Checked out the pump track in Harrisonburg on the way into the Shenandoah 100. Was pretty fun, a little tough to ride on my 29er, but still doable. This looks to be a little bit bigger than the one slated for Chambersburg, and they have plans to build some new larger tracks at the same park.
The 100-mile test ride with the new Honkin' Bar went pretty well, though it was my slowest 100 in many years. Probably can't blame that on the bars. Maybe on the prior evening's Stage 1 of the rockstar. All these years of doing the 100s and watching fellow competitors have shown me the importance of a strong performance on Saturday night. I knew that at my current speed level, my best chance for a leaders jersey would be after stage 1. So I went for it, and found myself still at the pavilion, hours after the other 1000-milers, the cupcake/philly contingent, and the WV Night Club all went to their tents. Before long, I looked around and noticed that there was no one still up except for volunteers, Young Matthew, and me. Matthew was going strong and sucking up years of insider info from the graybeard, preparing to throw it down tomorrow in his first Shenandoah.
Awake happy with the bullhorn and the gong and proceed to do basically,.... nothing for the next hour. Didn't need, or want to eat too much, just needed some hydration and basic digestible fuel to get me 31 miles to AS-2. Fruit, yogurt, figs, the breakfast of rockstars. Cut to 06:27, the back of a green Subaru in dawn's low light, dinky headlight, searching for the right items for my Camelback. Tubes, pump, CO2, NUUN tablets check, but where are my tools?? D@mn, I still gotta hit the porta and get my ass on the line in 3 minutes.
Started at the back of the pack with fellow1000-milers Quigley and Riggin. Yea, was hoping for a special call-up for us, or maybe a 1000-second head start or something. We hang at the back long after the leaders have probably hit the bridge. I think someone had time to go get a cup of coffee..... No biggy, my buddy Albert was back there with us, and a few other friends who would figure prominently in the enjoyment of my day were still back at their campsite trying to get ready.
I can tell going up Narrowback that I am not in my usual crowd. I can really tell that when we hit the first 10 yards of trail and about 6 people immediately jump off their bikes. It used to be my strategy at my first few long races to start in the back, and try to pass people all day to the finish. With now 500+ people doing these things, that strategy doesn't work so well. Sure, I didn't exactly blow up like I have a few other years (where I actually did start near the front and tried to hang), but everything all the way up Lynn and down Wolfe took longer with a long slow train ahead of me.
I rode a jackhammer all the way down Wolfe. The Honkin' Bar is stiff alright. I guess the people that buy this bar usually ride 8" travel bikes. But if this seems so stiff, then the last 3 bars I've had on my bike must be way flexy. I don't know if flexy is what I desire in an aluminum bar. Too much pressure in the front tire and that bar made for a rattling, cautious descent. I'm thinkin' ...cool, I still have 80 more miles to see if I like this handlebar... I let some air out of the front tire at the base of the first Hankey climb and the Dowell's descent was much nicer.
I never got a chance to test the log-hopping ability of the Honkin' Bar. The logs, including Nick's facial log, were all cut out. There wasn't another log to hop for the rest of the race, nor any real reason to have to lift the front end. So unlike Michaux, where you're lifting your front wheel 10 times/minute. There was one log though, I guess a tree fell on the course overnight, it was on the way to Braleys I think. It was a little higher than my comfort range, but I was antsy and hadn't been able to hop anything all day and wanted to test out the bar. It was an elevated leaner, higher on one side than the other. A friend riding in front of me stopped to walk over the low side, I called out that I was gonna give it a go, and he let me have a quick look at the high side. I gave it shot, but was too fatigued to clean it. So, 0-1 on log attempts on this way stiffy bar. The Honkin' Bar loses a few more points.
The rest of the race was pretty uneventful for me, not a lot of excitement back there, other than riding with Young Matthew and Carney. Chris pulled me around all day, and I hung with him as long as I could until his dot got smaller on the way to Little Bald. Last year he was about 10 minutes in front of me, and his buddy Dominic was right behind me. Two years ago I finished right behind Chris. Seems like Chris and I were both slummin a bit, about an hour off our usual pace, with several rest breaks thrown in there.
what's wrong, and had begun to get concerned for the tired old 10-timer.
Classy Chris has a plaque for the 1000 Mile Hall of Fame club, and our names will be the first four on the plaque. Yours could be next. So, will there be an 11th for me? Will I be like the aging and ineffective Cal Ripken just riding out the streak until the band finally snaps? Or do I possibly have one more .300 season in me? Two days later my answer is of course, yes, I'll be back for more, and was thinking an awful lot about this during the race. Could be a new era for me. I certainly question whether I can (or want to) do 10 more of these with only one gear. Maybe I should test ride it before next September.
Congrats to the fast folks, and to all who've finished this great race. And thank you Chris Scott for providing 10 years of these experiences. You'll probably never really know how important your races are to us regular riders.