W101 Podium 2014

W101 Podium 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

"Adventure Race!" HA!!



All expense paid vacation in the tropics: Pacific and Caribbean beaches, mountain top sunrises, city night life, all yours for the taking! Sounds like a swell gig right?  I mean who wouldn't want to enjoy this:


Or this:
Oh the Charmed life of Rogelio Mas
Or these:
There just a little bigger than the people in the picture.
And if you're really lucky:
It might not be THAT big. *might

To say that LaRuta de Los Conquistadores is a "bucket list" race for me is a colossal misrepresentation. Through some turn of life I've known about LaRuta since I knew what mountain biking was. Because of costs and distance and the sheer fear of the unknown I honestly thought LaRuta would remain on the unattainable bucket list. When I made the decision to throw my name into the NUE hat I didn't even consider that LaRuta was part of the prize for a top spot on the podium but as things drew close and a series win was into sight the monolithic 23 year old event came into view. I never shifted my focus from a performance at Fools Gold and never let myself think about everything LaRuta would demand from me physically or mentally because it would have taken away from the performance I would need at Fools Gold, and that would take a lot.

But sitting in the car coming home from Fools Gold, with Emily at the wheel we sort of turned our eyes to LaRuta. I'm incredibly blessed to have a partner in life and in crime who believes so intensely in me and the racing lifestyle we are creating. There was never much "are you going" talk. She is always on my team and always gives the support and confidence I need. There were so many unknowns about the landscape, the route, and the race that I made a pretty conscious decision to go easy in Costa Rica. In the words of Gerry Pflug there's "a hundred ways to get hurt down there," so safety and coming home from the race and from a huge season safe and in one piece was our single priority. Anything else was icing on a great big cake full of winning.

I enjoyed a couple of great races in between FG and LaRuta. The 5 Points 50 in Chattanooga TN is rapidly becoming one of my favorite fall races. I took the pivot down there and raced to a 1st SS and 2nd/3rd overall (depends on who you ask) and felt great. The Wilkes 100k is the same story, an amazing race, put on by amazing folks on an incredible course. It's a great first 100k and a fantastic intro to endurance racing. The second year of the event was sure to please and after winning on a geared bike last year I decided to up the ante by bringing my Pivot LES SS into the open field, again taking the win. It was exciting to camp and race with Scott, Ellen and Jasper Ramsey and to be a part of Ellen's longest race to date. She and I bookended the Wilkes 100 and frankly I like the symmetry that has to it. Ellen's last trip to Wilkesboro in the spring was with a boot and a cane recovering from foot surgery so for her to come and finish strong at Wilkes is huge.

All of that racing finished up it was time to start thinking about LaRuta in earnest. The beta gathering went well. There's been a lot of good folks down there racing and all of them were willing to share. Harlan Price, Gerry Pflug, and Thomas Turner all leant valuable intel to Roger Masses and I as we prepped for our trip. I couldn't have asked for a better racing companion than Roger. He won the Masters competition at the NUE and showed just what a Masters racer is. They're not just "old guys" who race hard, Roger truly has dialed in every facet of his racing. Not only is he faster than stung stink, but a more genial, kind, and fun loving travel partner I've never seen. He gets that it's about racing, it's about testing yourself personally, but it's also about kickin a little ass along the way. And kick ass Roger did, all while representing Rare Disease Cycling (formally Team CF) at the highest standard. Roger even had me doubting my long standing principle that specialized are for people who don't smile...and that's the real accomplishment here. Roger "Clark Kent" Masse:
Roger is Specialized...Im just along for the ride.
Roger and I gathered beta, talked gear, and stoked the fire until 0 hour arrived. We met Brenda and Lee Simril at tha ATL airport and headed south. We stepped off the plane in another world. The people were energetic, engaging, and actually made 140lbs in a tank top look normal. The people of Costa Rica, the Ticos, were incredible. If I'm so lucky as to get back to CR and LaRuta the people will be part of the reason I am excited. LaRuta has a big "problem" with racers taking illegal feeds from team cars, buddy's on ATVs and motorbikes, and genuine team only aid stations anywhere and everywhere throughout the course. This breeds a very "us vs them" atmosphere during the race which simply doesn't have to exist. Now, I'm a pretty excitable and social guy, especially when I'm pedaling, so the Ticos and I made quick friends. Day 1 I was receiving half full bottles of coke, baggies of fresh fruit, two Jungle Lemonades, a bag of ginger candy, and a half a sandwich. These people were AMAZING! Quiet at first but one shout of "PURA VIDA" and they lit up! It was like the Super Bowl. Now part of their support and fascination was surely the moron Gringo on the singlespeed..."what was HE thinking?!"... But more than anything it was the sheer nature of the Ticos to get the most outta life. Drink life to the lees, milk it for all it was worth, and shout at the top of their altitude acclimated lungs for the looney gringo who was stokin on Costa Rica!

The quick breakdown. Day 1:



 Steep as HELL climb for 6 miles, incredible views of all of Costa Rica, drop into the jungle, murdered by giant python, climb out of jungle. Climb some more...climb some more....and more...descend into small town celebrating something...get lost...get found...descend ancient rutted double track through 16 inches of nuclear cow excrement, cross finish line....55 miles 12.5k of climbing. Those numbers are correct. And awesome.









I think this is the best photo ever taken, ever. 
Day 2:

 Reroute from original day 2 due to volcanic eruption. Depart San Jose through chaotic start reminiscent of Tickle-me-Elmo mob where Elmo happens to be singletrack and there was actually zero tickling.
 Next drop into singletrack top 30, ride with women's race leader, surf my way through 8 miles of incredible albeit sloppy nasty trail, pop out onto road...climb to imminent muscle death. 6k of climbing in one use nasty shot. And not a gradual shot, like buckshot...in the thigh. The climb was one of those never ending ones, multiple time zones and atmospheres of pressure later I was a at the top. I've never doubted my decision to ride a singlespeed but I kind of did on that climb. 
Our reigning National XC champion walking his bike...just saying. It brought me joy.


But this too shall pass, soldier on. Amidst the clouds I turned and climbed one last pitch into the jungle before taming a little more jungle, berming the blown out fire road, sliding back to earth on the mile long concrete skinny that provided the only grip to be found and BOOM, across the line. I lost one or two spots to Ticos near the top where they must have packed oxygen tanks and all I packed were cool sunglasses, but brought home a top 30 on day 2.

Day 3: 


Two cat 2 climbs and a seriously long haul off the mountain down onto the flats and a few miles of relaxing beach road. Oh...and these:
They never end...


HOly...

I don't scare easy. There's not many things I fear. I have zero concerns about being able to ride pretty much anything during any race. Day 3 has 70k of flat or near flat terrain so I had spent a lot of time debating my gear and ended up running a 34x18. Big by my standards for sure. The Ticos delighted in watching me suffer up the climbs but the flats would yield about the perfect ratio to really run it out. I had spent so much time fretting over tooth count that I had completely forgotten the 7 hundred year old rail bridges over crocodile infested rivers it would have to cross on foot. I'd be lying if I didn't say that ten steps onto that first bridge I looked down, and would have peed my pants had I been able to. As it was my entire body was much too tense to even consider the call of nature here's that first bridge:
Hell....
Runnin' it in
But cross I did! Ride on to drop the Ticos on the last few miles of beach I did, and survive I did! LaRuta is every bit an incredible adventure. I spent the remaining 6 bridges workin the kinks out and by the time I rolled onto the third things were easy it was mellow...ish. We hit the beach made a big break and brought Ohio XC killer Drew Purcell with me to drop the Ticos on the flats and Finish our La Ruta experience strong! It's part bike race, part adventure race, part "naked and afraid" journey through the wildest parts of Gods tropical paradise.

I cant say enough good things about La Ruta. The scenery was incredible, the people were even better than the scenery, and the chance to push the limit in another country was absolutely a thrill. I enjoyed getting to know my fellow competitors American and otherwise. Ask me next time you see me and prepare to be gushed at because It was a genuinely incredible experience. I finished every day solidly in the top 30 and was pretty pleased with that. I was the only singlespeeder to finish and frankly had I taken more risks and put it all out there a little more I feel confident in a top 15....I probably would have still been beaten by a girl though. And Im ok with that. The folks who put the race on know what they are doing, the accommodations are great, the logistics are great (considering they're working a country where nothing gets done on time) the food was fantastic, and the race is worth anything they could come up with to charge. 

LaRuta is in my experience the single hardest thing you can do on a bike, it's also probably the most rewarding. Get yourself there, become one of the locals, learn their language, and learn their love of life. If you bring any back with you, you'll be a richer person.

Depth


Sometimes we forget how deep we can go. Sometimes we never knew we could go as deep as we do. It's superficial to limit this to cycling. You and I do big things for our families, friends, and even complete strangers. Chances are good if you are eras daring this you are in the club of people who smile back and pay it forward. But of course you wouldn't be reading this if you weren't at least a little interested in I limiting your reading to cycling related topics. So here goes.

The last two races of my NUE season were turning out to be pretty important. Aft a disappointing 2nd place to an incredibly well prepared, informed, and acclimated AJ Linnell at Pierre's Hole I needed a win bad, and wanted it more. And I was blessed that the Shenandoah Mountain 100 would be my proving grounds. If the NUE series were a stage race Shenandoah would be the Queen stage. It is by far the best rounded of the hundred mile races I have done; Shenandoah pushes everybody who toes the line to their limit. This year would be no exception. I've made a season out of finding the limit and riding it on unknown courses and so heading into SM100 I was really pumped to be going into it with plenty of course knowledge and surrounded by teammates and friends.

Full disclosure in mind I will also say I was excited that Gerry Pflug would be back on a singlespeed. I was privileged to race Gerry early in the season at Cohutta 100 and to this day consider every mile I get to spend with Gerry an honor. I'm trying to be tactful here but frankly I was genuinely looking forward to laying down some hurt on Gerry and making my statement in dirt that Sunday. After Pierre's Hole I needed to show myself and everybody else that I could stamp a race in big ways.

The first 30 was not my race. A couple of geared riders, all of whom were subsequently caught in the next 90 miles, struggled between pace and technicality as we turned into Festival trail. Kindly forcing me to lose contact with the front riders. Worst of all a certain roadie struggled and cursed the most raucous trail out there only to take my perfect pace group with him on the gradual downhill of Tillman rd. I fought to bridge up but the roads kept dragging his grupetto farther and farther up the road before Tillman trail. I walked...I rode...I walked...I ran and kept ahead of some of the geared riders who caught me as we caught others. To the uninitiated getting onto Tillman with minimal traffic may sound delightful but it is not. By virtue of not having a pace dictated to you by a long string of riders you are forced to push; knowing that the race is moving along without you up there. It's no easier and probably even less enjoyable up there folks.

I was joined by the right people tough. Joe Fish( how cool is that guy?), David Reid, Shawn Hall (thunder from down under?), and my teammate Mark Smith who must have bee KILLING it. I was glad for these guys and made quick work of Wolf to get down to the road. Wolf is so good these days. Wolf always seems to frame my SM experience and I always note how that trail changes my attitude going forward into the remaining 75 miles of the day. You're gonna like the way you feel...I guarantee it.

And so joined quickly by my compadres I motored on. A group of about 5 of us established and were motivated. Aid station came, we agreed to stop and depart more or less together, and we soldiered on. Hankey Mtn came and John Petrylak said alright "Quadsworth" do your thing! And it reminded me quickly of my purpose. And it wasn't a casual jean shorts sort of purpose. Up Hankey I went. Joe held with me for a long time as we enjoyed each other's company and I got the feeling joe was in for a good day. Eventually I left joe and came up on Rob Spreng moving smoothly up the upper portions of Hankey. I've enjoyed riding with Rob this year. I broke two ribs  at wilderness 101 trying to stay on robs wheel and know first hand that he can rip and he can Rallye. Note the capitalization, like the way Danny-O says it; not just a word, but a raison d'ĂȘtre.

Shenandoah is a series of debilitating climbs followed by life giving descents. You come away from it having experienced the full range of human emotion in one 7,8,9,10,11,12,13...14........15hr day. I passed Rob and shortly after I headed down I saw Charlie Snyder spraying c02 into the air. I paused and asked Charlie what was going on and if he needed anything. I pack an "oh shit kit" on all my long rides and I feel fairly confident Charlie was having one of those moments. His c02 chuck was malfunctioning and what should be inside his tire was now inside our ozone. I gave him the spare chuck I carry in said kit and powered on. He joined me shortly since I was being ginger on the descents. Rob joined us just before the aid station and we departed onto the road.

I was glad for that. These two worked together well and would make a fantastic rock band and or love-child. Moving into Braleys I quickly found out they were both spent, both would abandon on the day if I remember but I hadn't yet found that dark place. I choose a gear for Shenandoah that will let me ace 60% of the course! the smooth 60. So Braleys Pond is always a bit of a fuss. This go around I had few problems. One or two dabs and a push or two to regain momentum brought me past a couple more geared riders. Matt Merkel, Lee Straub, and another I don't remember. Chasing lee into the flats before aid 4 I felt a massive hit to my rear tire and felt and heard the air rushing from my tire bringing defeat in its place. I'm very specific to refresh sealant and use Bontrager sealant because it lasts longer and seals faster in my experience. I cut in the tread square on the bottom of the tire and a corresponding cut in the bead is usually a game ender. But I directed the sealant down and old Keith Bontrager's chemists did their job. Power on to the pump at aid 4. It's a good spot aid 4. You're starting the long march.

I had thought I had made all the moves I would make but I have learned time and time again that the race isn't just between you and everybody else. It's going on all around you. This can work in your favor or it can kill you. As a singlespeeder I often get a nice front row seat to all the action. This time that held true. I was met by Joe Fish and Matt Merkel again as I tarried leaving the aid station. We caught lee Hauber and a few others who were intensely motived not long into our journey towards Shenandoah Mountain. We worked together impressively and I made sure to do my part. We only began to wane near the bottom of the death climb. Shortly after we turned right and headed up I made my move and did the singlespeed thing. If you find yourself near a singlespeed rider on a nice long dirt road climb just watch. An overweight and under trained middle aged man will turn into Fausto Coppi in order to push that gear! Unless he really is an overweight, under trained middle aged man... And then it's possible he will walk.

From there as always it's make circles, stay focused, get stoked. Up. Over. And the rally home. The Chestnutt descent is really something, one of these days I'll get up there and do it when I'm not 80 miles in to a race. It just sort of stair steps you off the mountain on a ridgeline the whole way. It's always a great moment because after that point things rarely change. Of course they can but the climb is such a factor that if you stay smooth and upright you probably won't see much action the rest of the race. In aid station 6 I had a bittersweet moment. A cup full of Scud fries saved me as some cramping started to creep into my legs. It got me thinking about how Scott Scudamore's legacy keeps saving people even now a year after he left us to "go bigger." I felt like SCUD was there with me pushing me on, challenging me to keep on the gas. He would have.

Going back up Hankey I caught one final rider and saw on my GPS that I was way inside pace for a sub 8 hr race. The tingling excitement of a near finish and a great race doesn't make the pedaling any easier! But the finish line does! And come it did. Despite a hard and frustrating start I finished 7th overall in something under 7:45. I'm still stoking on it...




So my apologies for the vaguely race reportish post. The point of it all is to provide a walk through for the depth we go through in these races. Xc riding and racing is thrilling, and exciting, and draining for sure! I've done three xc events this year and every one of them was HARD!! But the level of committment every single pedal stroke requires when your coming up Braleys pond at mile 55 is hard to replicate in shorter events. That's not a judgement on anything or anybody, but it definitely is an endorsement to get out there try to go big and go deep!



Thursday, September 4, 2014

Whirlwind

Whirlwind of a season. The blogging monkey is just a big fat wheel sucker! But I've been eager to get that monkey off my back for a couple months. This blog is expressly not a place for race reports. Not a place to share what I ate at mile 77. Unless it's beef jerky, or a beer hand up. But I do think there are some great and exciting things to share from the past few months. I haven't blogged since before the Lumberjack 100 in Michigan back in June.

So let us begin our Blogging journey there! LJ is a must hit for me in the future. I rode out to the Upper Peninsula with some great folks. Through the "Midwest;" which is a geographic naming tool for total armpit regions use to attach themselves to places people actually want to go, we enjoyed each other's company and the 13 hour drive flew by over two casual days and a couple good beers. And a lot of beef jerky. LJ is three laps of incredible sandy smooth flowing terrain.
Motos during my pre-ride
It's a fast race, anybody should PR up there, especially in conditions like we had. Days worth of rain made the course incredibly fast as what would be muck in the Old Dominion turned out to be packed sand that traffic formed into a beautifully microbermed highway of hurt. The pace was high all day and I was witness to a real battle between the "Baggied Crusader" and Gerry Pflug. Jan Roubal is a Canadian bike shop owner who raced Gerry at LJ on ss last year and was beaten, but Jan wanted more! A few days leading up to LJ Jan was registered for ss but hearing Gerry had switched to gears so did Jan. I've never seen anybody want to beat somebody else so bad! They rode close to each other all day and I got to sit in (relative term) and watch the throw down play out. I took advantage of it within a few miles of the finish and put in a HUGE effort to get some space between me and these wild boys because I had had my fill of being passive and enjoying the ride all day. Gerry is a talented climber and Jan showed he has descending chops like I've not seen from a flatlander. I knew if I was in sight these guys would hunt me hard. So I grabbed a leg full of gear right in the sweet spot of a little valley and stayed on it to get a gap and made good for a third overall. I have come to really love the look on peoples faces when a singlespeed rider comes through the finish ahead of almost everybody. And I loved it at LJ. The scenery was incredible. Dense forests, open fields, gravity features, wildlife, the whole deal!! Lumberjack would be a great first 100 mile off-road adventure. It's lap system makes easy work of nutrition and pacing, and the course is taped off impeccably well to make sure nobody wastes the trip. If you want a couple day adventure, Lumberjack 100 is a pleaser. After LJ I had a couple weeks light on the bike. I had done three big hundred mile races at good fitness an it was time to recover.

These races take it out of you deep and so a long period of recovery is necessary. Emily and I set to planning a wedding (ours in case this is your only source of news). And we enjoyed time with our fast growing puppy Pippa the SockSchnauzer and I needed to start job hunting in the Cumberland Gap area of TN where Emily is in PA school for a little while longer. You know, life stuff. In the midst of all this I lost my training partner Daren Cox who moved to Williamsburg and I was feeling a little down. I know I owe some of my success this year to Darren and my commitment to training together this past winter and I will miss him next winter. Williamsburg has acquired two quality individuals in the Cox's. Maybe a training camp is in order!

During this period of rest and recovery I heard some rumblings that the Patapsco 100 was in ink for a second year. Last years Patapsco was a killer I had heard. It was penciled on my calendar but I didn't feel ready for a hundred. On paper it's a "how hard could it be" race. It's in Maryland, it's near the Patapsco river, heck it's all multi-use trail! How hard COULD it be? But I was planning on saving my juice for bigger fish later in the year. I got a call from a friend saying: hey man, you thought about Patapsco? And an offer I couldn't refuse to put together a one man assault on the PTap100 I registered for ss so I wouldn't feel pressure to go too deep and from past racers comments Patapsco has a way of sneaking you into going pretty deep. I was thrilled to crash with Andrew and Charlotte Dunlap who live close by and opened their home in classy fashion. Andrew and I met at Cohutta where he started a great season racing for Rare Disease. Andrew got in from out of town early that morning and then turned around and won the 33 mile option at Patapsco; strong stuff, and I'm thankful for friends like he and Charlotte.

Patapasco is owned by Pat Blair. A strong overall rider with a SM100 SS win and a lot of other notches in his belt. Pat lives close by and spends a lot of his time in Patapsco. His team Adventures for the Cure puts the race on and his win and subsequent course record from last year made him the wheel to watch. He went out hard while RDC's Jesse Kelly and Mad Scientist Kevin Carter and I sat somewhere in the front couple seats settling in. Carter rolled up late but fought to get back to the front quick. When he got in touch with me it was a great time to capitalize on his energy and move upward. And we did. Some touch and go between the three of us over the next several hours left me chasing back up to Pat after Kevin was touching red. I sat with Kevin too long and knew I had some work to do. But work I did. I put on a slightly easier gear for Patapsco because of it's reputation and was able to stay on it through everything very nicely. Patapsco may be in the flatlands but it also has over 15k ft of climbing. And it meant business this was no easy course to chase through but near the end of lap 2 I was nearing Pat. Good news as I knew he and I could put in time on Kevin; who has a way of rallying hard. There's a 300 watts story about Kevin at Cohutta a couple of years ago. Pat and I rode until about a third of the way into lap 3 where I got a little gap climbing up from the river. I hollered to him, leveled for a second to see if he would/could catch on and then left. No favors. At least not in lap 3. Patapsco had fantastic markings and fantastic support. The amateur radio crew AFC had on hand passed race updates so well that folks knew I was coming before I pulled into aid 2. A guy handed me a beer and was kind enough to save the other half for my return when aid 2 was then aid 3. Handups for cross is all fun and games, Handups for Hundos is just nutrition boys and girls!
Danger Danger!!
upright and steady
Keeping on the gas I built a great lead and started to get those goosebumps where you know a win is close. The "hundred mile high" some folks call it. Relief, exhaustion, who knows, but couple all those feelings with a win, much more an OVERALL win on a single speed, and I was thrilled. I pedaled home with a win in ss, overall, and a course record by about 45 minutes. What was even cooler is that Pat and the AFC crew were so stoked I was there! Patapsco is close and a great challenge for anyone looking for one. It was a fantasticly hard day.
Credit where credit is due!
After Patapsco I saw USAC XC nationals penciled in on the calendar. A couple weeks out XC nats was a tough call because it was the weekend before Wilderness 101 and after a miserable time at Mohican 100 I needed a win. So I had to make W101 count and a high intensity effort and 10 hours of driving the week before might either be just the right effort or drain me. But usac nats rotates location and probably won't be back in the burly East for four or more years. And let's get real who doesn't want to win some Stars and Stripes? And so I went, crashed with some collegiate racers and came home in red white and blue. It was a great chance to reflect on a great season and to let out some steam in anticipation of a big push this fall.
pleased with myself
Even though a USAC title was only in pencil on my race calendar I was glad I made the trip. It was really good to refocuse on what matters, and that no matter the particular scene of cycling you fit into, the cycling world is full of amazing people. From there I jetted home just to jet right back to the Wilderness 101 in State College PA. W101 has probably been my personally hardest race this year. It started out so right, so smooth. I had been given my good friend Matt Ferrari's race number and was super honored to race "The Intimidator" #3.
Thanks Matt
I made it through the first 40 miles or so super comfortably. Even up to the  crux climb when Jeremiah and Christian made their move, draggin Keck Baker and I along for the ride just a bike length or two back. But coming down that I hit hard. I dont crash often, pretty rarely. I make it a point to ride within myself and that happens also to be at a pretty high level. But I was going for it, outisde my comfort zone. I dont remember what happened but I know as I tucked I slammed my arm into a rock with the full force of me landing on it, compressing my chest and hearing a nice firm, CRACK. Arm...nope, hurts like hell and bleeding but no breaks. Hand...everything moving fine. Stand up...There it is. As soon as I went to stand the raging pain on my right side split me in two. I had clearly hurt something very bad in my chest. Season over? Who knows. Race over? Not getting a chopper in here! As I squirmed on the ground gripped with pain I felt my ribs, one clearly gave way while the other two beneath it were a lot farther down than they should be. This was going to suck bad. Real bad....

For those of you who dont know Wilderness 101 is a long rocky, bumpy second 50. The first 50 is relatively smooth. but from about mile 40-100 you are bouncing all over, technical skills challenged and pushed pretty hard. This is not the course you want to ride with broken anything, much less anything core/stability oriented. But I did. I rode with Rare Disease' Rob Spreng, who I have come to know and really like through my NUE series this year. But mostly I rode by myself after Rob got away on a descent. It hurt. It hurt extremely bad. I thought it would never end.
W101 trying to pound me into submission. "Beautiful" Trail, Rothrock State Forest
Words dont easily describe how much discomfort that day put me in. If you have ever broken a rib imagine proceeding to ride 50+ miles of technical singletrack with said injury. I finally came to the railroad tunnel used to mark the event and knew I couldnt be far. Just a short burst of road and...Pflug. I dont know when he saw me but he was HAMMERING!! My whole season I have ridden with Gerry in one way or another and I am impressed every time by his physical ability, his tactical ability, and have learned NEVER to count him out. He was back on a geared bike for W101 but I wasnt going to let my 5th place go! Even if technically he would get it either way. So we sprinted to the line and I nipped in 5th overall.


Sorry Dan

Wilderness meant I was back where I wanted to be for the NUE series. 3 wins was enough to get me dang close to an overall series win. At least get me to the finale in contention.

After Wilderness the main even was schedule for August 10th. I am of course referring to the biggest podium of all; My wedding.

Emily and I and our families had an amazing time and were blessed in so many ways. We are very lucky to have the families we do and I am a very lucky man to have married a woman who understands and supports me. Shes the best!

 
But a wedding means a honeymoon and so, being us, the decision was made to incorporate the bicycle in our plans. Sitting where I was in the series with two more races on the east coast before the Finale and one more on the west we decided; with some suggestion from the Pflug himself, to head west and try and steal a win.

The Pierre's Hole 100 is a race I knew little about. I hadnt planned on doing it so why research it. I knew it was near the Tetons and wasnt a full hundred. Other than that I knew nothing. We did some research last minute, packed the bikes, and prepped for PH100. We arrived a few days early to unpack and settle into the Lodge at Grand Targhee resort where the race was staged. I exchanged emails with AJ Linell (the competition) about where to eat and what to ride, and we enjoyed a day of doing very little resting up for the race.I asked around and people seemed to know who I was, and what I was doing there. AJ lives less than 20 minutes away in Victor Idaho and at a race of 38 people, word gets around.  It was hard not to appreciate the scenery on our pre-ride and while we didnt ride hard the altitude didnt seem to be too affective on us.

Go time at PH100, look at that itty bitty field!
It was. I went hard out of the gate to try and hold Josh Tostado, knowing he has the motor and the pacing down from 24 hr racing. PH climbs right out of the gate. Really climbs:
That little tick mark on the top right? It says Nine THOUSAND feet
Out of the gate you climb up to 9000 feet. The climb is fire road on the first lap and I was gassed. Gassed more than I knew I could be. Its rare I have nothing in the tank. My recovery time is my ace in the hole usually. I can recover off of nearly any effort pretty quickly as long as I stay on top of my nutrition. AJ Linell rode up to me pretty quick and we chatted for a bit before I simply let him go. I couldn't afford to not. Fortunately for me he flatted early. I couldnt imagine flatting on that buttery Wyoming dirt but he did. And I passed him; FLEW down the 38 switchbacks of the 38 Special descent and reckoned to myself that I may have a chance at this after all. If that flat of his fights him all day I could be in luck. What luck it would be.
One of the top switchbacks of 38 special. It really is super special. Thats not me, but it was the day of the event, Tetons in the background. Stunning place to suffer!
Luck did'nt hold unfortunately...AJ made his way back on me somewhere towards the end of the lap. I was bolstered by the fact that I held him off every time the scenery got twisty. I may have been feeling terrible but I was putting in time; or not losing it anyhow, on the technical stuff. At least I had that. We passed the start line together to head into lap 2 and I lead into the singletrack climb feeling ok. Not great, and hoping AJ wouldn't notice. We climbed and chatted together about life and the racing we had done. I cant say he wasn't pleasant to ride with but unfortunately this scenario wasn't a casual ride in the woods. I expressed I had never raced at altitude before and was feeling it. I asked if he could arrange a bear or moose sighting for us. He said he would work on it. Not far from the top of the climb AJ asked if he could come around. He "hated to do it" he said, but did it anyway and I saw my race ride away. I continued to climb and suffer. I suffered more than I ever have in good weather. My second lap at PH100 was a deep dark place. Albeit a gorgeous place to suffer, I suffered hard. My gearing was good and my nutrition didn't wander too far off the plan but the altitude and the dryness of the heat out there didnt do me any favors.

And so I rallied a little for my third lap after seeing Emily in the pit. She assured me she was proud of me and knew the kind of suffering I was enduring. But at this point I could still bring home a second place, a paycheck, and some points in the series; although not the points I had wanted. And so I did. I rode the final lap in a gorgeous place and once again took some stock of what I had done so far this season and refocused for the work that would have to take place between now and the end of my season at the Fools Gold 100. This race had defined what needed to be done and would frame the next race in the series and my approach to it.

Who wears shorts like that anyhow?

Some days are diamonds, some days are stones they say and Pierre's Hole was bittersweet racing. The journey and my time in Wyoming and Yellowstone National park with Emily was absolutely amazing. We are blessed with amazing friends and amazing support from Blue Ridge Cyclery who helped make the trip happen in some pretty big and exciting ways. We travelled a ton during our brief honeymoon and had a fantastic time doing and seeing things we could not have seen otherwise.

We arrived safely back home, a few Delta Bucks richer due to a voluntary layover in Atlanta and prepared to have all our amazing friends over for the "I Do BBQ" at my parents home in Roanoke. We had folks come from far and wide for it and got to spend a little time with everybody. Thanks to all who came out and thanks to all who made it happen.

After the BBQ Emily and I were very ready to come home. Emily has lived in Cumberland Gap Tn for about a year studying and working towards her PA degree and I would be moving down there to live until she goes on rotations next spring. Even if it would only be for a couple of days I was very happy to be coming home.

Home didnt last long because it was time for the Shenandoah Mountain 100!!! My favorite race of the NUE season, the only race of the series I had prior knowledge of and what was shaping up to be a trial indeed.

You cant say a whole lot more than Team Dicky has already said about Gerry Pflug. Coming off of his win at Hampshire 100 and SS wins early in the year Gerry was in a position to perhaps win the NUE series AGAIN(!!!) if he could win at Shenandoah. He would still have to work at Fools gold but he would go into it matched for 1st. Over my cold dead quads anyhow. And I mean that with every fiber of me. I wanted to win at Shenandoah and I wouldnt be playing around with my day in the forest.

It was a long day, but a great day. And here to tell you about it is ME!

http://dirtwire.tv/2014/09/sm100-gordon-wadsoworth-1st-ss-ill-just-verbally-assault-him/

And for now folks its off to get ready for the main event. I will be battling it out with the tall boy AJ Linnell for the NUE title. Its been an incredible season, no question about it and I am stoked to see it still playing it out in epic fashion. After the season and year we have had who knows what remains. La Ruta perhaps, or even a Munga. Its pretty exciting stuff and I wouldn't trade this year so far for the world.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Some Days are Diamonds...

...Some days are stones.

Or so the John Denver song I grew up hearing says. And I think the important things aren't necessarily those highs and lows but the journey we take through the rocks and roots of life. And most importantly as it stands regarding my Mohican 100 experience the lessons to be learned and the appreciation I have for what an amazing journey I am on. Here goes.

I loved getting to know my new Blue Ridge Cyclery team mates Dave and Anne pike. They are both studs on wheels from different walks of life and bring a huge wealth of knowledge and experience to the table. It was nice to travel with a couple of go-with-the-flow pros. They are both super professional in how they approach riding and racing but also keeping the fun at the forefront. I like that; and thats a hard balance to strike for a lot of people in more than just lip-service.

The venue and scene of the Mohican 100 is top notch. The roll out to the start and the town-line start were hugely motivating!! I slotted in next to the SS crew of Trevor Rockwell and #Handsome Dan Rapp right up front. Slaps and hoots from friends new and old greeted me on the line and as much as impending hurt can feel like home, it did. A more welcoming stoke train than the NUE scene there never was! A geared Gerry Pflug rolled in and I saw the wheel I wanted to spend some time with. Gerry has been getting a lot of questions about his decision to race gears this year and some criticism on the fringes. But I get it. Im not the bearded, furry, "angry" singlespeeder some would like me to be and so I get it. Gears present their own challenge, they answer the beckoning call of speed, and they sure as heck can hurt a whole lot less!! Besides; say for a second that Gerry isnt badder than you! Say it!!

The 100k riders in the Mohican mix things went off with a bang and a cowbell. All of Loudonville came out to celebrate the race as 600 riders rolled through a shut-down main street. The pace car rang us up and over the town line sprint. Letting the lactic acid subside, just a little, we moved out of Loudonville and onto some rolling country roads. Rolling....not a singlespeeder's favorite words. The ups are good, the downs are miserable. My legs only have so much patience for my asking 130 rpm out of them. Into some sloppy double track and finally into the singletrack I had preridden the night before. I had been relegated a little farther back than I had wanted to be, maybe 12th wheel back. Not ideal but manageable. I found myself asking: "does Ohio REALLY have this many riders who can roll 100 miles at this pace?!!"

Wheelin'
 Coming around a few fading legs I finally found the wheel I wanted. Gerry was my ideal wheel because his start is usually very strong but steady. He indicated previously to me that he really likes to increase the pace as the day moves along and his experience as a singlespeeder has given him a super smooth power band. Not jerky and punchy like a lot of geared riders but smooth and steady. In the way that a charging rhino is smooth and steady. Or a train. Or a junkyard Pit Bull...In the best ways really. I enjoyed riding with Gerry. We had a great ride together and I think the second half would have been an even better ride.

              Now watch this:

                                Mohican 100 Highlights by Dirtwire.TV

And so it went. 40 miles or so of me hanging on Gerrys Wheel through singeltrack and a bit of road. he and a 100k rider gapped me on one long downhill road section where I was plain ol in the wrong place at the wrong time but I eventually caught back on. And then I came to aid station #3. I handed off a bottle requesting the HEED energy drink and looked back to see the volunteer pouring the fizz off of a coke out of my bottle. Politely but urgently I asked him to dump that trash and fill the bottle with HEED. Finally I broke out of there and charged away down the line. Up a hateful road section and then into a gorgeous Ohio valley my mind wandered and wondered if I would ever catch Gerry. Initially my concern was that I was isolated and would have less help on the road and double track that laid ahead. Mohican is famous for a long stretch or rail-trail in the second half...that would be fun. And while I Wasn't convinced I would be able to make it back up to Gerry I knew I had to try. Except then I came into aid station 5!! In 2nd place for the the 100k I was told! thats exciting!! Except that its not... not at all exciting. I spent a minute collecting myself off of the pavement emotionally and asked what I would have to do to get back to wherever I went wrong. Now Im not saying that if I didn't see it its not there; case in point Oxygen and Bigfoot, but I still have literally no idea where I went wrong. I've been told that immediately out of aid 3 there were indications of left for 100k and right for 100m. Signage that sounds misleading anyhow made worse by the complete lack of anybody directing me. That sounded like bitterness. Its not. If you'd have asked me a few minutes after I got back to the car it would have been; but Great Lakes Brewery and a phone call to Emily cured me of that. #GoTeam 

I wished I could have gone back and finished that sucker but I had no way of making sense of the directions I was given and was told its be around 12 miles to get back. I started back. I met a trail of 100k riders and slowed to a near halt. No interest in doing the Mohican 125 and feeling pretty drained mentally after the shock of my error I made a few circles in the pavement and then turned around, hung my head, and pedaled home....defeated in a lot of ways.

But this is where my story moves away from race report. I promised I wouldn't do those. So I get back to the car, pretty much alone except for Dave and Anne's pup Lucky and sat in the shade for a few minutes. I thought more than once about charging my tail right back out there and finishing that thing!! I checked the social media and saw that a report of my strong pace was out there making it even harder to acknowledge what I saw as a failure. I called Emily. Seeing I was calling long before anticipated she was initially worried. Then as I recounted the story she was as pissed as I was! She is great at being supportive in this way. She is as tenacious as a bulldog and never backs down when she has been wronged, and on my behalf she felt wronged. I found it very easy initially to blame the guy at the aid station who filled my bottle wrong; causing me to get out of the aid station way later than Gerry and consequently not have a wheel to follow. I thought about blaming Ryan O'Dell for marking the course "so poorly." In retrospect Ernie Marenchin's suggestion of signage reading 62mile and 100 mile vs 100k and 100m is probably sound, but I still felt pretty hollow blasting Ryan for making an incredible race and putting together an incredible series. But all of that is pretty hollow indeed. Im not the type to place blame quickly or conveniently.

After I vented to Emily and she expressed her frustration but also reminded me this is why I put 7 NUE races on the calendar I went down to the Great Lakes brewing trailer and ordered whatever they were pouring. The liquid courage gave me a little juice and I called Em back and walked through the race with her. She listened and assured me the others would go well. My fitness felt great and while I didn't have the nutrition I should for the first 30 I was recovering that once we got out of the singletrack.

So what do I do from here. Well I spent a couple days hammering it out there on the road. I spent some time with friends keeping it mellow. And this weekend i get to switch roles and support Emily as she runs the Cumberland Gap Ridge Trail Marathon. Im looking forward to that. Plus it means I get to ride some rad-ass ridge trail. And in the wise words of Shawn Tevendale its about having fun.

The impeccable community of racers at NUE racers will have me coming back for years to come I think. Ive been stoked to get to know some of those gentlemen and ladies and can only say good things about them.

Ill say this though, ill be going back to Mohican 100. the course is too good to not, the venue is too awesome to not. The crowd and atmosphere is really impeccable and the whole town of Loudonville seems to own the race in a way thats really rare. They love it, and want it to keep going. I had a woman and her little girl ask me how I did when I stopped for gas and a coke on the way out of town. She knew what a fast finish time was, what the rail trail was like, the whole deal. How cool is that??  Ill be back Mohican..."Ill be back."


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tall Orders and Bigger Checks: My Sunshine Ride through the Wilds of Tennessee

Pedaling into the light out of a South Tennessee evergreen tunnel muted to a darker green by the morning's mist my legs felt good, so good that I started to get a few little goosebumps and chills as I realized where I was, and the journey I had begun.

The Cohutta 100 gets a little press, its gets a lot grassroots press especially. Folks pass on their experiences, blog about the way it shook out, and share their opinions. "Ill never go down their again," a flatlander friend said after his experience at the 2013 edition. Another described it as an "earn your turns" kind of race, borrowing a skiing term for the 100 mile day in. With only a couple of blips at the Shenandoah Mountain 100 over the past few years I don't have that much off-road century experience. The winter decision to begin a whole season of 100 mile races on singlespeed was not one I took lightly. Except that it kind of was. That's kind of how I do things, spend a lot of time thinking and finally say "what the hell," and do it.

Nonetheless rolling into a completely dark Ocoee Whitewater Center parking lot without any visible signage less than 10 minutes before mandatory check-in the decision was coming home to roost in big ways. Drive reroutes, traffic, and my stomach demanding a proper burrito for pre-race dinner shot my partner's and my otherwise very punctual routine all to pieces. But this is mountain bike racing; no roadies here, so the stoke level remained high but with more than a little nerve to it.

 We sprinted over to a barely lit registration tent, got our numbers, and started quizzing a pretty exhausted volunteer crew about our ride tomorrow. "Whats the surface like?" "Hows the start?" "Whats this 'potatoe-patch' business?" That one got a moment of quiet as the volunteers each collected their opinions of the climb for careful delivery. I mean; last to roll in how pro could we be? They probably thought we would be the first to tap out and wait for the broom wagon with preparation like that! Nevertheless a description riddled with words like "long, mean, hateful, awful, miserable," and of course: "I don't think id want to drive up it in my car." Super...

 Camp called so we headed back to the car and got our selves in gear for tomorrow race. Bottles filled, alarms set, jersey pockets filled with the requisite calories to burn a few hours seeking glory in the hills and dales of Tennessee. Early to bed early to shred, so how about late to the truck testing our luck? Racing to do in the AM kids!

Awake early as usual I popped out of the back of the truck and got to getting our gear ready. My Fiance Emily would also be out there pushing herself to the limits. I love knowing we are both out there at the same time, riding the same course, pushing and traveling our own journey. More on that later. I got myself some breakfast, a bottle of cold instant coffee to get things moving along, and double checked all our gear. The pace of preparation gets frantic the closer we get to go time. Fortunately we were parked near the start line so we could keep a pulse on things. I gave Emily a kiss as we exchanged "good luck, have fun, be safe!" I rode off to find my spot to a final "Get 'em buddy!" Thats kind of our thing. Lined up somewhere middleish off to the side I could see the singlespeed contenders, Gerry Pflug ready for a 5th consecutive ride to victory at Cohutta, lined up right up front. Its awesome that a singlespeeder can genuinely command a front row seat at a hundred mile race and nobody questions it. Dan Rapp looking lean and mean not far off him. A few other names and jersey I recognized rolling around as well. My fellow Virginian Jeremiah Bishop had rolled down last minute for the race and I was glad to see a familiar wheel to chase.

 And chase we did! Unsure about the course profile or even the start I made an effort to get up front early. A long straight uphill road loomed before us. But I didn't care, I just had to not loose the geared wheels and try and make my way to the front before we hit the singletrack. Pace-lining on a singlespeed is tough, 300+ watts at 130 rpm can be a bear, especially this early in the race. The road gave way to a narrow strip of sun rising over the Tennessee hills to the south west and I knew the day would be special. Every time I saw the sun over the next 8 hours I remember feeling something special. Ill always remember that sun, maybe because the horror stories of recent years had me dreading rain. Maybe because it warmed me on that cold morning. Into the singletrack and the bike I had just built four days earlier had felt good on the road now it felt GREAT!! Pivot hooked me up with an LES SS to ride this season and Blue Ridge Cyclery in Charlottesville VA dialed in the build. And MAN was it dialed. I ran a rigid fork which dampened the bikes enthusiasm for shredding just a little but that machine was made to roll. All fear, all worries, all cares in the whole world were eliminated as I found Gerry's wheel and we ate up that smooth morning trail. #Ohbaby



 Gerry paced us perfectly through the traffic as we ate up that singletrack. The downside was only a few miles in I had exhausted all the knowledge gleaned from the interwebs of the course. Slick rock, bridge, and bumps...thats all I knew about. Into the unknown. However quickly we found some good guides in Jeremiah Bishop and Rob Spreng. Both had done this race a couple of times and were not racing Gerry or I so I knew they d be willing to share some beta. Also by judging heir efforts I could tell what was coming. We formed a great little group snaking our way through the forest towards the warm sun of the fire road. Like a cold-blooded singtrack reptile looking forward to miles and warmth we sought the first aid station. Gerry is as seasoned a racer as they come and didn't hesitate to come around Jeremiah and Rob one a steep pitch. I followed a little to my surprise. Not to seem pretentious boys but I gotta chase that! We stayed 1-2 for a few miles until we popped out at the first aid station. Some confusion causing us to stop and pause allowed a few riders to bridge up but the more the merrier.

 Down the first ribbon of sweet gravel. I thought to myself: "if the whole thing is like this today is gonna be awesome!" Funny, when I came back up this stretch 70 miles later I dont remember thinking it was all so sweet. Down through the valleys below we rolled, rolling what was actually a fairly easy pace. Easy enough for several other riders to ride up on our tails and join our club. Into the evergreen stands we rolled on the Tennessee fire roads, Georgia and plenty of vertical to look forward to. Past a couple of hunters with their freshly dead bird we exchanged smiles and funny looks but silently agreed this was going to be a good day. Our grupetto thinned as we hit the pitches of the first real climb of the day. The climbs were steady all day but would give us little teases of break. About each break we got somebody would no longer be there. Like a game of musical chairs the music stopped for one rider each pitch. Into the next aid station we grabbed our drop bags, popped something that caught our eyes and rolled on. I stuffed a few bananas into my pockets and filled my bottles.

One of the great things about the cycling scene, particularly at the front or any long distance race, is that sense that we are all in this together. We could beat each other to bleeding puddles but we've all still got to get to the finish line. And to a certain point its better to do a lot of the work together. Our group of 6 or 7 accomplished riders rolled along nicely, even agreeing to a "nature break" at the next steppe. I remarked to Rob Spreng it was funny we had carried all the extra weight up the mountain, fine time to loose a little!! We laughed and moved on. Up a few more then sweet gravity DOWN in a big way!! Those endless fire roads seemed to go on forever, letting all the mystery of what would lay ahead stay concealed. The pitches of ups and downs never really confirmed or denied we wouldn't have to climb again. We had hit a couple nice drops only to find it was right back up! When we got to the meat of the matter around 45 miles in we recognized we would be getting into the Pinhoti trail soon and then the work would begin. Across mile 50 we exchanged jokes about how we had just done our "Whiskey 50, now one more." Our Whiskey would be sweet southern 'shine as we whooped along at a pretty unbelievable pace through the Pinhoti. Jeremiah smooth and fast in the lead with Rob on his wheel followed by Gerry and I and one other geared racer who had survived with barely a word the whole time. When you get several great bike handlers in one place things get rowdy. We could have been racing, we could have just been shredding on a mid-day vacation! It didnt matter. Once again the sun shined through the trees as the hot dry singletrack allowed us to really cut loose.

That early morning sunshine

 The bottom dropped out and we hit the pavement. Things mellowed quickly as we realized things were about to get hard, and serious. The question all day had been  when Jeremiah would make his move. Everybody wants to win of course but somebody like Jeremiah in a pace line adds a reactionary element. We would wait for him to make a move because we HAD to wait for him(!) and see how we all responded. He did it without drama. Smoothly pedaling up the road at the bottom of Potato Patch. Gerry and I had exchanged a few punches earlier but abated fairly quickly; no sense in riding a bike with one gear by myself on fire roads for 60 miles, but now things got a little awkward. Sort of like a middle school dance neither of us wanted to let the slow dance end...then it did.

I knew there was an aid station ahead though so I put in a few hard pedal strokes to build a little extra time in front of the bowl of M&Ms that waited there. I wanted to get there with a few extra minutes to make sure I got all the fuel I would need when Gerry decided to murder me with his legs. I saw the tent ahead and then seeing Rob reach out and get his hand slapped with a wristband I realized that was not the aid station I was looking for, that was the checkpoint where we would prove we made it this far. But why stop a good thing? Rolling through the checkpoint and onward the couple of more miles to the aid station. There I didn't actually take long at all. Having put in time on the competition I made change on some bottles and kicked out of there.

Jeremiah, Rob, Mystery Man, and me. Everything else was behind me and was immaterial until we started back down. As we climbed back up the sun was beating down now. Sweat dripping off of me that same sun that warmed my heart and legs earlier was now against me, forcing me to work , pushing me. I caught the third placed rider and noted that was pretty cool. Singlespeed meant business! Around a couple dark corners of the mountain I got a clear view of the Georgia sky up ahead. I rounded a right corner and felt that sun move again from my face to my back. As soon as I did I saw the "Tattoos in Blue" Rob Spreng climbing strongly just out of sight. Theres my rabbit. If I can get up to Rob Ill have some gears to work with on the way down. Up to Rob, next to rob, past rob...keep going. This race was blown apart, the concentrated fun for the first 60 miles was great but now it was down to business and business was booming! The sun at my back I rolled on and up.

The Potato Patch climb is mean, it is hard, it is long, an it doesn't let you make peace with it. Living in the mountains of western VA I know long climbs, long climbs with names like "Thousand Foot," "Elevator Shaft," and "Buck's Rut."But that 'Patch didn't let up. It would level off, tease you with a short drop, then pitch you into hypoxia. I had to go hypoxic on those climbs, there were hero behind me. Men with a very serious goal of catching me and beating me to the finish line. Every single corner demanded another match from my ever shrinking book. Seeing riders coming the other way looking strong I knew we had actually made good time despite our fun for the first 60 miles. Around a bend I recognized i realized I had made it, the top, and the scene opened up one last time to reveal the shining sun looking out of the foothills. Winking at it and speaking my peace I asked my to legs surge and make for the downhill.

And down we went. Dropping like a hammer each corner presented a new challenge; a different line, a new obstacle to move smoothly past without incident. At this time I saw a familiar kit, and a face hung low lift up. It was Emily. She howled and told me Jeremiah wasn't that far beyond me. I smiled, said words of encouragement I don't remember, and hammered on to the inspiring music of hollers and screams from the woman I love. Doesn't get much better than that! If my tank was low that topped it of! "We could do this" I entertained for a second. Then quieting myself down, cooling the goosebumps of a great race underway and pushed the Pivot to find its limits as I sped down. I heard repeated gaps between 5 and 8 minutes to Jeremiah. Could I catch him? No... not really, but I may not need to. If I had succeeded in making that much time on the climb I may not need to!

Gravity abated and the descent angled towards flatter and flatter. I loosened the legs and brought the singlespeed up to speed then crouched and made myself like a bullet to suck every bit of speed out of those watts. Second to last aid station and I was allowing myself to celebrate a little. Less than 20 miles now. Keep moving, keep moving fast. And then it went pear shaped. bad. real bad. I missed a left turn back onto fireroad from the open road out of aid 7. I went right, up a fire road and to an intersection that wasn't marked.Suddenly It all came back, this was not in the bag. I had work to do and I better make up my mind quick. I scoured the gravel around me for tire tracks and seeing none I decided to head back down. I passed an ATV driver who confirmed I had gone wrong. He asked if I wanted him to show me. Sure? I guess so. But my toothsome friend didn't grasp the urgency and I dropped him. Down like a rocket I went, spotted the markings and fought back into shape. Chasing the images of Gerry and Rob and who knows how many other in my head I pushed every last bit through the rear wheel.

Aid 8 came, had the sun set on my day of glory? No, still in 2nd overall. And "Holy smokes!" On a singlespeed. I pitched it into the singletrack and rallied. I didn't have much left. I wont pretend I did. But Emily knew I could do it. I knew I could do it. I had folks who believed in me and I was not going to let them down. Endurance events like this are a fine line to ride. You have to push, but cant push beyond your limit. I did. I pushed the limit of my handling skills, the limits of my cramping muscles, and the limit of the trail. It gave way in several places but the Pivot LES stayed strong, planted and composed.

The trail finally gave way to fire road, which gave way to the river. Open road, the sunlight behind me again pushing me to finish strong. the endless road coming to an end beneath me. Keeping an eye behind me I gave myself a moment. Once the finish line was crossed I would have other concerns so right now I let go. Let go of everything I had inside emotionally and mentally. This job was done. Nothing could keep me from this one anymore. No win is easy, every 100 mile day is a challenge, but the purposeful moments alone in the woods that had brought me to this finish line brought such emotion as my battle ended.

I crossed the line, raising my arms skyward celebrating and relishing the moment. I had won the first NUE singlespeed race of the season for me and come in second overall. That was big.