Finally, finally, finally I've been doing some good racing. This past weekend was the Wilderness 101, and prior to that I raced as a team at the Ryan Hawks Memorial Eastern Cup 6 Hr. race. Sweet.
So, the 101. Those guys on the podium crushed it, and beat me by hours. More on that later though.
Last year I was pretty shattered coming into this race, so I was hoping for better things this year. Of course, I also hadn't trained as hard. I knew it was pretty unrealistic to hope for a stellar ride, but still, I was rested, maybe something would happen. Also, Nina and I threw down at the Eastern Cup, winning the team division of the 6 hr. race. Sure, it was a small field, but it's always fun to win a race and it gave me a little bit of confidence at least.
Turns out confidence doesn't get you very far in a 100 miler. I started way back on the line, gunned it up the first part of the initial climb to be on the tail end of the still large lead group. Then it hurt a lot to be there and so I fell back. After that I got a little smarter, got in some groups, recovered, and rode my race. I actually have gotten better at racing these things over the course of two years.
The first half of the 101 course is mostly gravel roads, so I did my best to ride with groups and let other people do most of the work at the front. That worked out pretty well actually. Though sometimes the groups were moving a little slow, I figured it was best not to force the issue. I don't have that kind of fitness right now, and I knew I was climbing okay, so I waited. Right after Aid #2 things start to go up in a real way. It's the kind of climb were you can let people ride away and then real them in 20 minutes later. So that's what I did. Then you finally get a good singletrack descent, which I regretted wishing for in about one minute of riding. PA singletrack is BUMPY and ROCKY. Ouch. All that carbon goodness that kept things efficient going up relies on you being smooth going down to keep things comfy. Well, I kind of did that sort of. But I'm not immune to the death grip. I was happy to go up again.
And that's sort of how the race went for me. Steady and efficient climbing followed by serviceable riding on the singletrack sections. I think I ended up 44th, which was a lot better than last year but well off where I'd like to be this time of year. The reason for which goes back a few months.
This winter I had a few things on my mind with regard to bike racing. One was that I wanted to be fast in August/September, when I'm usually burned out. And the other was that I didn't want to ride the trainer. So I experimented and spent a lot of time climbing mountains with skis on my back (or on my feet). It kept me in general shape, but the lack of specific bike fitness is something I haven't been able to overcome all season (being sick for a few weeks didn't help either). Okay, lesson learned. The trainer would have been helpful.
Okay, back to the 101. I should say that at 8:31:something this was the fastest I've ever done one of these things. That was more the course than me, but hey, I'll take it. I made a couple of equipment tweaks for this one, which worked out really well. The new 24x36 crankset set-up was sweet, and I had some new tires from Continental that worked super well. The rear was the well known Race King 2.2, which provided some nice cush run tubeless with Stan's rims. In the front I had an unmarked, super pro (haha), X King 2.2. I was a little nervous to be running them as this was my first ride (I got them set-up on Thursday and spent all day on Friday driving). But they held up really well and the X King was confidence inspiring even when bombing rock strewn descents and death grip speed. Cool.
Three weeks to go until the season's last big race (for me), the Fool's Gold 100 miler. I guess it's time to rest, put the last touches on my decidedly mediocre form, and see what happens. Yippee.