Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Minor Hill Repeats: Shenandoah Mountain 100 Race Report

Pre Race: 
The race was on weeks before the SM100 even started. The pre-race race was to lose some weight and gain back some lost fitness. Basically, I raced the Wilderness 101 at the end of July a good 10 lbs over my race weight thanks to a buttload of work travel and jet lag induced unhealthy eating. I was also desperate to gain back some fitness after being off the bike while traveling.

So the pre-race plan was to live like a monk for a few weeks, eat healthy, and bank some saddle time. For the most part I did eat healthy and managed to drop 5 lbs by the race eve. I was still 5 lbs overweight but that's significantly preferable to being 10 lbs overweight!

In terms of training, I was behind so coach Eric Sorensen and I concocted a brutal weekend of training a week prior to SM100. Maybe too much too late but the counterfactual doesn't exist (for me) so I'm going to confidently say no :)

The weekend consisted of 5 hours on the road on Friday riding no harder than tempo to simulate pacing at the race, 4 hours of endurance riding at the Schaeffer Farm mountain bike race on Saturday (somehow I got 4th riding tempo which boosted my confidence), and 3 hours of Patapsco singletrack on my new awesome cross bike on Sunday. This 600 TSS weekend simulated the TSS I would probably accumulate in one continuous effort a week later (turns out my TSS for the race was 619, so a pretty accurate prediction!) 

SM100 simulation part 1, Friday: 5 hour road ride with teammate Homer

SM100 simulation part 2, Saturday: 4 hour endurance race at Schaeffer Farm

SM100 simulation part 3, Sunday: 3 hours on the new cross bike on Patapsco singletrack. Side note: hydraulic disc brakes rock!
 Rice cakes, gels, and Skratch hydration worked well for me at Wilderness so I didn't mess with the formula. I added some pistachios to Allen Lim's rice cake recipe and they turned out to be quite delicious.
Rice cakes, yum!
The one big change I did make from Wilderness was to switch over to bottles instead of a camelbak and to strap my spare tubes, CO2, etc to the bike. Both these systems worked great and I didn't have any significant back pain throughout the race and it was much easier to monitor hydration and refill bottles at aid stations. I feared it would be difficult to drink from bottles on singletrack but it really wasn't that hard -- its a 100 mile race so slowing down for a few seconds to retrieve a bottle didn't hurt one bit.

Race Day: 
I drove down to the Stokesville campground/start line on Saturday afternoon and setup camp. At packet pickup I ran into Erin Conner and her Sticky Fingers teammates and they were all super welcoming and invited me over to hang out at their camp. That didn't last long as I was in pre-race jittery mode so soon retired to my tent.

I must have the worst luck in the world because I ended up camping right next to the loudest snorer in the world and I had forgotten ear plugs! So I was up well before the wake-up gong went off, but on the bright side had enough time to make coffee and eat a significant breakfast.

All geared up
Cheat sheet with elevation, distance, and aid station markers
The race started off a bit fast as usual, but my plan was to ride within myself and certainly keep heart rate below threshold on climbs. I felt really good for the first 45 miles or so and rode tempo, catching a few trains here and there on flat sections. The first three climbs all had significant hike-a-bikes but I was in a forward enough position to be able to ride big chunks of the trail, which saved quite a bit of time. 

Around aid #2, I caught an experienced racer, Marc Genberg, and wondered if I was riding too hard. But he reassured me that the remaining climbs weren't as difficult. That's hard to believe with an 18 mile "death climb" on the horizon! 

Turns out Marc was right. The death climb is actually the easiest of all the climbs on this course. Its long but its steady and you can get into a rhythm. The upper reaches get a bit steep and unending but by the time I got there I was having other far more pressing issues. Turns out I simply stopped eating around mile 40 because I couldn't stomach anything anymore. I also fell back on electrolytes and binged on a handful of salt tabs all at once which likely caused even more distress in my stomach. 

By the time I was on the death climb, my stomach was in serious revolt and I couldn't keep my HR up beyond 160bpm. But I found a couple other riders to pace with and we chugged along albeit pretty slowly.

Finally aid #5 showed up and I took an extended break here, mostly because of an urgent need to use the port-a-john. But finally I felt a bit better and managed to eat a bit of pringles and drink some coke.

The climbing wasn't close to being done yet but I managed to get my HR up a bit again. Got some more pringles and scud fries (yum!) at aid #6 and headed out for the final climb. By this time I had lost hope for a 10 hour targeted finish but was gunning to make it to the line by 11 hours. I really attacked the last descent (even when it went uphill, go figure), but missed the 11 hour mark by about 4 minutes. 11:04 is still a decent time and good marker to beat next year! Almost 13,000 feet of climbing is a big day on any bike.   
HR and elevation profile for the race. Note the dichotomy of avg HR in first and second halves of the race. I paced well in the first half but bottom fell out in second half. Nutrition and hydration? Fitness? Heat and humidity? Maybe all three?
This was only my second 100 miler so a lot  to learn still. As another experienced racer, Greg Rittler told me, it take a while to learn how to pace these races. I think I also have to learn how to eat throughout the race. I think I'm going to try liquid nutrition (infinit) in training and see how that works for me.

I also need to work a lot on my descending skills. I think most other people had way too much fun on the fast curvy descents, whereas I was on my brakes a lot of the time and too timid on many of the faster sections. Practice, practice, practice!

Finally I'd like to give big shout outs to the entire Sticky Fingers crew. They took such good care of me the whole weekend, got me water and other adult beverages after my finish, helped me patch up a small wound, and were super fun to hang out with. Sincere thank yous to Erin, Honey, Dierdre, Angela, Megan, Dave, Bec, Tim, Larry, Isabel, and Faith (pls. excuse if I missed anyone!). You guys rock!

Back next year for SM100 part deux.


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