Tuesday, August 18, 2009

NH 100 (degrees)

I have waited a few days before writing this recap partly because I have been recovering for the past day and a half and partly because directly after the race I am always in a 'that was the worst thing ever' kind of mood and you have to let the 'race amnesia' set in.

For those who don't know, bike racing is inherently horrible. Every mtb racer has something missing in their brain that tells them that suffering like that is actually not that fun. We are reminded of this during a race but then forget it shortly after thanks to that amnesia...and we keep showing up week after week.

Directly after the NH 100 I was mentally battered, the second 30 miles of that course is demoralizing. Steep punchy climb after steep punchy climb, every time I thought it must be over and the rest is just a cruise to the finish I turned the corner to another 10-15% grade. That combined with the oppressive heat and I eventually just went into survival mode. Its hard to stay out of your head in situations like that and I was getting down on myself because my goals had been to do much better and I was falling far short of my target finishing time.

The numbers are all wrong (they advertise 7,000ft of climbing. where the hell are you getting that other 10,000ft garmin! COME ON!) but look at that elevation profile...I shudder every time I look at it. Shorter steep climbs; the bane of my existence. I would have done better if it was just one giant 62mi climb at 5% the whole way...all those 200-300yds at 10-15% from mile 45-50 over and over? not so much.


And how about burning almost 7,000 calories? That's like 3.5 days worth of food for a normal person...burnt in 9 hours. Not really sure how I didn't just vaporize. News Flash: I don't weigh a lot.

In retrospect, my goal was a tad unrealistic. I think there have been some course changes so trying to base a goal off past finishing times didn't really work, and with the added heat I think everyone's time was probably about 1 hour or so off what it could have been. I still am not that pleased with my 8h:57m finishing time, some people beat me that I very typically beat but I can take solace in the fact that this course ruined a lot of people and finishing in and of itself was an accomplishment. All told about 20% of racers DNF'd. I also didn't finish last in Expert Senior II which was a pretty big surprise, I thought for sure I was gonna DFL...turns out I beat 2 other Experts. SCORE!

The race was organized expertly. Huge number of volunteers, course was marked very well and the aid stations were adequately spaced, well stocked and organized. Also got some cool swag just for participating...the standard t-shirt but also a custom pint glass full of stickers and other goodies. Unexpected and very cool.

Okay so there is the overview, now the details as best I can recollect, this will probably all be in the wrong order and completely not accurate. Dehydration does weird things to your memory, go figure:

We started off cruising on dirt roads and mostly flat doubletrack probably for the first 8 miles or so. With some railroad bed and a sketchy old bridge crossing with holes in it mixed in for good measure. Then some gradual climbing (which was actually suited to me and I passed some people here) up and around the side of Crotched Mountain Resort, followed by a sweet descent right down one of the ski trails.

Then we had to trudge along a sandy path for quite awhile that pretty much sucked. Nothing like riding in sand to just completely sap your energy and make you feel like you are going nowhere. After all that wonderful sand we hit a little bump called (I believe) Hedgehog Hill. Not very long but plenty steep. Just enough to kill any mental momentum you had going and remind you that this is not going to all be a cruise. Then they didn't waste any time in taking that loss of momentum and really driving it home.

The power line climb follows immediately after Hedgehog and while I have heard that Mike Broderick rode that section two years ago, he is a pro (literally) and in my opinion that section is basically unrideable. And completely exposed to the sun. I hauled my carcass over as best I could and went in to damage control for the following few miles.

Luckily we got a respite with a screamer descent on pavement where I almost hit 40mph but shortly after that we ducked back into the woods for a very steep wooded climb that sucked the wind right back out of my sails. The next 15-20 miles is where I slowly faded away into a shadow of my former somewhat fast bike rider self.

The terrain consisted of LOTS of climbs just long enough to prevent a sprint push to the top and too steep for me to sit and attempt to spin my 32-34 combo. By mile 40+ I needed a granny gear up front to spin grades above 7-8% the power just wasn't there in that heat. So I ended up sprinting as far as I could get before cramps began to set in and then hopped off and walked the rest...slowly. Rinse and repeat that sequence for a few hours. Somewhere in here I somehow got turned around for a short period (although I could have sworn I saw course arrows telling me I was going the right way) and rode head on into a group of 3 guys one of which I knew from Central NH riding. It was a very funny "Hey Jesse...Hey Kevin...you're going the wrong way...ok" exchange. I also rode through two 'puddles' that were knee deep on the bike and about 100ft long. Yeah frontier track!

Then as the epic slap to the face they threw in the biggest summit of the day in the last 10 miles. At this point I was pratically delerious and just laughing that I was still gaining vertical feet. Every injury I have amassed in my almost 28 years was back to haunt me at this point along with lots of other new pains. Luckily pain was just one of the things my brain wasn't really processing that well at this point. Last rest station was at the summit of the back side of Crotched Mtn. then we had 5 miles back down to the start/finish.

Thats about as best as I can remember it. At some point the only way to get through an ordeal like that is to turn the brain completely off and rely on muscle memory.

For any interested you can find pics and videos from years past here: http://www.hampshire100.com/

I would assume they might have this years pics posted soon? All told I'm glad I did it and can cross one more challenge off my list, any rider looking for a sufferfest should look no farther.