Monday, September 5, 2011

2011 Shenandoah 100 -- A Tale of Survival

Triangle Folks carbo loading & conversing.
More pre-race carbo-loading.

Thank God it is over!
I really never know how I will truly feel for an event until after it begins…even 5-10 miles in.  I could tell shortly, I did not feel great.  Mistake—Wearing a thicker weight, sleeved jersey on a warm day, when all I have been wearing all summer were sleeveless summer-weights, left me feeling constricted and overheated.
The real Ho Chi Minh Trail
Still, though I felt sluggish with no pep to my step, I made it past the first aid station and through the Ho Chi Mihn trail, bombed down the first single-track, and hit the road in route to aide station #2.  Along the way I realized I was nearly 30 miles in and had gone through only one bottle.  Big Mistake!  I started to take in fluids and ate a good amount to try to catch up with my nutritional needs.  Big Mistake!  I started to then feel nauseous as my stomach tried to process all the junk I was tossing down.  And what was up with this cramping starting after mile 35?  Seriously???  Had not cramped in forever, and suddenly they were upon me (insert swear work of choice) %$&@!

Shenandoah's Ho Chi Minh trail
It became very apparent that any time goal I initially had set was to be tossed out and that survival became the motivator.  It was not my day, fine, I could live with that.  Still, I just needed to keep going and finish regardless of the result.  Then it happened.  On the bombing downhill single track between stations 2 and 3, I was hugging the ridge a bit too much and caught my shoulder on a tree.  The jarring impact tossed me off the bike and down the ravine ~20ft before I came to rest.  My first thought was, “Sweet mercy, It’s over.” But then after taking an account of my well being I realized that in spite of a sore, bruised shoulder, and some thorn tears on my leg, I could continue.  I checked over the bike and it was fine, so , no longer bombing, with fingers firmly placed on the brakes,  gingerly down the trail I went.
Refueling at #5, hand not yet broken.
 At some point, while hike-a-biking,  I ran into Jay and made a decision to just ride with him and finish together.  He also was struggling with cramps, so together we made a pathetic pair walking-riding-walking toward the finish.  Then it happened again.  Less than a mile down the bombing downhill single-track between checkpoints 5 & 6 (Wild Oak), I took a hard spill into the embankment and instantly felt fingers on my right hand bend backwards with sharp pain.  I ended up stuck, face first in the embankment with my body tangled into my bike.   Jay rolled up behind me and helped me up, but my ring and pinky finger were tweaked and I could not grip my handle bar.  We were 6-8 miles from the checkpoint 6, maybe 20 miles from finishing.  Jay was willing to walk the trail with me but I insisted he go on and finish.
I started the slow walk down.  I took a spill and dropped the bike falling on my butt to avoid putting my hand down.  This was ridiculous.  I tried several times to squeeze the grip, but there was no way, the pain shot through my arm and I knew I would lose control of the bar if I tried any steep descent.  I walked some more, constantly trying to open and close the fingers to get some movement.  Then, an Idea.  I could grip the bar-end with my thumb and forefinger and though I could place no weight on the left side of my palm (beneath the pinky and ring finger) I could place weight on the palm beneath the thumb and index finger.  I gave it a shot and it worked.  With my left hand I rode the front brake all the way down the trail balancing the bike by gripping the right bar-end with my thumb and index finger.  It was a long slow descent, and I had to bail off the bike once, but it sure beat walking.   Another rider that had passed (and offered aid) told the volunteers at checkpoint 6 about my dilemma. When I finally arrived at the aid station, I had to prove to them I could use my brake, so I pretended to squeeze the brake in their presence.  Luckily they were not looking at the grimace of pain on my face.  So off I went, toward the finish, battered, bruised, stinging, bleeding and broken...but not beaten—survival mode.  After some long, steep hike-a-bike sections, I rode on in to the finish, collected my pint glass and in spite of my poor result, I felt pretty darn proud to be one of the SM100 finishers.    
A couple broken metacarpals...meh.
Thank God it is over! 

Note: I learned a valuable lesson during this race.  I am not a chamois butter guy, but knew for long races I might need some.  Somewhere between checkpoints 5 and 6, I was feeling a little chaffing and decided to apply some cream.

Apparently you do not wait until you are already chaffed to apply chamois cream.  I screamed some very choice words, and put them in such an order that defies explanation…might even have made up some new words.  I really could have done without that experience.  As they say here in the south, “That’ll learn ya!”

Note #2.  Upon finishing, I was stoked to learn that my buddy Kelly K. took 7th in a stacked SS division and several Triangle area riders finished between 10 and 12 hours.  Nice showing by the local folks.

Here is an elevation profile of this beast of an event.  It hurt!

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