My main goal this year was to compete in the overall for the NUE 100 series. I have completed 3 races so far and to complete the 4 needed to compete I entered in the Shenandoah Mountain 100. This was an amazing event that was very well organized and much thanks go out to Chris Scott and all the workers and volunteers. It was perfect! I got there mid day Friday and had plenty of time to set up camp and wait for the race start - probably too much time actually. I was really anxious to get started.
The race started just after 6:30 Sunday morning and 550 racers jammed through the back exit of the Stokesville campground. That was a sight to see in itself. The course was going to be muddy as the torrential rains we had the night before surely effected the grounds but from preriding I knew it drained pretty well. My goal was to finish in under 10 hours and in the top 100 of the Open Male. With the wet conditions I knew the first goal would be tough but maybe the second would be in tact. We hit the pavement and off into the first climb which was pretty good. Legs felt fine, body was good, nutrition, hydration was on. Hit the second climb and I was towards the front so I wasn't bottlenecked too badly. This section was known to be bad if in a crowd and I hit it at a nice time. There weren't too many people there so I rode the majority of the hike a bike except for some of the sloppy steep top. As I crested the top though my quad started to twinge so I knew that wasn't good. The downhill that followed made up for it.
The next section was on gravel road that was good to put down a little power. It had a nice false flat up and then down. It was kinda strange cause with this many people I didn't really have anybody to draft with. A sign of things to come. Up the paved hills to aid 2 I grabbed some water and off I went through the next paved hill and into the 3rd big climb of the course. It's a nice steady gravel road climb that pitches up a little steeper at the top. It definitely took some effort but was totally rideable as I cleaned it and took on down the other side FLYING down those downhills. The down were amazing. They were fast, slick and kept you on your toes. The effort I put in climbing this hill hurt a little for afterwards. I got to aid 3 and took water and left again onto the false flat road. Again - no one to draft with. I got to the 4th big climb - which I bonked on in the preride I did very well and only had to dismount a couple of times on the really shaley uphill sections. That downhill was very rewarding and so much fun, but I wasn't sure how much was left in the tank and I'd soon find out. Rolling into aid 4 I grabbed some coke and water and was on my way.
Now the stomach was not feeling good. It had started hurting towards the top of the 4th climb and now was not doing so hot. I didn't know if I could eat, drink or what. I just tried to stay on schedule and this was not the best time to fall apart. I was on the outskirts of the 18 mile climb. The stomach felt bad and stayed that way. I couldn't put any power down. And worst of all those that I could draft off of passed so quickly that I didn't have enough power to jump on. So I did the climb all myself slugging my way through. Finally reaching aid 5 I was hurting and knew my goal of breaking 10 was not going to happen since it was 8:15 of riding for 75 miles. Not good. So I decided to get some real food and see if that helped out. Pizza and brownies were great! I got more water and headed out. Now my stomach had started feeling better but the power was just gone. Recovery was nowhere in sight. I finally thought about it a while. I've been all over this season and I think this is what it feels like to be burnt out. It was really difficult to get any motivation and I just kept myself in preservation mode. The worst part is that once you get to aid 5 the big hill seems to be over but it's not. It keeps going to false peak after false peak. Finally when you get to the top its a relief but it takes a major toll.
After gettin down to the road - once more - the downhill from the top of the big climbing putting a big grin on my face - once more - I felt a little better knowing the end was near. Getting to aid 6 was nice. I again grabbed coke and water and was off. 88 miles in and just as I passed the aid station I looked at my watch and it hit the 10 hour mark. Damn! There goes my first goal. So I kept on plugging away trying to find the gas but it wasn't there. I made my way to the final climb and crested entering into the singletrack and swearing at all of those little suffering climbs that jumped in the way to my finish. The most exciting feeling was bombing down those water bars and seeing those tents that would signal the end of the race. Of course they made it even sweeter by putting some sharp bends in there and one last nice massive grass jump at the end to put a cap on a very nice course.
The course was a lot tougher than I first imagined. Looking at the profile online it seemed pretty basic with a few big climbs. Little did I know how those false flats everywhere drained you and how badly my stomach would rob my power. All in all it was great completing the race and meeting so many more good people out there.
At the heart of it I'm glad I was able to finish all 4 and in respectable times. Early this season I was having some bad knee trouble and I was wondering how well this season would go. I'm very happy with the way things have gone and it's only set my sights higher for next season. As I think back at what I have accomplished it I'm very proud. I do ride quite a bit but as far as formal training that's where I'm lacking. I've decided that next year is going to include a lot more dedication, sweat, off-season training, and hopefully a coach. I don't want to just eek my way through these races, I want to put my all into them. These are my thoughts as I'm feeling pretty burntout from 08 and dreaming into 09. As of now it seems like I'm going to take some time off and relax and not race. I'll look into racing again in October and hopefully some CX this fall/winter. More fun and pain to come...