Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New Hampshire 100 (miles): Holy Hell that was HARD!

The longer I wait to write about this, the fluffier my memories seem to become, and quite frankly, there was nothing fluffy about the New Hampshire 100 - neither the 100k nor the 100 mile option.  I didn't even see a fluffy animal out there.  What I did see was a whole lot of New Hampshire countryside... 100 miles of it.  Sure, I saw some of it twice - we rode the 100k loop and went back out for an abbreviated loop of some of the same stuff - but every mile counted, and I certainly did count them.

Saturday morning, I met up with Dan - a fellow DAS rider, and we loaded up his truck and family camper for what we anticipated as being the most epic race of our race season.  It was raining lightly as we packed, but as soon as we hit I-395, the rain came down in sheets and it was slow going.  We had hopes of getting to Greenfield, NH by 1pm, but I think we rolled in closer to 2pm after making a stop in an unmentionable creepy town where things just seemed a little off.  Fortunately, the skies were blue and clear, and the temperatures seemed perfect along with the forecast for Sunday (race day). 

We set up camp while we waited for our friends to arrive.  As soon as Kevin, John, and Haley arrived, we all headed over to check-in at the venue.  Our campground was actually across the street from the start/finish area, and the final stretch of the race went through a portion of the campground.  Kudos to Amy (Dan's wife) for finding us such a sweet place to stay!  

Check-in consisted of acquiring our number plates, a goody bag, a cool t-shirt, and a sweet pint glass.  We joked that since we had the shirt and the glass, we didn't need to actually do the race...  of course, that wasn't why we were there.  Back at the campsite, I was scanning the facebook feed and noticed that our friend Jesse, who had just gotten back to CT from racing Leadville the previous weekend and had ridden all week out west, had decided to come race the 100 miler with us.  We were still expecting Alby to join us at the campground, but with the motto of the more the merrier, we told Jesse he could crash at our site as well.  In the fashion of true campers, we spent a portion of the evening sitting around a non-existant campfire watching youtube videos of silly things that Kevin knew we would enjoy, and we watched as Jesse carbo-loaded on Teddy Grahams and Ginger Snaps.  Ginger Snaps are delicious.

After a restless night of tossing and turning, we woke up at 5am and slowly started to come to terms with the fact that it was, indeed, the day we had been waiting for.  For some of us, the commitment came in January, and for others, March, while some waited until the day before the race...  but there we all were.  

Lining up at the start, I looked around at the enormous amount of people who had shown up for what was bound to be a very long day on the bike.  It was pretty impressive.  The race started in waves - first off was the men's 100 mile open category, then came the singlespeed open category with the women's open, and all of the 100k categories started after us.  I watched as the pack took off quickly in front of me, and I tried to ignore the fact that they were going to have quite a lead on me.  I knew it was going to be a long day.  I also knew that the first 20 miles were supposed to ride fast and easy, but we would hit a wall around mile 20, and that's when things would get really hard really fast.  I figured I'd better not blow up...  boy, am I glad I did what I planned.  The wall was definitely a wall.  Not long after that, we came to the power line climb which was touted as a "power line climb."  There was no riding it.  The course was just too congested at that point.  I was actually amazed at how many people I was riding with through most of the race.  

There was definitely a good amount of climbing.  I decided to race with a GPS so I could keep track of my time and speed.  I wanted to stay on track and finish in 10 hours, but I knew when I came through the start/finish at the 100k mark that it was going to be tough.  I was at about 6.5 hours and I had no idea what the middle of the next loop would look like, but having seen how slow the last miles of the 100k loop had ridden, I knew that I'd have to go as fast as possible in the sections where I could.  At that point, I had no idea where any of the other women were at except that Susan Lynch was somewhere behind me.  

As it turns out, Sue wasn't too far behind me at all.  I'm not exactly sure where we met up, but it was somewhere in the beginning of the second loop, and we spend a fair amount of time riding within site of one another.  It was alongside of Sue that I came to the wall of a climb that we got in exchange for ditching the big climbs that were in the first loop.  This is probably where I got the most negative, if you even want to call it that.  I never really got into any dark places, and I attribute that to the fact that the weather was perfect and I stayed hydrated and jacked up on caffeinated GUs.  I yelled at the hill.  I complained out loud and got very very annoyed at the hill.  The thing is, that doesn't really do much of anything to help.  Sue and I were both walking, and we both got back on our bikes as soon as it looked like there was any sort of traction to be had, but we both got really quiet as we made our way up that beast of an incline.  It was the sort of hill where you can't see how big it is because there are corners in it and every time you go around a corner it goes up some more.  Ahhh, here I am complaining again.  I just want to get across how big this hill was.  It was a very big hill.  There.  

So, I got to the top of the hill, and it's not really the top because it's a road or something that seems to go up some more.  I was waiting for a downhill, but I don't remember getting anything that really satisfied my desire to descend.  At this point, I realized I was pulling away from Sue.  I was digging deep.  I love her to pieces, but a race is a race, and I really really wanted to finally get a chance to drop her on a climb.  Somehow, I still had 'race' left in my legs.  Off I went, and I didn't really see her again until she crossed the line 6 minutes after me.  

I suppose the hardest part of the race for me was switching back and forth from fast fire road riding to slow single track. Shifting mental gears proved to be extremely difficult, and trails that I would normally find to be pretty easy to ride were extremely challenging.  I was a bobbling mess.  Regardless, I was still able to ride a lot of sections that others were walking, so I used that to my advantage.  

So, in all, it was a long day - 10 hours and 14 minutes - 5th overall woman.  4 pee stops, and I think 5 aid station stops, but I can't be sure.  The best pit stop was at the 100k mark where I got my chain lubed and had some coca cola.  I think I drank more soda on Sunday than I have in the past year.  During the race, I drank GU Roctane in very diluted amounts and tried to drink a bottle an hour along with a GU or some sort of food every 45 minutes.  Bananas, as in the 12 hour races, were a staple food for me.  They're just so easy to get down - I really couldn't handle having to chew. As far as pain goes, I felt relatively good on the bike with the exception of my knees (a lot of climbing will do that), and when I got off the bike, I had stabbing pain in between my shoulder blades.  I also became acutely aware that I had an epic diaper rash.  Amazingly though, I escaped the 100 miles with no saddle sores.  

Monday I was fatigued, but not in too much pain.  The diaper rash had subsided.  My biggest issue was exhaustion and getting moving after sitting.  Once I was up and moving, it wasn't horrible.  Tuesday I had planned as a relax and rejuvenate day.  I drove to Westport, CT for 90 minutes in an isolation tank and came out feeling 10 times better than when I went in.  In the evening I went for the weekly mountain bike ride out of DAS and put the hammer down a couple of times which felt surprisingly good.  By this morning, I was feeling much better.  I'm still feeling exhausted, but that's to be expected.  

What's next?   Oh boy... there's a lot going on right now.  I'll get to that some other time, but as far as races go, I have only the Landmine Classic on the 9th of September and then MTB race season is officially done for me.  I plan on doing some cyclocross racing, but that will have to be planned around the jam-packed fall semester of school and being a mommy.