SSWC08 was an amazingly fun time, and I got to enjoy it with some really cool people. We did a lot of riding, partying and traveling out there. Sleep and honest meals were rare, but that didnâ€™t get in the way of fun.
Last weekâ€™s course was twenty-one miles of brutal climbing, technical descending, choking dust, rocks, switchbacks, heckling, drinking and fun. Par for the course for an event like this. And nothing I couldnâ€™t handle, even on a bad day.
Yet, I made the decision to bail on ‘racing’ about half way through the race. I have my reasons, and I stand by them. And I had an absolute blast while everyone else finished the race. But when I finally expelled all the red dust from my lungs, had my final beer of the day, and walked away with my consolation prize of a red anodized bottle opener that had â€œDNFâ€ CNCâ€™d on one side and â€œThe amazing healing power of beerâ€ on the otherâ€¦well, I felt like a chump for not riding all the miles.
DNS The first step starts with getting out of bed
The Shenandoah 100 is an endurance mountain bike race ofâ€¦yes, 100 miles. While Iâ€™ve done that kind of ride on a road bike, even a single speed road bike, Iâ€™ve never reached that kind of mileage on a mountain bike. I knew it would be tough, and that there would be a chance I wouldnâ€™t finish it.
I ride bikes all the time. Being able to finish SSWC08 didnâ€™t require too much specific preparation for me other than properly conditioning my liver in the weeks leading up to the race. But I knew that Iâ€™d have to really do some specific training for the Shenandoah 100. Iâ€™d need to get at least a few epic rides in this year, get used to a geared, full-suspension bike since I had no confidence in myself to do the race on my single speed and Iâ€™d have to generally get my mind into shape for that kind of event.
Well, none of that happened. Despite encouragement from my family, a pep talk of sorts from Justin, and the pending crumbling of my riding goals for the summerâ€¦Iâ€™ll be in Virginia this weekend working the Dirt Rag booth, volunteering to help out with the race and giving support to Justin and Eric as they race.
DIA I did it all
Despite being down about basically bailing on these last two adventures, I am able to recall my ride across Pennsylvania last year. It was six consecutive days of riding at least 90 miles each day. There were times when I didnâ€™t feel like Iâ€™d finish, but I kept going. Day 5 of that adventure was my hardest because of stomach problems and general fatigue. Last night, I went back and read my journal entry from that day:
.: Day 5 :.
Williamsport to Berwick About 95 brutal miles
I woke up and felt relatively ok. The sleep would have been more decent, had I not been so worried and had my stomach issues been under control. But I didn’t get up to use the bathroom at all during the night. That’s a good sign.
Regardless, I REALLY didn’t want to ride today. Both of my pinkie fingers were numb, it was cold out, and I knew today was going to be hot, and there was a lot of climbing coming our way. But at least it was going to be over tomorrow.
I walked past Taylor who was passed out just outside of the bathroom doors. He was sleeping with a half-smirk on his face, and I came close to walking over to him and kicking him in the ribs, to jokingly wake him up and so he could tell me about how he was out having fun with beer and other people, while I nervously tried not to soil my sleeping bag. But I resisted, and kept walking. Later he told me, it would have been funny had I done that. Damn…missed the opportunity.
We had to ride to breakfast at the Williamsport Home, which is about two miles away. Uphill. Chilly. I was not liking it.
We got there, and stood in line for a bit. We were greeted by one of the wheelchair-bound residents. He was absolutely thrilled to have us there. He shook hands and chatted up each and every rider. That was cool, and it took my mind off myself for a bit.
And come to think of it, the last 15 hours has been the only time where I have been completely concerned with myself on this ride. Sure, I’m focused on me and what I’m doing when I’m on the bike. I have to be. But for the most part, I’m thinking of many other people and other things weighing on my mind this week.
Anyway, I got my pancakes, a couple links of sausage, and a few glasses of ice water, and headed to a table near the corner, by myself. Joachim and Christine came over and joined me. I ate more of the pancakes than I thought I would. That’s a good sign. But still…it wasn’t nearly enough food to last me for the day. But it was all I could put down.
I really felt like shit for the first 50 miles of this ride. I didn’t bother trying to keep up with the fast kids. My main concern was to not fall off the bike. Regardless, I think I still did well for someone feeling so bad. My average speed was only about two miles per hour less than on my fast days.
But I was fading. By the time we came to the about the 45th mile, I was expecting to see lunch. Or civilization. Instead, we saw the chalk writing on the road that lunch wouldn’t until mile 58. “Sorry.”
That was all it took to completely deflate me. I needed real food and a real bathroom. I felt myself back off a bit, but I still put my head down and kept spinning. Just slower, continually questioning why were so remote, and why they couldn’t just set up lunch sooner.
Joachim and Christine were well ahead of me by this point. Yet after a few miles, Christine knew I was running on empty. She dispatched Joachim back to help pull me along and to encourage me.
Man, I needed that. This was really the toughest part of the whole week for me. But soon enough, I saw the vans and the signage outside a church.
Water, food, shade, ice and a bathroom.
We sat there for about 45 minutes eating, relaxing, etc. I tried to close my eyes a bit.
Thankfully, this stop was exactly what I needed. I emptied out, and filled back up with all kinds of proper nutrition. I cleaned and lubed the chain on the bike, and we were ready to go.
Heath held back with us for the rest of the ride today. He said that he just wanted to enjoy the ride and take it all in…he wasn’t into stopping for 10 minutes for lunch, and hammering the rest of the ride back.
The three of us had a nice rest of the ride. But there were some killer hills on this half of the day. And it was really hot and humid.
I was sure that our most mountainous day would have been somewhere in Allegheny National Forest. Nope…the ride between Williamsport and Berwick was the toughie.
We could see the next huge hill in the distance. Since I grew up very close to here, I knew that we wouldn’t have to climb that hill. Berwick was on this side of that mountain. And I told everyone riding with me that this was the case.
Well…about five miles later, we were spinning up that hill. Probably the hardest and longest hill of the ride. Whoops…sorry, everyone.
Head down, spinning and focused, we passed a lot of riders heading up this climb. I think it was close to two miles up. When I got to the top, my head was spinning bad. Despite my huge lunch, I downed every bit of food I had on my person. I did about two bottles of water, too.
After about 15 minutes, we pulled it together and headed out. We were close to the finish at this point, so we took it easy.
It’s worth noting here that Pryor, did this climb THREE times. In a truly selfless and helping move, he crested the summit twice and headed back down so he could literally push those that needed it, and yell encouraging words as they struggled up the hill. That was mighty big of him.
We got to the Berwick Middle School and I set my stuff up right away. The cafeteria was nice and cool, so I made the decision to sleep inside tonight. I just wanted nice rest, on this my last night of the ride.
Interesting fact about this school…back when I was a child counselor in 1995, I had a student that I visited in this school. Never thought I’d be sleeping on the floor of the cafeteria one day. I wonder how that kid has fared in life.
I showered and got some stuff together for tomorrow. Today was a good drinking-in-the-truck afternoon as we watched the rest of the ride finished up.
Jenny, a very cool chick from the University of Scranton, is doing this ride with her dad and 18 year old sister. They have been riding their hearts out, and giving 600% each day. While we were sitting in the truck with our afternoon beers, Jenny rolled in before her dad and sister. After a day like that, we all needed a beer. I wasn’t sure if she was 21 yet, but I was sure she needed a beer. So I sheepishly offered, and she accepted.
After everyone finished and showered, we loaded onto busses and headed to the West End Hose Company for all the pasta and meatballs we could eat.
Tonight’s meeting was rather light. Thankfully. We also learned that Bill Moses, a relative neophyte at cycling, has been doing the whole ride with regular running shorts, a t-shirt and sneakers. That’s right…so far, 480 miles without padded shorts or technical gear. This guy has got some serious strength and dedication. Like I said…he’s an inspiration.
We bussed it back to the school. There were some beers left, but they quickly vanished. This evening had a very relaxed vibe to it. Everyone knew tomorrow was the last day, and it was a short day at that.
We needed beer, and Joachim stepped up to the plate. He collected a few dollars and then disappeared. A bit later, he rolled up riding shotgun in a stranger’s car. He got out with a mixed case of Magic Hat. Sweeeeet! It turns out that he asked the school janitor where we could get some beer.
The janitor told him that it was extremely forbidden to drink on school property. Even on a Friday night in the middle of the summer by a bunch of adults riding their bikes across Pennsylvania. Yet, the janitor offered to drive Dave to get beer, with the promise that Dave personally ensured that the beer was drank from cups and that there was not even a hint of a trace that beer had been drunk at the school. The custodian then bought the case of beer.
As we sat around and killed the case in about 30 minutes. I taught a new group of people about a certain drinking game where you replace one word in the name of a movie, with the name of one particular female body part. It is quite a juvenile game, but it is a lot of fun. Tonight we had everyone from emergency room doctors to school teachers to graphic artists playing and laughing all night.
Soon enough, I made my way to my prepared area for sleep. Most people were already in the dark cafeteria. I put the iPod on, relaxed for a bit, and then went to sleep.