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Race Report: Hampshire 100 (National Ultra Endurance Series)


Adventures for the Cure Hampshire 100

Last weekend I headed north for my 4th National Ultra Endurance Series mountain bike race: Hampshire 100.

After going it alone for Wildcat and Mohican I was very excited to have my AFC teammate and good friend Jerry Jackson doing the race as well. Jerry had a great race at Wilderness 101 three weeks prior and I was coming off of Ironman Lake Placid so I knew we would would both be in good shape for Hampshire. We left at 6am for the 7 hour trek to Greenfield, New Hampshire.

We arrived around 2pm and setup camp at Greenfeild State Park. After checking in, leaving our drop bags for the race, and otherwise obsessing about details we had already obsessed about for days, we went and pre rode part of the course with a small group of riders.

I could tell immediately we were in for an awesome day on Sunday. The course was soft, flowy, fast, and the weather was perfect. After freezing at Cohutta, the Wildcat Mudfest, and rain the night before Mohican, it was very nice to have a picture perfect forecast for race day. Included in the weekend festivities was a cyclocross race, a short track mtb race, the NUE 100 mile race, a 100k mtb race, and a 100k trail run. There was something for everyone and there were over 400 participants total.

National Ultra Endurance Series

After our pre-ride we changed and got ready for the pasta dinner. Post dinner we got on our bikes and rode into Greenfield (about 1 1/2 miles) to get ice cream at the New Harvester Market. I read somewhere that Jeremiah Bishop eats ice cream the night before National Ultra Endurance races so I do the same. I saw him at the store where we were eating ice cream. He was on his way out or I would have offered to buy the ice cream.

After the ride back we had a brief rider meeting where the race director gave us a briefing on the course then we headed to bed. Jerry had brought a family sized tent with inflatable mattresses so we slept like kings. It was probably the longest night of sleep I had gotten since Ironman.

We woke up at 5am to get ready for the race. There was coffee and breakfast ready for us. I followed my race morning prep (eat, coffee, poop, suit up, ride).

The start was unlike the other NUE series races that I have done. We went off at 6:45am sharp and had a very fast downhill start for the first number of miles. About 5 miles into the race 90% of the riders were still in one pack, including the leaders. Things broke up when we had a mandatory dismount for some railroad tracks and then a single file trail next to the rail bed.

Hampshire 100 National Ultra Endurance Prep

Jerry and I were together until the end of the railbed when I happened to jump on my bike a little faster than he did and got in front by a couple of spots. Jerry is typically quite a bit faster than I am so I knew I would see him again soon.  I didn’t see him for quite a while which surprised me but eventually he caught and passed me. He had a flat tire that he needed to re-inflate so he had lost some time.

Hampshire 100 was a beautiful course. It was by far the most single track in any NUE race I’ve done so far. We spent very little time on roads. Most of the day was on single track, double track, and some back woods fire roads. This made the day go very quickly for me.

I caught and passed Jerry at the 2nd aid station (around mile 50). I made one significant change going into Hampshire. I stopped using a camelback and began using bottles for my nutrition. My friend Chris Beck has told me for a while to give up the camelback so I finally listened (I’m a slow learner sometimes). Chris has about 100x more experience than I do so I should listen to him more quickly.

Bottles made my day much easier. I had 2 bottles of Infinit in my drop bags every 25 miles or so. I would roll into the aid station, swap out bottles, and roll out. The bottle combined with Infinit for nutrition meant that I spent less than a minute in each aid station.

I surprised Jerry with how quickly I rolled through the aid while he was still filling his camelback. He caught me ten minutes later giving me a friendly hard time for making him work so hard to catch up. I followed him for a couple of miles but eventually his stronger legs won over and he dropped me.

Just before the aid, Grant Matthews from Toasted Head racing, had caught me and we spent an hour or so talking and catching up. He was coming off of a very strong top 25 finish at Wilderness 101 and was looking forward to another great performance at Hampshire. Unfortunately the cable for his rear derailleur broke and he was stuck with only one speed plus his granny gear. We joked he was now in the duo speed category. Grant and I rode a good part of Mohican together so it was good to see him again.

After I lost Jerry I entered the dark place of the race for me. I seem to always have a dark place in each race. Miles 55-60 were lonely and felt slow. I saw a rider or two but for the most part it was just me slugging away.

At some point in almost every race I hear the same things in my head:

Why do you do these stupid events? This is really dumb. I’m never doing this again. I’m just going to stop when I get to mile 64 and we loop back by the start/finish.

Around mile 60 we hit a water stop and this turned my head around. I had ridden the next 4 miles back to the start finish on our pre ride and knew it was fast and fun single track. The fun trails got me motivated again.

At the start/finish area the course went right past our campsite so I took one minute to do two things quickly: I changed gloves because my hands were getting a little raw on my palms and I lubed my chain and transmission. Both served me well for the last miles of the race.

At the start of the second lap I was refreshed after the sweet single track and was looking to finish strong. 36 miles to go and I knew the first 15 of those would be very quick. Grant had passed me while I was lubing my chain but I caught him quickly. Since he was now riding a “duo speed” he couldn’t keep up.

Hampshire 100 Mountain Bike Race

A few miles later I caught a Canadian rider, Tom Hanrahan, that was teammates with Chris Bryce whom I had ridden most of the 2nd half of Mohican with. Chris passed us at one of the water stops which gave Tom a huge boost in motivation to catch him on a flat rail bed section of the course. I would have gladly pulled some but Tom kept hammering away so I tucked in and enjoyed the ride. We caught Chris and then the three of us rode together for about 10 miles. We got lost a time or two but backtracked to get on course. It cost us a few minutes but nothing major.

Around mile 85 we started catching the slower 100k riders that were still on the course. Mentally it was a big boost. Even if you are a solid mid packer like I am, having folks to catch and pass is motivating. They would move over and tell us we were doing a great job. One guy just kept yelling “respect!” as I went by him. It was another pick me up.

At the final water stop I filled one bottle with Inifnit and one half full with coke and took off. This section of the course was the same as the finish of the first lap: fast, flowy, tight, up and down single track. It was great. I was flying through the last section. I didn’t think there was much of a chance of catching Jerry but you never know so I gave it everything I had. I was able to pull away from Tom and Chris and pass another rider or two in the last few miles. It was a great finish. I love feeling good at the end of a race. Something usually kicks in when I can smell the finish. In spite of the pain I can push the mind and body into high gear.

I crossed the line in 10:16. Turns out I was six minutes behind Jerry who had finished right in front of me. Jerry and I were 32nd & 33rd respectively out of the 100+ racers in our class.

I had a great race. Nutrition was spot on thanks to my custom Infinit formula. My bike was in GREAT shape thanks to Joe’s Bike Shop (Nate got it tuned up perfectly). My legs felt good. The weather was perfect.

Jerry and I ate the post race dinner, packed up, drove to the campground showers, and headed home. We made a 2nd dinner stop along the way at Gobi Mongolian Grill on the way home. We took in about 6,000 calories each and then drove the rest of the way for a 3am arrival back home.

I get this question a lot:

Aren’t you exhausted after these events?

I am at times. But there is also a sweet contentment that settles in post race. The body is tired and needs rest. The mind and spirit are renewed and refreshed. I was able to ride my bike through the woods all day long. How great is that?

Keep moving forward,

Written by

I am the CEO of Blue Ocean Ideas, a creative agency in Baltimore, Maryland. My job is to clarify the strategy and take care of my team. I am married to the beautiful Elise Rittler and we have four great kids. When I’m not at Blue Ocean Ideas or with my family I am riding a bike, running, playing ultimate frisbee, eating, or sleeping. There is a little more about me here.

2 Responses to “Race Report: Hampshire 100 (National Ultra Endurance Series)”

By j bonneville - 24 August 2013

great job and great write up

i see you are improving and doing well keep on riding!

By Greg - 25 August 2013

Thanks John! I’m getting a little faster each race this year. I’m hoping to finish the NUE series with strong races at Shenandoah and Fools Gold. Both will be great races!

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