September 10, 2010

Shenandoah 100 Race Recap

Shenandoah Mountain 100 - Final event in the National Ultra Endurance mountain bike series
September 5, 2010
Stokesville, VA
In attendance:  Jeff Dickey
Weather: Perfect early fall - cool in the morning, but warming through the day with bright sunshine and very dry

After slogging through the Leadville 100 less than a month ago, I decided I wasn't done with long distance mountain bike racing and I was able to get an entry into the sold out Shenandoah Mountain 100 about a week before the race (unlike Leadville, which doesn't permit entry transfers).

Laura and I headed to the SM100 campground in Stokesville, VA on Saturday afternoon after her weekly 20+ mile Saturday morning run.  There, we met up with Colby and a bunch of the folks from Gripped Racing.  If you haven't seen Gripped Films' HD film "Chasing Legends" about the HTC-Columbia team and the 2009 Tour de France (in which Scott bikes feature prominently), I'd highly recommend either buying the DVD or catching a showing.  Gripped has also made some cool films about the fight to race in the Atlanta Olympic mountain bike race (Off Road to Athens) and a film about 24-hour racer Chris Eatough - good viewing for those winter-time training sessions on the trainer in the basement...

Unlike Leadville, the SM100 is one big loop and features a number of shorter climbs, leading up to the "Death Climb," a 20+ mile fire-road monster.

SM100 Elevation Profile
Also, unlike Leadville, the SM100 never cracks 10,000 feet (my lungs were really happy about that fact), "only" 600 people start the event (compared to the 1400+ at Leadville), and most of the descents are on very fun, but rocky singletrack.
Gorgeous morning for a race!
 I almost missed my 6:30 start after long lines developed for the port-a-potties.  

Frantically trying to get myself ready for the start
  But, I was able to start in the front group.

Starting up at the front
On the first climb with eventual winner Christian Tanguy stringing out the field behind him, the main separation occurred and 5 guys got away. I crested the first climb in about 8th place and immediately happened on Jeremiah Bishop who had torn his sidewall in some sharp rocks and was fixing his tire.  On the first road section to climb #2, a group of 5 of us formed and pacelined to the base of the climb. Very cool to be riding with Chris Eatough, who has (mostly) retired from a pro cycling and now runs BikeArlington, which develops cycling opportunities in my hometown.

A small split opened up on the second climb and I found myself riding with two other guys. We set a solid pace up some steep singletrack and after cresting the top, headed down through some rocky terrain.  Unfortunately, on the descent, I flatted on a sharp rock and ripped a hole in my tire - too big for my Stan's to seal.  I kept hoping the hole was a small one, but it was not to be.  I had to pull out my tube and use my last CO2 to inflate it. 

By the time I'd finished playing around with my tire, about 40 guys had passed me. I hate riding with a tube and was afraid I'd pinch-flat, so I rode down the descent very gingerly and started to try and chase on the next section of fire-road.  I caught up to 10-15 guys who had passed me, but I used a ton of energy chasing without anyone to work with.  On climb #3, I kept up a solid pace until the series of false flats at the summit until I cracked.  I guess I wasn't eating or drinking enough because I was trying to chase back to my position, but I really fell apart.

After the descent down mountain #3, I had a long stop at aid station #3, got my tires re-inflated and took on a lot of food.  Also, the aid station had ProGold ProLink chain lube, so I used a bunch on my chain to fight off the dusty and dry conditions.

I rode out fairly slowly after aid station #3 and rode some fun uphill and downhill singletrack with eventual female winner, Amanda Carey. At aid station #4 (57 miles into the race) where Laura was volunteering, I was ready to throw in the towel. I just didn't have it that day, but the conditions and weather were so nice, I decided to keep going up the Death Climb and finish the race.

I don't think my heart rate really got above slow walking pace on the 1.5 hour Death Climb from mile 60 up to aid station #5 at mile 75.  Once there, I stopped for 10-15 minutes, drank a lot of Coke, ate some pizza and chatted with a friend who was volunteering at the aid station.  After my extended stop, I still had another 30 minutes of climbing left to go up to mile 80 before a rippingly fast and rocky 7-mile singletrack descent to aid station #6 and the psychologically difficult climb back up Hankey Mountain (where I'd initially cracked on the day).

I got a bunch more food at aid station #6 and dragged my still-bonking self up and over the mountain and down to the finish.

Finishing up the race and collecting my beer mug!
An awesome day for a long ride in the George Washington forest
The party before and after the race made the SM100 far better than many other races - the organizers had a full dinner for racers on Saturday night as well as another full dinner on Sunday night after the race.  The large number of DogFish Head beer helped make the dinners into a big social occasion.

A well deserved beer after the race
Also, the volunteers at the SM100 were awesome - tons of energetic and cheerful folks to help out at each aid station to fill bottles, food and have drop bags ready before your wheels stopped turning. Also very cool was every racer had their name prominently on their name plate. So there were no shortage of folks yelling "Go Jeff" at every turn.  And, even better was the number plate had the elevation profile of the race printed on it - very helpful.

I finished in 8 hours 48 minutes, good for 62 place out of 500+ finishers (results are here).. Not a good day for me, but I'll be back for 2011 and hopefully break the 8 hour mark. And, even though I thought I had a hard day, my race didn't compare to a number of people who took nearly the full 16 allotted hours to finish the event.  As I was going to sleep in the campground at 9:45pm, people were still finishing in complete darkness.  Those folks' perseverance is amazing.

And, I had a really good conversation after the race.  A fellow racer came up to me after the race and thanked me for recommending that he ride with ESI Grips.  Earlier in the summer, I'd told him about how much I liked the silicone grips for their comfort, shock absorption, light weight and tackiness even in wet conditions.  He'd raced the SM100 a few times before and had problems with hand numbness on such a long ride.  This year, riding with a set of ESI's Chunky Grips, no problems at all! (and he knocked a good amount of time off his prior best finish time).  I've been using ESI's thinner Racer's Edge grips all season this year, and I'm totally hooked. Nothing else works as well as these grips - check out the photos of any US national or any world level mountain bike race and you'll see most of the top pros riding with them with good reason.

Next up for me is adventure racing season (followed by cross season).  I'm doing an 18 hour race near Williamsburg, VA in late September and racing the 30-hour USARA National Championships in Pennsylvania and the 30-hour Checkpoint Zero National Championships in Moab, Utah.  Those races are going to make the SM100 seem like a short training ride!

- Jeff

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