Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Patapsco 100 (2014 edition) - my first 100-miler on a full suspension, and the most fun you can have on a bike in 12 hours

If you like to race your cyclocross bike on gravel roads, then you should not sign up for the Patapsco 100.

But if you’re into railing what is undoubtedly some of the flowiest singletrack on the east coast, you enjoy pushing yourself to the limit of your physical ability (all day long), and you’re not afraid of endless log-overs and some painfully steep and rocky hike-a-bikes, then this is the race for you. 

Dereck and I drove down to Maryland on Friday (yes, the fourth of July was spent in a car – it’s the American thing to do).  We decided to avoid the disaster that is I-95 and took the longer toll-free route through NY and PA, stopping at the Lackawanna park area to get a short ride in (fun trails!!  I love PA!). 

While folks at home were trapped indoors all day or faced with braving monsoon weather, we were gifted with good weather for most of our trip. 

We arrived in PA at the hotel recommended by AAA.  As it turned out, that hotel hasn’t had many updates since it was built sometime in the early 80s.  In addition, it is a mecca for drug deals, local prostitution, and what appears to be full-time residence for a few families.  In other words, it is a shithole. 

Somehow my non-smoking room reservation was reserved as smoking; arriving late that night, we toughed it out until we could get a better room the next day (a room that had seen some updates – like a microwave, coffeemaker, and a comforter without cigarette burns in it). 

I digress. 

Saturday we made our way over to the Hub – Cantonville’s kickass bike shop, where I checked in, picked up my race packet, and met some really cool people, including Ray – read his story here.

Our next stop was Patapsco Valley State Park.  We followed another rider to a parking lot just up the road from some of the trails that made up the race course, and one of the park rangers, leaving for the day, came over to offer us lots of useful information.  He even gave us a fantastic dinner recommendation – Great Sage in Ellicott, MD – a vegan restaurant with one hell of a selection.  As it turned out, he raced the Patapsco 33 mile option on Sunday. 

Saturday turned out to be a really nice and mostly relaxing day (as compared to last year when I arrived to my hotel at about 11pm the night before the race after delivering mail in the morning). I made up my drop bags and prepped my race fuel before crawling into a bed that did not smell like a dirty ashtray.

Race day got off to a good start at 4am with some coffee, microwavable oatmeal, fresh berries, and nuts; we were at the race venue by about 5:15 and greeted by some familiar faces.

Before I knew it, I was on my bike, lined up on the front line with a bunch of fast dudes.  I’d decided to shoot for the front this year so I wouldn’t get held up in a pack of people going slower than I wanted, and it worked out perfectly. I held a pretty steady pace for the first lap. I climbed easy so I wouldn’t burn up my legs before the last lap, rolled through the aid stations because I had all I needed to complete one lap of the 33 mile loop, and blissfully hammered the swoopy sections of singletrack with as little use of my brakes as possible.

There was just one problem: stomach issues.

I don’t usually have a problem with my stomach once a race has gotten underway.  Normally, it’s before and/or after the race that I find myself with any sort of GI issue.  But for some reason or other (possibly eating too much for dinner the night before), I felt off and had a really hard time forcing myself to eat throughout the day. 

My race nutrition was a combination of rice cakes (Feed Zone Portables style that were either savory bacon and pineapple or coconut-blueberry-chocolate), “hippy snacks” (those bite-sized energy blocks you can buy in bulk at health food stores), and Accelerade. 

I quickly found out that rice is difficult to eat while pedaling, and decided to save those for my stops in between laps; there was just enough time for me to eat them while Dereck cleaned my drivetrain and lubed my chain.  I popped a hippy snack here and there, and I only ate three caffeinated GUs throughout the day (to avoid the seemingly inevitable can’t-sleep-after-racing syndrome I usually get). 

The second lap actually felt pretty good, and I didn’t slow down much at all (the lap was only 10 minutes slower than my first one, which could possibly be attributed to the fact that I started my Garmin about 1 mile into the race on lap one). 

Lap 3 was a different story. While I managed to stay on my bike for the sections I’d been riding all day long, I could feel my body slowing down.  I knew that I hadn’t been eating enough, and I started craving coca cola. Dereck was riding that lap with me, and he was really encouraging. It was fun having him along to see all of the really great trails out there (and even more fun to be able to talk about the course with him afterward and have him know exactly what I was talking about).

At the halfway point aid station, I finally stopped and had about a half a can of coke, and the volunteers politely offered me some salt and vinegar chips from their own cooler after I declined a peanut butter sandwich in search of potato chips.  I didn’t want to leave that table. 

I don’t think I stopped for long.  The final miles of the race were intermixed with thoughts of last year’s finish (and the terrible thunder storm that had erupted all around me during the last miles), the realization that I finally felt like eating, and attempted ignorance of the painful situation arising in my shorts (diaper rash, anyone?). 

I’d hoped to finish in less than 12 hours this year, but I slipped past the line at 12:03 (guess I’ll have to go back next year). 

My first 100 miler on a full suspension is officially in the books.  

Can you say 'game changer'?  

I bet you can... 

The Kona Hei Hei Supreme is a smooth, slick, buttery ride, and I even managed to drop a dude or two on some descents and close a gap or two on a climb.  Big thanks to the guys at Kona for hooking me up with a sweet deal!  

This year’s racecourse was very much like last year’s, but there were some new sections of singletrack, making what was an awesome loop even more amazing.  Ed Dixon (one of the promoters) had been working his butt off (along with his wife and whoever else helped out), and the new trails are some of the nicest I’ve ever ridden. Who would have thought Maryland would be a mountain bike destination? 

So the next time you’re headed down to Pisgah, or some other place down south, make it a point to stop by Maryland and visit the Hub in Cantonsville, get some tips on the best place to put your rubber to the dirt, and stop back in town after to grab a latte from Atwater’s (right next to the bike shop). And bring me with you!