What a fun weekend! The course was tougher than I remember from last year. All in all I was pleased with my improvement. At the end of the day, I finished in 27th place out of over 280 entrants. My finishing time was 9:17 which was about 23 minutes faster than last year’s time of 9:40. I lost about 6-8 minutes at mile 85 when I flatted in a rock garden. My time was about 22% behind this year’s winner, Harlan Price, compared to 30% last year (he finished second last year). My time was about 4% faster than last year. Adjusting this year’s time by 10 minutes for the flat, I was about 6% faster than last year. The course was basically the same this year although it was a bit slower because in 2005 the trails were drier and the temps were cooler last year compared to 88-92 degrees on Saturday. So all things considered, a pretty good improvement.
I picked up Ross Clark Friday afternoon and we loaded up the Element and by 1:30pm were on the road. We rolled into Coburn Park just outside of State College, PA at around 6:00pm and set up our camp, picked up our race packets and had just enough time before dinner to do a short bike ride. To spin the legs out we rode the first 2-3 mile dirt road climb. We rode nice and easy and it took us 35 minutes to do the climb. On race day it took us 25 minutes.
Saturday morning dawned and we were awoken at 5:30 by the race director beating a gong to wake up the smiling campers. Got up, put in my contacts, drank some coffee, had a bagel and some water and got my gear together. Realized that I had forgotten my HR monitor, oh well, just have to pace by perceived exertion.
Riders meeting started at 6:45 and after hearing some introductory comments, we rolled out at promptly 7:05am. We rode neutral on a paved road with lead motos for about 1 mile and then we made a left turn for the 20 or so minute climb. I stayed with the lead group for much of the climb. I got dropped just before the summit, but was hopeful I could catch back on during the descent. I did catch back on and when I did I went right to the front of the 35 or so lead group.
I was able to draft for much of the first 20 miles on the gravel roads so that helped. I grabbed a bottle at the first aid station and just after this the lead group began to stretch out on the single track climbing section. Lots of gravel road climbing followed on the way to aid station #2 which was at mile 40. At aid station #2 I filled up my water bottles and kept on rolling. On the way to aid station #3, I realized my seat bag had opened and that I had lost all my tools, again. Hopefully no mechanicals was all I could think. I made it to aid station #3 at just before noon with my computer showing just under 60 miles for a 12 mph average. I was on pace for an 8:30 race finish, IF I could keep the pace up. The last 40 miles of the race is, IMO, the toughest. Most of the rocky, gnarly single track is in the last 40 miles, plus lots of climbing. I kept plugging away, with a few people passing me here and there. I was taking it easy on the climbs, trying not to blow up. On a few occasions felt some leg cramps coming, so had to back it down. As I rode on, the temperatures headed toward the high 80s by my guess. I was quick in and out of the aid stations, no resting, just fill up and go.
Energy was pretty good the whole time. No solid food, just Perpetuum, Sustained Energy, Heed, and plenty of endurolytes. In fact, I ate all my endurolytes in the first 60 miles. They had Heed at aid stations but it was not mixed thick enough for my preference.
Aid station #4 at mile 70 was a welcome site, however, the LONG jeep road climb after it was not quite so welcome. It must have been over 30 minutes of climbing.
At mile 85 I flatted. First time I have ever gotten a flat running UST tubeless tires. It took me a while to change as I had to use skewers to lever tire off the rim because I had lost all my tools. The last 15 miles went by pretty quick, but with the flat there was no chance of breaking 9 hours so I backed off a little bit and cruised into the finish. Just need to go a bit faster on the climbs and a top 10 is doable next year.
Awards ceremony and party was fun. Lots of good food and beer. met some cool new people and had a great time.