Last week I returned from New York and Pennsylvania. I had been looking forward to the Wilderness 101 for nearly a year (since the Singlespeed Worlds 2005 were held in State College). Over the last few years I have often thought of doing a 100mile race in the states, ever since reading the stories of the Cream Puff and Mike Ferentino's excellent write up of the Leadville 100.
The riding in and near State College is the best I have ever done. The trails are tough, technical rewarding and dappled with sunlight under a dense canopy of trees. The climbs though stout are not back breaking and the town has everything I could ever hope to be provided with. Excellent coffee via WC Clarkes Cheese Shope (http://www.wcclarke.com/), supreme bike service/advice and parts from Mt Nittany Wheelworks (http://www.mtnittanywheelworks.com/ ) quite possibly the worlds best beer at Otto's Brew Pub (http://www.ottospubandbrewery.com/). I should also mention quite possibly the worlds best beer and pizza combo at Faccia Luna...
Anyways, the plan was fairly straightforward. Trina and her bro David were to head to New York, after wishing me luck as I aimed for Interstate 80 from Newark airport. The car? well, this time a wee compact car - a Chevy Cobalt did the duty.
Luckily I remembered the drive for the most part as my MapQuest was ok, but minimal.
Having arrived in State College at 7 ish, I put the wheels on the bike, and headed out to Otto's for a few beers and some food. I knew the shop crew meet there one evening a week, but wasn't completely sure which. Needless to say I got the wrong day, but as I wobbled off down the road again, who should drive by but Frank (a good friend from Mt Nittany Wheelworks) and his excellent wee lad Eoinn. So we lobbed the bike on the car and headed out for icecream...I saw my first firefly and had a good natter and slouchy evening with Frank and Eoinn.
Jet lag always bites a little and next day I hit the streets at 6am, after a 5am wake up, and headed out to meet Bill at the Cheese Shoppe. He was roasting and we had a short chat, I drank gallons of the best coffee and met Peter Buck, and Joe Gore. After catching up I spent a little more time between roasts setting the world to rights with Bill then headed off to Mt Nittany Wheelworks. Shopping time! Well, I knew Trina would be doing th same so it was time to melt plastic.
After a cheery 'hello!' to everyone at the shop (so good to see Jim and Harry again) it was time to slot a little ride in, so we headed out of the shop and made for the local trails. Frank railed the twisties and roots, with Peter on his heals. I tried my best to keep up and not get lost...these trails really do rock!
We all made for Otto's later and a few beers were indeed consumed. The last of which was a beautiful if evilly powerful porter which sent the last 3 in the bar (Frank, Jim and myself) down for 10. After a collision, blood loss, double-visioned cycling and a sheepish arrival at Beth's (Franks eminently better half) we finally closed down for the night. 3.30am, perfect for race prep! It is not unusual for Jim and myself to close the bar it seems...
I was supposed to get up and go ride/course mark at 7.30am with Peter and Joe next morn' but I just slept through my alarms and felt like I had been kicked around the head. So I passed and instead focused on eating and drinking and then heading to Coburn for registering. Jim and Frank also felt a bit shabby and an uneventful day led to a pizza and 1 or 2 beer combo at Faccia Luna. A good chat with Matt Ferrari and I knew he had that look in his eye for this race...
Early bed as next morning would mean getting up in the dark.
So, 4.30am beep beep beep, and into the car. I had looked out some stuff the evening before and felt pretty prepped and calm. Only issues of note were a newly mounted front tyre (Maxxis Ignitor: mana from heaven) and a practically unused Wingnut Assault pack (this sits over the lumbar region of spine and I hadn't had chance to really ride with it and see how it felt).
The siren went at 7am as a field of 300 rode out from Coburn. Several miles of tarmac and gravel road then a stern climb to stretch things out. At some point I am going to get a map and a gradient thingy here, as the course which is one of the very few 100 milers to be one big loop deserves a lot more words than I can type this evening.
As far as my race, I felt good initially. Fit and strong and confident in my ability to finish. I'll admit this was the first point this was the case. The aid stations (as with the rest of the organisation) were incredible, truly top notch. The sense of community and number of volunteers was awe inspiring.
After I passed Dan Jansen (at that point 100 mile series singlespeed leader) I wondered at my ability to finish at the pace I was riding. I felt ok and decided to just keep rolling with an open mind. I passed a few other faces I didn't expect to and someone yelled I was top ten singlespeed. I certainly hadn't anticipated 'racing' this per se but I'll admit to being keen to keep the pace up.
Eventually, after some mind blowing singletrack and high heat and humidity I finished, scoring 7th place singlespeed. I was pretty pleased to see the finish after feeling like I could ride forever at some points through the race. Notable performances, Matt Ferrari putting serious metal to pedal and maybe, just maybe getting singlespeed overall for the series. Jimbo for riding a comfort bike for charity the whole way. I cannot begin to describe how strong that really is. Frank for riding with a busted up head and hip after the Otto incident and still battering around the course. Joe for knocking 1.5 hrs off his previous best time. Ken Roth for riding for the first time in 4 weeks (due to slipped disc pain) finishing 60+miles and Peter Buck for the most outstanding come back recorded (after a period of serious hurt mid-race from the heat and humidity probably) without testosterone patches I have witnessed.
All in all a supreme time. More technical points soon, once I am able to work out how I drank 10 litres of fluid in 9.18 hrs.