Wednesday, August 21, 2013

NUE Hampshire 100

Even though it’s August, and the mountain bike season is supposed to be winding down, I am still really, really excited about racing my bike! Usually once the Wilderness 101 is over, I am less than excited about racing. This year, I am trying to fit in as many races as I can before the season officially ends. Last week I could barely sleep from excitement thinking about the Hampshire 100.

On Friday, I drove to MA and stayed with Karen Potter (Mountain Bike Racing News) and her adorable pug, Bruschi. I have raced Karen in a fair few NUE races over the years. She is a super strong rider, and always had a talent for turning it on in the last few miles (often passing me!). She was great to race against and always had me riding scared! This year she is taking a break from the 100 milers, so it was great to catch up since I haven’t seen her all year.

I raced Hampshire 100 last year, so I wasn’t too stressed about pre-riding etc. The course is full of short, punchy and loose singletrack and doubletrack climbs. Some say it’s akin to a really long cross-country race. I have been very happy on my Scalpel for the 100 milers this year, as the rear suspension allows me to climb singletrack using less energy, and relax more when descending than on a hard tail  Little did I know just how essential that would be during this race.

Come Saturday, I took my sweet little time getting up to NH. I had arranged to stay in a cute farmhouse with Jukka, a colleague from work who won the masters race at W101. It was actually part of a working farm, where hoards of children were staying. We only had to go up to the main building (with all the children) for dinner, which was animal meat and veg from the farm. It was adorable. I really like New England. It feels familiar (like England perhaps?!), but also very foreign. Jukka (who is from Finland) thinks it looks like Scandinavia.

Vicki and Jukka

When Sunday morning rolled around, I was still excited to get going, which is a good thing. For me, there is nothing worse than being on the start line, minutes before the gun goes off, and the “why am I here?” thought creeps across my mind (ok, this usually only happens at ‘cross races!).

The race started pretty fast as usual, and I managed to hop on some fast wheels with a bunch of guys, including Jukka. Everything seemed to be going well, and I was comfortably sitting in first place, until about 25 miles in when I went to shift my rear derailleur; I was stuck in the hardest gear. Don’t panic, right? I tried to manually move my chain up to an easier gear, and check to see if the derailleur was actually broken. It wasn’t broken, but the cable had snapped. After pushing my bike up some of the steeper trails (and realizing exactly why the race is known for being un-singlespeeder friendly!), a very nice gentleman in a Hammer Nutrition kit, and singlespeeder Scott Green, stopped to help me loosen the bolt, move the gearing up a little, tighten the bolt again and tie away the loose cable. This worked for a little while, and at least I could power up most of the climbs.

I kept eating and drinking, knowing that I could easily blow up later in the race if I exerted too much energy, and didn’t keep a check on my calorie consumption. I was taking on GU chomps and Elete electroltyes, with plenty water. This has been working really well for me this year, with little gastric distress during or after the race. I did start to feel a wee bit weary, however, just as Scott passed me again and commented that the gearing had slipped back to the hardest gear, uggg, no wonder my legs and back were screaming! 

I stopped at the aid station around the 50-mile mark, and tried again to secure an easier gearing, but even the mechanic was struggling to get the chain to stick higher up. I usually spend <30 seconds at aid stations; today, I was off my bike, chatting with the spectators and actually ate half a banana! By this point I realized that I was fully committed to finishing the race with two gears: one really, really hard gear (big ring up the front), or one really hard (small ring up the front). Yes, two speed for 75 miles.

Once I settled into the rhythm of the bike and what I was dealing with for the day, I actually started having a lot of fun, challenging myself up climbs, and not being able to wuss out and spin at any point. Plus, it always helps when you are riding in first. Thom Parsons caught up to me in the singletrack towards the end of he 100K loop. He asked why I was riding my bike like a gorilla! His interview of me can be found here:

I know what your thinking, why didn’t I replace my cable and housing before the race? Truthfully, it was replaced 3 weeks ago. I think it was just bad luck (and maybe I shouldn’t have been so stubborn and ridden some of the mud bogs, and put strain on the derailleur/cable).

Thankfully I managed to hold on to first place, and was even more happy than usual to see the finish line. Congratulation to Liz Chabot Allen on a stellar 2nd place finish too!

Women's podium Hampshire 100. Photo credit: Lowell Von Ruden

What I find so fulfilling from racing this year, is the number of people that comment on how our Stan’s Women’s Elite Team are present at so many races, across the country. Sue mentioned this recently on the twittersphere, and I hear a lot of comments too from people like “you guys are everywhere!” Now that’s cool!

I am hoping my burning enthusiasm keeps on burning towards Shenandoah in 2 weeks. Before that, I plan to race Mike Kuhn’s, Stan’s NoTubes sponsored, Rattlin’ 50 event this Saturday in PA. The course is ubber technical (yes!), and the proceeds go towards developing PA trails. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome job, Vicki!! I hope to see you again before next year!