Last weekend our coworker Eddie rode the Shenandoah Mountain 100 mountain bike race. When we first heard about his decision, we were a little envious and a little like “why would you do that?”. But, Performance being a supportive work environment when it comes to doing cool stuff on bikes, we went with it and gave him plenty of (possibly unsolicited) advice.
Last week we profiled his race prep, and now that the race is all done and dusted it’s time to check in with Eddie for a race recap.
Read more below to find out what worked for Eddie, what didn’t work so well for Eddie, and what you need to know it you’re thinking about doing an epic MTB race next year.
-HI Eddie. Can you tell us a little bit about how you felt going into the race?
Going into the race, I felt good. I had my bike dialed, I knew my fitness was good, and felt like I got a lot of good information about the course. Everything worked out perfectly, aside from a series of flat tires (3 within the first 40 miles). Other than that, I felt great for the whole race. My finishing time was just over 10 hours, which I was totally happy with.
-What was your favorite part?
Aside from crossing the finish line, I think the highlight of the race was how nice and helpful everyone was. I got three flat tires and guys racing would stop to give me a tube and let me use their hand pump (mine fell out somewhere) with no hesitation. That was awesome how people were willing to stop and help out, even in the middle of a race. Everyone cheered you on and really kept morale high. Also, my girlfriend was volunteering at aid station 3 and after 45 miles, the PB&J she handed me was maybe the best I’ve ever had.
–What was your least favorite part?
My least favorite part would be the first climb, the Briery Branch ascent. With so many people, your pace was pretty much determined by the person in front of you. I pretty much had to walk the whole thing because there was a line of people walking up the mountain and the pace was too slow to ride. It was frustrating, but the descent made it well worth it.
-What equipment choices worked well?
The biggest thing that worked for me was a last minute saddle swap before the race. I typically ride with a lightweight road saddle, but decided to trade it out in favor of a softer Fizik saddle which really made 10 hours on a bike much more comfortable. The e*Thirteen 40 tooth extended range cog (now available standard on some 2015 GT mountain bikes) was a life saver. I probably did 90% of all my climbing in that gear and was definitely happy to have had it, especially at about mile 90.
-What equipment would you change next year?
Next year I would definitely go with a bigger rear tire. This year I was running a Racing Ralph 2.25”, but will definitely be running 2.35” tires front and rear next time. A bigger tire would help with traction on the climbs as well as some extra cushion on the descents. Also, while the 36 tooth chainring was manageable, I think a 34 or even a 32 would have made some of the singletrack climbing a bit easier.
-Would you do it again?
Absolutely! I have already started planning my set-up and strategy for next year.
-Any advice for someone thinking about doing it next year?
– Install new brake pads before the race. The descents are so long and fast that sometimes all you can do is hold the brakes and try to stay on the trail. Be ready for some fast descending. Everyone talks about the climbs, but the descents were just as tough.
– Don’t try to win the race in the first 15 miles. Pacing is key and having some energy left for the final climbs makes the race much more enjoyable.
– Use the aid stations to your advantage. They were spaced 15-20 miles apart and had everything you needed; food, maintenance, enthusiasm. I had heard that they were well stocked, so I limited the amount of food I carried with me and still got everything I needed.