The hostel is a large log-style house of three levels. The bottom level has a rec room and small kitchen. On each wing of the bottom are two bedrooms with large queen size beds. Two couples used these rooms respectively. The main floor has a living room, the owner’s bedroom and the official off-limits kitchen (due to health department regulations as this is a pay-for lodging establishment). The top floor has a bedroom off each wing. Each of these has two bunk beds which you pay $17 per night stay and includes breakfast. The breakfast was really good. The hosts got up earlier than normal due to nearly all cyclists lodging for the race. Pro racer Jeff Shalk stayed there with his wife and I was able to meet him at breakfast prior to the race.
The CyclingNews description of the course is “traverses the rugged North Georgia mountains with a combination of gravel roads, doubletrack, and classic Georgian singletrack. The 100-mile course consists of two 50-mile loops and totals over 14,000 feet of elevation gain” I think the 14k climbing is what does me in.
I actually rode well the first loop and completed it in five hours 45 minutes. The singletrack actually isn’t that rugged- far smoother in most places that at Wilderness and would remind any Michigan rider of Yankee Springs. By far the singletrack was my favorite portion.
The race started at the Montaluce Winery grounds and headed out a paved road which turned to gravel- and then began an immediate long… long.. climb. With a couple short drops in the long climb you can see from the attached elevation that it was about 12-14 miles to checkpoint #1 (which was not an aid station and had no food or water). Right after #1 is a fast descent on gravel roads and some singletrack leading to Aid Station #2. I blew by this the first lap since I had enough Heed and such and began the next climb.
From Station 2 to 3, this is actually a climb around Bull Mountain (as it’s called here). The climb is mostly in the single track trails as is the eventual descent. Then you return to the aid station (Station 2 and 3 are the same station, you just come into it from the other side). Then onward to Station 4. It was in this next section the course includes a knee-deep stream crossing. After Station 4 there is more singletrack and a downhill on a gravel road… Repeat for lap 2.
I filled my bottles at aid station 4. By this time I’d gone through nearly all of one bottle of Perpetuem so I had that bottle filled with water. I also filled both Heed bottles with Gatorade- which is what this race had on hand. Remember that Checkpoint 1 has no food or water. It turned out to be a LONG ride from #4 to #2 again and in that period I drained all three fluid bottles and was out of liquid for maybe 20-30 minutes going in to Aid #2.
It was at this time the volunteer told me I had 1-1/4 hour to get back to them at Aid#3 in order to make the cut-off or they could not let me go on. Wow- 1:15 to make that trip around Bull Mountain again. Damn. I filled bottles and began riding as hard as I could. But you can see from the image that the first half is tough climbing. Lots of technical singletrack climbing.
To make matters worse, on my earlier lap, I’d been hearing thunder. The sky also clouded over and I thought maybe I’d get rained on. It never happened, but- apparently it rained on the OTHER side of the mountain. So by the time I got to lap 2 and was riding the singletrack it was a slippery clay-based putty. This made many of the uphill climbs on lap two during my Bull Mountain circuit impossible to ride and I was off the bike walking. Eventually I reached the downhill portion and railed in the singletrack just making the cut-off and blew past Aid3 headed toward Station 4 and another cutoff deadline.
This next section was more to my skills in singletrack and I was able to make the cut-off at station 4 and motored on. Eventually the course dumps back onto the same road we took in to the race from the winery and was mostly paved into the finish.
I missed breaking the 12 hour mark again. I think that these courses (Wilderness, Cohutta, FoolsGold and Shenendoah) with their long long climbs just are the one impediment to me as I cannot muster more then 4-6 mph on them depending grade.
Lessons learned. I pumped up my shocks before the event. The rear shock was fine, but the front one I put too much air in and the ride felt like I had the lockout on the whole time- very stiff. I will need to let some out later for the next event.
We woke up Saturday morning to rain, rumbling and more rain. Not what you envision for ideal Pando 6 / 12 hour race day weather. Fortunately the storm passed and the sun started to shine as we put up our race tents, prepared our bikes and started to warm up with a lap around the 4.4 mile single track course.
With adrenalin pumping, the start of the race sends you straight up the ski hill and turns you straight back down before you enter the riding path through the woods. The first lap is always an all out sprint as teams try to build a lead right from the start. The trail was still pretty wet, but had shed most of the rain from the morning storm.
Our Founders team had four participants at this year’s race. Two teams raced the advanced 6 hour race; Brad Bacon and Jeff Haney were on a team and Tenner and Marnie also raced the 6 hour as a 2 “man” advanced team. Jeremy Karel raced in the solo 6 hour advanced division.
After three hours of racing, all team members were feeling good and the course continued to get faster as the trail dried out. At 3:30 race promoter, Brent Walk announced a severe storm was 15 minutes away in Rockford and heading in our direction. With black clouds on the horizon, we continued to push the pace through the single track course. It started getting so dark in the woods, some riders were using their night riding lights to guide the way. Then it hit! Buckets of rain, wind bending trees and lightning everywhere. The lucky ones were nice and dry under their race tents. Unfortunately, Marnie, Brad and Jeremy were all on the course soaked to the bone and straining to see the trail that looked like flowing rivers. Riders were pulled from the course and asked to wait until it was safer to ride. Once the storm passed, the course really started getting MUDDY!!! With no tire traction, one lap felt like four. I’ve never heard bikes making worse noises as drive trains and brakes chewed through the mud. After an hour of slopping our bikes through the trail, the promoter made the call to end the race early. The six hour race finished at 6 and the 12 hour was canceled at 7.
All in all it was still a fun race day and great results for the team! Jeremy took 1st place in the advanced solo division with 10 laps. Brad and Jeff took 1st place in the 2 person advanced division with 15 laps. Tenner and Marnie took 2nd place with 15 laps.
A number of guys made the trip up to Ore to Shore. Ernie and Ralf competed in the 48 mile Hard Rock and placed 52nd and 79th respectively out of 122 racers in the 40-49 year old classs.
Martin Hall competed in the SS class of the Soft Rock and finished in 4th place with a time of 1:36. Dennis used the Soft Rock as a means to taper and ride with his wife Joni before his next 100 miler.
Last Saturday I participated in my third 100 mile mountainbike race in Coburn, Pennsylvania. The Wilderness 101 is a tough, rugged course encompassing difficult, jarring downhill singletrack, long interminable forest-road climbs and enough rocks on some sections to make a trials rider happy.
I had three goals going into the event
2. Beat last year’s time of 12:04:45
3. Finish in less than 12 hours
I accomplished the first two but official timing puts my finish time at 12:00:31– 32 seconds shy of my third goal-DARN! Last year I considered this the ugliest course I’ve ever riddent, but I
enjoyed the ride this year much more, perhaps because I was under some idea of what to expect.
The course was not exactly the same as the one I rode last year. One long benchcut singletrack climb was eliminated, but I think a different gravel road climb was added in it’s place. Also, a
pinchpoint last year early in the race which had riders going across a single track rock field after just coming off a road section was gone. Given these two changes there appeared to be no bottlenecks for masses of riders this year.
A couple notable moments in the race:
a) I was riding near a local rider, back and forth to a large extent. But in the rugged, rock studded downhills he was in front of me and going a few miles per hour slower than I would have preferred, which I thought odd since he was local, I’d expect him to be faster. This happened a couple times, long climb together and he’d go into the singletrack downhill in front of me. So I
vowed to shake him the next opportunity. This arose when the course dumped onto a lightly rolling gravel road where I immediately popped onto the big chainring and cranked away from him at near road-bike speeds. I never saw him again.
b) On one particular gravel road I was moving pretty fast (17-18mph) and caught a couple people and we soon formed a paceline which added three more riders. I was third back in the line and the lead guy pulls off to draft. A bit later the rider in front of me does the same and I just keep spinning at pace and moving fast. But I soon noticed no gravel noise behind me as one would expect and I glanced over my shoulder to find the nearest rider to me was 30 yards back and the rest were nearly 100 yards back. I’d blown away the paceline! Sweet!
At mile 50 I was actually at the five hour mark! I began to have some grandiose thought I’d be closer to 11 hours this year, but the course really kicks your speed when the long climbs are churned at 4mph. The attached elevation graph shows how long (and steep) some of the climbs actually are. The climb at the stop is 7-8 miles long. The course has several 2-3 mile climbs. There’s a steep climb in the middle from approximately miles 43 to 48. And so on…. and just for kicks a final 2-3 mile steep climb in the middle of the last ten mile section.
In the end I was 27th of 31 finishers in Master’s Men category. Overall I was 260 of 297 finishers (with 82 racers not finishing). But yeah- it was fun, overall. I would come back and do this event again in the future, though because I am already formulating my plans for 2012 and 2013 cycling, events like Wilderness are not part of those plans at this time.
I have now finished three of the five 100 milers I set as goals to complete this year- Cohutta, Lumberjack and Wilderness. Up next on Aug 20th is a new one for me- Fool’s Gold in Georgia. That will be followed by my return to Shenendoah on Labor Day Weekend.
Shout out to the two guys from Pittsburgh whom I met at dinner after the race. They said they’d read this blog about Wilderness and were inspired to sign up- though they didn’t know whether to thank me or curse me for it afterward hahaha.
I saw many familiar faces from last year’s Wilderness and Shenendoah- and will probably see them again at Shenendoah.
Dennis B Murphy