Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Wildernness 101 report

It's finally up, my report of Wilderness 101. This was gonna be my biggest race of the year...the one that I wanted to be most prepared for and the one I wanted the most to do well in. On Friday, I made the trip down to Pennsylvania with Mad Mountain Mike who handled all driving duties. Some highlights and lowlights from the drive included:

-1/2 hour wait at the border
-road construction slow downs in PA
-Interstate billboard that read: "Ultima II massage; Tractor trailer parking available"
-Sign outside a church in Milton PA: "All male beauty contest"
-Interstate billboard for syracuseredneckgames.com
-horrible American drivers - Learn how to use the passing lane properly on the Interstates!!
-PA could be best described as green and hilly
-I wanted to make sure that I had eaten enough before the race, so I kept stuffing my face with food on the way down, and all Mike could say way "You're STILL eating?!?!?"

That's right, we're in Amish country.

The best way to describe the race is to break it up in terms of the aid stations.  To give you an idea of all the climbing (and descending), check out the elevation profile (it's 3 pages. It's also in the picture of the number plate above...the red part at the bottom is the elevation profile).

 Porta-potty lineup before the race...40 people deep with 30 minutes to go until the start.

The race was slated to start at 7:00 am, with the rider briefing at 6:45. We could hear the briefing from our campsite, and as the time crept closer to7:00, we decided to make our way to the start. Only thing is that as we pulled up to the start the race had already started! So there I was, right at the very back of the pack, pedaling my ass off to get past a good 200 riders. Luckily, the start was neutralized on an asphalt road so I was able to make up for my poor positioning. After the neutralized start was a long gravel climb....now, from here to the first aid station was a bit of a blur, except for me riding with about 10 other riders, and our group eventually swelling to about 20 riders. This meant that we were FLYING along...full on paceline riding on gravel roads, taking downhills at close to 60km/hr (sketchy!!!) We made it to the first aid station in just over an hour, and rolled right through. One of the cool things at the first aid station is that volunteers had FULL water bottles of water and energy drink, handing them to riders as they went by (I got a brand new water bottle this way!).

After aid station 1, there was a bit of climbing which split up our big group. All I remember is two long descents...the trail was doubletrack width, but there was only a skinny little trail cutting its way through the grass. These descents were looooooooooong, but there was no need to touch the brakes, as they were pretty straight, and they were FAST! A quick glance down at my computer showed over 50km/hr...holy crap! There was some flat singletrack with with burly rock gardens (everyone kept talking about the rocks!), and then we came up on aid station 2. A little aside...Before the start of the race, we were given two big ziplock bags with our number on it to be used as drop bags which would be taken to aid stations of our choosing. My first drop was at aid station 2. About 50 metres before the aid station, volunteers were calling out rider number plates so that other volunteers could pick out your drop bag and have it ready for you as you pulled up. So as I pulled up, I had a volunteer asking me what I wanted, what I needed, filling up my water bottles for me....it was awesome! On top of that, my rear derailleur had come loose, and there were techs at the aid station ready to help out. They even had extra tubes and CO2 for those that needed it....amazing!

People who had done the 101 before kept talking about "the climb after aid station 2". If you look at the profile, it's one big spike. To be honest, I didn't find it that bad. Yeah, it was long, but I just got into a steady rhythm and maintained it, trying not to go into a "this is painful" zone. What was tough was the descent. Crazy, rocky burly singletrack that had me squeezing the crap out of my brakes, my triceps screeming at me, and my fingers wanting to give up and let go of the handle bar. It was the first time ever that I was wishing for a downhill to be over...it was THAT long and rough!

Another comment I heard from a lot of riders was that the section from aid #2 to aid #4 was the toughest part of the course, but if anything, the stretch from 3 to 4 was like being kicked in the nuts when you're writhing in pain from being nailed with a good ribshot. The climb after aid station 3 was BRUTAL! At this point, the course had covered 100km, and being faced with a slow, rocky, rooty uphill was discouraging. It was the first time this year I had to use my granny ring (I HATE using my granny) and at one point I got off and started walking 'cause I was going WAY too slow pedaling. This at least gave my legs a bit of a break and I felt better once I was back on my bike. This of course was followed by two more crazy ass my-arms-are-gonna-fall-off rocky descents that made me want the descent to be over! Oh yeah, there was some fun singletrack in there, too!

Right after aid #4 was yet another long climb...a slog that reduced me to walking again. Followed by some singletrack and a nice doubletrack downhill. A stop at aid #5 for some coke, and it was the home stretch. There were some stretches of rail trail that included old railway tunnels, and let me tell you... biking in broad daylight and then entering a pitch black tunnel messes with you. I entered the tunnel, and then came to a screaming stop 'cause I had ZERO sense of perception. After about 10 seconds, I could see the light at the other end but still couldn't tell what was in front of me. I ended up walking through the tunnel until there was enough light to see what I was doing. Once through the tunnel, one last climb, one last rocky section and ANOTHER tunnel, I was back at Coburn park, 8 hours, 28 minutes and 101 miles later. Results are up on cyclingnews. In my field I was 48th out of 184 riders, and something like 62nd out of roughly 270 finishers.

Mike, all smiles despite having 4, that's right, FOUR flats!!

So overall, what did I think. First off, this was by far, my best race of the year. I had been dissapointed with my racing so far this year, but I finally felt good about a race, felt good during the race, AND had fun. For a race that was 160km, it was FAST. There were LOTS of gravel road sections, which made the course fast. I think there was just the right amount of singletrack, especially considering it was rocky technical trails. Threre were some fun flowy sections thrown in the mix, too. Given the length of the course, I think you have to limit the amount of singletrack, or else the race would take forever to complete.
Perhaps the best part of this race were the aid stations. The volunteers were awesome...they made it feel like I had my own support crew taking care of things for me. (see above)
My goal for the race was 9 hours, so being able to beat that by 1/2 hour was a huge bonus.

Part of the reason why I rode well: brand new merino socks that didn't match my kit! I've developed a superstition about "lucky race socks".

As I rolled through the finish, I collected by prize, and then filled it up....emptied it, then filled it up....emptied it, then filled it up....you get the picture. The kegs were flowin' and I had carbs to replace!!!

Would I do this race again....yes. Do I want to try some other 100 milers....hell yeah! So I think I covered everything. If I think of anything else important to mention you'll hear it.


  1. Well done Stu! That sounds like an amazing race--great job!!

  2. Great job! Very impressive result!!
    A lot of what you rode is what we rode in the Trans-Epic and I recognized bits you talk about. Tough downhills, long climbs and that crazy tunnel! Sounds like a tough race.

  3. Thanks guys! It was both tough and amazing...it left me with a pretty big sense of accomplishment.

  4. Impressive... most impressive!!

  5. brought back some good memories from last year.

    Wicked job Stu - very impressive result - some big names in that race. Whoot!

    Told you you'd like it, especially the feed stations - just awesome!

  6. Thanks Andy and Craig!
    There definitely were some big names there...guys whose 9 to 5 involves riding bikes. Since I don't have that luxury I'm super happy with my result.

    And yeah, the race is almost worth it just for the aid stations....the volunteers were amazing!

  7. Awesome. Sounds like a really good time, great riding! Sounds like a great route for big wheels.

    BTW, I second your point about the drivers down there. They are atrocious. I don't understand why they don't get how two lanes are supposed to work. I even flashed people to get to them to move out of the fast lane, and only one out of six actually moved over. Getting back onto the 417 from Cornwall on our return was like removing a thorn from my side. Ahhhhhhh.

    Hope to see you soon, perhaps a ride Sunday.