Whoa. What the hell is this, a blog post? Yeah, big deal, right? Whatever.
On our last Elevation Trail show last week, Gary asked me when my last "real" race took place. I had to think back to the San Diego 100 in June 2012. Not a whole lot of writing I cared to publicly share since then. Plus, I just needed to shut down most every public outlet, save for the most innocuous drivel on Twitter. Regardless, I've been honing the writing skill and practicing my best Wallace Stevens and Ezra Pound poetry reading impersonations. Yeah, pretty hot lifestyle I've been banging out lately. Since getting booted from my last job, having lots of time and little money, I have to keep myself entertained on the cheap and down low.
It's been hotter than a four balled tom cat here. So, what do I do? I wait until mid day 100 degrees to train. It's like a big FU to mother nature, just like last winter when I'd go out and train when it was negative 10 degrees. Tough or stupid, take your pick.
Back when my collarbone was still healing (it's still technically in two pieces but I think that's a permanent thing now), I learned about a new 100 mile mtb race, the Telluride 100, which was to take place in the far off future of July. Shit, those two months shot by and here I was just a couple days before the race last week.
As far as training, the trails around here are harder than string theory and I can't get any real sustained training in on them (now I see why no real pros live here). Fortunately, my neighbor has like 9 sweet road bikes and loaned me one to train on. I put that sucker to work, riding up and over the Colorado National Monument about a million times (or once a day for the last month). I uncorked a couple fast ascents a week ago and felt fairly ready for the 100. I'd also been hitting the gym religiously for quite a while now, so I have a chest and guns like Andre the Giant (maybe a slight exaggeration. slight.). Whatever, I'm stronger than I was in college when I weighed 170-180 lbs like the beefcake I was.
So, upon learning of the Telluride 100, I invited the RD, Tobin, onto the ET show. Here it is if you want to be wildly entertained. http://elevationtrail.wordpress.com/2014/06/18/telluride-100-tobin-behling/ The man knows what he's doing and puts on some sweet races (even if some of them are mind bending hard).
My excitement for the race was building and yet I had absolutely zero nerves or worries about it. I had the mindset (correctly) that it was going to be an adventure and damn hard, so I figured there was nothing to be nervous about. Ride within my technical ability on the screaming descents and keep the power even, strong, and sustainable on the climbs and the rest would work itself out.
I drove down to Telluride in my 1983 pick up that's so rusty it barely casts a shadow. I'd never driven it further than the food store, so I prayed to the Dodge Gods and it made it down there. The campground didn't take reservations, yet I figured I'd get a spot since I got down there pretty early Friday. But I was met at the entrance with a "Campground is FULL" sign. So, I drove up to the little Parks n Rec building where there was another "FULL" sign. Whatever. I went in and the guy in there was like, "Well, there might be one walk in space available on the other side of the river." He, of course, wouldn't allow me to pay for it then and there and reserve it. He instead said I should go to it and if it was indeed unoccupied I could leave something there to claim it and then come back and pay for it. I'm so used to the backwards-ness of parks and open space management that I barely smirked and headed out the door to claim my spot. Lesson and Pro Tip: Ignore signs and make someone tell you you can't be there. Anyway, I got a spot, put my tent up and was situated.
A guy I coach from Arizona decided on a whim to race this thing without much (any) mtb training, though he is fit and training for Leadville 100, so he figured he'd give it a shot. Mistake. As a coach, I have a tough time saying no to athletes who want to push themselves. I should've this time. I felt pretty bad when I learned that he dropped fairly early in the race (the first climb is a heart breaker) after driving all the way up there. At least we got to hang out before the race, which was fun.
|A little ways up the first climb to Black Bear Pass. Start was way over on the other side of town down below.|
|Above tree line. Way above.|
I had a loose understanding of the main features of the rest of the course and just kept counting down tenths of miles on the climbs - "Just 2.4 miles more. Just 1.6 more. Just 5 tenths, 4, 3..." and then I'd crest the f*cker and be like a little kid, no hands 40 mph down the other side, Weeeeeeee!
The last climb was obviously not insulting enough, so someone introduced a hot wooly blanket of biting flies and mosquitos. At 3 mph giving everything you've got and having bugs biting the shit out of you (I have welts on my back), you just want to either cry or light the San Juans on fire and break your bike over your knee.
The final descent was glorious and you knew it was coming because you could see the town of Telluride and knew it was a couple thousand feet below you. I had been passed by one guy and I passed another guy, so was still holding my 18th position and now I saw I had a chance at sub 11 hours, so I hauled ass over the last 6 miles and crossed the line in 10:57.
I nailed the nutrition (thanks VFuel), hydration, electrolytes and the bike held up solid (other than the rear brake squealing on every revolution... all day. Eee! Eee! Eee!, etc.) It was the most physically demanding thing I've ever done. Hardrock is hard (duh) but you're never really pushing yourself to the physical limit like you can on a bike. Push until your eyes roll back, recover a little, push until you're nauseous, recover a little, do it again, over and over. The beauty of mtb or cycling endurance races in general is that you recover pretty quickly. Other than heavy legs and swollen hands, I felt good the next day.
Thanks so much to Tobin and his wife, Jennifer. They put everything into this race and the details were obvious. It felt like a race that had a lot of history and was dialed in all ready. I love Tobin's course marking. Too many events nowadays are WAY over marked. I felt like I was in a truly adventurous ride in remote areas, yet with a sign here and there, exactly where you'd need one. Very intuitive and jaw dropping beautiful. I could only manage one photo on the first climb, then it was all business. The Telluride 100 MTB will become a classic. It already is in my mind.