The Rocktober Marathon presented such excess. The blank stares and smiles of each finishing racer would tell you this. Punishing, yet rewarding, the 110ish+ k course was tougher than most 100 milers. Hand numbing rock gardens and mind numbing climbs posed a challenge to all racers. The previous night’s rain added to the experience as some descents contained the additional feature of class 3 rapids.
With a tough crowd lined up at the start (Rob, Ernesto, Shawn, and the VisitPA squad just to name a few) the pace would have to be set high immediately after the neutral paved start. I mashed the big ring up the first 15 minute climb side by side with Wes and was first into the singletrack, which would begin with a downhill of which the bottom section was unridable. Yes, unridable. I’m no chump when it comes to techy downhills (especially when I’m on board the Carbon Rush), but this one would bring immediate death or injury to anyone willing to attempt the stunt. At the bottom was Mike Kuhn, who promoted the race, with an evil grin (I'm sure he was there to make sure riders made it through safely even though he gave fair warning prior to the race). As this was the start of such a brutally long and rocky race, I was sure that Mike’s grin was not exclusively meant for the first hike a bike section as it concealed what each of the racers was about to endure. Exiting the singletrack I had a gap on Wes and Rob of about 40 seconds. Being way too early to ride alone, and being uncapable of doing so while the two teammates chased on the long fireroad section, I eased my tempo and waited to join the paceline. Talking a little and pushing hard, the three of us put quite a gap on the rest of the field during the first loop on the 3 leaf clover shaped course. Even though our pace was held high it seemed to be an unwritten rule that no attacks were to be considered. If one of us had junk stuck in our bike, the rest would slow up until we could continue to ride together. It felt good to ride in a group like this, but it is slightly intimidating knowing that the other two riders are just as capable of winning as I am. So as we rolled through aid station 1, I figured that both Rob and I would have short stops in the pits compared to Wes as we are both seasoned endurance specialists. This brought on the instinct to lay the first attack of the day leaving Wes behind. Rob and I continued to control the pace for the next few hours. This second loop was much longer than the first, which took a toll on both of our water supplies. With about 6 miles until the second checkpoint, Rob was stuck sucking on the teat of an empty water bottle which lead to a bonk. Good thing I brought my Hydrapak as I had just enough water to hold me over. I kept the pace steady and pulled away from Rob. Coming in to aid station #2, I took on some binge eating, demolishing a pb&j, many twizzlers, oatmeal crème pies, and anything else that looked like food. After getting my fill, I took an additional handful of twizzlers and followed the lead moto out for the third and final loop. This final loop was the first loop of the course from 2007. It starts off with some rocky, rolling, double track then climbs up an unnecessarily steep uphill section for about a mile or two (feels like 5 miles). It was on this climb which I could see Mike grinning in my mind. I was hating it like nothing else. At this time I was ready for bed and didn’t need to deal with that kind of shit. Who needs a 90% grade at mile 50 something in a 70 some mile race?!?!? As Ry posted in his race report from Michaux, I began to hate the most innocent things in life as I was grinding up this sucker. But at the top, I was rewarded with the 100th sweet downhill of the day, Mike was forgiven, and all things cute and cuddly brought back positive thoughts. I also thought this was the end of the race. Not so. My delusional downhill finish was interrupted with another slap in the face, steep, powerline climb, which was once again followed up with a most enjoyable singletrack downhill. Memories from 2007 were coming back to me and I knew I still had a little ways to go before I could stop for good and devour some more food. I kept the attitude positive and entertained the lead moto riders by attempting to appear as if my riding was effortless. Coming in the home stretch I threw it down a little extra in an attempt to race the lead motos to the finish. The race itself was rewarding enough to finish, let alone race. Upon finishing, I indulged in dinners 1, 2, and 3 courtesy of Kuhn Katering. Thanks Mike for putting on such a great event and being such a sadist. I’ll be back again next year.