After polling the viewing audience and doing a lot of riding/thinking, I decided I’d go with the geared bike for the Mohican race. It was a tough choice… I love singlespeed. I realized that repeatedly on course- I’d feel a touch on envy any time I was around someone on a singlespeed. I felt like an outcast.
Saturday morning was chilly. A cold front had moved through the day before, bringing rain and a drop in temperature. Luckily, the trails had been very dry, so most of the singletrack was in great shape. (I did bring the singlespeed with me… just in case). For whatever reason, the 100k racers were started with the 100 mile racers, making for a crowded start line. I warmed up for a little while then crammed myself in to the third or fourth row back. The start is always hectic at these races, and this one is no exception. After a downhill that’s just long enough to get going over 30mph, the road goes straight up- about 300 feet of elevation gain in 3/4 of a mile. My goal for the day was to stay in the big ring and ride it like a singlespeed whenever I could.
I found myself sitting in 2nd as we entered the first trails through the woods. Thankfully, my singletrack mojo was in full effect, and I negotiated the slippery, steep spots where a lot of people were spinning or sliding out. Half an hour in, and I still feel like I’m flying. Flying enough that I almost took a wrong turn at a 3-way intersection that was at the bottom of a hill. I couldn’t see the course markings until it was too late, so I came to a full-on sliding stop about 10 feet down the wrong trail. As I turned to get back onto the correct path, Kathleen Harding, a pro from Team CF, was coming down the same hill. I yelled at her and some other riders to go right. I got back onto the trail and stayed with her group. Eventually she and I were together. I decided to keep pace with her for a while and see what happened.
Not long after that, we made it to the first aid station. I’d decided to go with 3 bottles that morning (I LOVE having a medium frame with two water bottle cages!), and I had 1.5 bottles remaining. She stopped, and I made the split-second decision to push to the next aid before refilling. (Spoiler alert- I made it to aid 2 about 5 minutes after I drank the last of my 3rd bottle).
I was alone for a little while. It was about 2.5 hours in, and I realized that I was really bored. Not acutely… the singletrack was great, and a lot of fun… but kinda bored with the whole “ride 100 miles” thing. I’d had a similar thought at Syllamo, but figured I should wait until I was having a good race before I decided I was tired of 100 mile races. Yeah. Kinda Bored.
It wasn’t long after that when I heard a commotion behind me- Brenda was coming up the trail with a train of male riders dangling on her wheel as if they thought they could keep up with the half-pint horror for another 70 miles (in case you’re wondering, of course I mean that as a compliment). She and I rode together for a little while until I struck a pedal and wrecked. She and Lee quickly disappeared up the trail. I didn’t chase. However, unlike last time, when I just didn’t care about chasing, this time, I was in such a good groove and pushing just hard enough that I just decided that I’d stick to my plan and see how it unfolded. (spoiler alert #2- she beat me by about 18 minutes)
Once I was out of the initial singletrack, I made it a point to eat and drink plenty. Even though it was going to be a mild day, I didn’t want to get behind on anything. At one point, a couple of guys rode by and told me that there was another woman not far behind me. I kept that thought in my head the remainder of the day.
As with any 100 mile race, there were chunks of the day where I wasn’t having the best time and chunks of the day that I don’t really remember. I kept chipping away at the miles, though. The wind was a little relentless, and it seemed that every time I was on the road, I was usually without a wheel to draft. The best part, though, was turning on to the (often dreaded) 9 miles of flat gravel rail trail section and getting a wicked tailwind for the first couple of miles. One of the other more notable spots was between aid 4 and 5… just before the midpoint water stop, there was a descent that was so steep that I was laying into both brakes, sliding/skidding a little, and when I hit a bump, my saddle bumped up and smacked the underside of a boob. Sure, maybe I was back a little further than I needed to be… but I wasn’t endo-ing or walking, either.
I eventually passed the final aid station and found myself in the final 5 miles of singletrack. I looked over my shoulder the entire way to the finish line. It was a good thing, too- if you watch this video on Cyclingdirt, you’ll see just how close Kathleen was…
So, I had a pretty good race and finished 3rd in 8:44- an hour faster than last year. Yes, this time, I was faster with gears. I still love my singlespeed, though.
I don’t know how bored I am with 100s. Maybe I just need to be faster so I’m doing more “racing” and less “100 mile time trial” style riding. I can’t see myself leaving them totally, because if I did, I’d miss all of the adventures and all of the awesome people that I get to hang out with before/after the race. For now, I’m gonna take a step back and prep for the Breck Epic that starts mid-August. The focus now shifts to building the speed and top-end that I’ll need to race the shorter days at altitude.