The weather could not have been better: the first dry hundy, yeah! Chris Scott woke us up with the customary gong at 5:30 am. The temp was in the low 60's. Instead of my normal pre-race PopTart, I tried a PB&J. I carried my 50 ounce Camelbak with Glacier Mist Rapidade and a flask of Gu.
The first 3 miles was a neutral start on pavement. That was nice and allowed for a bit more warm-up. Once we turned onto dirt, the road turned up and the race was on. I was up against the powerful Pennsylvannia natives, Cheryl and Michelle. Cheryl slowly pulled away from Michelle and I on the first 2 mile climb. I was feeling pretty good, but remembering the disaster at Mohican, I kept some in reserve and rode with Michelle. We hooked up with a train of people that, at first, did not seem to want to work together, but after a bit, found a good rhythm.
Doug (on an Ericksson bike?) was in this group. Every hundy I have done this year, we have been there right together for the first few hours.
From Aid Station 1 began a doubletrack climb followed by a wickedly fast descent. Superfun! After more gravel road, the next bit of singletrack (Longberger Path) was relatively flat and flowy. Towards the end were a series of 3 bridges that got progressively narrower and then a 20 yard rock garden. This year I knew it was coming up, so got in a good position and was able to clean it.
I made it to Aid Station 2 (40 miles) in 2h31m, 29 minutes faster than last year. But this year I knew the most difficult was yet to come. Michelle and I pulled in together just as Cheryl was leaving. We left together and decided to try to reel Cheryl back in.
The next 20 miles had the 3 most difficult climbs. The first started immediately leaving the Aid Station and climbed 1400 feet in 3 miles. Michelle was just too strong; I popped off her wheel about halfway up the climb. She looked like she was going to catch Cheryl. At this point, I settled into a rhythm and rode based on HR and RPE. Although I was disappointed I could not hang with Michelle, I was happy to be feeling good.
The descents off these brutal climbs were steep and technical and brutal on your palms and balls of your feet. Wallace Trail was a descent through a dry creekbed. I saw no lines through this, so I made my own. One mistake, however, and your bike or your body would pay. With TransRockies just around the corner, I decided to play it safe, and so stayed well within my abilities. Stumpy was a bit addled, as she wanted to fly down the trail, no brakes! Sorry, Stumpy, your day will come.
At the 50 mile mark, I was still 10 minutes ahead of last year's pace. After grabbing a bottle at Aid Station 3 (54 miles), I began the 2 mile singletrack climb up Spencer Trail. From there was a short section of fireroad, followed by Sassafras Trail. This has got to be one of the rockiest in the race. Bone-jarring for me and then some pain in my left knee began to flare up whenever I would try to stand and mash. So I sat and spun. Towards the end of this trail, I think, was a loose and sketchy descent with a sharp right turn that I overcooked last year. Well, I about made the same mistake, but managed to stay upright and on the trail.
Beautiful Trail was a scary descent on a steep slope of what looked to have been a landslide a long time ago. Scary as in rocks following you down as you rode over them and one bad bobble and you would be taking a tumble down into the rocky ravine. The trail eventually levelled out (becoming No Name Trail) into kind of a boggy area with wet roots and rotten wood bridge crossings. The old growth forest was breathtaking and the smells of wet leaves and rich soils was captivating: one of many reasons why I love to ride singletrack.
Aid Station 4 (74 miles) was under a bridge. Since I was the only rider in I was treated like royalty. I practically did not have to do anything. They held my bike, filled my Camelbak, and helped me exchange my gel flask. I was off within a minute.
Stillhouse road was a 2 mile climb on a washed out "jeep trail." It reminded me of the ORV roads up in Tellico Plains. Then came the Sand Mountain Trail followed by the Little Poe Trail which had several mud puddles (Stumpy was clean up until this point).
The course finished up with 2 Rail-Trails separated by one long steep climb and one fisherman's trail. I had to TT this last 11 miles as there was no one in sight. I had been hoping to hook up with a train as my quads felt like they were going to explode.
I finished up in 8:59, only a bit faster than last year. I heard that Michelle and Cheryl had a battle for quite a while until Cheryl was able to pull away once and for all.
1. Thursday night before the race after searching for a vacant hotel we finally found a Microtel that was practically empty. It may have had something to do with the fact that it was right across the street from a federal penitentiary.
2. Where was Aid Station 2B (B as in Beer) this year?
3. Betsy Shogren riding a singlespeed (not by choice) due to a thumb injury. A definite Bad Lass!
4. Cheryl's inexperience with popping champagne which led me to having an earful of alcohol. Just you wait, Cheryl ... payback will be coming!
5. Swiftwick socks are the bomb. No sand, dirt, grit could make its way through to my "toesies."
6. 150 ounces of fluid (120 Rapidade, 30 water) and 14 Gu's consumed.
7. No more PB&J's as a pre-race meal. Even though consumed 2 hours prior to racing, it sat like a rock in my stomach for the first 40 miles.
All in all, a good day in the woods.