Tahoe Sierra 100(+) Mile Mountain Bike Race Report
“Sometimes you’re the hammer and sometimes you’re the nail“
I certainly got pounded over and over again this last weekend at the TS100 but I found strength in continuing on to the finish and leaning more about the appropriate and required training and pacing going into an event like this. I knew this would be a “something special” MTB race from my limited research about it going in and it did not disappoint! Amazing views and trails that cover most of the Western States course that are difficult to run but I felt even more challenging descending and pushing a bike up in temps that would reach 108 degrees in some of the canyons.
Getting to the starting line was a great experience and also a big push after spending most of the year (October-June) just ultrarunning. This was my year of running but starting in June I was back on the mountain bike and feeling better than ever pedaling circles up and down the 1-track. I spent a solid time in Big Bear riding with friends and then a nice week in Tahoe for Amber and Ryans wedding shredding single track for a week.
A rad summer like a kid on vacation from school playing in the dirt running and riding with Monique and friends. Most of that was on two feet but I felt like I could ride all day after a couple weeks back on the bike. Was it too soon to jump into my first 100 mile MTB race? For a race like TS100 probably so… This is not your average 100 mile mountain bike race, as I would find out, and my pacing put me into the pain cave early and often but I would not change it for the world. When your suffering with your friends and loved ones doing something that excites you, deep down, your not really suffering at all… just getting the appropriate response of living life full throttle. Now, I just need to work on that pacing…
The course starts in Truckee but soon follows the Western States trail for the majority of the race. Mucho single track and technical sections lay ahead but out of the gate we climbs a road and descended a fire road for a few miles. I started in the back of the entire group and realizing there would be a funnel ahead as we approached the single track I hit the gas to get to the front. Dumb. Lots of output early on and to make a long winded point short – I found myself “racing” Tinker and the guys up front pushing much harder than I had the specific fitness for at the time and at the expense of skipping the first two aid stations. Not my normal pacing strategy but I was willing to try something new. yeeee haaa kaboom!
Pete and Ryan – bros to battle
I was out at these same trails for the WS100 hiking some sections early on up the canyons cheering people on and riding my bike between aid stations. They didnt feel that steep or hot then. I paced Amber on the later part of the run but running felt effortless without the weight of a bike and the truck of fatigue in tow by the time I go to those trails on my bike. Hiking up the three canyons is tough going but pushing a bike up those STEEP hills in the heat was breaking people step by step. By that time, I was actually happy to be using my hiking muscles and caught a few more people that I lost while we were riding the climbs. My legs were just zapped climbing. Back in the top 5 and back to suffering to stay there… On the long downhills it I would not see anyone for a long time and then on a steep climb everyone would look like they were at an arms reach away but an eternity apart.
The course was spectacular in every sense of the word. The aid stations, views, legit extended climbs and technical uphill, downhill and slideways. I would repeat a pattern of catching guys on the downhills and getting them back in site. I almost wished I would lose the pack so I could drop back and race my race but the pattern continued and my suffering was about to grow to epic proportions. As much as I have learned how to eat (and never have a problem with getting food down) I was so distracted by getting caught up in the race and limited to feed myself by the technical trails that I made a few big rookie mistakes. I blew past the first aid station without even stopping, I only filled up 1 water bottle at the next two stops and after over three hours of riding I managed to eat just a single energy bar. lame To make a long nutritional nightmare story short I ended taking in 1 bottle of Vitargo, 4 bars and some watermelon at mile 84 for the entire race. Not good….definitely not enough.
Other than that, my race was mostly uneventful actually and I only crashed once and it was a flat part of the course when my fork caught a stump hidden in some grass. By about 5-6hrs in I was paying the price for making some rookie mistakes – starting too fast, screwing up nutrition, not having specific prep(30 days of MTB and lack of my ability to climb standing) and getting (very) dehydrated. There were dozens of switchbacks and gnarly downhill sections that I blasted through without falter and constantly surprised at how I was riding downhill. Super stoked on my bike and it was put to the test. This was the first time every my fingers were giving out from holding the breaks and my tricepts were failing (along with my legs – obviously) at holding me up.
Unfortunately, me and another guy rolled up on someone who got bucked off of a horse and was in need of some very urgent care and looked like she had a broken back and nose. Gnarly. They were out training for the Tevis Cup but nobody in the group had a phone. I headed to the ranger station to get help and was mentally out of the race at that point. I was also cooked physically and just wanted to get back safe at that point. Miles of fun single track ahead but the miles came slow and hard. I could have ran a lot of those sections faster and I was laughing watching every .1 miles click off on my GPS. By about mile 90, I was cooked so bad I had a sit-down-section. Laying on the road and pouring what I had left of “hose water” on my head because it was making me sick to drink it. Good times! Not many courses will demand that of ya. I finished in 11 hours 23 minutes and looking back it is one of the races I am most proud of…for a few reasons. That final ~3mi CLIMB to the finish over 100 miles was the final nail that drove me right into the grass like everyone else at the finish. Done and done!
As much as I txt my good friends after the race with the message along the lines of “I am telling you as a friend – you do NOT want to do this race” Of course, that got everyones interest in hopes of being the hammer, or nail in future TS100 races. I would sign up next year in a heart beat if any one of them was toeing the line with me. Racing with Ryan and Pete and the deep satisfaction from finishing this beast with a few days to hang out on the shores of the big blue made this one of those memory bank experiences that is of high value in the slamo vault.
On the way home we hit a recovery jog out on Deadmans pass to Twin Teets. It was a sick little trail along a ridge at 10,000+ feet with amazing views including looking down on Mammoth Mountain (in the center of the last picture below) and into Yosemite Valley.
On the road back home.