Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wilderness 101

This is truly absurd, I’m sitting at the base of Mt.Washington, it’s 5:36 in the morning, and I’m at a 24 hour race on a 4 Man Pro team, more about that in next week’s post, first things first. Last Friday at 7AM I met Andy Sanidas, Jeff Whittingham, and Harry Precourt at Seven Cycles in Watertown Mass, we were to caravan behind Skip Brown and the Seven van down to Coburn, PA. Skip’s driving pace soon proved too much for the Precourt van and we were on our own. Of course we reconnected as we made the requisite stop at Wegman’s where Lloyd Graves refrained from purchasing another Three Day Ham and Cheese sub (takes three days to eat it, get it?).

We arrived in Coburn in short time, pulled into the small town park which for one day a year transforms into a bustling festival of offroad cycling. After setting up camp we hopped on our bikes for a little preride, at least a preride of the last five miles or so back and forth, it’s actually really technical this thing they call “The Fisherman’s Path” and it happens after mile 95.
The weekend prior I had damaged my ITB’s at Bradbury Mt. with all that silly running business, they still hadn’t let go even after a professional (if very cheesy and weird) massage. I even had Buck Keich work on me at the event, he definitely helped me but I was still pretty screwed. You don’t want to show up to a 100 miler without your legs. So after dinner I went to bed and hoped for the best.

Wake up time was 5Am, I gagged down a couple rice and egg burritos and a banana knowing full well it would back up on me early in the race but potentially serve me well later on. I’d done this race the year before so I knew the start was going to be tough for the single speeds, 20 miles of dirt and paved roads which don’t roll quite enough for you to stay in contact. I wasn’t feeling good but kept waiting to feel better, staying within sight of the front group for the most part, then the yo-yo started to happen, I had to fight back on the uphills but my legs weren’t psyched about it and eventually I lost it, elastics were snapping left and right, suitcases of courage were busting open, their contents spewing all over the luggage carousel.
My recollection was that the race didn’t bite until after mile 60, I was mistaken, there was plenty of serious badness before mile 60, including what I call unofficially “The you’ve got to be f-n kidding me climb”. This wall that kicks up just after you pass through a campground, incredibly brutal. I’d decided to roll with a 32 X 18, a so called “two to one ratio”, stiffer than last year and much to stiff for my uncooperative lower appendages to handle. I kept waiting to feel better…and waiting, instead of feeling better I got worse, all the while holding out for one of my late race surges.
The way the 101 works is you do all your climbing primarily on dirt and fire roads then you traverse and descend on technical single track, the latter part was the only time I was having any fun. I pretty much walked the climb after mile 60, there I ran into Harry Precourt, this was his first 100 and he was rocking out. I was walking, hardly able to bend my knees, tripping over roots, contemplating for the first time dropping out due to something besides a massive mechanical or a broken bone, I had never felt so low on the bike. I told Harry I was going to go back to aid station three and drop out, he said something inspirational to me, whatever it was I kept moving forward, got back on the bike, struggled up the next little climb and entered the singletrack reinvigorated . Somehow I found the energy to rail through the fun, pointy, rocky stuff at top speed, although all the while I was going “I hope I flat, I hope flat, I hope I flat…if only so I can sit down in the shade for ten minutes”. Not a sign that I’m feeling very competitive. I didn’t flat even as I rattled down what seemed to be a two mile long stone wall, swearing and letting out crazy guttural sounds the whole way.

Jeff scoops his precious pasta salad off the Wegeman's parking lot

When I pulled into aid station four at mile sixty whatever, I saw Greg Montello and Jeff Whittingham there, I wasn’t sure why. I guess Greg had been up in the front, duking it out all day then flatted and lost impetus and Jeff meanwhile had cracked his seatpost off at the collar while sitting in the top ten. Greg was ready to call it a day but thankfully he decided to baby sit me the rest of the way back to the finish. Just as we left Aid 4 and headed up this horrible, choppy, enormous climb, Greg says “OK, no attacking each other”. I was right there with him as I completely seized up and had to hop off my bike and walk/stagger up the hill. I knew the climb was too long to walk, so I’d alternate walking with taking a few labored, painful pedal strokes. Greg was now totally out of sight but as I reached the crest of the hill I hear him yelling for me to get on my bike.
By the time we began to descend Deejay Birtch and a non-communicative geared guy on a Cannondale had caught on. Sadly I got dropped on a 2% grade leading up to some of the second to last section of singletrack. As the trail got twistier I began to gap back up, passing the quiet man with Greg and Deejay in sight, then I almost blew a trail marker, doubled back and saw only Greg ahead of me. When I finally caught up I asked if Deejay had passed him, he said no, at this point I was pretty sure Deejay had gone off course. I never did get to talk to him after the event but I can’t see how else I would have gone past him without noticing.
Just the same as last year we came upon Jonathan “Gotchaweedah?” who had perhaps stopped for a few too many “safety breaks”, he was in space. Again I was recharged by the singletrack of the Poe Trail, crashing down it with wreckless abandon, going to my crazy place, head bobbing back and forth, tongue out, talking all kinds of weirdness. When I got to the end and spun down to Aid 5, I had to wait a while before Greg showed up. It was funny to watch him have a meltdown like four year old when they told him they didn’t have any Coke just as I had moments before. You NEED Coke at mile 88 of a 100 miler, NEED. As we rolled out Greg told me that he would have killed me if I had ditched him, there was no way I was going to ditch the guy after he had sat and waited for my sorry ass so many times since Aid 4, no way, even if he had flatted I would have sat at Aid 5 drinking not-coke for ten minutes. Shortly after we got cranking on the first section of relentless, dead flat rail trail Trish Stevenson caught on, she was hot on the trail of Betsy Shogren. She was content to get pulled by the slow-motion single speed pace line.

After an eternity we reached the final climb, I stayed as close to Greg as possible, oh Jonathan had actually passed me at the Aid station so he was there too, we weren’t really racing anymore, but there was no point in getting beat by the last two people in sight. When we hit the final portion of rail trail we traded off, just trying to get home. As we came through the tunnel onto the pavement that was it, we cooled down to the line, rolling down the 10th Street Alley to the campground. I gave Greg a slow-motion lead out for the sprint, he was reluctant to take it so I pretty much had to come to a track stand to get him to come around, but he did and I pointed to him like Boonen to Stegmans.

After the race we rallied, staying up to the wee hours, watching almost everyone (even Harlan Price) bust out kegs stands, until the beer had run out, and we all felt like our asses were , in the words of Mike Ramponi “wet Melba toast”.

1 comment:

the original big ring said...

Fuuuuuuugggggggg. Is that what I have to look forward to? Sounds like a suffer-fest. Haven't had a melba toast-like ass in a while.