can get to aid 3.
At some point we do hit some sort of single track. This single track made me PREY for a Trigger or something bigger. Some of the longest, steepest stuff I have ever ridden. My arms were SCREAMING at me. The contents of my brain and saddle bag are rattling like crazy. At one point I actually had to stop and give my arms a 15 second break because of how hard it was to hold onto the bars. I need to do some pull ups. I also eat shit on of these descents. I regain myself and noticed all the stuff in my saddle bag was gone. I zipped it up, but not enough I guess. So no CO2, no tire levers, no multi tool, nothing.
Its mile 61 and I’m riding a supported race with no tools between aid stations in the most remote parts of central PA. Joy.
I roll into aid 3 and wasn’t planning on stopping here for too long, but I had no choice. Thankfully a mechanic is here waiting for me and everyone else. He takes a swing at it after I give him a slight update. He comes to the conclusion I’m 1×10’ing it, either in the small ring or the big ring. 26t sounds better than 39t, so I stick with that. This knocks another 7-10 minutes of waiting around.
Smashing my face with PBJ and soda. MMMMM soda. Sugar rush.
It feels great spinning my way up these climbs now, but I’m too much in the hole now to really make up any ground. I just keep pushing.
Shoogs told me Seeger Rd at mile 51.5 was a bitch, and he wasn’t kidding. I was able to keep a solid pace up this and hit my mark though. Having the little break helped me thinks. Some point at mile
60 we hit some of the ST I remember from the Stoopid, and boy that was fun. Felt like I pre rode it and was gaining spots passing people on technical ST. that never happens. I also notice throughout the whole race I am bombing double track past people. My only thought was that people were worried about their tires. Many times I was thankful that Kirt and Trip told me that having beefier tires for this race would be worth it, having to change a flat would suck. I must have passed 3-4 people with flats on bombed out double track/jeep roads. Thanks again guys. The Racing Ralphs were perfect.
Hit Aid #4 and many of the Cadre boys said after this climb, you were pretty much home free. Well maybe your legs were anyway. I planned a drop back here too, grabbed my goods and some more soda/pbj, headed up. I’m starting to finally fall off Mandells pace. I try and follow a Toasted Head racer up this climb, but I can’t I’m forced off the bike and walk the last bit of this. That was another goal, not to walk anything. But I have to. My legs are screaming.
I get to the top, through some more road and double track, and I find myself alone. But I should be done soon, right? I’m looking at my time and was calculating all along, 8:30 is out of the picture, but 9 is still doable. It should be all sort of down hill now, according to the profile, right? We come screaming down a short fire road descent to a guy standing in front of a blown out bridge. He says “take the creek line, or walk across the planks. It’s about 10-15 feet across. Another guy decides to walk the plank, and I do too. He waits on the other side to catch me. This could be one of the dumbest things I’ve attempted to do, purely on how exhausted I was. It was only a 7-8 foot drop, but still, enough to fuck you up. I didn’t fall.
The climbs keep coming but they aren’t anything like they were earlier in the day. They still hurt, almost false-flat like. I start to recognize the names of some trails that others have said in the past, one of them being Panther Run Road. I’ve read this was a beat to ship jeep double track. Great. This is something the scalpel just eats up, but my arms are destroyed. Its slightly downhill so my legs are happy, but my arms aren’t. I notice I am reeling in bigger dudes who would just move over. I’m either out of control or I’m riding like a beast.
Peek down a couple of times and you are cruising way over 20 MPH.
Dangerous, but dangerously fun. I need to take some risks on these things. This thing lasted nearly 20 minutes. It is really all down hill from here.
Come down to some more features I recognize, these wooden bridges. I decide to actually ride across the first one, its not like it doesn’t have railings, but it is tight. As I’m 60% across, I see a family with tubes coming across.
Oh god no. Thankfully they see me and without me saying anything, they back track and let me pass. I praise them. I make it across unscathed.
It’s flat, so I’m pushing. We cross another bridge and I assume it’s the same width across. WRONG. This would have been helpful to know before hand. I bounce each bar end of each side 3-4 times before I actually eat shit and become part of the railing. I’m forced off and walk across, but I’m sure everyone is and does this.
Still doing the math and I still know one more trail is coming up, Thee Fishermans Trail. I’ve heard rumors it was un-rideable, but really, who knows. By this point I’ve tracked down 3-4 other riders and we hit this trail.
It really wasn’t a trail. It kind of reminded me of boulderama at the sourlands, but flat, and not really a trail. It was just those kind of rocks throw into a section and a line drawn through it. It was actually hard to see where you were suppose to go. The 4 of us pace-walk this thing, me being second…. Foot? I think I may have ridden about 10 feet of this trail. The 10 feet I did ride, I was able to pass the head of our peleton, and I’m able to jump on the rail trail before any of them and DRILL it. I need to hit 9 hours.
I take inventory on what I have on me, and at mile 95 and aid 5 I have to decide if I’m really going to stop here, or just TT these last five miles… with no water. Bone. Dry. I need to decide if I can live for 5 more miles without fluids, or if it is necessary. I see the arrows, the tents, the signs for aid 5. I would LOVE some water right now. But I can’t. I need to keep the wheels moving. When I stop, the clock doesn’t. I open up whatever I have on this stretch. I looked back to see if ANYONE was near me to work with. The rail trail is as straight as an arrow, and I can’t see anyone ahead of me or behind me. Great.
The good news is my HR is still responding and I’m still moving at a good clip. I ended up averaging 15.4 MPH over this stretch of flat road/rail trail. I’ll take it. The miles are ticking by and I’m so close to my realistic goal. I end up hearing someone close in on me on the last stretch, but not enough time to actually work together. We head out onto the road, I start to see buildings, roads with signs on them, this has to be Coburn.
I glance to to my right and I see the tents, I see my car, I see everything. I’m spinning 26/11 as hard as I can. I did the math, I should be under…
I come through at 8:55, 5 minutes under my goal. I did it. I really did it. I roll past the finish and lay down somewhere behind some tents. Not in the shade sadly.
Mandi said I looked like I was in rough shape. She tells me later that I was saying certain things and quivering from my lips, but I don’t remember that. She has some cool water and tells me I need to get into the creek. She was right. I lay for another 3-4 minutes or so and finally get the courage to get up against my bodies will and into the creek. Oh man, that felt good, such refreshing. I sink my chest into the water and even though it feels like I’m having a heart attack, my body is becoming happier and happier.
The rest of the time was spent cheering for everyone else, enjoying some more race stories and recapping. At one point, in my bathing suit, I’m laying face down and I passed out for a LONG time.
I must say, I’m proud of myself for this one. I will say that anyone can really do this. Is it hard? Yes. Is it rewarding, absolutely, The longer and longer the night went on, the more I clapped and cheered on the people who came through. The DFL people rolled in with lights on at 15 hours. I have learned that most of these events are not IF you can do it, it’s if you WANT to do it. For me, The mental side was more important than the physical side.