Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hampshire 100 (2013 edition)

 (WARNING: Profanity alert)

I think I signed up for this race back when there was still snow on the ground here in CT.  After last year, I knew I wanted to do it again to improve my time.  Not only that, but I wanted to throw down with the big girls and try for a top 3 finish. 

Then I got all gung ho about school and signed up for a summer calculus class, and I scored a sweet internship where I get paid money to write stuff (and I do some other stuff there too).   

BUT, I’VE LEARNED MY LESSON… There will be no summer classes for me in 2014.  And for the record, I passed calculus (B-).  I’m not typically okay with grades that low, but I worked my ass off for that one.

Basically, life got busy, and it was by my own doing. 

So when people ask me, “What have you been doing to prepare for the NH100?,”  I can honestly say, nothing special.  I went on a really fun group 60+ mile dirt/paved road ride a couple of weeks ago that had lots of NH100-like gravely climbs in it, and I’ve been racing the usual xc races (yeah, I know I’ve been slacking in the blog department). 

But… I really did nothing special. Riding during the past few weeks was sporadic – I did hill repeats once and otherwise played on the singlespeed in the woods to build up my tolerance for pain. 

For someone who wanted to improve her time, I did not do much to prepare.

And besides that, if you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you know that I’m a bit impulsive…

… so you probably won’t be surprised to hear that I signed up to do the NH100 short track xc race the night before the 100 miler (really good way to prepare, right?). And it also wouldn’t be a shocker to learn that I went really hard in that race…

… and took a beer hand-up of Dale’s Pale Ale.  And a dollar to go even harder (thanks, Anthony).

Yeah, that was silliness.  But it was a freakin’ blast!!  They started
NH100 miler start - stolen from the Hampshire 100 FB page
the men and women together upon our request, and I somehow managed to be third going into the woods off the start. 

Ummm… what?  Yeah… that didn’t last for long.  I settled into a nice steady pace and finished 6th overall while taking the win for the women.

I was sure glad to finish that race because that meant dinnertime, and I ate not one, but two $5 pasta dinners (for sale at the race venue). 

I’d driven up to the race that afternoon following work with Donnie D (owner of DAS), and we met up with Tracy, Ben, Matt, Gary (Death Row Velo), and Oliver (Peace, Love, & Pedals). We all skipped out on the racer’s meeting so we could get settled in at the campground across the street before it got dark. 

It was actually a good idea that we camped there – the two hour drive home would have been miserable Sunday night, and camping at the actual venue was for Saturday only.  So keep that in mind if you think you might want to do this race in the future.

So we went back to the campsite and partied like the rockstars we are…

… okay, we each had a beer and were in bed by 10pm, but we had to be up at 5am and be ready to ride our bikes all day long -Tracy, Ben, and Matt were doing the 100K, and Don, Oliver, Gary, and I were doing the 100 miles.  Either way, that’s a lot of riding.

We had a mostly uneventful night full of restless sleep due to the weird creature making alarming noises in the dark (after the 2nd night, we were in agreement that it was an probably an owl not a bigfoot), and we woke up dark and early to the cacophony of various iPhone sound-effects and LMFAO’s Sexy and I Know It – all at once. 

I did my best to eat, stay calm, and make sure I didn’t forget anything.  I didn’t need another Patapsco debacle where I set out without any food in my pocket (doh!). 

We were over at the start area before 6am, but it seemed as though there’d been a rush on all things hot
100K Men's start
and caffeinated.  So we had to wait for coffee.  But the good old Hampshire 100 crew was on their mark, and we didn’t wait long. 

Now, if you think the lines for port-a-potties are bad at ordinary bike races, you should see them before a 100K/mile bike race.  People are hard-pressed to get their business done before they spend ALL DAY on their bikes – it’s not something you want to be dealing with when you’re out there (but it happens).

After an exciting pep-talk by the race promoters, it was all-of-a-sudden time to line up.  I found myself next to Jocelyn and Linda, and Karen heckled me with a “sucker!” because she’d opted for the shorter day by doing the 100K (which she won). 

Before I had a chance to rethink anything, we were off.  And we were going fast.  I knew the first 20 miles would be super fast, so I told myself to play it smart.  As much as I hate riding a paceline, I found myself naturally sucking every wheel I could.  The benefit of being short is that people don’t usually notice or mind as much when you’re hovering behind them like that (at least that’s what I tell myself). 

I was with a pretty large pack of riders for quite awhile, and Linda was right on my wheel for a bit.  Right up until we “left the beach,” as one of the promoters described it, and hit the wall.  So basically, you ride wicked freakin’ fast for 20 or so miles, and then the “real climbing” starts.  And by real climbing, they mean most people will be walking their bikes.  But I knew what was coming, and I’m not most people (yeah, I can brag because I rode that gravely wall!). 

Of course, what goes up, must come down… but we didn’t descend for long before we were climbing again.  This time, it was up the power line climb.  Now, because I’d done this race last year, I’d done some really effective brain work over the last year to make these climbs seem way more awful in my head than they really were.  So the power line climb actually looked a little less terrible than last year. 

I’m worried that now, I’m going to think all of these climbs aren’t so bad, and I’ll get a rude awakening next year… ugh…  vicious cycle of insanity.

photo by Gabriel Crooker
(Oh wait, did I just say I’m doing this again next year?  You bet your ass I did.)

Okay… back to the power-line climb…  I was with some of those crazy guys who were trying to ride all day with just one gear (craziness, I tell you), and one of them was Thom.  I got to stare at his JRA socks while we marched up the hill, and I tried to crack some sort of joke about him walking too slow.  Nobody was laughing.  Walking up that hill sucked.  I guess some people rode that, but after being a hero on the wall, I wasn’t about to be a superhero and try to ride this. 

I didn’t see Thom again until I was just creeping out of the woods from my only pee break. Good thing there’s no footage of that.

He took off on his fancy one-geared bike, and I was off to bask in the misery of a horrible bonk.  Just before this, at around mile 48, there’d been an aid station.  I’d just grabbed what I needed from my drop bag, but what I didn’t anticipate was the overwhelming need for caffeine that hit me soon after I left that aid station.

Also at the mile-48 aid station, I saw Nichole, Matt’s wife.  Seeing someone you know out there is one of the most wonderful things you might experience during a race like this.  But I should have known
This is me at mile 48 - Thanks, Nichole!
when I had trouble responding to her questions that a bonk was lurking on the horizon.

So, for the next 10 miles or so, I was in a pretty sad state.  Not a good way to be when you’re riding on singletrack and trying to beat your time from last year.  I figured I was somewhere around 3rd or 4th place, but there was no way of knowing. 

When I finally saw the mile-59 aid station in the distance, I immediately started yelling to ask if they had any coke.  Well, they sure did - it was lined up on the table in Dixie cups, and I did at least 4 shots of it.  Then a kind woman offered me an expresso gel which I graciously thanked her for and stuffed up the leg of my shorts (fuel up the right leg and trash up the left).

All I had to do next was cruise through the start finish area and set out on the short lap. 

As the coke slowly started to kick in, I began to feel a little better, and I was able to really enjoy the last sections of singletrack leading back to the park where we started. 

As I came through, I saw Karen and yelled out to her some bit of nonsense before riding through to the aid station.  I pulled every bit of food out of my bag that I could stand to carry, had someone lube my chain, and stuffed more caffeinated gel up my shorts – all while pounding more coke. 

In the middle of this chaos, Karen had cruised over to tell me that 1) I was in second place and 2) Vicki’s bike was broken but she was still riding.  Also, they told me I was only about 5 minutes or so behind her.  I almost started to cry.  After some other kind words by Karen, I rushed back out onto the course feeling like that pep-talk had given me the kick in the ass I needed.

From here, you ride a lot of the roads/trails you rode on lap 1, but at some point, you get redirected onto a bunch of other stuff before getting dumped back onto the main course.  This way, you’re not doing 120-something miles. 

So there I was, hammering down the road as fast as my tired legs could crank me along.  And I was wishing my sorry ass off for a wheel to suck.  I rode the next twenty miles without seeing a single human except for the folks at the one aid station where some guy decided to drive his truck into my line of travel and force me to yell.

I think I mentioned this in last year’s write-up, but the one good part about the second loop is you miss the “wall after the beach” and the “power-line climb,” and instead, you get to climb something that can only be equated to “much friggin’ worse.”  But after that, you get some paved stuff at mile 85 (also more uphill).

This year's fiddler - found her! 
Somehow you’re dumped back into the course.  You can look at my garmin file to get a glimpse of the course from a really high bird’s-eye-view.

I actually got a second wind in the last 30 miles (or maybe it was just my first wind), and I was able to crank pretty hard while feeling surprisingly good – caffeine is the best dope ever.  I was still thinking (hoping) I’d catch Vicki, but at the same time, I didn’t want to pass her if her bike was indeed broken and she was still riding it (which it turns out… she was). 

As soon I was within 4 miles of the finish, I hammered the singletrack with everything I had.  I’m actually surprised by how clean I rode everything all day – even when I was bonked.  Last year I fumbled every time I hit real trails because I was so thrown for a loop by the tight twisty stuff. 

It was the best feeling in the world to find myself riding through the campground (across from the finish area) because from there, it was pavement to the homestretch.  It looked like I’d reached my goal of finishing in under 10 hours, but it was hard to be sure…

…I’d forgotten to turn my garmin on until a few miles into the race.  For the record, that’s a really dumb move. 

Here’s why:  1) you won’t know how far you are from the aid stations, 2) you will spend all day calculating what you think might be your correct (a) time and (b) mileage, and 3) you will start talking to yourself because you’ll have gone completely insane. 

 So like I said, dumb move.

As soon as I finished, I saw Brian Spring (Karen’s mechanic and an all around wicked cool dude), and shortly after that, my teammates came over for high-fives.  I was eager to check my official time, and finally snuck off to peek at the timing screen… 9:48:58. SUCCESS! 

Thanks, Mark Drogalis!
I was second woman overall. Vicki had me by about 31 minutes, and I finished ahead of Linda by about 50 minutes.  Fourth and Fifth finished 10 and 20 minutes after Linda respectively, and it looks like all of the women who started the race finished the race (not so, for the 15 men who DNF).  I think I was about 40th overall out of 88 finishers. 

What an awesome race. 

As I was washing my face, Thom managed to find me with his camera . . .

Here I am talking about wrestling.

I felt like a rambling fool.

Next stop was a delicious plate of food, some Smuttynose IPA (thanks Tracy), and chatting with friends under the pavilion. 

The podium held the friendliest group of ladies ever, and I had to high-five Vicki twice – once for winning and the second time for winning on a monster gear.  She’s awesome!

It was cool getting to watch Donnie D finish the race, and Amy (his wife) and Maggie (their dog-child) had arrived at just the right time to be able to snap his photo and lick him (I’m sure you can figure out who did what). 

Later, back at the campsite, we ended up ordering pizza and attempting to drink beer..  It’s actually not manageable to drink more than one beer after that much riding.  It was fun to hang out exchanging our stories from the day and comparing notes. But as soon as the food started to hit the tummies, everyone got really quiet and really sleepy.  

The end.  Zzzzzzz