Fool’s Gold 100 Report

First, before the topic of the race, I want to put kudos out to Hiker Hostel. They are linked on the race website. It was a convenient and inexpensive lodging and quite friendly and interesting.

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.

I completed my 4th 100-miler yesterday and still can’t seem to break the elusive 12 hour mark. I finished at 12hours-1minute! Fool’s Gold 100. One can see why it’s called Fool’s Gold. The Dahlonaga area was the site of the first recorded gold rush in the USA and the two tracks glitter with pyrite. The clay based single track is quite intriguing too, glittering as with broken glass due to the particles of silica in the clay soil.

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.

On the negative side-
First, since aid station #1 was only a checkpoint and there was no water or hydration fluids there it was about 30 miles to aid station #2 and in that time I drained all three bottles.
Second, the race used Gatorade rather than Heed, not sure why, though I don’t think it impacted my ride I was a bit leery of the change in beverage.
Finally, post race meal was a bust- literally there wasn’t one. All these NUE races have food afterwards even when I’ve taken more than 12 hours to finish. But at FG, the parking areas were nearly deserted with no more than 15-20 people around, mostly volunteers, and the main tent was closed up and no food. I was a bit disappointed. I found out later from a singlespeeder who’d finished in just over ten hours that the promoter was running out of food at that point. WOW. Poor portion control. There’d always been food at the other events even for thirteen and fourteen hour finishers at Shenendoah. I ended up chucking down my Hammer Soy shake for a quick recovery drink before packing up and heading back to the hostel.
The National Ultra Endurance series will post updated series results later this week I hope so I can see how I stand in the Master’s men category. Results for the race are here.

Up next, Shenendoah-100