AKA one of the hardest days on a bike ever for me.
I had registered for the 60 mile again this year, but after CO2UT went well, I decide to ask to go up to the 100. Communication was a bit… nonexistent, but I got the ok a few days before packet pick up from the promoters. Still with no confirmation that it was actually real, it was not until I picked up my packet if I knew I was a sure go for the 100. I was, and suddenly there was no turning back! My reasoning went two ways: it was going to be a hard day regardless – the 60 was stacked with fast women which meant I’d have to hammer for 3.5 hours, and the 100 is just hard.
I’ve done the 40, won the 60, I guess time to survive the 100?
It was setting up to be a hot one (in the 90s), and if there is one thing that is my kryptonite, it is heat. With fifteen women registered I set a goal for top 10, and decided I’d be super excited if I pull off a top 5, as it was not just about heat… the course has nearly 10,000 feet of climbing.
The first stretch of pavement miles were okay and chill, but I popped off the lead group on the second gravel hill after I saw 400 watts and realized I could not sustained. Mile 9 and I was already disheartened and not having a good day. I kind of kicked myself for not riding my own race and trying to stay with that group, but alas there was nothing I could do at that moment. Suddenly I heard “There’s my friend Heidi!” and Emil rode up with a few of his teammates so I was able to ride the “Feedback Train” until Red Grade, which was good company.
Oh Red Grade… the stupid hill/mountain/death march you are. Steep paved grind, even steeper gravel BS until the singletrack trails which are suppose to be a reprieve, but aside from shade I think I said a cuss word at every switchback. Then it was time for more stupid gravel BS, culminating at a point I was walking my bike with about ten others as my silly carbon soled “gravel” shoes rubbed blisters in my heels.
So… why do I do this?
Red Grade brings out a lot of chances to think over your life choices. It was a pensive day for me.
Once you’re to the “top,” it really doesn’t stop with continuous up and down terrain. My baby gear and I made best friends. I drank, I ate, I yelled cuss words. The only good thing is it was clouded and the elevation made temps a bit cooler.
Then the descents started, and I learned I was probably beyond the capabilities of my brakes a good chunk of the time on the eroded, rutted, sandy forest road downhills of death. I caught my friend Leeann and rode out of the sketchiest line ever that made my body do one huge pucker as she shouted something about this being “my thing” (well, I am a mountain biker, but I do prefer 100mm of front travel and brakes that aren’t road style levers with big rotors normally). My hands would seize up and I’d take a quick moment every so often to shake out one hand, hoping those few seconds wouldn’t cause me to lose control. It was never ending. Throw in a Land Rover Defender climbing one of the narrow two tracks, and it just spelled a fun adventure!
But soon I knew I’d be off the damn mountain I was on when I saw the knee deep creek crossing, where I took the chance to pop my feet out of my shoes for a quick massage before hiking my bike up a sandbox of a hill. So again, why I am doing this?!
Then it was time for one of scariest descents of my life thanks to road conditions and dirt bikers/ATVs not amused some cyclists were ruining their day. I made it safely and partially reckless to the singletrack descent, where I learned my gravel bike cannot corner like my mountain bike on downhill switchbacks and landed 6th on the Strava leaderboard (yes, I am crazy…). Time to finish bombing off Red Grade, which can kiss my butt. I never want to see that road ever again in my life. Not even in my Fozzy.
I stopped at the aid station in Big Horn as by now I was nearly 5 hours in and had drained my camelback. Unfortunately the aid station volunteer didn’t really like fill it up at all, but it is what it is, and I took off to ride solo the rest of the day on the course I’ve raced a few times over. Except I wouldn’t call what I was doing this day a race.
Soon the foot pain increased, and on three separate occasions I cried while pedaling because my feet hurt so bad. I ended up loosening my shoes all the way up and pedaled like that for ten miles or so (can’t say it really helped). By now it was solidly in the 90s and the last 46 miles of the course would be in full Wyoming sunshine. Oh, and no wind because hey, we didn’t need wind in Wyoming on this day…
I stopped again in Dayton at the aid station for a cup of cold water and a few baggies of fruit snacks and another handful of Endurolytes, and explained how cycling shoes worked to the volunteer and tried to push the pain out of my mind. The stretch from Dayton to the “bacon station” is always the worse part of the course, and as I was catching 40/60 milers, I could tell a lot of people were in a bad way in the heat – waiting for rides, getting picked up, calling people, just walking. I debated jumping into an irrigation ditch or the river when I’d see it, but I also really wanted to get this damn race over with. When I hit the 6 hour mark (whenever that was, probably way before Dayton) I got really annoyed as CO2UT was barely over 6 hours total with 3 extra miles (and half the climbing, ha).
I stopped again, this time at the Bacon Station for another cup of cold water before enjoying the descent and final ten miles. “Enjoying” being a loose term. I tried to do some math on if I could beat 8 hours, but math has never been my strong thing. I ignored the goose bumps on my legs, and the wonky feeling in my stomach and just tried to pedal as hard as I could at 120 watts. Total wattage cottage happening this day…
Finally there was the final climb, which does seem easy after Red Grade. I can’t believe I thought it was so bad the year I did the 40 mile course. It is cake! Down the pavement, through the neighborhoods, avoiding getting T-boned by a horse (so many horses on the bike path…), down the hill to the finish, where of course a woman tried to walk out in front of me… and in typical Heidi fashion, on a day where I pretty much stayed in my granny gear, I sprinted…
96.7 miles, 9668 feet of climbing, 7 hours 51 minutes. 5th place overall women (3rd in 30-39… but there were no age groups this year).
I immediately started crying and yanked the Shimano gravel shoes off my feet and threw them down before I was out of the little finishing corral. Then I laid down and cried some more.
Never. Again. Never.
I’m proud I finished the 100. Two years ago in 2019 when I did the 40 I would’ve never imagined doing the 100. It’s a freaking hard race, and the heat only made things about 500000 times worse. Twenty degrees cooler and I would’ve had a much different race I think (may I point out Sunday’s high was projected to be 79……… *!?/swear words). But it is one for sure I am completely okay with calling “one and done.” Been there, done that. I can think of better ways to earn drinking ale from curved horns in the halls of Valhalla than a Viking themed 100 mile gravel race.
Two more weeks and I get to play in the 90 degree heat again at Robidoux Quick & Dirty. Here’s to hoping that is a much faster day (I’ll revel in the fact it has half of the climbing!)
Random facts & numbers:
- 7 SIS gels, 1 Uncrustable, 2 child size packets of gummy fruit snacks
- 24oz bottle of orange Tailwind Endurance Fuel
- 12oz Nunn sport mix
- 8 Endurolyte tablets
- 12oz of Gatorade
- 1 blistered heel
- 1 empty Cameback way too soon after it was refilled
- Countless moo-cows
- 1 massive polo ranch
- Lots of beautiful mountains
- 12.5mph average speed
- 1 girl riding a horse while standing on its saddle at the finish line (confirmed it was not a hallucination)
- 1 shout out to Nick, who asked “Are you THE Heidi, as in heidiridesbikes?” and asked to take a photo with me!