I seldom post to the blog anymore, but some things are post-worthy like riding 100 miles on a mountain bike. The Wilderness 101 is staged in tiny Coburn, Pennsylvania, on the outskirts of Bald Eagle state forest. The race loops 100 miles from there, through Rothrock state forest, and back through Bald Eagle state forest ending where it started. Here’s a recount of the ride and what it was like for me:
The start to 1st Aid station – 20 miles: To be in a pack of 200 or so riders embarking on a 100 mile adventure is a pretty incredible feeling. We were rolling on road for two miles at about 15-17 mph all in one big group. Guys, girls, old and young, pros and weekend warriors, all together on mountain bikes cruising along. Then a left turn started us up the first climb that broke up the pack. Leaders took off, those just wanted to finish hung back, and a huge group of tweeners made up the middle. Donna and I led the hanging-back group (we think… you never turn around and really look). At the top of Sieglerville/Millheim road, we made a right and starting some cruising on rolling fire road. Of course after every climb and flat is a downhill which led us to Decker Valley road, under 22/322, then onto Crowfield fire road for more cruising into Penn Roosevelt State Park to the first Aid Station. Donna was good with hydration/nutrition an opted not to stop except to pee. I refilled my camelback and got some Heed in my water bottle.
Aid Station 1 to Aid Station 2 – 40 miles in: From the Aid Station, we started to climb up to Thickhead Mtn Rd to another great downhill, Detweiler. We both were feeling pretty good and flipped each other the bird as we passed each other (Brett told us to do that J). This downhill was fairly smooth with little rocks. The whole day was ups and downs and after the Detweiler, we climbed another fireroad toward the first Singletrack of the day, Longberger. This trail had three narrow bridges which we walked. I face planted in one of the rock gardens and did not ride the rock garden that folks were sitting at to watch. After the singletrack, we cruised on Laurel Run fireroad into Aid Station 2. Donna and I were having a blast working with each other in our twosome paceline. We hit Aid Station 2 ahead of schedule in under 4 hours. So were averaging over 10 mph at this point.
Aid Station 2 to Aid Station 3 – 60ish miles in: We both were still feeling pretty good. From here, the climbing really began. Greenlee fireroad was a bear to climb and took forever. That was followed by Croyle Run downhill, rocky singletrack. And then came another climb, what folks call the hike-a-bike – Alan Seeger road. Yup, I was walking the top of this one but Donna road the entire thing. Here’s where I get confused on trail names and where we were because the course was changed. Donna and I split up after Alan Seeger, but met again at Aid Station 3. I was starting to feel “weird.” She said, just keep eating and drinking. I was thinking Alan Seeger was after Aid Station 3, but I can’t recall. Anywhos… Donna and I split after one of the climbs leading into Ruff Gap trail (very steep, rocky downhill) and we didn’t see each other after that. She said she was feeling really good on all the singletrack and finished in a great time of 11 hrs and 58 minutes. Me? Read on:
Aid Station 3 to Aid Station 4 – 74 miles in: Here’s where most of the singletrack was. I was feeling bad here. Everything was starting to hurt. My hands, my wrists, I was sort of cramping. My neck hurt and I had to stretch it every now and then. I was getting off my bike a lot to give my hands/wrists a break and it hurt to lift my leg over the bike seat. I was not having fun. I was ready to quit…. But I couldn’t! It was nothing but singletrack for many of the next 14 miles and not a person around to ask for a ride back. I guess that was a blessing in disguise. I walked almost all the singletrack. The rocks hurt. I was cussing them. And the trails were very rocky. Sassa-something was rocky and Beautiful trail wasn’t so pretty to me. In fact, that’s the one that I was really cussing on the sloped, side-of-the-mountain, rocky, downhill. Grrrrr… I was saying. Several people passed me at this point including a girl that I thought was in my age group (she was) and it was really hard to get off the trail on the side of a mountain. I was miserable. I cried. At the end of the trail was more fireroad climbing which at this point I was walking almost everything because I was in a snit and determined to quit. Someone drove by and stopped and said, “Are you ok? I’d give you a ride but I’m all filled up.” I said, “I’ll keep struggling on.” He said Aid Station 4 wasn’t far. Another blessing in disguise. I hit Aid Station 4 with the thought in my head I’m quitting. I asked the guy what mile it was and what were the trails like and anymore climbing other than Stillhouse. He didn’t know (Aid Station 4 wasn’t as good as the first 3). Something came over me and I started filling my camelback, eating, and got on the bike to continue. It was strange, but I decided to finish after making up my mind I was quitting.
Aid Station 4 to Aid Station 5 – 89 miles in: I walked most of Stillhouse road, as were several other folks at this point. At the bridge, (out – had to cross steel girders or go down to the creek – I crossed the creek), I met up with the girl that passed me and low and behold, a second wind came over me and I started riding…with vengeance. I passed her on a climb (yes was riding now!) and didn’t look back. I believe it was the thought that I was going to finish and the end was near. There was one more piece of single track that I was praying wasn’t rocky and it wasn’t. But little did I know that Panther Run road would be one of the rockiest, long, downhills of the day and I was praying for it to end and SOON. The jarring was incredibly painful. Some guy passed me on a fat bike and I was thinking how nice that ride must be in rocks. When Poe Paddy came in sight along with Aid Station 5, there was a glimmer of hope and excitement that the end was near.
Aid Station 5 to the End: The gal in my age group came into the aid station just behind me. While she was refilling, I asked how far and they said 6 miles. And this cute little kid said, “But it’s real easy, you just cross the creek and ride a flat trail to the end.” Music to my ears… I can do that without any water refills or food. So I hopped on the bike and headed to the creek. The guy that was crossing the creek with me said, “that’s not a creek… it’s a river.” I slipped at one point and got soaked, but made it across. Bike shoes on slippery rocks don’t mix. Once on the other side, we were on smooth, old rail trail and I was in high gear at this point. I just wanted to finish and was pushing to get it over with.
Finish: 12 hrs. and 51 minutes. Happy to finish and vowing to never, ever do it again. Hard, hard, hard. Super-happy with the fitness I gained, but dang it takes a ton of time and commitment to train and be ready for this thing. Aid stations and volunteers were awesome (except aid station 4). Can’t say I was too happy to make podium, but the organizer gave the awards before the 2nd and 3rd place girls came in so no recognition for the old gals except that first place girl. No, I really don’t think I’ll ever do it again.