Written by Metro Williams Thursday, 19 July 2012 16:16
I’ve had this race on my radar since it begin a few years ago but was never able to schedule it in until this year. If I had known all that I was missing, I would have made it a point to never miss this race in the first place. Like all Shenandoah Mountain Touring races aka the Chris Scott Races this event was top notch from the course, the aid station support, the organization, the finish line beer and food, and even the camping area was great.
This race is the first race that I’ve entered since my injury and my goal was to finish it and see where my fitness was for the upcoming Shenandoah 100. One thing is for sure, spending several months on the couch with broken bones and pain killers does nothing for your aerobic fitness or your cycling legs but the 3 weeks of training that I was able to get in before the race seemed to pay off. Still climbing 11,000’+ in 100K is no small feat. The race was staged in the small town of Damascus Virginia dubbed Trail town because the Appalachian Trail runs right through town. The town was nice and we even found a pizza place on the main drag that had Fat Tire ale on tap. It had rained for a few days leading up to the race and our Saturday pre-ride confirmed that the trails would be slippery. I would describe the single track as very “West Virginia” like in that there were many off camber greasy roots, lots of embedded slimy baby head rocks, very steep washed out fall line trail climbs and plenty of mud that lingers under the damp forest canopy. It was just the kind of trail that real mountain bikers like to ride. The race course also mixed in some steep never ending gravel road climbs and two paved road sections that are necessary to connect the single track sections. Overall it was a great mix of everything.
We all spin our legs and attend the pre-race meeting before lining up behind the lead out vehicle that paces us through just shy of a mile of pavement before sending us on to the Virginia Creeper Trail to let things get sorted out before the first big single track climb. I was trying to keep another fellow Richmond rider in sight for as long as possible but on the steep single track climb quickly realized that I was on the path of self destruction and had to back the pace off to get my 200bpm heart rate back under control. The climb eventually put us onto some sweet ridge line bench cut single track that had plenty of slick roots that did their best to slide your wheels off the trail and down the down slope. The first downhill was a screamer with a few good sized water bar drops, plenty of creek bed type rocks and steep enough pitches to leave tire marks on your chamois from sitting on the back wheel while descending. At the base of the descent was aid station one. Leaving there you hit a nice paved road section with what felt like a consistent 10-12% grade climb heading up to the next section of trail. When you hit the trail it was more slimy single track climbing through a few creek beds that were sandwiched inside a huge canopy of beautiful mountain laurel that gave the trail a very tropical Jurassic Park kind of feeling. After another 3,000’ of climbing we hit a nice descent into aid station two for a bottle fill and something salty. The air was thick and humid and sucking all of the hydration right out of you. Electrolyte pills and plenty of fluids were your best friend for the day.
Out of aid station two we were told there was a gravel “death climb” and I had planned on turning the screws a bit on that gravel climb to make up for time lost on the hike a bike sections of some of the un- rideable washed out single track climbs. I settled in to a solid but sustainable rhythm on the gravel climb and waited for the “death” section to begin. Within about 35-40 minutes I was turning onto some single track and climbing a bit more to another ridge. Then more sweet single track ridge riding and another downhill that you descended like a pinball before it dumped you onto another fire road climb. “This has got to be the death climb” I thought to myself. The temperature has warmed up to the low 90s and the air around you was stagnant with no breeze and plenty of humidity. It was kind of like breathing into a wet stinky sock with the open sun bearing down on your back and head. Time to put my head down and pedal until I see some more trail. About an hour later it happened. I saw trail and it was a beautiful single track descent right on down into aid station three where I picked up my drop bag, filled the bottles and scored a beer from a friendly mechanic who was helping out at the race. I messed around the aid station for about 15 minutes then left in a hurry and didn’t pay attention to the course markings and took a left hand turn when I should have stayed straight. I descended this sweet pavement downhill where I was able to get into an aero tuck and get up to about 50MPH for about 10 minutes. The entire time I was thinking to myself “Man I’m really going to put some time in on the competition at this rate!” Then when the downhill started to ease up it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen any other riders or course markings but I rolled on thinking I was just psyching myself out. Soon I found myself rolling through a little town and past a local gas station with a few old men sitting out on a couch on the porch. I stopped to ask them if they had seen any other cyclists go by and the response that I got was not what I wanted to hear. It was now clear that I had missed a turn. So I turned around and started making my way back up that sweet and fast road descent. 1 hour 22 minutes and 4,127’ of climbing later I was back at the same aid station looking to fill my bottles again and this time to find the right way to go to continue racing. How do I know those numbers? Because I was fuming mad at myself for not paying attention and decided to pay attention to the Garmin instead of the suffering of heading back up hill. Keeping the mind focused has always been a weak point for me but I’m learning. One of the aid station volunteers offered me a beer to drink while I got my head back in the game and it went down so fast that he offered me a second. Sweet, 2 PBRs mid race will really help get your head back together.
I hopped back on the bike and went across the road the right direction and begin a little jeep road climbing that soon turned into some more killer single track. A few more lengthy single track climbs later and we were on another ridge with trail that kind of followed this ravine on the ridge. I can only describe it as imagine 200 years ago someone took a bull dozer and made a sweet flowing ravine trail with banked turns that had a slight downhill slope. It was like a killer roller coaster riding high up on the berms and dropping through the turns. Eventually the trail dumped back out onto another logging road climb that took you up to a short bit of trail across another ridge and dropped you down this fall line creek bed type descent that wound up being the final descent of the race. I managed to pick off a few more riders in the last 10 miles of trail to roll across the finish line in 7h 45 minutes according to the Garmin. Not bad all things considered like getting lost for almost an hour and a half, riding with a nose full of broken cartilage a mostly healed broken collar bone and fractured hip. The ride gave me a good idea of where I stand for the SM100 and what I need to do to be in better
Standings. The bike rode incredibly, the tires hooked up in everything possible and the SRAM drive train never let me down. I’d like to thank Bikeman.com, SRAM, Panaracer, Soigneur and Jagwire cables for helping me get down the trail in a hurry and safely and all of the love and support that you guys give. I’d also like to thank Chris Scott of Shenandoah Mountain touring and all of his wonderful volunteers that manned aid stations, filled water bottles, fixed bikes, chain sawed out all of the blow downs from the recent storms and cooked the great burgers and hot dogs at the finish line.
I will be returning next year.
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