This is like a home town race, my first attempt of an NUE was here…a trip waayy off course resulted in my first trip to Elk Creek café help load kegs and a private tour of the brewing facilities. Joey Bok Bok picked up a transfer late, from a slightly broken Erwin, and while he did the Wildcat Epic a couple of years back…this would be his first experience at the 101 and central PA rocks. He’s good people and I hit him up to carpool… result…we’d take the “Tiled To Perfection” sprinter to Amish country. We cruised easy enough and used mad restraint to resist stopping at garage sale day in Rebersburg, PA (every third house had one). We were scheduled to be on site around lunch, so we headed to Elk Creek Café and met Thom and Mitch…and had a fantastic lunch. Over TSE we ate there a couple of times and the food was amazing, I HAD to go back. ONce on site, we set up camp and low and behold Watts and Dorothy show up with kids in tow…so awesome to hang with them again. So great to see kids riding bikes, playing in the creek and on the playground at the venue.
Pre-ride was for me going to be a chill ride…almost super chill, I really had no desire to do ¾ of the start of Stoopid50 to ride Three Bridges. Not that it isn’t a fun ride, I’ve been tired and the last thing I wanted to do was to stress the system. I wanted to go to the tunnel to show Joe and his fellow newbie Ross the end of the race and make sure there wasn’t a VW hiding in the dark. We ventured through went down the cinder trail for a bit and I was done. There were people that wanted more, and Mitch took them up a climb that looped to the beginning of the trail. On deck– register, chilling and beers in Ray’s Creek… It got cool Friday night, Joe D didn’t bring a sweatshirt/sweatpants/blanket/sleeping bag, so mebbe he doesn’t know the internets will forecast weather. End result, he froze his ass off in the sprinter on his air mattress and a sheet. He’d brought a fan…JIC it was hot, this was not that year. He’s not camped before, but after this weekend he’ll be picking up gear… he’s hooked! I slept pretty well, woke up aeropressed some coffee and was timed pretty well for the rollout.
As we lined up, I realized for as haphazard and scattered as prep week was… I was calm as hell. I wasn’t fixated on the Swiftwick socks I’d left behind and it being the first race in forever I wouldn’t be using Swiftwicks. I was happy that Ross had extra baggies to use for powder because mine were with my Orange socks, but I wasn’t freaked about it. No expectations = No stress. I was eager to see what kinda legs I had, how I’d fare on the climbs but I wasn’t focused on beating someone, didn’t have a time goal etc… As we rolled from the start I was well positioned on the road, then a couple of miles in I noticed my rear wheel starting to bounce with my pedal strokes. Really? FAAAAHHHKK. As I slowed, the train pulled away, I told Tony no Bologna who confirmed what I was feeling…I had to stop. Ross stopped to check on me while I hand pumped the rear to acceptability and found myself at the VERY back of the race. Before heading up the first climb…2.5 miles into the race, I was DFL. After re-inflating the rear, I rolled up the first climb in touring mode…the wheels up the road to far gone to chase , I decided to enjoy the day and maybe have something in the tank in the later stages. I chatted with people as they were suffering up that first climb, . I felt pretty good, tried to keep myself in check, and keep the mood light. I passed Ross on the first climb. He’s a strong rider, but clearly not wanting to overreach, started in the way back and was in cruise mode. I don’t know how many people I passed up that first climb, but I was chipper the whole time. Some of those people chipper enjoying a wonderful morning in beautiful central PA, others already in a world of hurt and didn’t feel like chatting. Chris warns you about a gravel descent that makes a sharp left turn… I noticed my front tire going low on this section at 25mph. SKETCHY. I did it at about 12 psi in the front… that loud clapping noise you heard was my sphincter…the wallowing sound was the sidewalls of my Ardents. By the time I stopped at the bottom, I’d put it together that I cracked the seals on my valve stems as I undid the floor pump hose that I borrowed…leading to slow leaks and sketchy descents. The course marshal dude at the bottom had a floor pump. YAY VOLUNTEERS!! I cheered Ross on as he passed me. Starting up again, I found myself on rolling gravel where normally I’d work with some people and there was no one to work with. At the back of the race, you have people that lack fitness, that have had mechanicals and those like Ross holding cards really close the chest ensuring they’ll survive the day. Heading into the climb out of 1, I passed passing more of the people I passed previously. Once that climb was done and I was rolling down the chunky fire roads I saw a familiar kit, and stopped to see Mitch working on a flat and helping out another rider who suffered a flat. I gave him a CO2 only to discover he’d installed a new tube, it went flat he rolled down the hill with it… of course it was now compromised and he wasted my CO2. Frustrating. Ross passed us while we started rolling away only to see him stop and help someone else. The back of the race is a mine field of mechanicals and ppl with 1000 yard stares. We rolled towards Three Bridges, Mitch gone because he climbs better than I… I came upon him after a rock garden “Shoogie!” I stopped to see him patches out, no pump needing CO2s etc… I gave him my tube, my CO2s and almost my pump and then decided to stay with him instead of going ahead. So many people had passed us again… we got through three bridges smooth. I failed in my attempt on the rock garden…and then failed again. Best part, the drone was about and Mitch nearly crashed twice while staring at it. He was pacing me up the climb my legs were heavy from all the stopping. We passed more people who’d passed us while fixing bikes. The rest of the day was on and off with Mitch…dude coming off a heart ‘procedure’ could still climb better than I could…says something his fortitude and about this spare tire I’m carrying. He flatted somewhere else, unmemorable other than just more stopping and moar heavy legs. He kept my head in the game, trying to chase his wheel up the climbs. Greenlee the always underestimated climb and the always cold beer…Alan Seeger just as long as I remembered. Here on Alan Seeger, I saw TNB for the second time… first since the neutral start. TNB was trying to achieve some personal goals, I wished him well and yelled to him to keep steady and he’d make them (he made it with 15 min to spare…so happy for him!) I caught up to Mitch at 3; chatted with a Clockworks Construction racer that does Wicked…she was volunteering…Yay volunteers! Mitch and I rode a bunch of the next stuff together and SassXX may be one of my favorite sections of the day. As we rolled off No-Name I grabbed a gel, knowing the monster that is Stillhouse awaited and rolled into 4 together, strangely the aid station was all “no stress you just made the cutoff by 2 minutes” Wait, what? 2:58 cut off was 3P is what they told us… not sure if that’s correct or not… I was a little pissed. I had friends back there and they were more than 2 minutes back, grr. I climbed more of Stillhouse than I’d done during TSE, I ended up walking about a minute and a half on the climb…that part when the trees seemingly slap you in the face over and over. I guess mentally it was too much, the climbing and slapping, but it was the only portion I walked the entire course. I caught up to him again after Sand mountain, I think he flatted for the third time here…I dunno… Coming down Panther Run I was starting to get pumped, the end was near. I took it a little easier with Mitch on my wheel, not wanting him to flat and wanting to be there in case it did. Once At the river crossing I took a bad route through the water, was dancing on mossy rocks in the river and Mitch gapped the hell out of me. He was back on his bicycle before I was out of the water, I told him to go that I’d catch up. I spun like hell to catch him and immediately started pulling after the catch. He and another dude sucked my wheel and we passed people, I like that at the end of a race. Eventually he started complaining that he wasn’t a spinner… I eased up a smidge and kept the train moving. I’m way more spinner than masher…opposite of Mr Mitch. We rolled through the tunnel and once on the road I pushed/pulled and coerced him to catch someone. With a quarter mile to go the dude who was sucking Mitch’s wheels pulled around us, I was pissed. Mitch was all but done, we couldn’t come back around, and we let him go, finishing together was the ultimate goal. Karma won out and the other dude turned before the house into a yard and not onto the road just after the house. HA! Like twinsies we finished with synchronized powerslides. All in all we rode 85-90% of the last 75 miles together, 10:10 overall time with an ton of standing around futzing with flats. Wouldn’t change a thing, a phenomenal day with Mr Gold!
We got to catch up with the Pikes, Anne who finished just off the podium and big hit Dave. I got some Buck love, stayed up way way late and enjoyed the evening. Cheeseburger Jenga may just be the newest Olympic sport.
Congrats to Joe, who got sidetracked and finished 15 minutes after us…and to Ross breaking 100 mile cherry, TNB who met his personal goals and kudos to Peri for going back up and escorting him through the final stretch as he prepares for TNGA…To Scott with enough mental game to get’r done, and all the rest of the crew who added to the great time/ vibe. Watts had much sads because of wheel crushing rocks.
The LI crew caravanned to Perkins, ate like champs and said our goodbyes. Joe and I got home around 130P and many thanks to him for driving out and back, thanks for the great company and smooth sailing.
Next race is the 24 Hours of Great Glen!!