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Downtown Temple,NH

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hampshire 100 Mountain Bike Race

When I signed up for this race a few months ago, it seemed like a good way to get my endurance fix in. A 100k single loop mountain bike race through the hills of Greenfield, Francestown and a few other hilly New Hampshire towns. True, I've been cycling a lot (for a runner), but not enough to consider myself a cyclist or biker or whatever they call themselves. So for my first mountain bike race ever, why not go big? Honestly, I never looked at the Hampshire 100 as a race. I just wanted the experience to ride 100k on a mountain bike. Just finishing would be good enough the first time out.

With the venue only about 40 minutes from home, the ability to sleep in my own bed was a huge plus. Deb was nice enough to get up at 4:30am and drop me off (thank you!), and after a quick DD stop for coffee and a sausage-egg-cheese sandwich (breakfast of champions), we arrived just before 6am. We met up with fellow acidotic RACING teammate Andy Corrow, who would be riding in the same class (Novice Veteran II - 40-49) as me. After a brief pre-race meeting, we settled into the 5th wave and waited patiently for our turn. Shortly after 7am we were off.
Waiting for wave 5 to start

We were warned the first 20 miles were fairly easy and fast (whatever that means). Although I generally don't ride very long (my longest ride all year was around 50 miles), I wasn't really worried about the 62.5 miles we had to cover. I was more concerned about how much time it would take. My guesstimate at the start was 8-9hrs based on well, pretty much nothing. My longest ride in the history of riding was probably only 1/2 that. Not to worry, no negative thoughts entered my mind. I would not be fooled into thinking this was a race so at the 'go' command I just rode easy. Probably too easy. Even starting with a huge novice group, I basically got passed by nearly everyone in the first few miles (at least it seemed that way). I rode with Andy for about 10 minutes but then he was gone too. Sure, I could have ridden a lot faster, but on a hot and humid day, on a course with probably 7000ft of climbing, I decided to take it out easy.

The first few miles were mostly on dirt roads before hitting some ATV type trails and eventually riding down the side of some rail road tracks. There's something a bit unnerving about riding single file at 15mph along side exposed RR ties, with your pedal just inches from taking you and everyone behind you down. Soon enough we were back on same real trails again. I rode by the first Feed station around mile 10 since I had my Nathan pack with about 40oz of water. I was adding Gu Brew electrolyte tablets (lemon lime) to my water to hopefully keep the cramps at bay. At about 12 miles we rode into the base of Crotched Mt Ski area. It was a bit intimidating considering I thought we were going to the top. Thankfully after a brief climb we circled back down a fairly steep slope, crossed the parking lot and headed back into the woods. I heard one of the guys near the front crashed hard on this hill (I was told he broke his back, yikes). As of today, he was still in the hospital. Around mile 16 we came into Feed station #2 (which was well stocked). I stopped and filled my pack, had 1/2 a banana and a handful of chips and was off in maybe 2-3 minutes.

In a few minutes (after a screaming tar downhill ride) we jumped on probably the worst section of the entire course (IMHO): 5 miles of flat, straight rail trail. It just wasn't any fun, especially the 3 miles of soft sand in the middle section. Oh, but the fun stuff was just around the corner! Shortly after the rail trail, we turned onto a dirt, loose gravel road that appeared to go straight up (Hedgehog Mt). Steep doesn't do it justice. I rode as much as I could without hurting and then decided to walk. I heard the average grade was >14%, with sections approaching 25%. I figured it was a good time to call home and give an update. About 1/2 was up I saw Emily Trespas hiking down. I think we were both surprised to see each other out there! Andy was already more than 5 minutes ahead.
Hedgehog Hill - photo credit Emily Trespas

22 miles in about 2hrs and I guessed the easy part was done. I was feeling pretty good (as I continued to ride well within my limits) and was drinking plenty. I wasn't eating much though and that would be a problem.
Power Line Trail - photo credit David Alden St Pierre
I saw the fiddler around mile 23, just before the power line trail. I'm pretty sure the entire field walked sections of this trail. Incredibly steep, wet and muddy and that doesn't even include the total exposure to the sun. Needless to say, it was a tough grind up the power lines. From the top it was mostly downhill all the way to Feed Station #3 at approximately mile 25. Again, I refilled my bladder, had a 1/2 a banana, some Coke and some chips. It was one of two drop stations (stations where you could have bags sent in advance with whatever you wanted). I just put a spare tube (in case I flatted early) and a spare pair of socks in case I got wet in my bag. I never even looked for it since it wasn't needed. I was tiring of the Lemon-Lime flavored water and grabbed a coconut water as I left the aid station. The trail immediately climbed again (what a shock). A long slow, steep (but rideable) climb up a dirt road before cutting across some fields at the top and eventually heading back down the trails. The next 15 miles were mostly a blur, good solid riding, more climbing and definitely hot. If I remember, it was also pretty slow, I'm guessing because the course was getting a bit more technical. I was still drinking plenty of GU Brew though and generally felt good.

I arrived at the Feed Station #4 (~40 miles) around 4hrs and 30 minutes. I finally caught up with Andy too. I had another banana, a candy bar, more Coke and refilled my bladder...again. I also called home once again with another update. The next 10 miles went by so slow. The riding was hard, lots of technical single track, lots of climbing. I'm sure the single track would have been more fun if I hadn't been riding for nearly 5hrs already. All in all I was doing well. No pains, no cramps, butt didn't hurt, nothing. Feed Station #5 (and the second bag drop) was around mile 50. I grabbed a couple of Honey Stingers out of my bag, refilled my water (and added a couple of Gu Brew tablets), had some Ginger Ale, M&M's and a couple of Figs. Generally I only stayed at the feed stations long enough to fill my bladder (2-3 minutes). I think I caught up with Andy again and would trade places with him over the next 10 miles. The next 7-8 miles to Feed Station #5 (~ mile 57) were some of the hardest and slowest. More climbing, more single track, more climbing and more climbing. I'm so thankful I didn't go out hard in the first 20 miles. I was beginning to walk more of the hills but even that was hard. It ain't easy pushing a 30lb bike up a hill either you know!. For a while thought I could break 8hrs but this course just gets harder and harder (and slower and slower). I think I may have called home one more time but honestly I don't remember. I do remember I was tired of drinking Lemon Lime flavored water. I also remember my nutritional choices weren't the best. I KNOW I didn't eat enough. I'll have to work on that next time. I also need to mix up the fluids (maybe carry a bottle of Coke). In any case, at some point I switched to just water in my bladder (no GU Brew mix). I think this helped a bit.

Somewhere in the mile 50's the thunderstorms came in. It got very dark in the woods and then it poured. It would pour all the way to the finish. I think I passed Andy around mile 60 for the last time. For 60 miles I've been out for a ride generally  (never considered it racing). However, once I passed Andy and a couple of other riders around mile 60, my demeanor changed. Finally, I felt like I was racing. I picked up the pace, rode hard and generally felt like I was racing for the first time all day. At this point, I was more concerned with not getting passed in the last few miles as opposed to beating anyone in particular. The last 5 miles were mostly smooth flowing single track but the combination of pouring rain and 8+hrs of riding made it not so much fun.

After a very long day, I finally crossed the road by Greenfield State Park and was on the track around the field for the finish. 8hrs 26minutes of riding and I was done. That wasn't so hard (ok, maybe a little hard).
Andy finished just a few minutes back in 8:31 I think. We both did well in our group, finishing 3rd and 4th in the Novice Veterans II category.
So happy to be done!

Novice Vet II Podium
Although I was tired and hungry, I wasn't really sore and I never cramped up. Of course, it helps not riding hard for most of the day. I'm pretty sure I'd do this race again. I learned a lot (I think) and I'm pretty sure I would ride it a bit differently (faster) next time. If I can figure out a better nutrition plan I'm also confident I could ride under 8hrs as well (assuming similar conditions). If it rains, all bets are off.


Deb said...

I'm so proud of you!
And 4:30am isn't so bad when the company is good. :-)

Michael said...

Wow! A podium finish at your first ever ultra-mtn bike race?!? Given your history of success, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Congrats!

Scotty "PHAT" Graham said...

Great job...BUT...what is this stuff about age category AND class medals. What's next age/class/height/ring finger/marital status/weight/sock color/camel backpack size?

Anyway, you did awesome. I could never do that.

Steve Wolfe said...

Scott, I do not understand cycling (or is it biking?) categories. Running is so easy: open, masters, veterans,etc. Cycling is based on ability (subjective) and age. Seems to be a lot of sandbagging when it comes to ability.

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Patrick Blair said...

Thanks for the great course description! I enjoyed reading it.