I turned off the singletrack onto the doubletrack signaling the final few meters into berryman campground (CP4), with still no sight of Emily. Apparently she also got the memo that the race started at CP3, and took off. As I was riding in, I heard the awesome volunteers cheering, saw Caroline start waving her arms, and… there was Emily!! Carrie was helping her get situated… but she was there! I promptly forgot about my bladder – it was race time! I downed a supercookie (thanks superkate!!), popped some enduralytes, and had Caroline attach my headlamp since my fine motor skills just weren’t cutting it. She’d already replaced my bottles (so pro), so I hopped on the bike and, with a mighty ass-slap (thanks WFW), off I went. At the same time as Emily. We were, literally, shoulder to shoulder heading out of the race CP ‘chute’ area and into the Berryman singletrack.
The thing about singletrack is… it’s only wide enough for one. Emily announced ‘Ok, I’m going for it!” and shot ahead. I was pleased to just sit back and let her set the pace again – sure, we were now ‘racing’, but we still had a solid 20 miles to the finish. Also, EK has some serious Berryman knowledge, and I didn’t want to be in her way for the downhills and switchbacks she knows so much better than I do.
We happily pedaled along, enjoying the sun that had finally burnt through the day’s haze and was providing some (kinda awkward, but beautiful) dappled light through the trees. A few miles into Berryman (I estimated, since my cycle computer died around mile 10 and I ditched it), I realized that it would either be me camped out waiting for EK on the uphills, or her camped out waiting for me on the downhills. I had been happy with the first option. But I knew there were big hills coming up into Bass, and I also knew that Emily would be waaay stonger at night than I would (I just got real lights, and have gone mountain biking at night a grand total of one time. A week prior to the race).
So my strategery began, and I figured I would try to get a little time on her before it really turned dark. On one uphill with some extra space, I popped some more enduralytes (15ish miles is still a ways to go), downed a gel, and went for the pass. I cruised through Berryman, going as fast as I felt comfortable with on the downhills but also making sure to ride my pace, fully expecting to hear EK shouting for me to get out of the way!
But… that last part never happened. Every time I hit a little switchback, I’d try to glance back and see where she was. But I couldn’t see anything. I kept telling myself she was right behind me – so I did what I could on the uphills and kept contact (with the ground) on the downhills.
The turn off to Bass took FOREVER to show up, but eventually it did – marking the roughly 90 mile point in the race (or so I told myself). I pushed through some larger-than-expected hills to hit the final water stop at mile 92.5. I cruised through, asking the volunteers to cheer super loud for Emily (in a very selfish attempt to see if I could hear anything over my own breathing and pounding heart). I was hoping that, despite the 3 monster hills ahead, I could average 7.5 miles per hour for the last section, meaning I only had ONE HOUR to go! I looked at my watch and it read 6:53… I could potentially finish before 8:00 PM. Holy shit.
I rode uphills when I could, but walked a lot of them, knowing I would probably be faster hiking at that point anyway. I was conservative but confident on the downhills… or as confident as I could be with arms wrecked by a full day with the rigid setup. I turned my headlight on when I got off to walk the first big hill, which never seemed to end. Somewhere in the middle of the second hill (I think), I saw a light behind me! AH! It was happening. I tried to maintain my calm, but also knew the possibility of a sprint finish would not work out in my favor. To my surprise, it wasn’t Emily who passed me, but Brian! In the end-of-race excitement and my relief at not being passed just yet, I had to unclip at a tricky (for me) uphill switchback. Brian is a much better rider and decided to try to pass me around the outside… but I am sneaky and totally threw my bike in front of him to knock him over. Not really. But he did fall into me, which I felt really bad about (it was totally my fault for stalling out in the middle of a tough section). Brian was all good and took off, and I continued up a ways still walking a steep section. When I got back on my bike, however, I noticed something off… my handlebars were skewed like 20 degrees to the left. Awkward. I very briefly considered taking out my tools to fix it, but knew I didn’t have the time (and in reality, I didn’t have the presence of mind to fix it right anyways). So I decided I would re-learn how to balance and NOT put much weight on my hands. And also re-learn how to grab the brakes. On the bright side, left turns were super easy. On the downside, right turns were sorta terrifying. I walked the last big hill, then took my time descending until I felt comfortable with the wonky bars, and just let fly when I could.
Soon enough… the trail started to flatten out, and I hit the edge of the pasture signifying the end of the race. It was a quick jog to the left, then a screaming pedal-fest through the open field to the finish line, where there was a giant homer simpson blow-up skeleton, a dancing chicken, and Caroline and friends waiting for me. I WON da RACE!!!!!
I got off my bike, showed off a bunch of my crash injuries, and got super-awesome finisher photos courtesy of Patrick. The post-race atmosphere was incredible, as racers kept coming in all night to the cheers and cowbells of the other racers, volunteers, and families.
Immediately post-race I went to grab a quick shower before watching the other finishers, and the WFW let me know some bad news… she’d put some of my nasty sweaty, smelly socks on top of her roof rack to dry at CP3, but in the excitement to get to CP4 in time had forgotten about them. Only one of them survived. I was stoked on winning and figured I could always buy more socks… even if they were some of my favorites.
The next day there was an awards ceremony, after the course had been swept. Let me mention – there were people finishing all night, and volunteers up to watch people finish and record their times all night. And all Sunday morning. The womens field was small, which isn’t atypical, but included a woman named Grace. Grace… is a total badass. Legend has it, OT100 was her FIRST mountain bike race. She rode an old 26” full-suspension bike with platform pedals. She only had a little camping headlamp for lights. She finished. She raced all night and into Sunday, clearing the course after 27 hours or so. I can’t imagine riding for so long, with so little preparation, and destroying some of the hardest terrain in the area. If she’s been bitten by the off-road bike bug (which I have to assume she has, considering she was STILL AT IT after over 24 hours), she’s going to crush a lot of other stuff. So freaking impressive.
Waiting for the awards ceremony, I was chilling with the team noah crew and other friends, when someone behind me said “whose nasty ass socks are sitting on this table? Sick”. I turned around and… THERE WERE MY SOCKS!!! It was the greatest surprise ever. All 3 of them that had been lost – picked up by a complete stranger (and darn good Samaritan, I can’t imagine anyone wanting to touch those things). My day was made.
Well, my day was also made by the HUGE check I got for winning, the BADASS trophy I got from the OT (with my very own OT trail blaze! Woo!), plus an extra ‘prime’ (you say it like ‘preem’) for the first section. So I totally got paid to ride my bike. Life is crazy.
The sponsors at this race were just unreal. The amount of work Wendy did and the amount of things and money donated was pretty incredible. Everyone – racers AND volunteers – got a ticket for a raffle of unholy amounts of awesome stuff, and even the photographer won some rims! For its inaugural year, the OT100 knocked it out of the park. I can’t wait to try it again next year (maybe with a little less crashing. Sometimes you and the trail have to settle your differences in blood, I’m hoping once was enough for the karkaghnee).