Wow, it is hard to believe July is over. I figured at the beginning of the month that July would go by real quick, since I had three NUE races to do, but I had no idea how fast time would actually fly by. Of course, having to also work fulltime, train, do bike maintenance and all the traveling to these races pretty much ate up every free second I had this month. Luckily, I am a pretty organized type of guy and I made a plan of attack at the beginning of the month for my busy racing and training schedule.
With three important NUE races on my calendar during the last three weekends of July, I decided to take the first two weeks of the month off from racing. I used this time to do some hard training and to log a lot of miles in preparation of doing four consecutive 100 mtb races in four weeks. Since I usually race every weekend during the racing season, it felt good to have two weekends off from traveling and racing to prepare for the start of my four race challenge.
The first race I traveled to after my break was the fifth NUE race of the series this year, the Breckenridge 100. Out of all the NUE races I have done, the Breck 100 definitely ranks as the hardest in my mind. I felt completely beat after finishing my first two attempts at the Breckenridge 100. I did not want to feel this way for the start of my attempt at doing four NUE races in a row, so I tried to better prepare myself for the race this year and I thought I was ready. But, the thin air of Breckenridge once again left me feeling completely conquered after the race and actually worse than ever this year. I did manage to survive the race, but just barely. I ended-up finishing 7th in the SS class with a feeling of complete exhaustion and I wondered if my thoughts of doing 4 NUE races in a row could be accomplished. It definitely wasn’t how I wanted to begin my self-imposed test.
Anyway, I probably should have rested after doing such a hard race. But, I was in Breckenridge, CO and the trails and the beauty of the area was calling my name to ride, so I did. I got in three more days of some awesome riding while I was in Colorado and during this time I also noticed that I seemed to be breathing a lot easier in the high mountain air by the end of my stay there. I was happy that I was feeling better by mid week and suddenly I was looking forward to doing the second 100 mile race of my trip out west in Bend, Oregon, the High Cascades 100.
I won the HC100 last year and had a great time racing on the beautiful trails in Bend. I was hoping for a similar experience there again this year. When I arrived in Bend on Wednesday, I did an easy ride to loosen-up my legs that evening followed by doing a 3.5 hour ride on both Thursday and Friday. Usually I don’t do so many miles on the days leading up to a 100 mile race, but I was on vacation and the trails were just so much fun that I found myself riding further than I wanted each day.
Even though I suffered greatly at Breckenridge the weekend before this race and probably did more riding than reasonable the two days before the HC100, my legs felt pretty fresh at the beginning of the race. I took off on the long road climb at the start and actually rode away from the entire pack of racers. Once the paved road ended and the dirt started, I did get caught by a fast group of geared guys. I decided to stick with their pace as best as I could and by the end of the first 35 mile lap, I was the lead single speed racer and in the top five riders overall. I continued riding well for the remainder of the race and ended-up taking the SS win, finishing in 7th place overall. After my horrible performance in Breckenridge only a week earlier, it felt good to be riding strong again.
Traveling wears me out, especially when it is at the end of a vacation and on a Sunday before a whole week of work looms ahead. To make my trip home less taxing on my body, I took Sunday and Monday completely off from riding my bike. I was hoping this would give me some time to recovery from my big week of riding and would also allow for me to begin my preparations for my third weekend in a row of doing a 100 mile off-road race. But, even with taking two days off from training, my legs still felt pretty stale when I started riding my bike on Tuesday. Again, I wondered if I was asking my body to do too much and wondered if I would be able to compete in a race that I needed to win if I wanted to secure a third NUE Series SS Championship. I took the rest of the week very easy, but even by Friday my legs were not feeling very snappy and I did not feel like they were ready to be tested at the Wilderness 101 in Coburn, PA.
Somehow, by the start of the W101 early on Saturday Morning, my legs surprisingly came around again. I knew pretty early in the race that I was feeling good when I realized that I was the only single speed racer to get away with the lead group of geared guys by the first checkpoint, about 19 miles into the race. I was only able to hang with this fast group for just a couple more miles past the checkpoint before it became very evident that the fast pace being set on a long gradual downhill was way too fast for my one gear to handle. I then found myself stuck in no-man’s land and riding all alone. Eventually, another geared rider would catch me or I would catch a geared rider falling off the blazing fast pace up front, but the majority of my time was spent alone. During times like these, I start wondering how close the other single speed racers are to me and if they might be working together with a geared rider to catch me. But, with no way to know what was going on behind me, I just continued to push myself and go hard. After going hard for 7 hours and 19 minutes, pretty much all alone, I crossed the finishing line as the first placed SS racer and in 8th place overall. I couldn’t believe that I had such a good ride after doing two very hard races the two weekends before this race.
With my busy July over and my completion of three consecutive 100 mile races, I feel pretty confident that I can complete my challenge of doing four NUE races back to back in four weeks. My next 100 mile race is the Pierre’s Hole 100 in Jackson, WY this coming weekend. After that, I will take a well deserved weekend off from racing before traveling down to the Fool’s Gold NUE Race in Georgia and then to the NUE Series Championship, the Shenandoah 100, on Labor Day Weekend. Hmmm, I guess August is going to be a busy month, too, now that I think about it.
Happy Trails, Gerry