Sunday, August 7, 2011

Race report: Pierre's Hole 50/100. Racin' in the Tetons Rocks!

Way back when there was snow on the ground, our race instigator friend fired out an email to the team notifying us that registration was open for the 3rd annual Pierre's Hole 50/100 mile MTB race.  Drew had just been saying he needed a big goal for 2011, so I called him up and caught him between flights.  With no research into the difficulty level of this race, he said, "sign me up for the 100!"  So that's how I ended up registering for the 50 mile option (because I know better than to attempt 100 miles on my mountain bike) and Drew locked himself into the 100 mile sufferfest.

We headed up on Friday to Grand Targhee Resort near Alta, Wyoming.  GT is just over the mountain, east of Jackson Hole, but yet is seems a world away from that snooty and over-priced place.  It is a small ski area encompassed by absolute natural beauty.   

We checked into the Souix Lodge Suites.

It was a nice big room

with a balcony and a "garage" for our rides.

The only negative thing I have to say about the Souix Lodge Suites is that the pillows were so dang fluffy as to be unusable.  Note for next year: bring our own pillows!

Went for a little spin and then to the racer meeting, where we met race organizers Troy and Andy.

Andy (on the left) is cousin Milissa's husband's brother. (I realize that makes him her brother-in-law, but my way is much more descriptive.)  Andy is a great guy with a ton of energy for Grand Targhee special events.  He also has a super nice wife named Nicki who welcomed us into her home for a pre-race feast cooked by Milissa.  Christian (Milissa's husband) and his sister Nancy and niece Katie were in on the feast too.

Then it was back up the mountain to rest for Drew's 6:15 AM start.

I'd like to say that the pictures below were taken my me as I faithfully supported my husband for the start of his race, but I am not that dedicated at 6 AM. I was asleep when he and Christian and a bunch of our hardcore teammates departed on what would be a very long day in the saddle.  Luckily, Milissa was there making sure they got off all right, so we have her to thank for the pics.

As I slept in, Christian and Drew were slogging along on laps 1 and 2.  Melissa caught them at some of the aid stations.

They rode together for a good bit until Christian let it roll on one of the downhills.  Drew was still looking fresh in this picture Milissa took at aid 4.

My start time was 10:15 AM, which is great in that I have plenty of time to prepare and warm up, but awful in that I have plenty of time to get my stomach tied in knots and over prepare.  I did not feel good by the time 10:15 rolled around.

Two weeks ago, we did the Galena Grinder as a big training race weekend.  I was using it to gauge how to pace myself on 45-50 mile races.  At Galena, I took it pretty easy and raced my endurance pace the entire way.  Not so for Pierre's Hole. It was full on race pace for me from the get go. 

At the start, I lined up way in the back with some other women and the single speed freaks in cut offs and plaid shirts.  (A few miles in, a group of three of them pulled off and waited for their friend.  As I rode past them, I could see they were getting ready to moon their buddy!  Gotta love 'em.)

I quickly moved up from the back of the pack and had a Mud Honey gal in my sights.  She had raced the Grinder too, and I wanted to see if I could hold her pace.  We climbed up Lightning Ridge on first a road and then nice new singletrack. We decended a screaming fast decent where I got stuck behind a pack of riders, but it was all good.  Then we popped out on a gravel road in Teton Canyon and soon started up the paved road to the ski area.  I hit the climb with too much ambition, trying to stay on Mud Honey's wheel.  I know I should have kept my heart rate around 166 bpm, to preserve energy for the next 44 miles, but I found another racer dude that was riding a good pace and we worked together on the climb, me pushing 170 bpm. I wondered if I would pay for that later.

I zoomed through aid station 2, only grabbing a water bottle.  After the ~4 mile paved climb, we entered a service road descent that kept me riding the brakes to avoid launching off the numerous water bars. Whee!  At the base of this descent was a private ranch where friendly ranchers were waiting for us with more water and Hammer nutrition products at aid 3.  Hammer was a full supporter of this race, which I was grateful for because I use their Sustained Energy as my endurance fuel.

I passed them by and started up the grueling ~4 mile singletrack/double track 15-25% climb.  At least it was a decent temperature and the pines afforded some shade.  It was here that my brake started rubbing.  It got worse, and I was sure it was rubbing bad enough to cause impedance. Not what one wants with 40 miles to go!

At the top of the killer climb, we popped back out on the road headed back to the resort.  I was feeling OK at this point, and went into the rocky, rooty singletrack sweetness of Rick's Basin smiling and thinking to myself, "yeah, I really like these longer distance races."

Rick's Basin is phenomenal.  The wildflowers were so abundant and vibrant in their colors as to make me forget that I was racing.  I wanted to just slow down and look around, but the rocks in the trail kept my attention.  The descending in Rick's Basin is mostly smooth, flow-y, and fast, and the climbs are not leg killers, or at least they weren't on this first lap.  I descended into the start finish area in good spirits, since I was almost 30 minutes ahead of the 3 hours I thought each lap would take me.

As I pedaled under the finish banner to head out on lap 2, I heard Drew's familiar voice cheering me on. What? Why was Drew here?  I stopped at the neutral support to have nice mechanic man try to fix my break and Drew told me his IT band had sent shooting pains up to his hip at the start of his third lap.

He knew he didn't have 50 more miles in him, so he called it quits.  I was disappointed for him.  What kind of goal is he going to set for next year now?  It could get ugly. ;-)

After refueling I started out on lap 2, still feeling pretty strong.

At this point, I didn't know where my competition was, or even how many I was racing against.  The start list that morning had 18 registered women in the Open Women category.  This included all the women doing the 50 mile option, from pros like Amanda Carey down to some women that didn't look like they'd ever attempted anything of this sort before.  Sometimes the fact that there are few women who chose to race mountain bikes works out nicely for me, like at Galena Grinder where I won big because there was only one other woman in my category, but other times it backfires because the race organizers decide to lump us all into one big category no matter our age or ability.  In truth, I was glad to be racing against the big girls to see how I would do.  So were there 18 women out there? I didn't know how many of them had started.  Only time would tell.

At aid station 2 Drew was there to cheer me on again.

Acting as Primary Domestique, he informed me that I had 8/10ths of a mile lead on another woman and that there was not another woman in the 6/10ths of a mile ahead of me.  I figured that was about 10 to 14 minutes lead on the gal behind me, which I hoped would be enough, but this was no time to sit up and joy ride.

I kicked it in on the climbs, trying to hold about 165 bpm.  When I reached the turn off from the road by the resort to head over to Rick's Basin again, Drew magically appeared with his stop watch and camera again and told me he I had only a 4 minute lead! Yikes. How could I have lost that much time when I was pushing so hard?  (Turns out I can't do math very well in my head when my legs are running the show. I probably never did have a 14-minute lead.) With 7 miles to go and a couple of short climbs left, I was going to have to turn it up a notch, but I wasn't sure I'd be able to do it.

It became painfully obvious that I was not going to be able to turn the legs on again as I rode out of the camping area/aid 4. CRAMPS! Ouch. Weird thigh cramps on the inside and outside of my left quad.  I figure this is because I have been babying my left leg for the past month to let my knee heal from injuring it at July 2nd's I-Cup race, and so left quad isn't as burly as right quad.  I had to back off and spin easy up the climbs.  I throttled back to about 155 bpm on the climbs, and kept looking over my shoulder every minute or two, expecting to see evil female closing in on me.  At the base of the last climb, about 3 miles from the finish line, I thought I saw her and I began to resign myself to getting passed on the finish line :-(.   There was not much I could do without the full cooperation from left thigh, so I just kept spinning along.  At this point I was no longer saying, "yeah, I like these longer distance races." I don't remember all my thoughts that clearly, but I think there were a number of swear words bouncing around in my cranium.  At the top of the climb, there was no woman in sight so I became hopeful again and just concentrated on the decent into the finish.  Boy did it seem like a long descent this time, and bumpier!   But soon enough I could hear the music and the cheers as I came out of the singletrack to the finish chute.

And finally the announcer calling my name as a 50-mile female finisher.  I was done at 5 hours 20 minutes!

I stumbled across the finish line as Drew removed my bike while I lay with painful leg cramps and accepted a water bottle of Recoverite from a stranger.

It was a good effort.  I have not raced that hard in several years, and I was eager to find out where I ended up against all the other women, but I would have to wait until the awards ceremony that evening.

We had time to medicate and clean up

and await the arrival the arrival of our friends and teammates to finish their 100 miles.

Christian did it! His first hundi!  He looked cooked.  He was a good-spirited zombie the rest of the evening.

As other teammates were still out on course, the Mexican post race meal, kegger, awards ceremony and raffle drawing was in full swing.   It was a good time.  Turns out I ended up 6th out of 12 women, just one place out of the money, but 16 minutes back from 5th.  There was no way I could have caught 5th place, brake or no brake problem, so I am very happy with my performance. 

This race was super well organized, excellent support stations, and a sweet S.W.A.G. (stuff we all get) bag which included all of this except the mug.

The mug was my prize for crossing that 50-mile finish line.  I am putting it to good use right now with a delicious out-of-state IPA.

Drew won a beanie and a pair of pants in the raffle, so we both came out smelling of roses.

We whooped it up while an Irish rock band played.

At the end of this long day, we were not so persnickety about those big fluffy pillows. Zzzzzzzz.

Sunday we packed it up and headed for home with a short stop at Lava Hot Springs for a soak in the solidly mineralized 100+ degree healing waters.

Pierre's Hole 50 was a tough race.   My  Garmin track 
Pierre's Hole 50 by jubebug at Garmin Connect - Details
says I covered 47 miles and almost 7400 feet of vertical.  My average heart rate was 156 bpm. Compare that to the Grinder where I did 41.5 miles and 6800 feet of vertical on an average heart rate of 143, and it is obvious that Pierre's Hole is harder and that I raced it harder.  The double-track climb out from the ranch was by far the hardest part, but the roots and rocks on the singletrack made staying focused absolutely necessary. The great fun of the singletrack was punctuated by welcomed paved road climb sections.   As much as I liked the course, I'm certain that I would not want to do it 4 times in a row.  My hats off to all those who finished the 100 mile option, including teammates Ryan, Jenelle, Shannon, Ellen, Brad, Brandon, and Gordon.  For some of them, it was an almost 15-hour day in the saddle.


  1. Great blog - its almost like I was there - wait - I WAS, but still recovering from a long, hard day of support:) - Milissa

  2. Wow, that's an excellent, detailed write-up of your race! The background in those pics looks amazing. I've never seen the Tetons so next year may be the year I come out to do that race. Thanks! >Oliver

  3. Yes, Oliver, it was a great event, and racing with the Tetons as your backdrop makes it not hurt as bad ;-).