Monday, August 18, 2014

Hampshire 100: Twenty-Fourteen is the Real Deal (with a bonus CBCC mini-report - otherwise known as making up for slacking off)

Hampshire 100 

It’s important to go into a race like the Hampshire 100 with some sort of a goal.

But it is also important to be comfortable with letting go of that goal when things don’t go as planned.

This year, I’d done everything right leading up to the race.  I even trained a little bit and then took some time to recover.  I’d figured I would be able to shave some time off from last year’s 9:48 and hopefully finish around 9 hours and 15 minutes…

…but then the race started and the course was different and the ground was soft and it took me a really long time to complete the first 63 miles.  Goals and expectations?  Forget about them.  Just finish the damn race. 

It all started off with the usual hammering down the road, but instead of the infamous railroad tracks section, we were sent around the block, back past the park and onto singletrack much earlier than what is customary for the H100. From there, everything is a gigantic blur in my mind.

The first lap was spent in the company of a variety of people I’d either never met before or perhaps only met once. We chatted about other 100s, the terrain, the mud, and how hard the course was. 

The second lap was lonely. I didn’t see a single person for miles and miles and miles (except for the aid station volunteers who I believe are some of the most spectacular people on the planet). When I did finally start to encounter some other people, they were 100k participants in the final miles of their own battle.  I felt spectacularly douchey hammering past them as fast as I could possibly go (which probably wasn’t actually all that fast).

Like all the 100s I’ve done, I felt myself begin to tear up with joy in the last mile of the race. At that point, I still had no idea what place I’d gotten, and really only cared that I was done. This version of the Hampshire 100 was officially harder than the Patapsco 100 (despite the fact that there was less climbing).

With 5 women preregistered for the 100M (there was also a 100k race happening at the same time), it was a smaller field than the previous year, and I was only able to see one of my fellow competitors on the starting line – Anne Pike.  In fact, we played some back and forth during the first 30 minutes of the race, but I didn’t see her again until she crossed the finish line less than 4 minutes behind me.  As it turned out, she’d had some mechanical trouble that stalled her trailside for several minutes.

The next, and only other female finisher for the 100 miles, Lenka Branichova came through about an hour later. Unfortunately, the other two women were unable to finish. It was a brutal day for everyone, and I am pretty sure we were all just happy to have it over with. 

There were some interesting moments during the day. On one of the fast descents during the first lap, I lost a contact lens, but it decided to land on the inside of my glasses so I was able to carefully remove it, replace it, and carry on with the race.

Then, as I was slowly slogging up some singletrack towards one of the road crossings on the final lap, I heard a familiar giggling. It was Alby (the only 100 mile person I think I saw on the final lap). Apparently, he’d done an extra twelve miles of climbing after missing a turn. Too bad there are no bonus points for extra hills (now that I think about it, I wonder what his GPS said for elevation…). He blew past me, putting about 15 minutes on me before the finish.

Another cool part of the day was coming through the first lap to see my dad cheering me on.  I’d left him directions to the venue and told him it would be cool if he could make it. It gave me a nice boost to know that he’d still be there when I crossed the finish line. He certainly had to wait a long time to see me again, and I’m sure it was pretty boring waiting around. But having him there was awesome.  It’s the first MTB race he’s ever been to, and it was one of my longest. 

If you’ve read my recap of this year’s Patapsco 100, you know that I had a really tough time eating during that race because my stomach felt off the whole day. With that in mind, I was really concerned about fueling for this race (I even dreamt about forgetting my bottles and missing the start as I went in search of them – one of several dreams I had about missing the start of the race in the week leading up to it). 

I did some research based off of lots of things I’d heard on podcasts about endurance racing, and I ended up using a concoction that Ben Greenfield (Ironman racer and fitness expert) uses during long events – a combo of Superstarch, amino acids, MCT oil, Nuun and water. I drank that along with water from my camelback all day long, and I didn’t eat a damn thing.  I never got hungry, and I felt just fine the whole day. 

Admittedly, I never felt very powerful out there, but I’d felt pretty flat all week long anyhow. It felt good to go the day at a pretty steady level of energy without the spikes and crashes that come along with sugar and caffeine. However, there were moments when I thought maybe I’d like to have a ding dong and a coke (maybe that means my concoction wasn’t working as well as I like to think it was).

Yes.  I know you aren’t supposed to try anything new during a big race.  But the old routine just wasn’t working for me anymore, and I tested this concoction twice in the two days leading up to the race (so there).

As of right now, I do not feel the need to go back and race the Hampshire 100 again.  This particular course may have done me in (or maybe it was just my own lofty expectations and the sound of them shattering like glass in the first 10 miles of the race that did it). I really don’t like races that take longer than 10 hours (except Patapsco, which is loaded with fast flowy singletrack that doesn’t suck souls); I really prefer races lasting around 6 hours…

…and that is why the next race I plan to attend is the MTB6 in VT.  I hear the course is fun, and I’m looking forward to it – just as soon as I decide I like riding bikes again. 

I have to say, it was an honor to win the Hampshire 100 this year, and I am finally a proud owner of the infamous winner’s wind chimes.  Thanks to all who worked so hard to make this challenging race an event to remember. 



…I neglected to write a blog post about the Carrabasset Back Country Challenge (apparently aka CBCC). 

To recap quickly, that race was really cool.  Not only did it include some of the gnarliest terrain I’ve seen in an endurance event, but it also featured some of the sweetest professionally engineered trails in the northeast – think Kingdom Trails with rocks.  The Carrabassett Valley (Sugarloaf Mountain area) of Maine is quickly becoming a mountain bike destination that you’ll want to consider adding to your “must visit” list. That said, the race was extremely challenging. 

I managed to pull off the win with a respectable time and a strong finish.  When the promoters asked the post-race crowd if they’d be interested in a 100-mile version of the race, not a single person raised a hand.