The Shenandoah Mountain 100 – This race is epic – 100 miles of fire road, pavement, singletrack, billygoat climbs, and wicked descents. 14,000 total feet of climbing. Recipe for pain.

Things were looking touch-and-go with Tropical Storm/Depression Ernesto giving the east coast the old anti-cyclonic backhand. The course, however, had been really dry as most of the area has suffered from drought conditions. Couple that with good drainage, rocky and steep terrain and things were A-okay.

Plan was start near the front, but settle into a steady, easy to moderate pace. I won’t go into all the details as only those who have ridden the course would know what or where I am talking about, but things were looking good . I was moving swiftly up the hills and whistling down the technical descents. A-ok. I arrived at checkpoint #3 – 45 miles into the race in just under 4 hours. This was the first sign that ole’ Major Tom was having problems. My legs were getting crampy – something I had never dealt with this early in the race.

I know – early? 4 hours and 45 miles. The 100 is a weird race like that. I can’t imagine going for a ride that lasts 100 miles, takes 9+ hours (up to and over 16 hours for some), and climbs over 2 vertical miles. So 100 vocabulary is sort of unique.

Anyway, I clearly wasn’t following my plan closely. Matt’s wife Kattie told me I was just outside the top 25. ?? No, this was not good. I’d love to be up there, but knew I didn’t belong there – not this early, not ever maybe. But, competition being what it is I didn’t heed this warning well – more about HEED a little later. I rushed through putting duct tape on the arch of my foot to slow the spreading blister, stuffed half a PB&J down, filled up liquids and took off.

After riding the road to the next section of single track climbing I was a getting more worried. I usually move fast on this road section, but felt I was struggling some. The climb up is steep and technical and I thought I was moving slow – mostly in my granny gear. But then I caught some folks and rethought my situation – we’re all hurting. Maybe I am just waiting for my 2nd wind. I flew down on the decent into Braley’s Pond and check point #4 (mile 57). My plan was to refuel, stretch, and relax for a bit. This was my plan for aid station #3 – and even having Kim at #3 didn’t slow my exit. This time I had some fellow riders urging me to head out so that we could paceline together on the following paved and dirt road section. An 18 mile slog from #4 to #5, 5 miles of which is uphill fireroad – steep fireroad. This doomed me I think.

We headed out hot – way too fast and just when I was pulling through from the front of our 3-man paceline and planning to throttle back, one of my companions uttered the words my body was thinking – “this pace is way too fast”. This came from Matt Lee. I saw the name stenciled on his bike and knew it sounded familiar. Later I would confirm my fears…this guy has won the The Great Divide Race the past two years. This race is along the continental divide and about 2500 miles from the Canadian to Mexican border in the middle of summer. No support. None! Arguably the hardest – certainly the longest – mountain bike race on the planet. He finished in 17 days this year. And I was riding with him. This is really looking bad. But I was feeling ok and when we caught another rider we worked together well – this time taking a moderate approach to our pace. We had a headwind and the dirt was a bit slow, tacky from the recent rain. So we took it steady. Nearing the hard right to begin the climb to #5 I dropped Matt and Thomas (Jenkins). Not intentionally. We hit a short hill and I got out of the saddle to climb it. I looked back and they had dropped off so I kept going. That makes mistake # ??

So…I make the turn, start the climb, and begin to slow. Almost as if I didn’t notice. Then my pulse started pounding. Mostly in my neck, but then my chest. My heart rate was in the 160s – too high for the effort and pace I was putting out. Shit. I was bonking. My body was working overtime and this was the beginning of a downward spiral. Ground control…I’m in trouble. I tried to minimize the damage by taking it really slow and willing myself with bribes of donuts and coke when I get to #5. The taking it slow was really not a strategy – that was all I could do. Matt Lee goes blowing by as if I am standing still and when I was about ready to roll out of #5 Thomas came rolling in – he looked wasted too. He just got off his bike and took a rest. A good idea I should have followed. Something can be learned from this though…Thomas had a fast time last year (8:55), but suffered late – like me – this year and finished in 9:54 – about an hour slower. I am not sure how he road last year, strategy-wise, but this year he went out fast. I caught him on the long Hankey climb, but he dropped me on the descent and I didn’t see him again until Matt and I caught him between 4 and 5. He’s been riding strong from what I can tell (Cranky Monkey race #1) so it’s hard to say. Matt on the other hand was rolling along well, but then he had a mechanical and had to drop out at #6. 12 miles from the finish – that sucks! The point being for me – start a little slower or throttle back early after checkpoint #1.

Well – I never pulled out of the tail spin. The ground kept getting closer. I watched my time slip away. I had a goal to do this race in under 9 hours. Last year I did 9:10 and sub-9 seemed well within reach given this year’s fitness. However, I was greedy and in the back of my mind I thought I could pull it out in 8:30. I pushed too hard for too long and paid the piper. Even at near the end I couldn’t get out of the saddle for more than 10 seconds before my heart would race and I would get winded. A terrible feeling I can assure you. Luckily the SM100 finishes with a twisty decent down through the back of the campground and out into the main, broad lawn area, across the line. It makes you feel you’ve been going fast the whole time. Sort of. I finished in 09:35. I’ve done this race 4 times and this was my 3rd slowest. Lessons learned. Lessons for sure.

The rest of the City Bikes crew had great stories and experiences. Nothing less is expected from this race. Mike K’s time improved despite a wicked evil bee attacking him. Others were slower than last year. Perhaps conditions were a tad slower from the rain, but it didn’t stop Jeremiah Bishop from setting a new course record (7:15). Guess that’s not surprising since he just took 8th place at the mtb world champs in New Zealand.


~ by Indy on September 7, 2006.

2 Responses to “SM100”

  1. SM100 indeed! Doesn’t the SM stand for Sado-Masochism? At times I am unable to dicipher if you are bragging for complaining about your efforts. All in all, you did extremely well even if you do ride “yourself” very hard.

  2. Sure – I’m bragging some. Everybody needs to take pride in the ability to suffer. It is a dispropotionally (time-wise) strong memory.

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