Fools Gold Single Speed, 2012

Posted: September 9, 2012 by Mark in Uncategorized

The 2012 Fools Gold 100 mile race was my very first official 100 mile mountain bike race event.

I have ridden 100+ miles many times but racing the 100 mile format is a different beast. When we crank up the dial to “race mode”, everything becomes much harder. Racing brings out the best and worst in everything. In race mode the even an easy hill becomes a leg buster. Competition provides motivation to find your best possible performance.  Often my performances fall short. I bonk, crash, get lost, get hurt, or have some other big problem. For this race, my goal was to finish under 11 hours. My performance actually exceeded my expectations by a wide margin.

I was very happy to finish under ten hours and place 5th in the single speed category.

My standard strategy is to go hard from the start. Part of what I love about single speed is that the gear helps temper my natural tendency to blow up. At Fools, I ran a 34×22 gear. With the fast paved road start, I was quickly forced to go easy. It is simply not possible to pedal much beyond 120 rpms. The gear selection helped me keep my pace within my ability and prevented me from killing myself in the excitement of the first ten miles of the race.

The big challenge of the race was a nine mile gravel road climb. My gearing was ideal for the climb. Climbing on a single speed is fun because you can turn off the thinking part of the brain and just mash until you find the top. With this gear, I did not walk any climbs until late in the race.

After the big climb the course took us into some awesome flowing single track with moderate climbs and sweet high speed descents. I found that I was often passing riders on the climbs and then getting passed on the descents. Once again the single speed in effect forced me to go easy on the flats so I had a nice work/recover/work cycle. I was still riding well beyond my abilities but as I mentioned earlier going out fast and bonking is simply the way I tend to race. I was pretty happy and the light gear helped me keep my ego in check.

Around the thirty miles into the race, one of the riders in front of me had a really bad crash in just about the worst possible place. We were on a rugged single track ridge trail in a very remote area miles from the nearest road. The area was fast with some technical areas that could catch you by surprise.

I did not see the actual crash but was the second person at the scene. Mike who was also racing single speed was the first rider to the scene. The rider was too badly injured to move so he was blocking the trail. Mike directed traffic to prevent other racers from crashing into the injured rider. My friend Jeremy arrived a couple minutes later and stayed behind to help take care of the injured rider. I went ahead to alert the next rest area so they could send medical help.

Jeremy and others stayed with the injured rider and helped hike down with a stretcher. It took over four hours to get him off the ridge to a spot where a helicopter could fly him to the hospital. We later heard that the rider suffered a broken femur, broken collarbone, dislocated hip, and other injuries. Hopefully he will have a speedy recovery. People like Jeremy, Mike, and the other riders who dropped out of the race to help were the real heroes of the day.

After letting the people at the rest area know about the injured rider I continued with my race. The course was two 50 mile laps, I felt pretty strong until around 75 miles when I had a mini bonk. I pushed on through the energy lul and soon found I was at the same spot where the crash had occurred. They finally got the guy off the mountain just as I was passing the spot. Jeremy was still helping with the stretcher.

Once the guy was off the mountain Jeremy was able to ride although since he only did one lap he was no longer eligible for an official finish. Jeremy caught up with me and we road to the finish together. Having company for the last 20 miles helped lift me out of my bonk so I could finish strong.

It was a great race, I plan to return next year. I will be racing for myself next year but really in my heart I will be rooting for Jeremy because after this year he will have good Karma for the 2013 Fools Gold Race.

  1. James says:

    Wow! A top five finish, and under 10 hours!?! You have taken it to the next level. Fantastic…really, just amazing. Very happy for you and Jeremy both. It was his first hundred also and he has been having a good year riding. I will be rooting for both you guys for certain.
    Major props Mark.

  2. Thanks Mark. You had a good race and we will definitely be making the trip back for that one again next year. It was a good single speed course for sure.

  3. Wayne R Hudson says:

    You might be interest in “The Science Behind the Bike”
    available on Open University on iTunes.

  4. Matt says:

    Holy cow Mark! Fantastic effort as I don’t see the usual local/regional suspects above you on that podium either… I MUST join your HOPs soon to see if any of your success will rub off on me.

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