Ups and Downs (and back ups!) at Wilderness 101

Wilderness101 is a 101 mile mountain bike race in central Pennsylvania in the Allegany Mountains.  It is the 5th race of eight 100 milers for the National Endurance Series (NUE).

Julie & I arrived after getting stuck in construction after the 10 hour drive on Friday.  As we are preparing our two drop bags for the race Jeremiah Bishop, Christian Tangney and Kelly benefits rider Nick Waite are having a pow-wow by our car.  They are all strategizing how to beat series leader Jeff Schalk.  Jeremiah mentions that he will be at aid station 2 the 40 mile point in less than 2.5 hours… Julie and I just start laughing.

These races have a great laid back feel.  We are at the start point at 7:00 AM ready to go, the announcer who has been rambling for 30 minutes says, “Is anyone still in the bathroom? No? Okay, have fun everyone! The race starts NOW!”

I had been warned that it was very easy to go too hard in the first 40. The real race began at Aid station 2.  The race started on the road for about 2 miles and then takes a sharp left on to a dirt road straight up a 4 mile climb, now it is on.  I get in with a good group for the first 40.  We are chatting and trading wheels on a course that is either gravel roads, old grassy forest trails and few sections of super technical single track.  I cleared the section called the three bridges, which was awesome because that’s where the photographers were!

We get to aid station two and I am feeling great, so this is where it begins? Time is at 3 hours and 15 minutes. I am ahead of the pace for a goal time of anything under 10 hours.  Two miles after the aid station we hit a rutted gravel road that climbs 1300 feet in 4 miles and followed by a very fast loose rocky single-track decent.  I take the decent easy but my legs didn’t adjust to the sudden change in tempo.   The race goes back to the gravel forest roads and flattens out in a few miles our group reforms as we start another climb-- this one is only 1000 feet of elevation change and is steeper...great.  I am having problems near the top and several riders are walking.  At the top of the climb we are straight back into single-track for the descent, 800 feet of vertical drop over only a couple of miles.  This section I lock in and fly down. I pass 6 other riders and take the lead for the single-track; I can ride this all day!  We come out of the single and I am leading the group and the rear tire goes flat.

I change the tire quickly and eat a munchie-bar.  I get back on my bike and my legs immediately cramp.  I am alone and hurting.  I deflated with that flat.  Aid station three is only a few miles away.  Take in some more food there and refill the camelbak.  Everyone in the aid station looks completely popped and they are standing around not looking like they are going to continue.  Everyone from the group I was with is gone.   60 miles down and I have 20 minutes on my sub 10 hour pace.

I leave the aid station, turn the corner and straight up a single-track climb.  This one is very technical and a total power climb for 3 miles and my legs will not turn over.  I am off the bike and walking.  Once I finally get to the top my confidence and desire are completely gone and I hate this.

How do you feel better on your mountain bike?  Go downhill!  The next 9 miles are almost all downhill and technical single-track.  It had everything that started making me have fun again bridges, ½ mile long giant rock gardens, crazy rotor warping descents.

I roll in to aid station 4 with a guy from Detroit, 28 miles to go.  I ask what the time is, I am now 30 minutes behind pace; the walk killed me.  Out of the aid station and straight up a 3 mile steep washed out climb followed by a rocky single track decent, this seems repetitive.

The last 12 miles of the race featured a two mile forest road climb that was irritating (you’re so close), a fisherman’s trail that is completely un-rideable and a rail-to-trails into the finish.  Detroit and I are still together as we hit pavement for the last 2 miles. We see the Kenda tent across the river he, turns to me and say, “Sprint it out!”

I take the sprint!  The reward: Beer! The kegs were lined up and ready for consumption donated by the local brew pub, a BBQ and a massage to finish off the day.  People are all hanging out in the park having a party, everyone cheers on Julie as she finishes.    I finished in 10:54 a little off goal time; I guess, I have to ride it again. 

-Gerrard Abrams