A few words from the crew: Kevin, Jason, Jared, Rob, Pam & Buki who all raced through rainy, slippery conditions for great results at this years W101…..
Kevin: 4th place 6:45
I went into the 101 with high but realistic expectations. My finish order in the last 4 NUE races (the ones without mechanical DNF’s) was 5, 4, 3, 2. But the curse of Kevinth place strikes again and I fell back to 4. I would have liked to score the flush but that would have required a perfect day and quite a bit of luck. I can’t complain though, I paced my race exactly as I had planned and for the most part, I think it worked really well. My Garmin head unit froze 4 hours in so I don’t have any power data to confirm the steady increase in speed but I am pretty sure that is how my race played out. The Scalpel performed flawlessly and was the best choice for me on the day. I foolishly did a good job of negating the advantage with itty bitty tires pumped up too high. Sometimes I wonder if every single race will always be so chock full of lessons learned!
As an almost duplicate of my last 101, the pace for the first half was assertive, but not aggressive. I yo-yoed around a bunch, topped off a tire that got slashed in the gravel, stopped to clean gunk that was blocking the 11, 12, and 13 on my cassette at the aid. I believe it was shortly after aid 2 where the leaders dialed it up a notch. That is where I paid the price for my yo yo game as I could not do a paced return to the leaders when they were drilling it. The shrapnel quickly fluttered back to me and Ian decided to join me for the next couple climbs. The company was always a pleasure but unfortunately for me Ian is too small to contribute pulls on the fast pedaling or no pedaling downhills. We got a laugh out of his feeble attempt to come around only to fade back into my draft (I think he was suggesting I go on a diet). Eventually the singletrack separated us and I swapped places with Sam a killer downhiller from CU Boulder a few times. Fearing flats, I was ginger over the baby heads where he would rip past, only for us to swap back when the locomotive wound up on the flats. We shared a good bunch of miles and smiles, clearly he is a talent to look for in the future. From aid 4 on it was all solo. I pushed as hard as I could and patiently hoped for some riders who might have cooked it to come back to me. It was quite a waiting game because it wasn’t until the last rail trail section that Christian came into view. I think he was too tired to protest and just let me ride away as we were coming into town. The long races suit me and I learn more about the training and racing with every event. Can’t wait for the next round!
Jason: 25th place 7:47
It was my first crack at the W101 after years of hearing about it so I was fired up. Big thanks to Rob who scored us a great house to serve as base camp. My day started good, riding near the front and keeping our resident fast-guy in sight. After the first climb I backed it off a bit and rode steady with Jared. I felt bad for the front group that had a gap yet was forced to double back and lose a few minutes because someone forgot to unlock a gate. The lead group was around 50 riders after that, which helped my pacing but was not fair to the guys who were once splitting the race. More than one rider was grumbling out loud but I was happy to ride with guys I’d normally never see. Guys like Garth Prosser who I’ve seen in the top 10 for 10 years.
Nothing eventful for me, I had a great race but I found the course to be less than fun in many ways. The climbs were as advertised but the few singletrack sections and downhills were not what I had hoped they might be. Double track descents that go straight for miles seems like a waste of elevation gained, at least for a mtb race. The aid stations on the course map were not marked right which threw me off a bit. Seems like an important detail. I was happy to finish before the rains came and score a 100 miler PR of 7:47. Stoked to see Kevin on the podium and the rest of the team do so well. Doubt I’ll do this one again after having experienced some other 100 milers that deliver heavy on the goods but it was nice to finally get this one on the checked list. What made it great was having a fun group to head up there with. And the brilliant dinner Steph made at the team house after the race!
Jared: 43rd 8:24
I had a blast this weekend. Things started off right – Rob lined up a sweet house and great restaurant for the night before the race. The temps were cooler than last year, and familiarity with the course was a confidence-booster. I rode a little slower than last year, experimenting with pacing (incorrectly, I found out). I like that the course throws a variety of challenges at you, but am less than fond of being a pinball ricocheting between rocks on some of the descents. Any way you slice it, the race is physically and mentally challenging (and isn’t that the point?). Around mile 70 I decided that I was quitting bike racing forever, but fortunately came to my senses around mile 85. Mother nature added a little dose of suffering in the form of thundershowers late in the day – only Kevin and Jason were swift enough to avoid the torrents. After cleaning up, Stephanie treated us to a delicious dinner and dessert while we pondered the day’s adventure. It was great to share in the camaraderie of so many teammates at such a flagship event, and my appetite is now whetted for Shenandaoh Mountain 100.
Rob: 60th 8:48
After a year of training and finishing the Absa Cape Epic in April, it was finally time to race my second 100 miler. I knew that my fitness was better than ever and the amazing experiences over the past year would help me to face whatever challenges and pain I’d face at the Wilderness 101. My goal was sub 9 hours and my race strategy from Coach Chris Eatough seemed simple:
Start near the front. Ride with the lead group out the start road . This will be smooth and easy since there is a lot of draft (yeah right!). Then be vigilant up the first dirt road climbing sections. If you can stay with a strong group, you will benefit. The group will slow
down and get tired after 30 miles or so, but you want to be with them when that happens (rather than being further back with a slower
group that will also get tired). Then settle in to your pace. Focus on nutrition and mental toughness and keep it going all the way to the
line. It will feel SO good when you get there.
Well, I did start near the front but the pace quickly accelerated beyond my comfort zone, knowing that there was 100 miles ahead. My plan was to stick to 80% and save energy for the much more difficult terrain after mile 60, but the pace was high, I was feeling strong, and I didn’t want to pull a Marc Cavendish and slide all the way back through the field, so I stuck with a pace that was harder than planned, hoping my fitness and motivation to see my girls back in Coburn would carry me through the day.
As expected, the race broke into groups of 5-20 through the rollers for the first 20 miles, and I managed to hook up with some strong guys to save energy, as Coach Chris suggested. My teammate and Cape Epic partner, Charles Buki, and I then settled in and paced each other up the climbs through aid station 2 then set off on the most difficult climb of the day at mile 42. It’s one of those hills that seems to never end, covering about 1300 feet in about 3 miles, but we pushed each other and rode a respectable pace to the top.
After that brutal climb, the details up to aid station 4 at mile 72 are fuzzy. My mind and body tend to go into a zone that makes me forget the pain. I will say that the hardest aspect of the second half of the 101 is that it’s relentless. Just when you think you can take a break after a long climb, the descents and singletrack pulverize you and your bike. They are either steep, rocky, off camber, or all of the above. When you are descending, you wish you were back on a dirt road climb and vice versa. The really cool part of this race for me is that I was completely alone for most of it. Even with hundreds of participants, I saw no one through some of the best and most challenging singletrack on the course. Very cool.
At mile 72, after a quick stop at aid station 4 and some great words of encouragement from teammate Steph, who was volunteering, I felt great as I started the long rocky climb up what many believe is the hardest climb because of its grade, length, and loose surface. I gulped down a handful of Endurolytes and ibuprofen to ensure that my nutrition was good. The legs were strong and the weather agreeable compared to last year’s 90+ degrees. I managed a quick pace up the hill, descended, then another relatively easy climb to the Sand Mountain Trail.
Still riding alone on what seemed like empty trails, I managed good time on the rolling single and double track from about mile 77 to 82. Looking at the profile taped to my handlebars, it certainly looked like I was home free for the next 10 miles. But I knew better. The descent to aid station 5 in Poe Daddy State Park is washed out with loose rocks but never steep enough to just coast down the mountain. With hands, arms, back, and feet already sore, this descent just pounds you like a jackhammer and seems to never end. It was hard on a full suspension but it must have been just brutal on the hard tails that my teammates were riding. I was motivated knowing that the aid station was at the bottom of the descent, where I could refuel with some Coke and pretzels before pressing on for the final 15 or so miles.
I reached aid station 5 and looked for the Coke that I desperately needed, but none was available. I had to settle for some water, a handful of Endurolytes, and a fig newton, before heading to the fast-paced rail trail running along the beautiful river below. I made great time through this section and was hopeful that I could break my 9 hour goal.
As I started up the final climb at about mile 93, I could feel my energy level decreasing but still felt strong enough to climb hard, riding with a couple guys who were also pushing to break 9 hours. As we reached the top and started the fast jeep trail descent, the sky opened up and poured down rain. My glasses were useless at that point and the water, dirt, and sweat stung my eyes as I tried to take advantage of the high speeds.
Safely down the hill, I realized that my biggest obstacle now was keeping up the speed through the now wet, muddy trails and slick rocks of the hike-a-bike on the Fisherman’s Trail. I had to take it easy so be sure of not breaking the bike or a body part, but had to move quickly to get to the road heading back to Coburn.
Having only done the race once, I was never really sure how far I had to go, and didn’t want to take a chance of slipping outside of 9 hours, so I rode hard as I reached the road with about 8:40 on my clock. Rounding the final bend heading into town with 8:46 on the clock, I knew that I had done it. The only thing left to do was look for my wife and girls as I turned onto 10th Alley in Coburn and rode to the finish. They were sitting on the corner in full view as I waved and rode to the finish, then circled back to be greeted by congrats from Jason, Jared, Laura, and the girls. Mission accomplished, time for a cold beer.
Pam: 6th 9:03
I was looking forward to my third run at Wilderness 101. This was my first 100 miler two years ago and it was great then and great last year too. There isn’t much I don’t love about the course…I love that it’s long, I love that there are a lot of gravel and road sections to hammer away on and most of all I love the singletrack. Though there isn’t much of it (about 30 miles out of the 100), it’s pretty good when you get to it. That is, if you like rocky, technical ridge riding…or steep sections that will test your hand/forearm strength…or rocky, exposed, bench-cut trail…or super fast downhill double-track. The only downside is that there’s a bit of climbing to do to get to the fun sections and yes, it’s a little boring. My race this year went better than the last two years. My strategy this time was a little different. Instead of trying to hold back for the first half of the race, I pushed it. Race the first 60, survive the last 40. After about two-thirds of the way through I expected to blow up on some of the last climbs but it never happened. I felt pretty good until the end and despite my best effort to make my sub-9 hr goal, I came in a few minutes later than I would have liked. 9:03 was my official time, putting me in 6th place, which I was happy with considering the competition and the fact that it was almost an hour better than my time from last year. Overall, a great race, beautiful venue, awesome race staff and volunteers.
Buki: 113 10:04
W101 (2012). In a word: ouch.
Physically two crashes hurt. Emotionally, not getting the job done. A crash at about mile 65 through some boulders took a toll, but after being a baby about it for 10 minutes, events required that everything be pulled together. Having regrouped and hit station five with an hour and 15 to spare to be under 9 hours, a good day still seemed possible, even to allow for a break at station 5 to tape the wound and get some disinfectant in there. Alas in the first tunnel a second crash did not help, but there still seemed a chance for an 8:55 with a little luck and hard work. Sadly things turned from bruised to comical when the turn off the final climb to descend to fisherman’s pass was missed, winding me up at the bottom of Bear Run something or other road and then onto Highway 45, completely lost. A motorist who recognized the W101 plate pulled over to offer me a ride. I said “no that would not be fair, but can you give me directions to Coburn or Milheim?” “Well you have to turn around as you are going the wrong way on 45, then veer towards the town of Woodward and try to find Pine Creek Road by somme caves.” “By some caves?!” Great! That’ll wind me up in New York before I’m done. “How far away would you think that is?” I asked, afraid of the answer. “About 25 minutes,” she replied. “That’s not 25 minutes by car is it?” I asked, fully prepared for the answer. “Well, yes, that’s about half an hour by car, and there’s a beast of a climb first; you sure you don’t want a ride, I am going to Coburn?” By then it was after the 9 hour mark, I was out of water and gels and completely dispirited, knowing I had my sub 9 in sight despite a crash and maybe despite two crashes, that I’d have another hour to ride, and that I was embarrassed to even roll back to finish. I thanked her and rode off towards some unknown “caves”. The banged shin and knee hurt…a lot…but I decided to ride, and duly spent the next 45 minutes trying to figure out how to get in to finish without being seen, scratch this one off as missed chance, and regroup. I’d tried so hard to push the pace to mile 65 to get the 8:45 I wanted that I just couldn’t believe I mishandled the rock gardens between stations 3 and 4 and doomed my aspirations for a respectable finish. I was obsessed with getting to Coburn and finishing but not being seen. The thing about these races for me is respect, to try to earn it. And Sub 9 was my ticket for a little of the magical R word. Still, one cannot ride the country roads of this part of Pennsylvania, even after nine and a half hours and 110 miles and not be enchanted by the meadows and barns and creeks. It is one of the most beautiful places in America. Almost as beautiful as the sight of my teammates who offered me a coke and did not laugh at me for me coming in so late. Time to regroup.
A few other photos: