Oh 100 miler season. It's been a while. I missed you. Sort of.
Last weekend was the Mohican 100, my first big race of the year. Also my first big drive. Yes, a national race calender is a glorious thing...24 hrs of driving and 9 hrs of bike racing in three days. Fun in a lot of ways but I am rather shot right now. As for the race, it was pretty rad. Dry trails this year meant I got to shred a lot, probably doubled my trail riding time for the year.
Which is kind of sad. I really didn't train enough to warrant being at this one. I think I had a half-dozen rides over 2.5 hrs all spring - and only one over 3 hrs. Not ideal prep for a hard 100 miler. But....the good part is that I've finally learned how to race these things. Some of it I knew I had to do...but a lack of fitness forced me to be more conscious than normal about pacing, nutrition, and hydration.
The first 25 miles of the race was mostly fast singletrack with punchy climbs. The kind of terrain that makes you want to go fast - had to fight the instincts there. I was going really easy it seemed. I kept feeling like it was too easy - but I'm starting to learn to know better.
Here's the thing about 100 milers - you aren't halfway to the finish until you hit mile 80. The end of the race is exponentially harder, and if you don't have something left in the tank you go backwards in at a pace that is incomprehensible if you're used to cross country races. It's not uncommon for to loose a minute a mile to people who pass you in those last 20 miles. That adds up quick.
So I went easy. I got to aid station #3, the point of no return for the 100 mile loop, feeling pretty fresh. Last year I was a shell of a human at that aid station, and aid station #3 marks the start of the major climbing. So last year it was bad news bears. This year I rode every one of those climbs, and was feeling pretty proud of myself. I wasn't flying, but I did feel in control of the race, and I was riding the singletrack sections well (which tends not to happen when I get really tired).
After the big climbs comes a 8 mile stretch of bike path type riding. It's shady and flat and really the best you could hope for 60+ miles in. Last year I raged that stretch. This year I just didn't have the power. Actually, it was mostly an upper body issue. I couldn't hold the position on the bike I needed too because my back, arms, neck, and shoulders were too sore. Guess bike specific training would have come in handy there.
By mile 80 we hit some climbs again and the body was coming around. For some reason super steep granny gear climbs felt pretty good, and the descents were flowing. I rode steady till the last 6 miles stretch of singletrack. They've got an aid station at the entrance. I cup of water on the head and a shot of coke later I was headed into the woods. The legs had something left, and all of a sudden I felt like I was riding XC race style (probably an illusion). I did pass about 5 guys though, and came through the line in 42nd (about 9 hrs).
So, for no really endurance training I was pretty psyched. It won't do great things ffor my chances in the season standings, but it will do. And if I can race the way I did at Mohican later in the year when I have some actual fitness I think good things can happen.
Thanks to Carbo Rocket and Hammer Nutrition for keeping me fueled all day long.
For more on the race (like how it went for the fast guys and gals) check out mtbracenews.com