Mitch DeYoung - Lowell Rouge 100
Info from the day-
Fuel: Perpetuem -180cal/hr, Cola Fizz
Total time: 4:57:40
6th Place overall
Lowell Rouge 100 – Who Really Needs an Offseason
The month of October was my planned offseason. Marji was done, I was generally pretty worn out from a long (but fun) summer of hard rides and races. It was time to recover, reset and relax.
Turns out I’m really bad at one of those.
Joe Cantell had asked me early in the year if I’d be interested in racing the Lowell Rouge 100 with him. Being someone who likes to race and maybe doesn’t always put the most effort into forethought I said yes. Time went by and I sort of forgot about the race. I had a summer of ultra endurance mountain biking to focus on. My schedule even allowed me to get in enough National Ultra Endurance race to qualify for the series and earn a placing.
Roughly three weeks before Lowell, Joe asked if I was still interested in racing. I had just started my offseason and was a bit tired of racing in wet and muddy conditions, but not wanting to completely bail, I told him I was weather depended. If it was going to be nice, I’d show up, if it was crap, I’d be home on the couch.
I promptly forgot about the race again.
Next thing I know the race was only a week away and I had yet to put the slightest amount of thought into it. Time to check the forecast at least; it was not promising. I put off making a decision yet again. Registration was open until the Wednesday before the race. No reason to rush into things.
Wednesday, 4:00pm. Registration closes in one hour. I can’t really put it off any longer. The forecast was now calling for chilly, but not wet conditions. Why not sign up for a 100 mile gravel race when my training over the last three weeks had consisted of a few fun mountain bike rides and some easy spinning on the training.
Let’s skip to race day. I had a fuel plan, I dug out all the biking clothes I own (I hate being cold) and set off for Lowell at about 5:00 am.
The start was at 7:00 am. I want to say it was nice and sunny, but it was still dark and I was cold. On the bright side, it wasn’t raining. When the group set off I tried to stay near the front, which was pretty easy for the first ¼ mile, then the route turned onto gravel.
It wasn’t really bad, but I didn’t do anything resembling a warm-up so my legs were a bit tight and a little unhappy with my decision to race. For the first 15 minutes there was a group of 12-15 people, we all rotated and shuffled positions as we settled into the day. Roughly 4 miles in, the route turned off the gravel and onto a bike path. The smooth surface apparently lit a fuse in someone because the pace picked up yet again. At one point I thought it had started raining, but it was actually water being kicked up from all the leaves on the path. For the briefest of moments I wondered how smart it was to be hammering at 22-25mph when the entire path surface was covered with leaves and I knew there were frequent potholes. I blocked that out pretty quickly.
About 11 miles into the day, while still on the bike path, I was sitting 3rd or 4th wheel and we came to a tree down across the path. It wasn’t one big limb; it was more like the top of the three with 3-4 sizable limbs and a bunch of small stuff so we had to dismount and cross one at a time. I got over the tree and expected the group to slow roll for a few to let everyone make it over and continue on as a group for a while. You know, take advantage of the strength in numbers, or should I say speed in numbers. I hopped on my bike and started cruising when a few guys went flying by and everyone absolutely dropped the hammer. I jumped on their wheels and rode on. So much for the group. 6 or 7 of us had ridden off the front and over the next four miles we kept the gas pedal to the floor.
Then we turned on the seasonal roads and things got real spicy.
It was still quite dark and the road was mix of soft sand, huge puddles and lots of mud. At this point I really questioned why I was racing. I said I was done racing in mud for the year, but I was on course so quitting was not an option. That and I have no other way back but to ride anyway.
I settled into a good pace and found myself riding with two guys, one of which was Joe, after the lead four or five had gapped us. We picked our way through the slop, so much for staying dry. There was a lot of slipping and sliding, but I kept upright and moving.
Somewhere around mile 21 while cruising down a slightly less mess of a gravel road, we came to a small paved bridge. I was at the front of our train, with Joe on my wheel. I dropped off the bridge into a cluster of potholes, puddles and mud. Not wanting to go swimming, it grabbed a little brake and dodge a bit to my left, just as Joe was heading to his right. His front wheel clipped my rear and down he went. At least the ground was soft. Wet, but soft.
I hollered back to make sure Joe was okay, he was. So, I slow rolled for a bit, letting the third guy in our group and another guy ride past. After a minute or three Joe, wet and muddy, caught up and we picked our pace back up.
We spent the next 40 miles taking turns pulling and keeping up a solid pace. We talked a little, but really it was nice to have someone to commiserate with as the day stayed cold, cloudy and gray. 60 miles done, but that voyage into the puddle was starting to catch up with Joe; he was wet and cold and we were now heading straight into a stiff headwind. As we got to some rollers, he said he was going to back off the power a bit and not to wait up.
I tucked up as aero as I could get on my drops, tried to find any way to hide from the wind and struggled on alone. Failing on the hiding from the wind, my pace slowed a bit, but I kept my power consistent.
As I reached mile 70, I really wanted to stop for a nature break, but I saw a racer ahead of me. I figured if I could see him now, after not being able to for so long, I should be able to catch him. No time for a stop. Thinking extra aero, but still failing to hide from the wind I rode on.
Mile 80: he’s a little closer.
Mile 83: he’s a little closer yet, I think.
Mile 84: why am I not gaining on him?
Mile 85: getting so close, maybe.
Mile 86: turning back on to the bike path we started the day on and there is only a 30 yard gap between us. That gap stayed there for a while. At mile 88 we were approaching a road just as a group of racers from another distance (I think the 38-mile race) went flying down the road. The guy in front of me heisted as he tried to figure out if he should stay on the path or turn on the road. I caught and passed him, letting him know to stay on the path.
I decided to put down just a little more power, but not much. If he was going to pass me, he was going to have to work for it. There was only about 5 miles left and I can suffer pretty good for 5 miles. Two of those miles had some nice rollers on them too. I turned off the bike path with a 30–40-yard lead and as the road climbed, I put out some extra power to build more of a lead.
Cresting the top of a roller. I saw a couple guys from the 38-mile race and decided I should try to catch them. I didn’t but having them as a rabbit helped me keep the speed up as the road rose and fell. The last two miles were slightly downhill, so I once again pretended to be aero and pushed on.
Pedals turning the whole way I crossed the line in 6th place. 94.25 miles @ 19mph, 4hrs, 57 min, 40 seconds. It might not have been my fastest race ever, but I fueled well, and my pacing was solid, not too bad for mid off-season. Maybe next year I’ll actually take it easy for my entire off-season, but probably not.
Fuel for the day: 180 calories of Hammer Perpetuem per hour (I carried two bottles with enough calories for 6 hours). I also had my hydration pack with 2.5 liters of water and 5 Hammer Cola Endurolytes Fizz tabs. Pre-ride I took Fully Charged, BCAA+ and Anti-Fatigue caps. Post-race was Perpetuem.
It might not have been warm and sunny, and the course was way muddier than I wanted to race in, but I had a great day playing on bikes. When it was all said and done, I was glad I decided to go racing even if I did end up covered in mud yet again.