On June 19th 2021 I officially finished my first 100 mile mountain bike race. This was something I wanted to have bagged before attempting Marji Gesick in September. I wanted to put to bed my two DNFs (did not finish) from Leadville and Marji Gesick 2019. This race would make the start of a new chapter.
Its a 100 mile (actually a little short of 100 miles) race in Wisconsin, and it takes in some beautiful trails. Unfortunately this is not a race I'll return to as long as the same race director is running it. A critical component of any race is that if you promise water stops, you provide them. That said, I loved riding with the other racers and volunteers, the trails and was really glad to finish the race and take the second place. A really positive warm up for Marji Gesick 2021.
The decision to race this was last minute. An athlete I coach Valerie Dosland was using it as her Marji warm up and I really wanted to be there to give her some moral support and encouragement. I was already in the right geographical region because Adam and I had been in Marquette Michigan for Marji Camp the week prior so it seemed like a no brainer...go and race, while hopefully giving Valerie a boost too.
The Race Report:
It was an early start...out of bed at 5:30am for a 7am race start. This race is in Wisconsin and that central time so it’s actually 8am to my brain, slightly less of a struggle. Based on my experiences at Transylvania Epic Stage Race, I wanted to get a longer warm up than I had in the past. My race starts have been weak and I can lose a race in the first hour by getting too far behind. The downside to this in a mountain bike race is that you’re then stuck behind people on the trails and passing can be hard and time consuming. So for this I made sure my legs were ready to go out hard. I spent about 40 mins warming up and after being told again and again by both my coach Rob Lee and Adam, I finally lined up at the front. It turned out that this was critically important for this race because it was about 75 meters and then right onto single track. Once the race started I was in the first group onto the single track and from there I set out to establish a strong position in the race. I was leading for about 90 minutes until Chelsea Strate, the eventual female winner caught me. I saw no other woman racing the 100 mile category all day so ultimately that strong start held me in a podium position as the highs and lows of the race unfolded.
Endurance racing is like a rollercoaster, you go through times of feeling fantastic with these great highs and then crashing lows. I was in pretty good shape until about mile 50. My nutrition had been going well, consuming about 100 calories every 30 minutes and drinking plenty but at mile 50 I started to get tired. This race was more single track (trail) and more elevation (hills to climb) than I expected. But what started the decline was that I ran out of water. Frustratingly the aid station that was promised at mile 20 just wasn’t there. Every other racer I spoke to hadn’t seen it either and the second aid station was supposedly at mile 60 (it wasn’t, it was at mile 68). By the time I was at mile 60 I was dehydrated and pissed off…if you’re going to make a race self supported that’s fine but we need to know that, don’t promise water and fail to provide it!!
Mile 60 to 68 was rough and I wasn’t alone in that struggle. I was with several guys who were also long out of water. They had also banked on filling up at mile 20 and were now limping to the next aid station with no water. When it finally arrived I ate the four (!!) jam sandwiches in my drop bag and three delicious ice pops. I tried not to down enormous amounts of water because I thought it’d make me sick. So I probably drank 500 ml, filled up my hydration pack which holds 2 liters, I put more nutrition in my pack and headed off. It’s a disastrous move to sit down or loiter at aid stations. The longer you stay the harder it is to get back on the bike. I’ll always remember Rebecca Rusch’s advice from Leadville. I’m paraphrasing a little but she said “those seats at aid stations, they’re not for you, they’re for crew or for volunteers. Do not ever sit down at an aid station”. Wise words.
The final 25 ish miles were mixed. Its hard to make up for becoming pretty dehydrated. You can't just drink a lot of water and bounce right back. So my energy levels remained low but I really wanted to hold that 2nd place at a minimum so I struggled on. The single track wasn't overly technical but when you're really exhausted its amazing how uphill trail can seem super tricky! The final 5 or so miles was on gravel, a nice treat because you can definitely rack up more speed. The downside was that it was dull and felt like it went on FOREVER. After what felt like crawling home, I finished in 10 hours 40 minutes and placed 2nd overall female behind Chelsea Strate.