One evening over the winter I made the commitment to race the Big Frog 65 and the Mohican 100k. Either of those would have been a big deal in it’s self, but to make both of those decisions in a matter of 20 minutes was pretty crazy. But I have been known to agree to some pretty crazy things when it comes to riding. I was coming off of a pretty good fall with a strong ride at the Great Pumpkin and my strongest ride in the Gravel Grovel. I didn’t feel like I did too bad over the winter and did more riding than in previous years. I also made the trip to Florida, Pisgah and raced the Death March. I was feeling like I was preparing myself pretty good, but as the even drew closer I didn’t seem to have the snap in my legs that had been there earlier. I tried to be smart and do the right things, but in the end my legs still did not feel as good as I was hoping. Maybe not as bad as I think they are, but definitely not what I had hoped them to be.
Early in the trip I knew it would be an interesting one no matter how I rode. Not 1.5 hours from home and a half hour after picking up Kruger, we found ourselves waiting for a bathroom at a gas station. It seemed to be taking a lot longer than it should. I was starting to wonder just how bad it would smell in there when they finally would come out. Then he finally came out, but the door closed behind him. Hummm… it seems that he was not alone. Yea, time to use the women’s room. I guess everyone needs to make some money some how, but I didn’t need to be anywhere near that.
We drove down on Thursday and got there a little later than planned. We made a stop in Cleveland to eat before getting to camp. This town was happening. There were people everywhere and a few bands playing. This would have been a great place to hang for the night. We already had plans to camp with someone else that was waiting on us, so we didn’t hang out there long and headed toward camp. We missed a turn that we needed to take and went a little out of the way but not too far. Soon enough we were at camp and had everything set up for the night. Camp was on of the coolest sites that I have been at. There was a nice stream right there with running water. It not only looked nice, but the sound was nice too. We had a great evening winding down around the fire before calling it a night.
Friday we needed to go check in and get our packets. We were not in too much of a hurry since they didn’t start till around lunch. After getting out packets we headed out for a little ride to see the single track section. The race was going to start with a 3 mile climb. It was not too bad, but still a long hill. I do not get much of that around here and really need to make a better effort to do more long climbs like that. The single track was a blast! It was nice and flowy and a lot of run. We did’t go too hard, but I was worried I was going harder than I thought since it was so fun. It was about a 13 mile ride before it looped back toward thee car. We were going to go farther, but decided it was better to just head back. It was a good warm up to shake the legs out.
We had another fun evening around camp and tried to get things ready for the race. We were headed north after the race to stay in a hotel so we would have to have camp packet up before we headed to the race. The 100 milers headed out at 7 and we were about 30 minutes from the start. It was nice having almost everything ready in the morning. It made getting ready and packing up as easy as it could be and we made it to the start area with plenty of time. I started to get ready thinking that I started at 7:30, but after the first race started I could tell we were not starting then. I figured it would be more like 8. So I had a little time to kill and wonder around trying to not get nervous.
What seemed like a long time going by and then all of a sudden I found myself at the start line getting ready to start. I lined up around some other Jasper people and stayed with them up the climb. After we dropped in to the trail, I found myself behind some people that were going slower than I wanted to go. I made a few passes before hopping on a train that was going a good enough pace to stick with. There were times it was too slow, but not too bad. I knew it was easy to go too hard with it being so fun. Somewhere along the way I guess the other Jasper riders didn’t make all the same passes I did and were no longer right behind me. I figured they were not too far back and would probably catch me on the gravel, but I never saw them again.
After the trail section there was a rest stop. I made a quick stop to top off my bottle and grab something to eat. I tried to not stay there very long because I had a long day to go yet. The first section of gravel was not too bad, but I could tell we had some climbs to do. There was one section where we were flying down a hill for a little while and came around the corner to see the road drop out of sight. I did’t think it could have gotten any more down hill before that, but it sure did. I was flying down that section. A short time later as it transitioned in to some rollers it hit my. Crap!!! This is part of the out and back. That means we will have to go UP that hill. Super!!
I rode past the second rest stop and continued toward the third one. At some point along this section my stomach started to hurt and cramp. I was not feeling very good, but kept moving and tried to ride it out. I tried to keep drinking and eating often so I would not tank it by the end. I stopped at the third rest stop and looked for my drop bag. I could not find it, but never asked for help looking either. I just figured I messed up and put it in the wrong place and it would be at the first and last rest stop. Oh well, I grabbed some more water and food and headed out on the next section all alone.
This section really hurt. My stomach was still cramping and it didn’t seem to flow very well for me. I was running out of gas and there was no one around to keep me company. Toward the end of this section I finally grabbed on to a few other guys and tried to draft as much as I could. I was worried since I still had a long way to go for how bad I was feeling. Also at this point I had a couple spots in my legs that started to feel like cramps were coming on. I continued to eat/drink as much as I could at take all precautions to keep from cramping. It work working for the most part, but pains would still come an go.
I was happy to roll in to the third (fourth) rest stop for the second time. I topped off the bottles again and grabbed some food. I also looked for a Coke, but they were out. I had to settle for a Dr. Pepper. I figured it was better than nothing and I actually like that better than a Coke. It took me a little bit to get it down, but I wanted to make sure and drink it all. While I was resting and drinking, I was kind of looking at the drop bags. I was sure I put mine in the correct box and not sure what happened. Then I saw a bag that looked a lot like the stuff that I put in mine. It had 377 on the out side. I figured I just messed up and put a 377 on the bag instead of the 577 that it should have been. So, I grabbed some more Honey Stinger stuff. I filled my pockets and figured it was time to go. As I grabbed my bike I happened to look at my number plate and saw that it was actually 377. I guess I didn’t label it wrong, but my brain was too messed up to remember what my number actually was. Doh! I sure wish I could have grabbed some stuff out of there before that last section. Oh well, too late to do anything about it now.
Something to note at this point. I am sure I was not eating or drinking near enough. Part of it was because my stomach was hurting and some of it was just me. The thing that made me wonder just how bad of job I was doing was the fact that I had to pee at this stop. I would think if I was not doing a good job of hydrating, I should not have to pee. Maybe I was not as bad off as I thought. But, I was still getting the feeling that my legs were going to cramp. After that rest stop I tried to just keep moving the best that I could. What I didn’t want to happen, did happen all too soon. I started to cramp. There were times that it was not too bad and other times that I had to get off and walk because I thought I was going to fall over since I could not turn the pedals. It typically didn’t take too much walking before I could get back on and ride, but this happened on and off way too much for this gravel section.
I rolled past the next rest stop again not feeling like stopping. I took my salt tablets and tried to keep drinking fluid. I was really wishing that I had packed some mustard. I have no idea why that was not part of the plan. I guess I figured that the salt tablets have never let me down, but I have not done enough testing for this many hours and miles. There were a few people that I kept getting passed by and then a little later I would pass them. I was also getting passed by some of the faster 100 milers. It was a little disheartening to see how strong those riders were going and they had another 35 miles in than me. I have a long way to go to get to that point.
The gravel and hills continued to drag on. One of the most relentless hills that I have ever climbed just had to show up in this section. Remember that down hill I mentioned earlier? Yea, going up it really sucked. It would have been bad if I was fresh, but in the state I was in it was just horrible. I guess it is a good thing that I am not too bad at suffering because I sure was at this point. Eventually I rolled up to the first/last rest stop. I grabbed a hand full of pretzels and took off. I didn’t really see anything else that looked good. I have had some luck with the salt on pretzels in the past. Off in to the woods I went and shoved a handful in to my mouth. Yea, they were not the pretzels that I was thinking they were. They got real mushy and I almost gagged. It was really hard to breathe and try to get them down. Eventually it worked out with out having to spit them out or puke.
The last section of trail was over all pretty good. Some of this is what I had rode before, just in the other direction. I was starting to feel better at times and was moving pretty good. I did have a few climbs that the legs locked up on and I had to get off and stretch, but the flowy stuff was way more fun then the last few hours. There were a couple people that I had been trading positions with on the gravel. I would pass them on the flowy sections and down hills, but anytime it pointed up they would be right there again. I really had no idea if they were in my class or not, but at this point I was racing them if they knew it or not. LOL
I dug deep to try and get in front of as many riders as I could and keep them there. Toward the end of the trail section I seemed to drop them all and didn’t see them behind me anymore. I rolled out of the trail and on to the bridge toward the road. I felt so relieved to hit this point and did what I could to keep a good pace going. Then this section took way longer than I was thinking it would. After what seemed like forever, I finally pulled off the side of the road and in to the parking lot that we started at in the morning. Now I am surely done…. well the parking lot was a LOT longer than I remembered. My legs were not really cramping at this point, but they were just shot for all the miles, climbs and cramping. I just put my head down and kept moving forward. I saw the final bridge to cross to the finish line. I started to feel pretty good about being so close to the finish. Then out of no where Kruger came flying by me. Apparently my bright socks gave me away and he saw me from way back there and kicked it in to catch me. If I would have looked back I would have had to put in a hard effort to try and hold him off. I think it is a good thing I didn’t look back. I hurt enough and there was really no point it hurting myself anymore.
I rolled across the finish line in a time of 7:22. Not a bad time, but no where near the top. I never expected to be at the top, but it hurts to see just how much time I have to take off to make the top 10. I would have to cut my time in half!! Not just take an hour or so off, but actually cut it in half. I am not sure I can get to that point. I will just have to keep working at it and see just how strong I can get and maybe I can get part of the way there. After crossing the line and finally letting it set in that I was done, it is unreal the amount of emotions that my body goes through. Goose bumps and all kinds of stuff. I felt like I was going to just start bawling my eyes out for no reason. It is crazy how much tests and trials your mind and body go through for longer endurance events. It is one crazy emotional roller coaster that you never know what is going to happen next. But, I just love it. I may not be as competitive in the race as I would like, but that does not mean it is not a competition for the entire ride. Competing with my mind, body and bike with no guarantee that I will win.
I want to thank everyone that helped me fight this fight as good as I did. Phil at Adventures Recreation is always there to help be it motivation to ride stronger or helping get my bike and gear performing flawlessly. Honey Stinger for giving me energy products that I still enjoy eating after nothing sounds good anymore. Tailwind Nutrition for helping me get in some much needed nutrients when I forget to eat enough food. To Kruger for talking me in to doing this race that I have wanted to do for several years. I am just glad the weather was as good as it was. To the Bushong’s for being great company and friends. It sure makes events like this a lot easier with good people like you around. It also helps to draw on some of the power of the beard by just being in close proximity. To my wife for allowing me to spend all this time away from home racing or riding. With out your support I would still be sitting at home. I know you have to do a lot more work when I am out riding or away at a race. Last but not least I have to thank Tuell for consistently motivating me to go for rides when I feel thee least motivated to do anything. There is no way I would be in the condition I am in with out him. It is always hard to juggle riding in around work and soccer. Many times I am tired and could just stay sitting on the couch and do nothing. You make me want to get out there and keep improving.