To say I was stoked to land on the podium at the PH100 would be a huge understatement. Unlike 2010, I definitely respected this race and prepared accordingly. I had a solid pacing & fueling plan that I felt would allow me to finish in 11 hours if I had a good race.
We got a huge break the week before the race and Mother Nature dropped some much needed rain on the course. Prior to the rain, some parts of the course had a 1-2” layer of “moon dust” on top of it. In addition, Grand Targhee’s Trail Crew put some serious work into Mill Creek and other parts of the course that were riding a bit rough and the end result was perfect conditions on race day. When Mill Creek is tacky it is one of the best descents we have.
Gettin' my suffer on up the Dry Creek climb
Lap 1 – Be Conservative
Lining up near the back of the pack felt a little weird but I simply did not want to get sucked into “racing” up the first climb. I wish I could go hard at the very beginning of long races and then recover but I simply cannot. It’s neither my style nor my strength to pin it off the line. The result of lining up near the back and keeping a lid on it during the opening climb up the lower cat track was that I was stuck behind a slower group on the Mill Creek descent. Oh well.
As we hit the pavement for the first time I realized that my hands were completely numb. The colder air had settled into Teton Canyon and the temp was probably 10 degrees colder than at 8,000’ where we started. Most folks were not too affected by the cold but my Raynaud’s left my hands useless. To shift my rear derailleur, I had to reach across the bars and push the SRAM paddle with the heel of my left hand.
Note to Self: You don’t pedal with your hands so stay on the gas and quit whining.
Every time the trail got a little rough, which was pretty much every downhill, I was hearing a new rattle on the bike. I thought I went through my bike pretty carefully pre-race so I chalked it up to the stuff in my Mountain Feedbag rattling around. Near the end of Lap #1 I realized that my seatpost-mounted bottle cage was about to fall off. Doh!
Note to Self: You have a 3mm hex wrench in the pit. Don’t think about the little rattle and fix it when you stop.
JayP helping me at Aid #1 with a loose bottle cage
A small side-effect of the cold temps and my numb hands was that I did not eat or drink as much as I had planned. I wanted to get through (3) 24oz bottles during the first lap but I ended up only drinking about 1+ ¾ bottles and I think this would hurt me a little later in the race.
JayP was at Aid #1 as I came through to begin Lap #2 and he tightened my bottle cage bolts while I replaced bottles. Thanks again JayP. I took a couple minutes to do some violent “windmills” with my arms in an effort to get some blood to my fingers and it definitely helped.
By Lap #2 the traffic had already thinned out and I was able to “send it” down Mill Creek.
Note to Self: I really wish I had ridden my hardtail…NOT. My FS AnthemX 29er and I are “En Fuego” descending today.
Aid #2 was rocking out with loud heavy metal as I rode through but I didn't need to stop. The crew from Habitat in Driggs was running this aid station with full mechanical support and a high stoke level. Thanks guys! My mantra for the lap was “stay on the gas, don’t forget to drink”. Have I mentioned how much I like Carbo Rocket 333 Orange? Mmmm, delicious.
After a quick stop at Aid #1 with help from JayP and Michelle I was off to climb Lightening Ridge. The climb went by really fast because I couldn’t wait to shred Mill Creek again and was mentally scheming where I could improve my descent time. I guess I got a little too “radical” on my descent because I overcooked a corner and plowed into the brush at full speed. While plowing through knee-high brush I heard a “pop” followed by the sickening hiss of air escaping from my front tire. I also felt Stans fluid spraying my legs…but then it stopped. Awesome! The Stans did its job and I didn’t even have to stop. I did lose some air but I knew I could make it to Aid #2 where there was floor pump waiting.
Note to self: Swap out your front wheel with your spare when you begin your 4th lap.
My long-time nemesis, the inner thigh cramp, decided to show up on Lap #3 after a long hiatus. I haven’t experienced any cramping in races for quite a while and I felt as if my hydration and electrolyte intake was good to this point in the race. Regardless, I had two separate cramping episodes on Lap #3 and the second one took me off of my bike and had me walking to stretch it out before Rick’s Basin.
Note to self: Don’t. Stop.…and quit whining.
Remember that “Note to Self” to swap front wheels? Yeah, I forgot all about that when I went through Aid #1 to begin Lap #4. I had a perfectly good spare set of wheels sitting there and it would have taken about 3 seconds to swap front wheel…but I did not. I was too focused on getting in and out quickly and slugging down a few gulps of delicious ice cold Pepsi.
As I was approaching the top of Mill Creek I could see my fellow Fitzy Teammate Travis up ahead and I wanted to catch him before the descent. Travis is known for his ability to go uphill really fast…but I wasn’t sure about the downhill so I thought it best if I were in front on Mill Creek. I was so wrong. Travis can fly downhill! Near the bottom I heard my front tire “pop” again. Crap! The Stans plug from my earlier puncture had blown out on an impact with a rock and this time it wasn’t self-sealing.
Note to Self: Just deal.
I have been carrying a Tubeless Repair Kit by Panaracer in my pocket for the last couple of years for just such an occurrence. This kit is perfect for punctures that are too big for Stans to seal but it won’t fix a sidewall tear. Plus, it is way faster than putting a tube in. Feeling very proud of myself, I pulled out the kit and proceeded to plug the hole, air it up with CO2, and get on my way.
Note to Self: If you had swapped wheels as planned you wouldn’t be dealing with this so quit feeling so proud of yourself for carrying your stupid little kit.
I topped off my front tire with the floor pump at Aid #2 and commenced “emptying the tank” since it was my last lap. In the back of my mind was the cramping that I experienced on Lap #3 so I was drinking a lot more. The final climb up Dry Creek was tough but I cleaned it and that was a small victory in itself.
My drop cooler at Aid #4 had a little motivation waiting for me; a 20oz bottle of cold black goodness, aka liquid crack, aka de-fizzed Pepsi. The final time through Rick’s Basin was fun knowing that could push it and I tried to grab an extra gear whenever I could. With only about 3 miles to go I punctured my front tire…again. No I am not kidding. I rotated the hole to the bottom of the wheel, shook the wheel a few times, heard the hissing stop, and was back on and riding with a soft front tire. When I crossed the line in 10:45:00 I had no idea what my placing was but I was stoked that I had kept moving through all my mini-adversities. And almost immediately I started thinking about how to go faster…
Can I shave an hour off of my time and take home the belt buckle? I am damn sure going to try. I want that belt buckle now.
More on the race itself later.