A few weeks ago I sent an email to Jason asking for some beta on the Wilderness 101 course. Apart from the usual useful information, he gave me one little gem, "there are rattlesnakes everywhere". Great, I've had enough bad encounters with rattlers this year, I really wasn't looking forward to more. Regardless, race morning I was ready to roll. Temps were cool and compared to earlier in the week, the humidity wasn't too bad.
A 5 AM wake up call isn't all that bad but when my body thinks it's 3AM due the time difference, it can be rough and I can be cranky. Regardless, the race rolled out at 7 sharp(ish) and I made quick work to get near the front before the first climb.
My extent of knowledge of the course was a crude elevation profile I had taped to my top tube and a few conversations with people who had done it before. I knew the only singletrack climb was out of aid station 3, there were a few tunnels that were completely dark in the middle, and lots of roads and 2 track. That's about it.
The first couple of climbs went by fast and I knew I could really red line it up the hills due to the low altitude and the fact that even the long climbs were only ~1500 feet (I don't think any of the climbs were over 30 min). I bounced back and forth between a few groups for the first 50 miles and then punched it into aid station 3. It usually takes me a few hours to get into a decent groove in these type of races, so starting with 50 miles of road forced me to keep the pace high from the gun.
While filling bottles at aid 3, Garth caught me and I jumped on his wheel and followed him up the singletrack climb. I think I only used my granny ring for a few seconds up the climb (over the whole race I spent way more time in the big ring than the granny which is drastically different than the races out here). The next few singletrack sections were rough but short and I could still pin it on the road sections.
Rolling into the 4th aid station I threw down some food, swapped bottles, and pinned it up the 2 track climb. Around the 5 hour mark, I really started to tick and the last ~30 miles flew by. I caught a few people in the last section and could easily still push 180+ bpm up the final climb without too much difficulty.
I had pre-ridden the last 10 or so miles, so once I hit familiar terrain I knew I was home free. Some twinges of cramping started to sneak up on me on the last railroad grade sections, but I kept the hammer down and finished in 7:42 according to my watch. Which was apparently good enough for 18th overall. In years past 7:42 would of easily been top 10, but not this year. Overall, I'm happy with the result and more so that I didn't see a single rattlesnake all day - I'll be back for sure.