Posted on 9:06 AM by Schottler
I put myself down on the Shenandoah 100 wait list about 3 weeks ago and didn't get a spot until last Thursday, a few days before the race. Last week my training did not include a 100 mile mtb race, or any race for that matter, so I put in some long and intense rides. By Thursday I was already at nearly 12 hours, so last minute rest and eating commenced. I should also mention I had a frantic frame swap/bike overhaul Thursday night, in which Murphy's Law was in full effect.
Friday and Saturday I drove to Harrisonburg VA, a little over 13 hours. I got in a 1 hour ride to get my legs loosened up, and put in the first ride on my MTB since the overhaul, thankfully most everything was functioning. It was HUMID!! Seriously, worse than Missouri, and pretty hot too. The race venue is basically in the middle of nowhere with the closest hotel being about half an hour away. With the race start being 6:30am, nearly everyone camped, including myself. I seemed to be the first person awake at 4:00am, cooked some eggs and oatmeal on my camp stove, and scarfed anything else down I could find. Still not enough time to digest everything, but good enough. I was surprised to see how many people were eating huge meals so close to the start of the race.
My openers before the start consisted of riding to the porto-potty and then to the start line. I am not too into 'openers' for these types of races, that just burns 300-500 of the 1,800ish calories that your muscles store. You need every ounce of quick burning stored energy your body has, and the starts aren't ever hard enough to need the openers. The start positions for the 650 racers were grouped by 'estimated/reality finish times.' Apparently 50 people thought they were going to finish in the 7 hour range. At the roll-out I moved to the front 5 and stayed there for the first paved section and up the first 1,000 foot or something climb.
At the top of the climb I was in the Shalk/Tanguy group of about 10 people and we got in the single track. I quickly remembered I haven't ridden any rocky single track in over a month, so I was all over the place. About a minute in a 3/4" stick lodged itself between my rear tire and seat tube, locking up my back wheel. After about a minute of trying to break the stupid thing out of there, I got passed by a bunch of people. Followed by a lot more bouncing down the rocks.
I was told by a lot of people the majority of this race is gravel, however I was not told how rough the trails were. I had wayyyy too much pressure in my fork and tires, I was getting beat up. I also didn't realize how much climbing was in this race, something like 13,000 feet elevation gain. I would say the exact amount, however my Garmin doesnt' feel like connecting to my computer and quit displaying elevation gain after 10,000 feet.
The first two hours of the race I was having awful low back pain, preventing me from putting down any real power, and also affecting my technical climbing skills. I was a mess and was getting passed by everyone. Eventually, after an endless technical climb, we descended and got to some gravel. I got in a good group and we were rotating pulls at a pretty good pace. My waterbottle cage was trying to escape from my bike during most of this time, and I had to stop at aid station #2 to tighten it down, losing my group. I was probably a minute back and 30 seconds from Garth Prosser, who went by while I was working on my bike. From this aid station it was a paved climb and I pinned myself for about 4 minutes to bridge back up. I caught up to Garth and the group at the top of the climb.
For the next hour or so I was with Garth and Zach Morrey up some more endless climbs. Eventually it was just Zach and I to a paved road and we continued working well together. I was feeling great, low back pain was gone, and I was taking some hard pulls up the paved climb and got a small gap by the top and rode off by myself into the single track at mile 45 or so. From here, I was by myself the rest of the race.
Not really the best place to be by yourself it turns out, after aid station #4 it's a super long paved/gravel road with a huge amount of climbing. I set a pace and TT'd the whole section, catching and passing a couple of riders. After aid #5, I thought I was done climbing. Nope. This next section was called 'soul crusher.' The climbing didn't ever seem to end. My Garmin said I had 2,000 feet of descending to do, I was hoping for some gravel to go down. Nope. It was very rough and steep single track. I hurt everywhere and I went super slow. Down to aid #6.
From here, some gravel and another long climb. I was still feeling good at this time, but ready for the race to be over. I kept reminding myself the faster I go, the sooner it's over. It's simple and obvious, but you don't always look at it that way. Easy gravel descent to the finish to 7th place in 7:46. My longest ever time on a bike. Results.
Overall I am somewhat happy. I think I could have gone faster if I didn't have the issues at the start. However, if I didn't have the issues at the start I may have burned through more matches and not ridden as well at the end. Who knows. I shouldn't complain.
Now I am really trying to decide whether I should follow this series or not next year. I think I have a shot at top 5 overall (they take best 4 races.) Probably should, they are fun.
However I have also learned that the mental part of these races is as demanding as it is physically. To do well, your head has to be in it, or you are screwed. By mile 70 I was counting down every mile to go, I wanted it to be over. I was telling myself I never want to do one of these again. But now that it is all done I want to do it again. Garth told me that's normal, your head goes to weird places. It's something that should be relatively easy to improve and probably the easiest way to go faster.
Also, don't put a big air on your dash when it's hot. Sorry Garth.