Nothing like having the sound of thunder and downpour wake you up before you alarm clock the morning of your 2nd 100 miler. Luckily, the rain on the radar image that I posted Saturday morning passed through before the race began. The mud would still be there, but at least we wouldn’t be starting in it.
After having a modest plate of eggs and french toast sticks at the local breakfast buffet, I changed and rolled up the bike path to downtown Loudonville. Supposedly, between the 100k and 100m races, at least 500 people were entered. They started everyone at the same time since the courses were shared until aid #3. This made for a horrible bottleneck at the entrance to the first trail section a couple of miles outside of town. In an attempt to pace myself, I ended up behind a lot of people who didn’t care how fast they were going or how much of the muddy stuff they walked. I was annoyed, but figured it’d spread out at some point within the next 90 miles or so.
After the first bit of horse trail, we made our way on to the Mohican State Park mountain bike trails. I have to say, even with the mud, that was some awesome singletrack! I could tell that it would have been rippingly fast if the ground hadn’t been so slick.
Side note- a lot of people complained about how HORRIBLE the mud was. I even heard someone drop a “worst mud ever.” These people have obviously never seen the likes ofÃ‚ the clay-based mud that we have down here in the South. Sure, this stuff slowed you down, but it had a good solid base and didn’t stick to your bike too badly, so it was, at worst, an inconvenience.
Anyway- so I’m having a good time on the singletrack and swapping places with a woman named Kelly who was there doing her first 100 miler. She was a better climber than me, but I got through the mud and technical stuff a little better than her. When I got to Aid 1, I lubed my chain, crammed half a Powerbar in my mouth, and headed out quickly. I was glad to have my Wingnut pack, because they were almost out of water (I later learned that they ran out completely soon after).
A mile or so later, I washed out my front wheel in one of the many little roller-coaster dips in the trail.Ã‚ I managed to not hit the deck too bad, but as my bike fell, I heard a “SNAP” sound.Ã‚ When I picked it up, I saw that my rear brake lever was gone. Totally gone- not even a nub of lever… Crap. I rode on. I figured I’d just ride the front brake until the pads were gone then swap my rear pads into the front caliper at an aid station.
Soon after, I reached one of many hike-a-bike sections. It was a wall of mud that was breaking people left & right. Meh… I was smart & remembered to put my toe spikes in my shoes. I tip-toed my way up past a few people and hopped on to enjoy the ride down.
Side note #2- I got a pair of Mavic “Chasm” shoes on Thursday, and they’re really, really awesome. Comfy, stiff, and great hiking traction! They also don’t loosen up when wet like my Sidis. Highly recommended!
The horse trails of that section were a bit more tedious, but generally not too bad. Somewhere near the end was a steep downhill with 4×4 posts laid out as water bars across the trail. A lot of people were walking, but I didn’t really see the point, so I rode it slowly, popping my wheels up & over the posts to keep from slipping or bottoming out my rim. Looking back,even though it was faster, it probably wasn’t all that great for the integrity of my one brake. Oh well. It was fun, anyway.
Soon after, I was making my way up a steep pitch in the granny gear when I got chainsuck. I backpedaled, it released, and I was OK. However, that kept happening. Eventually, packpedaling ceased to work. My chain was stuck HARD up between the frame & chainring. I dismounted, cursed, and kicked my pedal to try and un-stick the chain. I missed and hit the pedal with my shin. I’ll borrow a quote from one of my favorite movies to describe my reaction:
“My father wove a tapestry of obscenity that, as far as we know, is still hanging somewhere in space over Lake Michigan”
Yeah, it was like that.
So, with my chain un-stuck, and my shin feeling like it was broken, I started back down the trail. However, my chain would now not stay on the granny gear, and when it was on the big ring (remember- I ride 2×9, 36/24), it was hopping around and sounding like it was ready to drop or explode. I stopped several times trying to figure out why. Given my past history, I was expecting a bent derailleur hanger, but the rear shifting was OK, and it looked fine. I stopped and laid my bike down in a creek in hopes that it just needed a drivetrain wash. No luck. I nursed it to a road section where I could get a better look at it without getting in the way of the singletrack.
It was there that I saw the problem- The last major chainsuck incident had twisted a link of chain. I kept my cool. I had the tools to fix this. I removed the three links pictured below and, with the help of a nice guy who stopped to make sure I was OK, installed a SRAM quicklink in their place.
Side note #3- the one nice thing about being behind the “fast” people is that everyone is a lot more willing to stop & help if you look like you’re having a problem.
So now my chain was a little shorter, but it was working well. If I avoided using the 36/34, I was good. I kept going. My granny was still wanting to chainsuck, but I was managing without using it much. At that point, I’d spent a good deal of time effing around with my chain issues, but I figured I was still on track to finish just outside of a respectable time. Making my way up one of the hills on the pavement, I stood up near the top to grind out the last steep bit.
My chain exploded. Upon closer inspection, I saw that it wasn’t actually the chain, but the KMC Quicklink that I’d put in the chain at DSG a few weeks ago. One of the pins had sheared off, damaging another link in the process. I cursed some more (though not as dramatically as the earlier shin incident), picked up my broken chain, and started walking. I knew the next aid station was around a mile away, so I wanted to get there & see if I could finagle someone out of some chain repair help. I’d never attempted to partially remove and re-install a pin, and I didn’t want the side of the road to be my first attempt. Yeah, lame, I know.
I eventually made it to aid 2. I began asking around for some spare links of chain or anything else I could use for repair, and someone finally offered up a quicklink. After powerwashing my bike, one of the volunteers at the aid was kind enough to install it while I refilled my water & ate some food. So between the damage from the first & second incidents, my chain was now a good deal shorter. I was pretty mad at that point. I couldn’t use my 36 with the lowest 4 gears, and the chainsuck on the granny gear was getting worse. To top it off, multiple steep sections of trail had started to take its toll on my one brake.
Lucky for me, a lot of the distance between aid 2 & 3 was asphalt with a tailwind. I took my frustrations out on the road. I hammered past multiple people until reaching the next bit of singletrack. For a minute, I thought it was going to be OK. Then I reached the next singletrack, and realized that I was wrong. As soon as a little bit of mud got into my battered and beaten chain, the chainsuck became unmanageable.
Fine, I’ll just put it on my “singlespeeder” gear and stop trying to shift. I’ll walk up the steep stuff and ride the rest.
That lasted about 5 minutes.Ã‚ I started down a steep, rocky section of trail, and grabbed my brake. My lever nearly hit the handlebar, and I had to unclip and use my feet to try and stop before I managed to grab a tree next to the trail to keep from rolling uncontrollably through a rock garden.
At that point, I felt a sense ofÃ‚ impending doom. I didn’t want to admit defeat, but realized that things were really bad when I almost rolled through aid #3 (which happened to be at the bottom of another steep hill) because I couldn’t stop completely with my single brake. To top it all off, the skies were turning dark. The course was going to get harder going both up and down. Call me a wimp and a quitter all you want, but I wasn’t going to hike up AND down anything steep for 50 more miles. If this breaks the hearts of those of you who ride vicariously through my blog, I’m sorry to have dissapointed you.
I ended up riding back to camp on part of the 100k course with Danielle Musto, who was only able to use her large chainring without getting chainsuck- to the point of where her chain was starting to wear a hole in her chainstay. Of course, the entire way back, I never had chainsuck once.
Amanda Carey dominated the women’s race (again). She finished in 9 hours and change, and got a sweet peace pipe for her troubles…
That was a really, really frustrating day. My legs were feeling really good, and, unlike Cohutta, I did everything right on the physical preparation front. I’m not sure if there was anything I could have done to avoid the mechanicals. My chain and brakes were in good shape starting out. It was a Shimano chain… I’ve been running a SRAM hollowpin chain up until DSG where my only spare was a Shimano. I’m definitely switching back to SRAM for future replacements/spares. Normally, the Blackspire rings I use are really chainsuck-resistant, but they seemed to fail in that sense. Even though the wear on them looks pretty normal, I’m going to replace them (along with my brake pads and chain) this week.