Team Campmor

Team Campmor

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Shenandoah 100

It’s All in the Family

With over 500 competitors attending the 10th annual Shenandoah Mountain 100 the atmosphere was nothing short of a grassroots festival. At the local Stokesville campgrounds a myriad color of parked cars, Porto-Johns, tents and Ez-ups scattered the outskirts of the start/finish area. Saturday’s check-in and registration was followed by a classic pre-race meal of spaghetti and meatballs. Despite the number of hungry riders eager to fill their stomachs, dinnertime was a rather relaxed mixture of conversation and laughter among a gathering of distant members of the same cycling family.

The evening rolled on with the hoot and holler of a rowdy riders’ meeting, and eventually night blanketed the sacred mountains of Virginia. Headlamps and flashlights searched for tent zippers leading to slumber and just before midnight an assembly of clouds decided to deluge the sleeping campers below. Bellows of thunder accompanied illuminating flashes of energy between each drop of rain and the next day’s course became progressively more interesting. The campsite faded into sleep amid sheets of rain and pages of mountain bikers’ dreams.

The following morning a rain-soaked pre-dawn darkness greeted hundreds of five a.m. risers rubbing fistfuls of night from their eyes. The breakfast scene was typical—bagels and boiling oatmeal water, peanut butter and bananas—and within minutes of consumption the diffused light of an overcast day began to stretch itself over those preparing for the trek ahead. Come six-thirty there was just enough light to get a clear view of the multi-colored sea of spandex congregating about the start/finish area. With a simple “go” the click of cleats entering pedals resounded as hundreds of members of the same family embarked on a hundred mile odyssey through the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia.

No more than ten minutes into the ride did I find myself with a swollen tongue and sore throat after having ejected some sort of bee from the depths of my mouth. Was this a premonition of things to come or a minor hindrance to surmount?—I decided on the latter and kept a steady pedal while attempting to assuage some of the pain with squirts of cool water. It was not until we hit the first singletrack climb that my throat actually began to close, thus restricting the necessary flow of oxygen to my already out-of-breath body—needless to say, I pulled to the side and began to yell in hopes that someone might have the denouement to my particular dilemma. Someone did. Kristin Eddy, who turns out is the second ever female to win an off-road iron distance triathlon, was passing and happened to have a flask each of Ledum Palustre and Apis Mellifica, which when combined form an excellent homeopathic solution for the swelling caused by a bee sting. Thank you, Kristin.

With a freshly reopened throat I settled into enjoying the mixture of singletrack and fireroad descents and climbs, all of them fairly long in length, that straight up begged me to partake in the greatness they had to offer. Throughout the day, several mantras played consistently inside my mind, with frequently interjected guest appearances of a few choice songs. As well, I remained focused on a list of simple yet personal goals: no longer than seven minutes at each aid station; middle ring or nothing, granny gear was not an acceptable option; push the limits of turning; love and appreciate what you are doing (this one goes without saying); complete what you have started. I am grateful to say that all of my goals were achieved, and as a bonus my low expectations in terms of projected finishing time were knocked clear out of the water when I arrived at the campgrounds at 10:58.56 to take 11th in an open field of 40 plus women. I’ll take that for my first shot at a 100 miler.

My goals, however, might not have been so obtainable without, at least, two outside factors: the first was the dedication of all the volunteers at each blessed aid station—the smorgasbord of heavenly comestibles, the tech support eager to lube a thousand grimy chains, the youth and adults alike prompt to refill bottle after bottle with your beverage of choice; the second was Al Yoon, of GFK Racing, whom I encountered shortly after leaving aid station 4 (mile 57). Feeling a little sluggish in the false flats, I asked Al if he minded my sitting on his wheel for a bit. He did not, and for the remainder of the race Al and I would trade back and forth; pacing, pushing, and encouraging one another; devouring, consuming, and rushing through aid stations; keeping the flow rolling and constant. We would finish the race together, high-fiving as our grins crossed the finish line. I am a firm believer that we cross paths with people for a reason, however blatant or indeterminable that reason might be; Kristin and Al reaffirmed my belief, and with that, a hundred miles of riding mountains reached a culmination at contentment and peace. In retrospect, I have come to the conclusion that it was more than simply a solo effort. Rather, it was a family working together towards a common goal, a unity without which I might not have faired as well. Certainly, I could have gone it alone, and physically I did; yet, why deny the fact that we are here to help each other out, to learn from one another? If we begin as family, regardless of the outcome of events, we still end as family, comprised of those who we have affected and those who have affected us; and that, perhaps, is what we must remember to take home in the end.

- Laura

Top Five Men
Chris Eatough 7:14.19
Sam Koerber 7:26.55
Jeff Schalk 7:37.25
Chris Beck 7:39.05
Aaron Oakes 7:41.51

Top Five Women
Cheryl Sornson 9:08.14
Trish Stevenson 9:19.42
Betsy Shogren 9:44.13
Johanna Kraus 9:57.11
Andrea Dvorak 9:59.11