The forecast for Wildcat 100 was about as promising as the forecast had been for Cohutta 100 two weeks before. It was strikingly similar: early in the week things looked semi-promising for us optimistic types and the forecast was worse every time I checked it the rest of the week. By Friday the forecast was 70% rain all day.
This was going to be a weather rematch. After the dreaded Cohutta 100 DNF, I was going to be prepared for this race.
I drove up midday Friday after getting the last of the Blue Ocean Ideas work I needed to finish done for the week. It was a four and a half hour drive from Baltimore to Rosendale. I arrived around 6:00 pm, checked into the Williams Lake staging area, and pitched my tent before the rain came.
Packet pickup and the pre-race dinner was at the Rosendale Rec center. It was a great meal: bowtie pasta with chicken, salad, homemade cornbread, iced tea. Perfect night before race food. I finished eating at 7:00pm and was torn between heading to the Rosendale Theater which was giving racers free admission and popcorn for Where The Trail Ends and getting a quick pre-ride (openers) in. I opted for the openers and headed back to Williams Lake.
After a couple of miles in the woods to wake the legs up, I headed for Stewarts Shop for some ice cream. I read somewhere that Jeremiah Bishop eats ice cream the night before NUE 100’s. Like any good cyclist, that’s all I need to hear to make it a ritual. By 9:30 I was in bed fading off into neverland.
I sleep like a rock in a tent when it’s raining out. There’s something very soothing about the sound of rainfall on a rainfly over my head. I had an exceptional night of sleep. I awoke at 4:30 feeling rested.
Lying in the tent listening to the rain drench the course around me I decide to adjust my expectations for the day. My original expectation was to finish under ten hours. I decided my “this course is going to be muddy as hell and it’s going to rain all day long” expectation was just to finish. That would be a successful day.
I didn’t want to be writing another DNF blog post for my second NUE attempt.
My iPhone rang at 4:50 and it was my teammate and friend Pat Blair who, in typical fashion, had woken up at 12:00am and left Baltimore at 12:30am to get to the race.
I love Pat. He makes me look moderate about things like cycling. Not many people do that.
I had picked up Pat’s race packet the night before and he was calling to let me know he’d be rolling in around 5:30. We decided to meet at the Stewarts Shop.
When Pat and his dad pulled into the parking lot I was chugging Stewart’s coffee and packing my drop bags. I gave Pat his race packet and drop bags and we carpooled over to the start area.
After feeling under prepared for the Cohutta 100 weather, I decided to be very conservative for Wildcat. My drop bags were filled with dry gloves, socks, arm & leg warmers, cliff bars, gel flasks, and drink mix.
I headed back to my campsite to suit up then spun the two miles downhill to the start line. I got to the start at 6:30 for a 6:45am start, found Pat and his dad, wished him well, and then moved toward the middle/back for the start. Pat was starting in the front row.
After the gun went off we headed out of Rosendale and up the hill I had just ridden down and back to Williams Lake area. We entered the woods after a couple miles of moderate riding. Conditions were already muddy and unfortunately this created an instant conga line of riders walking their bikes for much of the next four miles. Thrilling start.
We left the woods and rode back through Rosendale and up our first short climb. By then things had spread out and I settled in at a moderate pace. We went back in the woods for a rocky, fun, downhill, single track, section eventually dumping onto a rail trail path headed towards the town of New Paltz.
It rains. It stops. It rains. It stops.
On the rail trail I see a Kelly/LSV rider, Becky Frederick, and jumped on her wheel. We were passed by a strong looking dude in a Garmin kit and we both hopped on his wheel. He was happy to pull and I was happy to sit in so that’s what we did the next five miles or so to the base of the first real climb.
The first big climb of the day was about 1,000 feet around mile 17. It was long but not steep. Just had to keep grinding away. This section of the course was beautiful eastern mountain forests, grassy double track, waterfalls. It was raining but it was warm enough (around 60) and this was mostly fire road so the wet didn’t matter.
I dropped Becky on that climb but after a downhill section and another climb she was back and passed me on the climb up to the first aid station. I caught up and we hit the aid station together at about the three hour mark.
Leaving aid station one we had a long downhill and then some flat road before hitting Lippman park. This was my favorite part of the day: twisty single track with wooden bridges, rocks, and a little mud. It was all rideable although we walked a few sections that were muddy and steep enough to make you think about self preservation. For a guy that lacks technical skills this was a great section to get some technical practice in. Becky is an experienced rider so chasing her around was great for my confidence and gaining more technical expertise.
I made one great equipment decision for Wildcat: when I saw the forecast Wednesday I changed my tires from the Maxxis Aspens to Maxxis Ignitors. I love the Aspens for a dry day but they are a challenge in the mud. The Ignitors have a little more rolling resistance but were terrific in the mud. It’s a wonder what a little confidence will do for you.
We left the woods and headed back the country roads and up the longest climb of the day: 2,000 feet over ten miles back up the mountain to the Old Minnewaska Trail. Long climb but again not terribly steep. We crest the mountain and arrive at the aid station just at the six hour mark.
I knew the day was going to be long but I am pretty excited at this point. We’ve done most of the climbing for the day and more than half the mileage. I’m still with my new friend Becky and I’m thinking we can hammer out the next 45 miles in about 4 hours and finish right around 10 hours.
I know the general profile for the rest of the course and it is a lot up and down, double track, rail trail, then some single track to finish the course. I’m feeling strong and so is Becky. Things are looking good. The sun is even peaking out a tiny little bit (this was short lived).
Great plan. Just failed to take into consideration the mud.
We leave the aid station climbing gently then hit a long beautiful downhill past a mountain lake, ride some big moon rocks, and then gravel fire road. At the bottom of the mountain, we are on roads then we start going across farm land, orchards, through a nursery.
This might be the most beautiful part of the day if it were nice out. Wandering around New York Apple orchards on a mountain bike? Heck yea!
Instead it’s stop and go mud hell. We ride 500 feet then hit five inches of mud and walk.
It rains. It stops. It rains. It stops.
Repeat that for about 3 hours. We see other riders walking, riding, walking, riding. Each time we pass or are passed everyone says the same thing: this sucks.
In every endurance event I have a dark moment. Can’t always predict when it will be, but there has always been a point at which I say to myself, “Why would ANYONE do this?”
In a marathon, it’s usually miles 22-25. At Wildcat it was miles 60-82. It’s wet. Muddy. Boring. My bike isn’t shifting right anymore. It sucks.
Finally at mile 82 we hit the rail trail and the last aid station. We refuel and try to work together to make time. Becky is doing most of the pulling…she’s strong that way. I’m sitting in getting pelted with mud from her tires. After 8 miles or so we leave the rail trail and are doubling back on single track that we covered earlier in the morning.
Most of this is rideable even with the wet conditions. This is my second favorite part of the day after Lippman park. It’s rocky and technical and generally uphill but mostly rideable. My legs still feel remarkably good (mostly because I’ve been getting walk breaks the last 3 hours every few minutes).
Mile 92 we cruise back into Rosendale, past the starting area, and back into the single track that will take us to Williams Lake and the finish. Again the mud is ridiculous and we are forced to walk at times.
At this point it is comical. Every inch of our bodies is covered with mud. My shoes are hauling an extra 10 pounds of mud to weigh me down. We reach the top of the single track section and then are spit out onto the road for a mile or two back to Williams Lake.
11 hours 20 minutes after the start we cross the finish.
Believe it or not, the sun is shining. Pat’s long gone but I find out he nailed 2nd in the single speed race. Between the two of us, Adventures for the Cure averages 33rd place on the day (you do the math).
I bagged my first 100. Pretty great day all things considered. Not the conditions you want but we survived. It’s the longest time on the bike for me by far and I still loved it. There is nothing like covering that much ground, seeing the sights, smelling the forest, challenging yourself.
Big kuddos to Becky Frederick for helping me through. It’s amazing what some good company will do on a miserable day. I was so grateful not to be alone.
After a quick shower, bike rinse, and throwing everything into the car I headed home. Arrived at midnight in time to down most of a small pizza, kiss Elise good night, spend 20 minutes watching the tube with Josh, and collapse in bed.
Can’t wait for the next NUE 100 Race: Mohican 100 June 1.
Keep moving forward,