The E100

The first hurdle one needs to overcome to participate in events such as the E100 is making it in time to the starting line. That worked out pretty well, and armed with my helmet mounted Jet Lite (6am in Park City is 5am in San Francisco and it is quite dark) I waited for Boris to count down… “five, four, zree, two, one, go!” and off we went.

The first mile was a steep climb on a fairly loose dirt road – I went too hard at the start and knew it when my heartrate didn’t want to go down. Or was it the elevation? Anyway, things didn’t improve on the narrow, twisty and rooty singletrack climb known as John’s (or John 99, I’m not sure), where I still tried to go too fast – you’re concentrated on the guy in front of you and feel the pressure from behind. Pointless trying to go too hard the first 4 miles of a 100 mile course but I couldn’t help it. I could get some breath and assess the damage once John’s was done and we got on Mid Mountain trail, where there was plenty of space for things to thin out. I felt like crap, and blamed it on elevation and not properly warming up.

But watching the sunset on the ‘rolling’ sections of Mid Mountain was quite a treat, and soon I was finally enjoying myself – the trails are really nice here. Holly’s Downhill was even nicer, though at some point my Garmin 305 launched off my handlebar (damn plastic latch) – thanks to a friendly fellow racer I got it back. I took a brief break at the end of the first stage (mileage was 20) and went up Holly’s Uphill. Tough climb, but I felt strong – even better on that rolling section of Mid Mountain that we now took on in the other direction, and I kinda really liked the rocky climbing section of it. A long and fun downhill later we got back to our original starting point.

Stage 3 now – we needed to do this one twice. A long and brutal singletrack climb, for the most part along a trail called Spiro. Spiral of Pain, as I started calling it, since we were lined up to do this not twice but three times, no four times, as stages 4 and 5 ‘borrowed’ this climb as well. Upon reaching the top of the climb in stage 3 I expected a cool descent during which I could recover nicely – enter John’s again. Remember the root infested climb in the beginning? We would now do this downhill, and it was a slow and tricky affair through a labyrinth of beautiful aspen that demanded a lot of concentration. I normally love this stuff, but 50 miles into the race I started getting worn out.

I was still on schedule though for a timely finish (in an estimated total of 13 or so hours). That changed a bit during the second coming of stage 3 as I felt miserable during the whole climb and wiped out somewhere in the Labyrinth of Aspen when my handlebar clipped a tree. The fast guys were lapping me now and it was pretty cool to hang for a few seconds with the likes of Chris Eatough and Josh Tostado. Hell, I technically even did better than Tinker Juarez, who quit during stage 2 or 3, supposedly because he missed a turn and got lost.

Getting thoroughly wasted, I rolled into the staging area again, trying to mentally prepare myself to tackle the Spiral of Pain another time. If I did reasonably well on the climb, I could still make the cut-off time (6pm) for the last stage (which was basically a repeat of stage 4). Various body parts were hurting like hell now, I’ll spare you the details but let me tell you that I felt things I hadn’t experienced on a bike before, and they weren’t of the type you’d like to keep fond memories of. I managed to drag myself up the Spiral of Pain again, but did I mention that stage 4 would ascend a good thousand feet higher up on it than stage 3? And this extra part turned out to be nothing less than soul crushing – I basically stalled and had to take more breaks than I could keep track of.

But I used these to shoot some photos and take in the stunning surroundings and beauty of the course. It took me forever to summit, but I finally did and savored the moment. It was already past the cut-off time now and I still had to do the 10 mile descent. I probably had to give up on stage 5 – as Morrissey would say ‘it made me feel slightly sad but I didn’t cry’. The downhill was great, but I couldn’t fully enjoy it, I felt so beat up that I hardly had the energy to absorb the highly entertaining ‘whoop-de-doo’ bump series along the way.

That last passage in the staging area felt good though and soon I was chatting with Boris and a couple of finishers. 81 miles and 12000 feet of climbing – I’ll have to return here next time to get the job finished. The organization of the event was excellent and the course to die for, so no doubt I won’t need much convincing.

As usual, more stuff on the MTBGuru trip page here.

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