Tuesday, July 31, 2012

2012 Wilderness 101

This year’s 101 used the same updated course as the 2011 race. Temps were not too hot, but the humidity was very high. I was drenched all day with an unpleasant amount of perspiration as my body attempted to get some evaporative cooling. Rain showers were a constant threat, but the weather held out for me until the last few miles.

W101 - Quick Stats for Plassman

Time: 8:44
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Hydro: 12 bottles consumed - about 2.1 gallons
Fuel: 9 scoops of magic go power, 1 cliff block pack, 2 gels, 10ozs coke
Electrolytes: 1 gel flask of pickle juice and about 12 enduralyte capsules
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Crashes: 1 (silly fall on small rock)
Mechanicals: 0
Cramping: minimal
Tunnels: 2
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Curses lobbed at Panther Run Jeep Trail: 10+ F-bombs
Equestrians encountered: 2
Little girls scared: 2 (not on purpose)

Ride the lightning

In a pre-race email, there was mention of the last section of rail to trail having been marked off with “no trespassing" signs as well as being blocked by some felled trees and such. The email also mentioned that the owner of this property would help make it clear for registered racers only.

My team mates and I ran into the owner while we pre-rode the final section of rail to trail and the last rock filled train tunnel. He was a serious looking man surrounded by serious tools and equipment. We probably looked silly to him in our race clothes as he worked to collect the freshly slaughtered remnants of the trail blockade. We asked if we could lend a hand. He gazed at us in a solemn, serious stare and paused slightly, almost dramatically, and said: “Shouldn’t you be worried about the lightning?”

It was such a sublime and effective statement that we all just basically said thanks and proceeded to turn around and ride back though the tunnel. Then, as if on queue from the property owner himself, a loud crack of thunder rang out and the wind kicked up ominously. We finished our pre-ride in a tempest brought on by a pop up thunderstorm. We all now had wet shoes for race morning.

Race Day

I was finally able to get a good night’s sleep before race day. I suspect that it was due in part to getting a lift to the race and not having to drive. The cold I had sensed developing in my sinuses was still present, but had not made it into my throat or lungs.

A sleepy and damp morning greeted us all with a thin fog. The race's road sections were a good start and I found a few pace-lines to settle in and knock out much of the early gravel. Soon, I got to enjoy the first real single track section and had a lot of fun dicing up the rock infested single track and fern lined trails. There was nice flow on this section and I did my best to look cool for Bob Popovich who is always on hand to make us look good in his photos. Unfortunately, my GoPro got fogged up a bunch due to the humidity, and I did not get a lot of usable footage.

The rest of the race went well. I tried out my pickle juice flask at aid #2 as my legs threatened to cramp. After aid #3 I got a good position into the single track and rode most of it in loc step with a single speeder who possessed good technical skills. During the rest of the technical sections I was able to make a lot of passes and regained many of the positions I gave up on the climb to aid #3. By the time I got to aid #4 I was rallying out of the slump of exhaustion that usually hits me between miles 40-50ish. Lots of technical rocky sections re-affirmed my love for my Anthem X 29er and stiff I-9 wheel set.

After getting completely rattled by the near cobblestone jeep trail called “Panther Run”, I passed aid #5 and got on the gas heading into the rails to trail sections. There are 2 tunnels in this race and the first tunnel is always long, absurdly dark, and super spooky to ride because all you can see in the middle is the tombstone of light at the other end… This time it was also full of people and 2 way traffic! Fortunately, someone had LED lights and lit the tunnel up. That was awesome! Next year I will bring a small light for sure.

I caught up with my friend James Burris, and another rider I’ve met before, and we rode a nice pace line to the final climb where I got off the back by just about 15 seconds. I was able to reel them back in on the last descent.  Then I pulled a small gap as I rode out the last 25% of the super rocky “Fisherman’s Path” while the rain set in. A missed turn on the rail/trail cost me about 1 minute and I had to charge hard to try and catch James. In the last half mile of road, I looked back to see another rider working very hard to chase me down. I churned hard in my biggest gear combo to fend him off. Luckily, I managed to keep a small 2 second gap rolling into the finish with a time of 8:44