It’s funny what goes in and out of my mind during a 100 mile mtb race. There is a lot of time to think about stuff when riding a bike for eight hours at a time; that is for sure. Much of the time I am probably thinking about the race itself; but, other times my mind wanders into my past or thinks about the future to come. One thing I do for certain during each long race is replay some song in my head ad nauseam. At the Shenandoah Mountain 100 (SM100) this past weekend, the final race of the 2010 NUE Series, my mind chose to replay 'What You Give' by Tesla. This song choice may lead you to believe that I am some old-school head-banging heavy-metal band fanatic infatuated with rock ballads. While I don’t mind this kind of music, it is definitely not my musical preference. I am pretty sure the main reason this song came into my head during the race is because my co-worker had Tesla playing from his ipod desktop player a few times this past week.
So, anyway, enough about the song made by the hair band Tesla and onto the racing action. The first thing I need to say about the SM100 is that it is an absolutely fantastic race. It is professionally run, well marked, and held on some of the best trails on the east coast. Additionally, the volunteers who help out during the race at all the checkpoints are second to none. It definitely gets my vote for being one of the best 100 milers around. Add to all of these great things the fact that the SM100 was also the championship race for the NUE Series this year and you get one extraordinary event for 2010. For me, the race was even more important because it would also be the determining factor if whether or not I would win the NUE Series Singlespeed Champion title this year.
After my disappointment at the Fool’s Gold 100 race two weeks ago, I decided to step my training up a bit in preparation for the SM100. My game plan was to train really hard for ten days and then taper off with three easy days of training. Well, the first part of my plan worked fine and I did beat myself up pretty good for ten days; however, my three rest days were not as restfully as I would have liked and I actually felt pretty worn out the day before the SM100. To make matters worse, my stomach and GI track were giving me issues on Saturday. I began to worry on Saturday night about whether I might have pushed myself a little too hard before the race. Luckily, by Sunday morning my guts seemed to work out the problem they were having before the race started and my legs actually felt pretty fresh, too.
I was happy that my body had worked out the issues it was having, but another potential problem suddenly appeared just after 6:30AM. My racing and traveling companion, Andy Gorski, and I arrived at the race venue at little after 6AM because we thought the race was going to start at 7AM. When we arrived, I went out for a little warm up ride and then headed back up to Andy’s car to put on the rest of my gear at about 6:30. Before doing so, I decided to take one last pee break, so I walked over to a port-o-john. After finishing my business there, I heard a lot of noise and then saw a huge pack of riders going by the car. I immediately realized that the race had started early and without me in it. I then had to quickly rush back to the car to grab my helmet, gloves and food supplies for the day. By the time I gathered all my goods, more than half of the nearly 600 racers had ridden by me.
I can’t say that I was in a state of panic, but I did know that I would have a lot of catching up to do in order to make my way towards the front of the race. During the first mile or two of pavement leading to the first climb, I had to spin my butt off to work my way through the mass of riders. I then had to bury myself even deeper on the first climb to get through even more racers and find the lead singlespeeders. Eventually I came up on Matt Ferrari and Harlan Price and was able to recover a bit from my hard effort near the top of the first climb. The three of us then basically rode together for about the first 25 miles of the race.
As the three of us were climbing up a slightly uphill paved road climb somewhere before checkpoint #2, I noticed a group of about five geared riders about 200 yards in front of us. I decided it would be nice to catch a draft off of them on the flat fire roads that followed, so I did a quick acceleration to bridge the gap. When I latched on to the back of the geared rider group, I figured Matt and Harlan would be right behind me on my wheel. I was shocked to see, however, that they did not make it up to the geared group. The geared guys started rolling fast and I was able to ride along with them and gain valuable time on Harlan and Matt.
From that point on, I was basically on my own during the remainder of the race. Occasionally, I would catch up to a geared rider and get to ride with someone for a short while, but the majority of the time I was out on the trails alone singing “It’s not what you got, but what you give. It ain't the life you chose, it's the life you live.” The song seemed appropriate and I just kept giving all I could to each pedal stroke. Eventually, I did enough pedal strokes to arrive at the finish. And, I arrived feeling very good because I had not only won the race, but also the overall NUE Series Singlespeed Championship for a second year in a row. Thanks to Salsa Cycles, Pro Bikes, SPK and Tesla for helping me achieve my major 2010 cycling goal.
Happy Trails, Gerry