The week leading up to the W101 was all about recovery. I spent lots of time stretching, foam rolling, working trigger points, eating, and hydrating. I got out for an easy spin on Wednesday in which I discovered twinging with the slightest effort and still lots of soreness. This had me wondering if I should even make the 8 hour drive up to PA for the Saturday race. I woke up on Thursday feeling much better and Friday morning, I felt great.
I kept my pre-ride short with very few efforts and much to my surprise I had no tenderness in my legs. This was great news but I was still unsure of what to expect come race time. Knowing that my legs might be playing tricks on me, the game plan for the race was to take it very easy through mile ~80 and if I still felt good then I would turn it on as best I could. I decided that I would not get caught up in the race and that I would be happy with whatever my time was as long as I finished.
Saturday morning, we woke up to cloudy skies and dampness in the air. The forecast was calling for the temperatures to rise into the low 80's with a chance of thunderstorms. It had rained the day prior so the course was bound to be slick in places and soft in others.
I found myself with lots of opportunities to draft including one pace line of six singlespeeders. I fell in for a short period of time and pulled out as I started detecting soreness from the fast cadence. From that point on, I decided that I would not indulge in any more drafting until late in the race. Once again, it was difficult to watch the pace lines drop me like I was sitting still but I knew what the consequences might be.
The middle section of the race was uneventful. I continued to ride a casual pace which really felt too slow but it was nice to get the chance to experience the ride. I had plenty of time to take in the views, talk with fellow racers, as well as volunteers and just have a great time in general. The singletrack was a bit slick and took a lot of focus as it is littered with rocks. I took my time and was able to pick mostly clean lines while remaining in control and without taking many risks.
Most of the day was spent playing tag with several friends. I would catch and drop them on the climbs only to be caught and dropped on the flats and downhills. Interacting with people I knew all day helped make the miles fly by. Before I knew it, I was rolling up to Aid Station #4 which meant that there were only ~30 miles to go. As I rolled into the aid station, Vanessa had everything I needed ready to go. We had a clean transition which was followed by a long loose, rocky doubletrack climb. This climb had me worried as picking the wrong line would mean putting down power in order to recover. Up until this point my legs were holding out fine. I had some soreness in muscles that cramped the week before but no twinges so far.
The climb flew by. I managed to pick great lines and worked a smooth effort to the top. Once at the top with the legs in excellent shape, I decided to see what they had left. I picked up the pace and also picked up the sight of another singlespeed in the distance. Knowing that we were headed into an extended rocky doubletrack descent, I made it priority number one to catch the fellow singlespeeder prior to hitting the rough stuff. Lucky for me, the terrain was challenging enough that I was able to mount a surprise attack before he had any idea what happened. There was enough jarring going on while descending that my tube and CO2 managed to wiggle clean out of my Awesome Strap and deposit themselves on the trail. My initial instinct was to continue on with no way to fix a flat which is what I did. Not long after this point, I was kicking myself for making such a stupid decision. For one, I was so far back that taking a minute to gather my things would not matter in the end. Two, the rocks in PA can be brutal and will strike when you least suspect it. Three, I don't get this stuff for free.
On the last extended climb of the day, I got a glimpse of another singlespeeder just ahead. It brought a smile to my face as I love reeling people in on climbs. It great to watch the gap get smaller and smaller as the rider out front begins to struggle while continuing to look over their shoulder. My favorite part is building up the effort right before the pass so that I can fly by hopefully crushing their will to chase.
Well, that is not the way it played out this time. I worked hard to close the gap but the gap remained the same. I knew that this guy was running a harder gear than myself so I was expecting to see him hit a wall. Nope. He crushed the climb and once on the flats, he crushed those too. I soon found a geared rider to work with and we gave it a go. I got within striking distance once again but when we hit the fisherman's trail I decided to protect my tires on walk the nasty rock gardens in which he rode. As I popped out on the final rail trail section of the day the singlespeeder that I had my sights on was gone.
I rolled across the line with a time of 8:14 and 11th place singlespeed. I finished the day with zero cramps or twinges and very strong legs when I kicked it up late in the race. It was different to take a "casual" approach to this race but it lead to a very enjoyable experience.