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Saturday, August 14, 2004 -- Slatyfork, WV
Wild 100 Backcountry Race (iPO Event Id#: 6025)
Story by Karl Rosengarth

[Details] [Coverage] [Overall Results](From ERTC)
Event Coverage: [1998] [1999] [2000] [2001] [2002] [2003]

The Wild 100 " a Rookie's Report

One thing I've learned over the years is that fear of t he unknown is usually an irrational reaction. Fear holds you back and creates artificial limits. Limits that can become all too real if you slip into that comfort zone where everything is predictable. The spice of life comes from pushing yourself into a different zone, one where you're not sure what's going to happen. Face your fears, conquer them and grow. At least that's how it seems to work for me.

With that as a backdrop, let me tell you about my first experience racing The Wild 100 in Slatyfork, West Virginia at Elk River Touring Center (www.ertc.com). When I first heard of the event, I'll admit to having mixed emotions. Emotions that included just a bit of fear. The thought of trudging into the wilds with a map and finding my way to five checkpoints seemed a bit daunting at first. Especially considering that riding 100k in the rugged mountains around Slatyfork is somewhat challenging in itself. The irrational little devil on one shoulder was whispering: "You can't do it. "Fortunately, there was a perky little angel on the other shoulder saying: "Hey, give it a shot. They have a first-timers category, so you don't have to compete against the guys who ride there all the time and know the trails. It's gonna be fun." All right, I'm going to do this! And I'm going to be prepared. Another thing I've learned over the years is that confidence leads to success, and preparation builds confidence. I'm already in pretty good shape from racing several endurance events this season, so I figure resting the week before the race is a good strategy. I know that food and water are critical for endurance racing. The promoter provides food and water at checkpoints three and four, and we can give them a drop bag for checkpoint four. So I prepare my pack with enough food and water to get me halfway home"assuming all goes well. I finish loading the pack with tool kit, pump, two tubes, rain jacket, first aid kit, compass and few bits and bolts, just in case.

Deciding on my pacing strategy is the final act of preparation. Since I'm racing my first-ever duo class 24-hour race three weeks after the Wild 100, I decide to ride the 100k at a pace that I hope I can keep up during the duo race. I figure this will give me practice pacing myself for 24 hours, and, If nothing else, should keep me from going out too hard at the start of what is sure to be a long day of riding in Slatyfork. Slow and steady, that's my plan. Elk River Touring Center, 7:00am on Saturday, August 14th, 2004. The warm and fuzzy thoughts of preparation turn into cold, hard reality, as racers get handed their maps with the five checkpoints revealed (Actually, last year the promoter added a 100+ class with a sixth checkpoint for the hard chargers, but that's a whole 'nuther story. ). Up the mountain we go. Did I mention that there's a 1500-foot climb to get from the start/finish to the main Slatyfork trail system atop the mountain? That's cool, because I know that means a 1500-foot descent back to the finish.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I won't be seeing the finish line for over ten hours. Before I do, I'll experience some of the finest trails the east coast has to offer. You want rocky? You got it. You want roots? Here they be. You want fast, twisty singletrack descents that make your face ache from grinning? I hope so, because Slatyfork is chock full of them. Mud? Yeah, this area is know for it, so be prepared. Fortunately, the recent dry weather solidified the trails a great deal, and racers were blessed with partly sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s. I was having so much fun out there that I picked a few trails that were marked "Extremely difficult. Very tight, technical singletrack, often hike a bike, nearly impossible in wet conditions." when I could have chosen to backtrack and hit some easy trails and dirt roads. Apparently racers who were out to save time did that, but in the middle of the race I decided to go for adventure instead of speed, and I chose a route with as much singletrack as possible.

I won't bore you with a laborious blow-by-blow account of my 10 hours and 26 minutes in the saddle. Suffice it to say that I had such a great time, that I felt a bit sad when I rolled into the finish line and realized my ride was over. It sure helps pick up your spirits when the final seven miles into the final checkpoint are all downhill on a sweet slice of singletrack called Props Run Trail. Not to mention the laid back camaraderie you experience in endurance racing. It's not uncommon to form a little impromptu group of riders and actually have a meaningful conversation during the ride. At several points I was able to discuss route options with fellow competitors, who seemed less like competitors and more like partners. Can you feel the love?

And the crews at the checkpoints feel like your personal rooting section, offering up encouragement along with nourishment. Speaking of nourishment, the Elk River crew offered up a tasty buffet dinner after the race. Kegs of brew provided pain relief, and assured that the crowd was in fine spirits for the awards ceremony. A full day of racing, good food, beer, and free camping (complete with hot showers) is well worth the price of admission in my book. I plan to race again next year, even if I do have to graduate from the First Timers class and run with the big dogs. I look forward to the challenge. The spice of life.