Monday, September 3, 2007
The Shenandoah Mountain 100 Mountain Bike Race, Sept 2, 2007
Rusty decided last spring to enter his first 100-mile mountain biking race, the Shenandoah Mountain 100 (SM100), and I jumped at the chance to support him. He was my awesome crew at the Western States 100 in 2006 and has been a steady supporter of all my ultrarunning adventures, so this was my chance to help him, and perhaps share a bit of what I had learned in my 5 years as an ultrarunner.
The weather was absolutely perfect all weekend long...highs in the low 80s and very cool at night, in the 50s. We arrived at the Stokesville Campground on Saturday afternoon and found a perfect camping spot with a view of the southern end of Massanutten Mountain (how symbolic, as the Massanutten Mountain 100 was my first 100 miler in 2005!).
This was my first taste of the ultra mountain bike scene, and it was clear that these folks are a bit younger than us (mostly in the 20s and 30s, but there were a few hardcore 40-50 year-olds too), but just as laid back and fun as the ultrarunning crowd...in fact, they really, really like to party! This event was the final race of a national ultra mountain bike series, so "everyone" who was anyone was there (save for few who opted for the national championships out in CA this same weekend, including last year's winner and local fave, Jeremiah Bishop). However, all the elite women were there, as well as 24-hour solo champ Chris Etough and Floyd Landis, who was second at the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike race a few weeks ago.
The pre-race pasta dinner was delicious as was the Old Dominion Ale (OD was a race sponsor, of course!). We sat with a group of men who were a mix of newbies and old-timers to the race, and shared race plans and listened to their sage advice. The whole scene reminded me of Promise Land 50K on steroids: a huge campground that served as the race start and finish, a huge shelter where you could get food and beer all day, and friendly volunteers and family members cheering on the racers. In fact, the SM100 race director is the "other" Chris Scott, who is a sometime ultrarunner, having run a loop of The Wild Oak Trail (TWOT) a few times with the VHTRC. Chris is the voice of the race, giving helpful pre-race directions and handing out awesome awards at the post-race party with a mellow, funny attitude...it's no wonder this event was full (over 400 riders) and that it is "must-do event" for the serious ultra mountain biker. I was very impressed with the entire organization of this event.
Speaking of TWOT...in addition to crewing for Rusty, I was going to be able to get a little training run in during the race (the race organizers discouraged crews from meeting racers at each AS due to parking constraints). My VHTRC friends Bill Gentry, Ryan Henry, and Greg Loomis had agreed to meet me at the TWOT trailhead for a fun, 26 mile loop. We were able to see the top-5 racers (including Floyd Landis) during the morning, and the top-25 bikers at the end of our run while the bikers were descending (hammering) Little Bald. We had a great day out on the trail mixing it up with the bikers, while planning new adventures and sharing stories from past races. When we finished, Bill Gentry and I went back to the campground for food and drink before heading out to the mile 88 aid station. There we saw the back-of-the-packers after their brutal, bone-jarring descent from Little Bald, before their last 12 miles to the finish.
The finish line was a huge party. Race finishers received a pint glass from Old Dominion ale as their finishers award (as well as many age group and grab bag awards). The food was yummy (they cooked 500 pounds of french fries) and the beer plentiful. The best part, of course, was watching Rusty finish his first 100-mile race in great spirits amidst cheering and celebration! Who-hoo!
View all my photos from this very fun weekend here.