This year’s BSG was supposed to be an alumni ride: former BSG riders dong the 50 “for fun”, reminiscing, and soaking in hot tubs and drinking lots of beer. That plan was hatched after last year’s ride (a month after my half ironman) when, just after the race, I called Burke and said “Don’t ever, ever let me sign up for this race again! I hate BSG!”
Fast forward to late January when I get a call from Burke.
B: “Hey, I was thinking. Why don’t we do the 100 this year. The 50 is so lame”
D: “Don’t you remember our conversation last year? Friends don’t let friends suffer at BSG”
B: “Naw, It’ll be fun”
Needless to say, I signed up for the 100 as did Burke but somewhere along the way I found myself alone in taking on the challenge.
Time for a change in plans. I was done with triathlon’s and I was really loving riding my bike (CX fever, baby). And this elusive sub-six hour goal still sat out there. An elite club, no doubt. The stories of Simond’s crushing it and Chip finally getting it after many near misses and the 6 and very small change that still gnaws at Burke. Why not go fort it? Plus I’ve signed up for Shenandoah 100, a 100 mile MTB race so BSG would be good prep.
So from Feb thru Jun, it was a lot of hill repeats, tempo rides, sub-threshold intervals, and some high-intensity stuff thrown in for good measure. I went up and rode the route a few weeks before the event (less Georges Gap) to get my head wrapped around the course and the climbs. The route is still one of the most beautiful rides on the East coast.
For me to pull off a sub-six, a lot of things would have to fall in place. It’s a big gamble every year.
1. Fitness: Goes without saying but muscular endurance was my focus. 2h tempo rides and hill repeats.
2. Weather: The big wild card. The heat can sap energy and make hydration challenging. Those last three climbs out of George’s, staring into the sun can crush the sole and wipe away hope.
3. Hydration: Staying on top of this is important, especially when it’s hot and humid
4. Nutrition: Early and often (I passed on the Sergio italian sausage approach!). Carbopro flasks and a clif bar.
5. Strategy: Get with a group early, suck lots of wheel, and ride aggressively
6. Bike: Flats, dropped/broken chains, shifting problems. Murphy’s law is alive and well at BSG
7. General mishaps: Hitting gravel on a curve; having some clown hit your wheel and send you into a ditch; it happens every year.
8. Mind. BSG is a mental game, at least for me. I can easily get down on myself; psyche myself out; feel sorry for myself. The mind has to stay focused, be in the moment, and leave judgements behind.
A weakness or a problem in any of these areas and you can take your chips and go home.
June 28th: Go Time!
I was amazingly calm for the race (I still remember my first BSG: a nervous wreck!).
They had a tape across the start for the sub 5:30 crowd. I put my wheel up against the tape and put all my chips in. 37 Red!
Weather was gong to be perfect. Humid but overcast and high in the upper 60’s/low 70s
Stayed with a group up Shulls Mill; got spread out till Green Hill and then got back together for BRP.
Felt incredibly strong on BRP; even wondered if I should bridge up to the next group; “Let’s not get greedy, now”
Kept with the group through Todd (nearly 19 mph pace at mile 50!).
Climb out of Todd broke things up but then it was down to Snake
Snake was hard but it doesn’t hold the same gravity as in years past. It’s part of the race and requires focused execution and concentration. The guy next to me saying “This sucks!” was just that much motivation to come out of the saddle and bury him.
First and only stop at the top for a quick bottle of water. 3:30 and looking good!
Passed the ambulance taking a guy out of the ditch on a stretcher at the first backside curve. Good reminder.
Great descent. Had a few cramps at the bottom but worked through them.
Worked with a couple of guys from the bottom of Snake to the the base of George’s gap; had great speed on that section of old 421 to the base.
Got over GG without any problems; loved the descent (had a strange noise in my rear hub during the descent; went away when I started pedaling; guess what, no more coasting!).
The last 12 miles was the slug-fest. Three significant climbs. Big head wind on the flats. No wheels in sight. And the possibility of a sub-six finish not quite within my grasp. I’d done the math many times: 102 divided by 6 is 17.0. I had 17.5 in bank leaving GG but the withdrawals were starting mount with each climb.
And then….you make that right onto Broadstone and realize you are done. 5:47:10. Yeah baby! Mission accomplished.
It was fun to go back an look at past finishes. The first BSG was the learning experience, then a bunch of decent finishes while trying to train for tri’s and then the fully focused effort with near flawless execution.