The Butte 100 is in it's second year and has improved drastically over last year's edition. In attendance was Sten Hertsens and myself William Martin. The changes this year were immediately apparent as I pulled into Butte and Sten announced that we get a free jersey just for signing up. What a great idea, I have had numerous committals already for next years edition just by wearing it around Missoula. I think I can speak for both of us and our team by saying how much we appreciate the efforts of Bob Waggoner, Gina Evans, and the rest of the Triple Ring Production staff. We would also like to thank all the volunteers that spent the entire day out in the woods receiving panic induced babble from the racers. Thanks Everyone!
Now for the results! In the end Sten placed 1st for the Masters 50 miler and 2nd overall while I was lucky enough to find the finish 1st in the 100 miler. I cant say what happened in the 50 but I could expand on what went down in the ultra main event. After reading please check out Triple Ring Productions video (click on high quality button) by Guy Vesco.
The preparation that goes into starting and racing in a 100 mile mountain bike race with 13,000 + feet of climbing is huge, well at least for me. I barely got all 20 water bottles, elixirs, magazines, toilet paper, and energy products organized and put into their specific bins. Just as I threw on the Muleterro jersey the gun went off and we were on our way. Ok, well maybe I didn't take any magazines, but I did take the other stuff.
As in every race there is a lot of posturing, chest pounding, and unnecessary expended energy. You would think everyone could just take a look at the big picture! So I sat in and let every get their mojo on. Soon there were just a group of us and we had pulled away in a big fashion. This was the front line warriors. In the group was Ben Parsons, Todd Tanner, and Matt Butterfield all from the Flathead. I knew right away their was some kind of plan. I mean why would we be pace lining down a stretch of road at like 30 miles per hour? I figured that I needed to stay with them. Looking back I would of been better off to just go my own pace and I would of finished the race at least a hour earlier.
At the first check station I stopped to grab another bottle while the trio just kept hammering on. I took off after them as we entered the Nez Perce Trail. This trail was magnificent and I would highly recommend going there to ride it. I tried to enjoy the great trail but the group I was with were all business and there was not much in the way of a great conversation. We had 80 miles to go and the pace was still dedicated to speed. Matt started to succumb to a reasonable pace so I passed by and went up to Ben. Ben and Todd had a great rhythm, Ben could climb and Todd (former world cup downhiller) was bombing the downhills.
They were bombing the downhills so fast I was losing serious ground to them. I was in my largest gear going anaerobic and I still could not catch them. Just before the second checkpoint at the end of the second leg a large rock smashed my rear deraileur and I could not shift. I stopped at the station and bent it back in line with my cog set. The cage was once a medium cage was now a short cage. The pulleys were only a inch apart and the chain was not willing to roll through it very well. Discouraged I set out and left the Ben and Todd at the station. My check point refuel plan was working well and I was out in front alone, but for how long. I only had two gears that worked and I had to be in the middle chain ring.
This 3rd leg was exposed and desert like. I grunted through the searing heat and sand. There were a lot of small hard climbs and I started to get dizzy. I was pushing too hard and my bike was malfunctioning. I started running the hills. By the time I got to aid station 3 I was fried. I grabbed my stuff and adjusted the deraileur again to where it started working again. As Ben and Todd rolled in I set out and to show good form I cranked out of there standing. I got around the corner and cramped up. I had pushed too hard and I was only 40 miles in!
I sucked down a hammer gel and walked, rode, walked, rode, walked, rode, walked, all the way to the Homestead Lodge (aid station 4). They worked at getting me back on my bike. They helped me with my water and fuel bag and one volunteer even ran to her car to get me extra Hammer Gels (I didn't start placing gels in my feed bins until aid station 5). Off I went with no one in sight. It seemed that I was not the only one getting punished from the fast start pace. Ride, walk, ride, walk, ride, walk!
I finally made a truce with my body and it agreed to not cramp if I kept my heart rate under 140. So I slowly granny geared the awesome switchbacks and coasted the intense downhill. The course was amazing and now I was on the Contential Divide Trail. I slowly started picking off aid stations and started to feel like I could finish the race at mile 60. Then a storm hit!
The sky went dark and the winds blew me off my bike. I had to keep one leg out to stand against the gusts. Then the rain, hail, and dogs. Don't know where the cats were. I came across a 50 miler and it was my friend Alden. The storm had passed but I was freezing cold. He asked how I was and I said, "getting sick". I felt awful. At the next aid station the volunteer/official had to hold me upright because had no balance. They helped me with getting new water and nutrition on board. Alden came along and sacrificed his Endurolites to my cause. I was still out in front. I wondered how long before Ben would catch me. Surely they were not going this slow.
I kept riding, riding, riding, walking, riding my way through some more aid stations. The trail turned harder and harder. I love this course! Just when you think your almost done another even tougher climb would come up to you and say, "take me if you can". I would just put my head down and keep a slow but consistent pace. My mind wondered and huge chunks of time were lost as my conscious went into hiding. At one time I looked up and I was in a field and realized I was off trail. To my left was a big white CDT sign, I regained the trail and continued on.
At each aid station I got encouragement and it was nice. Then I was back out there all alone, trudging on. Finally I hiked the last climb and bombed the last downhill. Butte was in sight.
Not so fast! The course went down the ATV trail in the borrow pit all the way back. Rolling whoopty dues, but no matter. I just put my head down and went back into a mental gray zone. I bid my time until I climbed up onto a road and saw the High Altitude Training center. I had made it. I held off all the others and overcame horrable cramping. My deraileur hang in there (quite literally). I crossed the line with my bike over my head. Then the second storm smashed down upon us.