Written by: Jen Toops
Photos by: Dave Seasholtz
On July 20th, 2019, Shenandoah Mountain Tours held the Wilderness 101 and Marathon races in Coburn, PA. The Wilderness 101 is part of the NUE National Ultra Endurance Race Series and is know for its East coast rocky singletrack, and rolling gravel roads. It was a scorcher with sunny skies and temps reaching almost 100 degrees F. Camping was included with registration in Coburn Park which is also the race start making for an easy race morning and celebration at the finish line
Toops gets Top Step
2018 NUE Marathon champion, Jen Toops, Pearl Izumi/Pivot MTB race team, takes the top step in a time of 9:13:12.
“After an unexpected need to fly back to Ohio (literally booked the flight Wed and flew home Thursday), I found myself racing Wilderness 101 instead of High Cascades. My mom agreed to make the 5 hour journey to Coburn, PA and spend the weekend camping at the race start.
My plan was to keep a steady pace on the first climb knowing it was going to be a long hot day. Julia quickly passed me at the beginning of the climb. I was feeling good so I held her wheel for a bit. About halfway up I felt warmed up and ready to race, so I made my move. I worked hard to latch onto the group ahead by the top of the start climb. Working in a small group we watch some gravel miles tick by. The pace of this group was a wee bit too fast and I found myself off the back.
It soon turned to singletrack and I felt at home. Having raced TSE this spring I felt confident on the PA rocks and kept a steady pace. After a few updates from fellow racers I knew I had a little cushion and focused on pacing, hydration and nutrition. It’s hard to eat when it’s 90F so I stuck with CarboRocket, plain Water, Honey Stinger gels and bananas. I wore a pack for hydration and carried a bottle of water on my bike primarily used to spray on myself to cool down on the long exposed gravel climbs.
On the NoName descent I made a rookie mistake. I thought I heard someone bombing the descent behind me and I took a quick peek over my shoulder. There was no one there but my front wheel hit a rock weird and I found myself over the bars before I even knew what was happening. My left hand instantly throbbed as I landed on my left palm of my hand. It took everything to finish the last part of the descent holding tight with my right hand and hovering the bars with my left hand. I stopped took some Ibuprofen and thought about a DNF. Then I realized it would most likely take longer or be just as painful to find my way back rather than finishing the last 35 or so miles.
After riding with one hand for about an hour the Ibuprofen kicked in and I could at least hold the bars. On the Still house climb my shifting starting giving me fits and I had to stop and check it a few times but couldn’t find anything wrong. A little more down the trail I was standing and pedaling and my crank stopped completely. Turns out my thru axel was loose and had wiggled halfway out and my wheel was basically falling off. Must of came loose when I crashed. I’m lucky I got it fixed fairly quick and didn’t have a major mechanical or crash.With about 15 miles left I kept a steady/safe pace knowing the cool River was waiting at the finish line!”
Julia Thumel, Race Pace Bicycles, takes second crossing the finish in 9:55:59. With this race she is now in third in the NUE Epic series. Lindsey Carpenter, Salsa Cycles, takes the third spot on the podium 10:18:34.
Bishop gets first NUE win for 2019
It was a close race in the Men’s Open class. In the end it was Jeremiah Bishop, Canyon Bicycles/Ergon, who took the win in an impressive 7:08:53. This was Bishop’s first NUE win for 2019. Less than a minute back, the 2019 NUE series leader, Dylan Johnson, FBS Racing, finished second in 7:09:37. Only two second back, Matt Acker, Salsa Cycles finished in 7:09:39.
Klose wins first W101
James Klose, SECT NEMBA/Wayfarer Bicycle gets first W101 win in a time of 7:50:03. Taking second and leading the NUE singlespeed division was, Eli Orth, Team Hungry crossing the line in 8:30:52.
“Wilderness 101 was my 4th NUE epic distance race of the year. Going in I knew it was going to be a tough race with the predicted temps and humidity. The heat index was upwards of 110 degrees! Keeping that in mind i set my own pace early and watched the lead group pull away which also included a couple of my competitors in the single speed class. I went into the day wanting to just stay hydrated and fueled and stay at a consistent good pace. After settling in I decided to pick up the pace a little after aid station 2. Not long after aid 2 I caught Dahn Pahrs. I was up to 2nd place and Dahn let me know first wasn’t too far ahead. While standing at aid 3 drinking coke and grabbing some snacks i turn around to see Dahn roll up. On the gravel climb and through single track Dahn and I were close together with Dahn pulling back ahead again in the single track temporarily until he got a flat. As i roll up and ask if he needs anything he lets me know he’s okay and I roll by picking up the pace even more hoping to gap him enough that i keep him from catching me again. After that I didn’t see Dahn again (later learned he dropped out somewhere after aid 4) and didn’t see any other single speeders the rest of the race. It was a brutal hot day where I felt like i was cooking from inside out. It was especially hard on climbs like Stillhouse where I was grinding up them struggling both physically and mentally. It was great once again to race with Michael Gottfried a good portion towards the end along with Roger Masse. We pushed each other and chatted keeping our sanity on this tough day.Overall I was very happy with the results as Wilderness always has a strong SS field. It was great racing on the rocks in Pa for the second time this year!My gearing of choice for the race was 34×20. Next up is Shenandoah and Marji Gesick. I’d like to thank everyone that has supported and motivated me this year. Especially my wife who has been very supportive to my busy schedule this year. Thanks to my team.. Team Hungry and Absolute Black. Also thanks to Nox Composites for quickly getting me everything i needed for my wheel build in time for Wilderness on short notice.”
Scott Rath, Cadre Racing took the third podium spot in a time of 8:57:25.
“Heading into the Wilderness 101, my only goal was to hopefully take some of the fitness I picked up at The Trans-sylvania Epic and turn that into a sub 9 hour finish. Seeing the forecast, I wasn’t sure that would be possible. The first 30 miles had me burning matches on my 34X20 gearing trying to stay latched on to trains knowing that if I fell off the back, I’d be working twice as hard by myself. During the second half of the race, I started picking off fellow single speeders and when I passed Don Powers walking up the infamous Stillhouse Hollow Rd climb due to not being able to keep food down, he let me know that there were a few more single speeders just up ahead, and that was just the motivation I needed to keep the pedals mashing. Despite the debilitating heat, I worked my way past two single speeders up and over Stillhouse. I kept checking my Garmin and it seemed like a sub 9 hour wasn’t going to be possible but then a super long stretch of gravel had me descending and descending some more. I buzzed past a fresh off Lyme Disease, Matt Ferrari and closer to a possible sub 9 hour finish. I put my head down, grabbed my fork crowns, and pedaled the mostly flat finish always checking over my shoulder. I found my way back to Coburn Park and crossed the line at 8:57and found out I snagged 3rd place. I’m still in disbelief. I’m hoping to get to the Shenandoah 100 if my schedule allows it.”
Masse celebrates first 2019 NUE win
Roger Masse, Stokesville/SMT/Stans/TREK takes the Masters win with a time of 8:30:42. Second place was, Hank McCullough, Team Trappe Door, finishing in 8:52:07.
“I had big question marks going into this year’s W101 having not been to the race since 2015 and for that matter no NUE events since 2017, only participating in one. The passing years have me moving to the “seasoned” end of the masters 50+ division with little intel on those who have just moved in from the open bracket. Although I have been to W101 three times we just don’t have rocks like this down in SC and my trail work has been limited this year. Fortunately supporting Trappe Door’s road squad through the spring racing season combined with big miles at the Allegheny Mountain Loop 400 bikepacking race in late April had me ready for a long day…which it definitely was with a scorching heat wave upon us.
To be honest my main reason for coming this year was to catch up with NUE masters regulars Mark Drogalis and W101 icon Jim Matthews, whom I have not seen for several year due to moves, and life’s changing priorities. I intentionally set low expectations regarding the race itself with a focus on fun. Ride sensibly and don’t get too far into the red zone and that is how it went. I would like to say I could give a play by play but I can’t remember the names of all the climbs and trails. A measured start had me alone after the first climb but I clawed at least a dozen back on the rolling fire roads including Jed Prentice who was in good form coming from a strong finish at the BC Bike Race. Jed was climbing a bit stronger and definitely making it through the rough stuff quicker, but I sensed that he might be going a bit hard so I just stayed back 200m and settled into my own pace. My strategy paid off after RS 3, as Jed admitted after that he blew before the ending two climbs. I figured Roger Masse, a winner on numerous occasions, was well ahead but if I had pushed a little harder and avoided a few course miscues due to mental fatigue at the end perhaps his winning margin would have been smaller? Cursing Fisherman’s, or really myself for having crappy skills through the boulders, I sensed that a solid finish was at hand, my best NUE result to date and the satisfaction in knowing that even this old goat can still have a good day. ”
Jed Prentice, Team Bike Doctor crossed the finish line at 8:55:45.
“I was happy to make the podium. Let’s just say that 7 days of recovery after the BC Bike Race was not enough! (I finished third in the 50+ GC at BCBR). I thought the Wilderness 101 was a week later on 7/27, until I got the pre-race brief. My race bike was on its way back from BC so I had to prep my son’s bike (an old race bike of mine from a few years ago). I was tired and racing an old bike but hoping things would work out.
I didn’t feel so great on the first climb and was dropped early by Roger and Joe Johnston. I resigned myself to maintaining a steady pace and hoping to catch them later if they cracked. I caught some riders and felt ok until about mile 50, then blew up at mile 60 or so, on the way up to Beautiful Trail. After aid 4, on the way up Stillhouse Hollow, the lights went out and I had to stop and collect myself for a minute while several riders passed me. After struggling up the climb, I passed Joe Johnston as he was cooling off in the creek at the bottom of the descent. Thinking I was maybe in second, I was motivated to salvage something so I suffered to the finish. It turned out that the guy who passed me before aid 5 was also in the Masters race; I could see him on the rail trail near the finish but couldn’t bring him back, so I ended up third. It wasn’t pretty but I survived it.”
Click here for full Wilderness 101 results
Next up on the 2019 NUE Epic series is Pierre’s Hole in Alta, WY August 3rd, 2019