The true difficulty of this race continues to manifest itself. I have progressivley felt worse each day since I finished. This morning was no exception. Despite riding about 70% of the course before the race, and having a very good idea of what this event was all about, I was still greeted by unexpected challenges on race day. Which is no surprise, but still seems to come as one when they occur.
One thing I have learned about myself this year, is that when I am traveling through the unkown, I tend to create my own route and finish line. This is bad. Because invariably the course I create in my head is always easier, shorter, and faster than the actual one I must ride. I did it at the KTR, I’ve done it in past hundies, I’ve even done it in short XC races, and the result is always the same: Mental fatigue.
There was a section of stage 3 I had not ridden going into the race. So I created that section in my mind, only to be welcomed by what seemd like an endless supply of ridges, switchbacks, small inclines, rocky descents, and finally a course marshall shouting “6 miles to the water”. I can’t quite understand it, but I struggled mightily during this section. The trails here were fun and fast. On any other day I think they’d be some very worthwile weekday riding. But I slugged along cursing the singletrack and it’s every rock, root, and incline. The odd thing was that physically I was still feeling pretty good. So I was caught in this strange mix of feeling strong, but stuggling to get the mind and body to agree on anything.
Later, when I reached the section of stage 3 that I was familair with, the mental goofiness was gone, and I was feeling good again. That is when the flat tires began. I was nearly aat the top of the final climb of of the stage when I heard the pshhhhhh of air escaping form my rear tire. I hopped off, blasted the tire with CO2 and continued on. There was no tube in the tire, and I had had this issue before. My DIY tubeless Stans seal had broken. Sometimes I can just reinflate and be on my way. 15 mintutes later the tire was soft again. I shot it again with CO2, but realized that I’d need to take the time to put a tube in. So after the third time it fizzled to a flat, I stopped and went to work. It didn’t take long to fix, but the guys I had just reeled in after my stage 3 mental basket bout rode away for good.
In the end I fought off more mental issues, more climbing, and more of the unkown as I made my way through stage 5. Riding with a teammate at that point was a nice touch. K.C. had gotten by me when I was fixing my flat, and I had really wanted to catch back up to her. She is one of those female riders that I can hang with on a good day. No shame in that. We worked together as we cranked out those final bumpy miles, and I can’t pretend it wasn’t a blessing to have a familiar face around that late in the ride.
As I think back on the day I am flooded with various images of singletrack, switchbacks, rocks and dark omnious clouds. Peppered in there are other riders, aid stations, cold mountain breezes and shivering descents that made all the climbing worthwile. The E100 will make you work for every inch of trail you cover. I have come away with new respect for people at both ends of the field. The winners were unfathomably strong. But then there were several people who finished in the cold and dark of night. I can’t think of one thing that would make finishing that race in the dark an enjoyable prospect. But several did it. Some took close to 17 hours to roll across the line. You will never see that kind of determination in a 2 hour XC race.
Boris has a knack for making people suffer. Yet each year more and more people are toeing the line for his series races. With a little luck, the E100 will eclips all those other “legendary” hundies out there and establish itself as the off road century. Boris, thanks for all your hard work this summer. The trails you have strung together are stringing out fields of racers better than any gravel road ever could. Finishing your series this year is a feat I will be proud of for years to come. So, here’s to future races, future rides, and more good times!