100-mile Tahoe ride proves a tough one | TheUnion.com

100-mile Tahoe ride proves a tough one

Why would anyone want to do a 100-mile mountain bike race with close to 15,000 feet of climbing?

I remember talking with Dan and Gyro sometime in the spring about doing an endurance race and we all agreed it sounded way too long and hard.

No thanks! For me a long ride is 3-4 hours. Five hours is epic, anything more then five hours I have only done maybe five times in my life. The winning time in my class for the Tahoe 100 last year was 10 hours, 15 minutes and the course would be harder this year.

How the heck am I going to ride for that long and why would I even think about doing this?

I guess one of the good things about my crash at the Sea Otter Classic is that I did not race a lot, so I do not feel burnt out like I usually do this time of year. Also, I feel like I wanted to end the season on a high note and try something different and very challenging. I had been thinking about doing the 50-mile race, but John Seivert talked me in to trying the 100.

John, I will never forgive you for this!

After John placed the idea in my head, everything started to fall into place. He found a cabin for us to stay right near the start at Royal Gorge. I got in a 65-mile ride two weeks before the race and felt OK, so I was ready as I was going to be.

The race starts at sunrise, 6:30 a.m., and it was 38 degrees.

The first challenge, how do you stay warm knowing all the layers will be coming off in a couple hours, and then carry them all day? I opted for just a shell, and it stayed on me until two hours into the race.

The promoter said to bring a bandana to put over your face due to all the dust at the start. Man, was he right. I was in the top 20 riders at the start and the dust was bad! I got a great start and was just flying by people on the downhill. I love my new mountain bike and it was the perfect bike for this race.

When we hit our first long climb of the day I forced myself to slow down. It was going to be a long, long day. My first problem started when my Polar Heart rate and speedometer stopped picking up the speed and started beeping and not keeping track of time. This is a big deal, because I needed to keep track of my ride time so I could keep on top of fueling up every hour.

I replaced most of the parts two weeks prior and it had worked perfect. I have no idea what happened, but this went on for the entire race, I had to keep on restarting the start clock to keep track of my time.

Got to love technology!

About 2 1/2 hours in I noticed my legs were already starting to hurt. I am not sure if this was because I was going too hard or because of the cold temperature and not wearing knee warmers. I kept on trying to slow down and last for the entire race.

There were plenty of aid stations with all sorts of food, and I got my chain lubed three to four times to keep the bike going. Someone gave the idea of baking a sweet potato and eating that, and, man, was that a great idea!

The terrain was typical Tahoe riding, very dusty, some rocky sections and a lot of fire road. I found out after I finished that they made the course harder this year, more technical singletrack and a few hike-a-bikes.

Somewhere around 7 hours into the race my stomach really started to hurt and I was having a hard time taking in food and fluids.

I was into survival mode from this point on.

The rest of the race to the finish was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. My entire body hurt. I was exhausted and just wanted to be done! Of course, it was all uphill to the finish.

The last aid station was 10 miles to the finish. I knew a lot of it was uphill, but believe me it was the longest, most frustrating climb of my life.

Just when I thought I must be done, there was steep hike-a-bike that caused my legs to cramp. It was so hard to just walk up it. From that point on, I was fighting cramping for the rest of the race. I finally came up to the finish and there was a crowd cheering. They announced my name. I stood up and my legs cramped up so badly that I walked my bike across the finish line!

I asked for my time: 10:28.

I was hoping for 9:30 and was disappointed, until I found out that all the times were a lot slower since the course was so much harder this year.

I went back to the cabin and just sat in the shower for what seemed like forever, ate and came back to the race venue. I found out that I won the 50-and-over race, by 30 minutes!

That felt great and was a great way to end the season!

Rick Kalb lives in Nevada City and is a member of the Sierra Express/Sho-Air Racing Team.

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