Race Report: Shenandoah Mountain 100

By: Beth Fulton

SM100 – well, I’m sure many of you have seen the FB posts by now, so you know it was one hell of a race.

The SM100 – my final race of the season – the one I’ve been training for all year…damn. I’ve had a great race season this year and had very high expectations for this race. I knew I would be faster but had trouble determining a realistic goal so I was aiming between 11 and 12 hours based on my 11:09 finish at W101.

So I was a little bummed earlier in the week because it seemed like several people were bailing from the race, but I was stoked to see the turnout for both racing and volunteering. There were so many MTB ‘friends’ out there it was like a family reunion…Dee and I carpooled down together and we barely pulled in the the campsite before we started seeing our buds. It was a good thing too because Dee purchased the Taj Mahal of a tent and needed the assistance of Elaine, Mary, Arden to get it setup (I may have missed some of the helpers as I was setting up my tent w/o the need of assistance!). After setting up our tents and checking in several of us went for a little spin part of the way up Narrowback just to remind our legs of the suffering they were about to encounter (oh if they only knew). We headed back from Narrowback, changed and headed over to dinner where we began our pre-race fueling (yes, including the beer provided by the sponsors). After dinner we ran into Emily McDonald, Jessica Kelleher, Pam Frentzel-Beyme and a few others – some strong women racers – it was going to be a good race. During the evening I found out that Aid Stations 3 & 4 were going to be stacked with awesome volunteers – Elaine, Leslie, Whitney, Steve, Patti, Joe P., etc, etc. so I was very excited. We all eventually made it back to the TBL site and hung out for a bit before retiring early enough for a good night’s sleep.

After what I thought was a good night sleep (for camping) I made some coffee and as I started drinking it, I saw a human sized pink bunny at the camp site – I swear I didn’t drink THAT much the night before. The bunny seemed nice and was supportive, so I just let it slide…figured if that was the weirdest thing I saw all day, I’d be ok. We all rushed around to the last minute but pulled up to the start line with Dee, Russ & Dave – we were ready to roll. The horn sounded and we were off – as best we could through the bottleneck. Once beyond the official start line, I began pushing it. I wanted to make it to the Narrowback singletrack before it became a huge bottleneck like last year. We hit the dirt path of narrowback and I was extremely pleased to see it was back in good shape. 2 weeks prior it was roughed up from tractor tires and it was miserable – that would not have been fun at the beginning of the race. I made it to the singletrack and had very little delay – the cloud cover prevented the sun glare we experienced last year and I think I made it up quicker, so I had a much better time on that section of trail. I wasn’t too far behind David Lee coming off Narrowback, which was awesome because I was able to tuck behind his wheel on the way to Lynn. David became a local hero – about 25 other people decided to fall in line as well…he managed a strong pull for a few miles hooking me (and the other 25 racers) up! Gotta love tall friends.

We pulled up to Lynn and although it is always a hike-a-bike, it REALLY sucked this year. It was just wet enough that it was slick and almost no one was riding any of it. It was by far the most miserable hike up Lynn I have experienced. In the past I could ride a little here and there, but the conditions just sucked and it wasn’t worth risking it so early in the race (especially when everyone else was walking). As I neared the top of Lynn Mike Bender pulled up (one of the few riding) – he’d already had 2 flats and was trying to make up some time. He let me know Dee wasn’t far behind so I figured I’d see her on Hanky. After the miserable hike up, I was able to enjoy the downhill…I wasn’t able to go quite as fast as I wanted (behind guys on 26ers) but was having a blast heading down…until I saw RJ. As I passed I asked the stupid question – are you ok – he was off the trail with a makeshift sling – NO he wasn’t ok…and he responded ‘no, BUT KEEP GOING…GO!’ I made it down Wolf Ridge and felt really good. I wasn’t sure exactly where I stood on my goal, but it didn’t matter – I felt stronger than in previous years.

On the way to Hanky Jessica Kelleher caught up with me and we tag-teamed it up most of the climb. I had my fist spill going around the gate up to Hanky – really, something that stupid. It wasn’t much, but did draw a little blood on the elbow. At least it was probably caught on camera – keep an eye out for those photos! After getting back up and it was a slow painful climb this year because it was a bit soft from the rains. Jessica managed to pass me right at the top (nature break time) – which is also about the time I saw Bender again – yup he’d had yet another flat. Finally I made it to the top – in what seemed like a faster time than the year before, but time didn’t matter because I just was excited to hit Dowell’s Draft – the reward. I really love this section of trail on the Superfly…so much more fun than my old bike. I’ve been much faster on the downhills this year and was ready to tear it up…but I caught up to a few folks and got held up a bit. After about a mile – the tandem riders ahead of me let me by – I was pumped too, if this was the same tandem couple as previous years – I was doing well – they’ve beaten me in the past!. After that I was able to let it rip and just enjoyed the trail. Dowell’s ended way too soon, but I was atleast rewarded by seeing awesome people at AS#3. For the first time ever – I actually changed jerseys. I’ve always left one in the drop but never needed it…this year I not only needed it but had to get help getting out of my jersey b/c it was sticking to me so much. Thankfully I had my nice new sleeveless jersey (gotta watch those tan lines on the death climb) – man that was nice. I pulled out of AS#3 and began the lonely ride to Braleys. I usually meet some folks here, but it was quiet and lonely. People were already hurting by this point and I think the race was thinning out. I caught back up with Jessica right before we hit the trail…so atleast I’d have someone I knew near by as we began the slow ride up Braley’s.

So I over-estimated the ride part of Braley’s. The trail was slick and crappy like Lynn…grrrrr. I was on and off the bike more than I wanted. We were finally rolling, things were looking good and the woman in front of me stopped suddenly…forcing me to do the same…all I will say is my saddle and I had some words after that painful encounter (minor injury #2). I was not upset about having to push the bike for a little bit at this point…I needed a break from the saddle for a few. As I was nearing the top of Braley’s I see a PVC jersey and yell – please tell me that’s not Bender with another flat…luckily it wasn’t this time, but Milton let me know he was only about 5 minutes ahead. I pulled up to the top and see none other than David Lee – he was suffering from the heat but gave me some encouragement to keep on rolling. Once again I’ve finished a painful climb ready for the reward of the downhill. Somehow the downhills were pretty dry, it was just the climbs that seemed to be wet…so it was a fun and fast decent. And yet again it could have been faster, but I got caught behind someone. I NEVER had this issue in the past (superfly is fast). On the last pieces of singletrack from the bottom of the decent to the aid station, I managed to pass a couple of folks and rolled into another well volunteer stocked AS. I loved seeing friendly faces and getting shout-outs as I pulled up. I got my camelback refilled as quickly (it was HOT, and I was draining my camelback and getting it refilled at every AS beginning at #2) as possible and headed out for the dreaded death climb.

Death climb.Damn. Actually I was mentally prepared for this one…after going on an unplanned climb a couple of weeks prior I knew I’d do better on this section. And I think I did, but it was really really lonely. Usually I meet up with people here and can at least have some company, but there was no one. I think it was due to the attrition in the race….it was so effing hot and tough that the smart people headed back for beer and relaxation after AS#4 – but not me, I’m apparently not that smart. I knew all I had to do was to make it to AS#5 and the race is mentally done…all downhill from there. WHY DO I THINK THAT?!?! I always manage to forget the additional couple of miles of misery climbing after the Aid Station. Anyway, I made it to AS#5 way before the light cutoff – this was a first and after the trail conditions and heat I was happy. I was not excited to see I caught up with both Russ and Bender…both suffering from the heat. Did I mention it was freaking HOT? Once again I fill up my camelback – DO NOT put on my lights (sweet) – and head out ready for that sweet, sweet downhill…still in denial that there is more CLIMBING to do. This is where the race is just evil…and the sad part is that I KNOW…this was the third time I’ve done this race. I enjoy that fun short downhill and start that last 2-3 mile climb (besides the 1/2 of Hanky). At this point I’m crushed…I just want off the effing mountain. I’m walking with a couple of other guys and finally in what seems like a lifetime make it to the top. Finally I’m heading down…the real downhill, not the fakeout. This year it’s not as scary…between the trail work and those bigger wheels…this was fun. I had to hop off the bike for one sketchy section and found I did not have legs…staying on the bike as much as possible was the safest plan. I didn’t tackle the downhill as aggressively as I did the others, but still manage to do ok. When I finally make it to the bottom and into AS#6 I’m greeted by a friendly face cheering me on (thanks Elaine!). One more camelback top-off and I’m outta there…literally tearing up because I am about to finish my 3rd (and hardest) SM100. All that is left is 1/2 of Hanky and some FAST FUN DOWNHILL….

And this is where the fun starts. I manage to get around the Hanky gate without falling – lesson learned from attempt #1 and start the long slow slog up the hill. I knew I could ride this whole thing so mentally I am challenging myself not to give up. I make it all the way to the turnoff and am beyond excited. I’ve passed a couple of guys in rough cramping shape on the way up the hill…and I’m trying to keep focus on the goal…DOWNHILL. After that happy happy arrow pointing me towards the campsite, I keep climbing. Eventually I have to hop off the bike for a bit of a mental break. I know it’s almost done…I’m so close…and keep telling ppl around me (trying to remind myself). This section is starting to look like a war zone…riders on the side stretching, napping, just trying to pull themselves together enough for the last 3 miles. I must have sounded like an endurolytes pusher – you ok, have endurolytes, need more??? – you ok, have endurolytes, need more??? – you ok, have endurolytes, need more??? :).

Finally I hit that point…I KNOW it is truly ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE. No joke, just let it rip…and I did. I was tearing it up…flying down the hill, passing people as I can enjoying the sweet trail, I can even TASTE the beer I am SO SO close. I make it out of the true singletrack, and on to that wider fast path…right where I saw a bear the first year. I’m encouraging the guys near me…having fun…Head around a curve and of F*%& – that was not in the plan. My front wheel washed out and I flew over the handlebars. I hop up, pretty p*ssed that I just fell 1 -1.5 miles from the finish, jump on the bike and realize the chain fell off. Luckily it was nothing major so I popped it back on and kept going…At this point I kinda realize that I hit pretty hard…things are hurting…hmm…well I need to get this thing done…Then I see a huge drop of blood on my shoe…so I take a quick peak at my elbow (shouldn’ta done that). I briefly debate using my jersey to stop the bleeding, but realizing how much dirt and nastiness was on it, I decided against it. I just held on going a bit slower than I was…allowed 1 or 2 women to pass me (grr) on the way to the finish, but I made it. I hit the gong, grabbed my glass, dropped my bike and headed for medical attention. David Lee and Dee intercepted me – David took and filled my glass – Dee took care of my bike. I headed over for medical attention. I’d say they were nice, but they hurt me…rinsing out my wound, telling me i need to go get stitches. I rode 100 miles – I wanted to sit and drink beer (*#$(*. Fortunately I had a voice of reason with me (no not me) and was fairly quickly whisked away and headed home. Eventually i was told that I was going to the ER and getting stitches & x-rays…and it was a good thing I needed those pain meds!

All in all – I am good. A bit of pain, what will eventually be an ugly scar, the need for a new helmet & race shorts and a good story to tell. As i struggled through yesterday (my hip, shoulder and elbow took a heck of a blow – they are not pretty) I kept thinking about RJ. My wreck wasn’t nearly as bad and I was in a **** of alot of pain. RJ – hope you got stronger meds than me – you need ’em!

So I finished and PR’d on a really tough race day. I loved how much support and encouragement i got out there from everyone. You have no idea how much that kept me going. The biggest disappointment was not being able to hang out with everyone afterwards…so we’ll have to celebrate the end of the season later (after cross??).

Thanks to everyone for your encouragement (and smack talk) this year…It’s been a ton of fun racing with TBL…My best and most enjoyable season of racing.

-B (I cannot be held responsible for mispellings, missed and incorrect names, as some of this may or may not have been typed under the influence of my pain meds)

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