Man,oh man, why do I keep subjecting myself to these multi-hour sufferfests? You'd think in the 11 years since I first did the Vermont 50, I'd have figured out how to not cramp or given up on this format of racing. I dearly loves me a long ride though. Must be what keeps me coming back. At least I have an honest to goodness bike race report to share, something that's become a bit scarce here in recent months.
A few years ago I signed up for the Hampshire 100. I was going to do it the day after Mt Washington. Mt Washington was cancelled, and I still bailed on the Hampshire 100. Felt a bit ill and didn't want to exacerbate it. The Hampshire 100 seems to conflict with one thing or another on the event schedule. I seem to recall D2R2 was on the same weekend once too. Well finally, I followed through.
The venue is less than an hour from my house. I drove over the morning-of for an insanely early start time at 6:45am. Moderate temps were forecasted, but the dewpoint was very high. I was going to start with a 70oz Camelbak, drop that at mile 25 and pick up my two water bottles, then exchange those again for two more of my water bottles at mile 47. The bottles were large and extra large size. I figured that would be more than enough water. I use Gatorade (maltodextrin based products do not work for me) with Endurolytes added. I sweat profusely once warmed up and lose a lot of salt in my sweat.
The elite wave went off first with Tinker Juarez, Justin Spinelli and other truly fast guys. All the experts went next. The pace was pretty fast to start on combination of paved and gravel roads, and rail trail. I totally sat in. A lot of slinky was going on at the back. When we turned onto the rail trail, a gap opened behind me and just like that half the expert field was shelled. I had no aspirations of killing myself in this race with a trip to Colorado just days away. I knew full well what was going to happen anyway. My plan was to sit in for the first 10 miles, enjoy the tow, then let everybody go on the first climb.
I did exactly that. Maybe 15 expert riders went on ahead as I drifted back. It was a gnarly ATV trail affair. Seems almost everybody I could see was dabbing or even dismounting. My brand new Schwalbe Racing Ralphs were hooking up extremely well. No dabs for me. I was running very low pressure for such a fast race though, no more than 28psi front, 30psi rear. I was maybe 20 seconds off the back of the last rider to the top of this initial rise. 20 seconds in 2 minutes is a lot of lactic acid I didn't have to produce. Just maybe if I ride a recreational pace, I wouldn't cataclysmically cramp up this time.
The climbing resumed, and soon I was in no man's land. I would spend 99% of the remaining five hours of this race riding by myself. I was ok with that. Gave me good sight lines. I was scared to death of clipping a rock on the rail trail riding in a single file pace line at 25mph. But it also meant that another long section of rail trail coming up would have to be all me, no sucking wheels.
The five mile rail trail individual time trial ended with a turn on Hedgehog Mtn Rd. This one made my neck hurt looking up at it. For those who've done D2R2, this was Archambo Rd. My Garmin max'd out at 31% grade, but I doubt it got quite that steep. I cleaned it. Based on the tracks, many of those ahead of me did not clean it. I had to dig way deeper on that than I wanted today.
The dreaded powerline climb came just after this. A rider with a 200-series number plate blasted by me. I assumed sport, but he clearly was faster than a sport rider. He looked faster than any rider in my field. I watched him attack the powerline climb with ease, passing many experts pushing their bikes at 2mph. Spectators said he was the only one to clean the climb, but I learned later that wasn't true. I nearly caught fragments of my expert wave at the top of this climb. I got creamed on the descent though. I wasn't taking any risks on the gnarly bits.
My Camelbak was empty when I got to food stop #3, the first one we could have our own bottles transported to. I left the Camelbak behind and grabbed my two bottles and was on my way in well under a minute. I figured two bottles would easily get me to the next stop at mile 47. My average speed was impressive at this point, and I actually thought I'd be close to five hours for the race. I had no idea...
More climbing ensued. It was getting muggier. I was draining my water at a furious rate. In the middle of nowhere was a self-service water stop. I passed a rider from my field there. I was thinking to myself, wow, usually at this point in these long races I start cramping up and I'm getting passed. A little while later I caught and passed a 545 Velo rider. Just under 3hrs in, I was feeling GREAT!
It wasn't even two minutes later that a spasm out of nowhere struck. Uh, oh. Inner thigh. The worst kind. Right on schedule at three hours in. Ok, so now what? My water was nearly gone already and I wasn't even half-way to my next bottle pickup. I had to throttle it way, way back.
Despite operating now in "hope I can finish mode," I still managed to catch more riders. I passed a Corner Cycle rider who appeared to be in a worse predicament than I. More time passed and I caught a Hammer Nutrition rider. How can this be? Did these guys totally blow themselves up staying with the leaders too long? The Hammer guy asked me for water. Ah, same problem as myself. I had been on empty for a while too.
Miraculously, another self-serve water station appeared out of nowhere. I knew my bottles were just a few miles further down the course, but I needed water now. I wasted no more than 20 seconds filling one bottle. The Hammer guy pulled up just as I pushed off. Got to stay ahead of my victims, right? Never mind the cost I would pay shortly.
The next food stop was #4, not the one with my bottles. The course was becoming decidedly more technical and steep. I decided to not stop so soon again, as I had one swallow left in my bottle. Another bad decision. My legs were becoming increasingly spastic. I wasn't being forced off the bike yet, but close.
I made stop #5 with my bottles, which had Endurolytes in them. I figured if I chugged on that, it would straighten me out. The deal is, I emptied both bottles in about 30 minutes. Where was all this water going? I wasn't the least bit bloated, and I did not have to pee.
With about 12 miles to go, I thought my race was over. Everything in my legs started seizing up. I had reverted to pushing my bike up the climbs. It got so bad that on one grassy rise, I looked at my GPS to see I was pushing my bike up a 2% grade. TWO PERCENT! I wanted to throw my bike into the woods and never look at it again. The cramping was becoming so frequent I had trouble mounting and dismounting my bike. I couldn't walk with bending my knees. Was I having fun yet?
I get to another food stop at about five miles to go. I filled another bottle. I told the volunteers my predicament. They said "five miles of beautiful singletrack to go. You should be able to ride most of it no problem." Yeah, right. It was very nice, buff singletrack, but I could not ride up any of the hills. And they were not big hills. I think I let out more than a few expletives that my mother would not approve of.
What amazed me during this whole ordeal is that nobody passed me. In 90 minutes of walking my bike up every climb at 2.5mph, none of the experts behind me nor none of the sport riders passed me. Seemed just bizarre to me. With about a mile to go, the Hammer guy did catch back up to me. Seems water reinvigorated him. Oh, can't let Hammer dude pass me. Pedal pedal, ow, ow. Try standing. Ow. I'm not getting off again. How many friggin more hills are there before the finish? Hammer dude got scary close to me. Then there was some greasy rocks and bridge crossings I bobbled on. The dismount nearly sent my whole body into a seizure.
Eventually we popped out on something that looked like a road. Could I hold this guy off? That meant Watts, and my Watt-o-meter probably didn't go above 75W at this point. I tried to go. Major spasms hit and I had no choice to stand on pedals with both knees locked out. How come he's not catching me? I crossed the road and entered the loop for the "victory lap." I think the Hammer rider gave up chasing me. He shouldn't have. I was very, very easy prey.
I crossed the line in 5:51. And I thought 5hrs was doable at one point. My time was good for 4th in the age group and 7th overall expert (I think). I was five minutes from the podium, beat by Mike Wonderly, a guy that just bumped me from the podium at Winding Trails once. Ryan Laroque won the expert division overall, an impressive showing for his first (and maybe last) race this season. I was 30 MINUTES behind him! Elite rider Justin Spinelli finished more than an hour ahead of me. There were a lot of mechanicals and serious injuries out there though. Zane Wenzell, in my age group, sheared off his derailleur. He would have handily beat me on this course. Then news came that Roger Aspholm from the elite field suffered serious injures on the ski slope descent. Hope he fully recovers quickly.
Milling about after the race, three different people suggested I may not be using nearly enough Endurolytes. I figured I consumed about 8 doses in my pre-mixed Gatorade. One rider said he takes four capsules at a time. Given that I consumed about the equivalent of 10 medium sized water bottles on the course and some of those had no added electrolytes, I probably became a bit hyponatremic. I will experiment with upping the electrolyte content, if I ever do a race over three hours again. Rumor is Tinker consumed only four bottles during the race.
I speculate that sustained efforts over several hours drains my "ion battery." I rarely have cramping problems on long training rides. Training rides have short, built-in stops where ion batteries at your nerve-muscle interface can recharge and not reach full depletion. Earlier in my career, I worked quite a bit with batteries. Batteries don't like sudden, deep discharges either. It greatly shortens their life. Either breaks in the discharge cycle or opportunistic charging can greatly extend a battery's life. I suspect something like that is going on in the nerve to muscle connections in my body. Maintaining an ion balance is needed for proper muscle control. Adding more electrolytes to fluid intake doesn't automatically fix this, but can help.
I'm surprised the Hampshire 100 doesn't draw bigger fields. In its fifth year, the event is extremely well organized. The course was well arrowed and marshalled. The food stops were well stocked. The course has some similarities to the VT50 course. The climbs are not as long, but many are uber steep and just keep coming and coming. I'd go so far as to say the course is roadie friendly. After rain, the course could suck, but late August tends to be a pretty dry time of year around here.
Next up: Pikes Peak! Heading to Colorado next weekend. I will have only my daulie with me, so Pikes will be a slog and a half on it. I've done Mt Evans a couple times on a mountain bike. Still enjoyable. You just have to accept that fact it is going to take 25% longer.