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