Jake, my 3 year old, would describe the idea of signing up for a hundred mile race, even if it bears the name “Hundo”, this early in the racing season as a little “Poopyhead”. It’s a large effort. The Bailey Hundo returned this year to the Buffalo Creek trails, and Jenn, Mark, Ken, Stuart and I toed the line for the 2nd annual “Senator’s Race” last weekend.
The event was started by Chris Romer and his fellow cycling Senator’s last year as a fund-raiser for non-profits such as COMBA , Colorado High School Cycling League, Trips for Kids, and Kids on Bikes. The race winds through the Buffalo Creek trail system, and incorporates about 50 miles of pure, unadulterated single track sweetness.
Unlike the spectacle known as Leadville, this hundred miler seemed a lot less tense, and a lot more fun. The pre-race meeting wasn’t filled with fancy rhetoric, and the air wasn’t abuzz with pre-race jitters and nervous giggles. Jenn is a good barometer for pre-race insanity, and she only tossed her cookies once before the race, so I knew things were chill. After the pre-race meeting, we ate like kings at the Romer Ranch. The BBQ was excellent, and I stuffed my face with gusto. But I had to focus. While delicious, the meat wouldn’t produce the sweet nectar of an early morning catharsis. So I went back for giant heaps of beans and coleslaw. It hurt, but it was for a good cause, and I wasn’t disappointed the next morning.
We rolled out of the condo at 520am and headed down the long hill to the start. It was cold, but we were juiced up enough for the race, that I think most of us survived the chilly descent without freezing off any body parts. I had changed my category from single speed to geared, and I was happy I did because Stuart, Ken and I had decided ahead of time to try to stick together as long as we could. Ken and Stuart had utilized this strategy to wins for both in their categories at the Desert RATS a couple weeks prior. But more importantly, we get lonely out there, and 100 miles alone didn’t sound that fun. I rode Leadville single speed a couple years ago, and I got lonely. So I saddled up my new Walt Works 29er, which turned out to be a great decision.
The race started with a shotgun blast (Does buckshot come raining down a couple minutes afterward?). Ken got a fire in his belly, and he led us out of the start and up the dirt climbs faster than I would have gone out myself. Ken carries Clydesdale credentials, and I usually drop him on climbs on training rides. But he seems to always have another gear on race day. My heart rate was above threshold for most of that first 8 mile climb, but I didn’t want to get dropped, so I just tried to think happy thoughts. I was finally able to catch my breath once we hit the singletrack. Though fun, the trails are a mix of ball bearings and kitty litter. Spread that around on off-camber turns, and you could easily miscalculate yourself off the side of the hill. There were plenty of folks in front of us, so we just stayed in line and tried not to do anything too stupid. We alternated leads through the singletrack, not by design, but that’s just how it went. We ended up staying together the whole race. We rode together, we refueled together, we pee’d together. In fact, our first pee stop was in a big cloud of dust that was stirred up when Sonya Looney went down. Stuart was leading at the time, and he was right behind her when she misjudged a turn and went down hard. Inexplicably, he decided that that was a good time to take a pee break. When I rolled up, I saw Sonya, covered in dirt, scrambling to get back on her bike . . . and Stuart on the other side of the trail watering a bush. It was strange, but I didn’t ask questions because I had to go by that time too. Sonya got the last laugh though. We stopped after Aid #5 to relieve ourselves, and she came flying by and called out, “PEE BREAK!”. We never saw her again.
Riding together was really fun, but we did have a couple small hiccups along the way. While leading, Ken’s saddlebag worked itself loose, so Stuart and I pulled off for a bit so we could keep the Team together. Later on, Ken was leading again, and his bike started making unnatural noises when he pedaled. Turns out, his little chainring somehow lost a couple bolts, and the remaining 2 bolts were hanging on by a thread as the ring clattered around on every pedal stroke. We all stopped to tighten things up. But it took more time than it should have. I pulled out my multi-tool only to find out that the 5mm hex wasn’t there. Two of the chainring bolts were gone, and the other two were in awkward places, and Ken’s tool was too clunky to tighten them effectively. We finally were able to get the bolts to seat in opposite holes, and I had to tighten them by hand. Once we were finally riding again, I made up my mind that Ken wasn’t allowed to lead on the singletrack anymore because his mechanicals kept happening when he was at the front.
Trying to make up lost ground is dangerous. While it is tempting to reel in all those riders who passed you during the downtime, going too hard, too fast will blow you up. So I tried to keep things fast, but reasonable. Stuart and I traded off the lead until we got to Aid #6 where we had our drop bags, and where Wheatridge Cyclery had a great team of mechanics to get us fixed up. Those guys were fantastic. They were able to find a couple spare bolts, and they got Ken’s bike back to almost new (the ring had been bent into an ellipse). We were back in business! Big thanks to Gil and his crew for supporting the race.
After loading up with fresh supplies, we headed out on the long dirt road. At first, we rode in a rather untidy pack. After a couple minutes, I turned to Ken and Stuart and said that we should get organized. So we straightened out into a pace line and rode hard. We had picked up a fourth rider from the beginning. Todd, with Honey Stinger, joined in our paceline, and he knocked out some hard pulls. Along the 14 mile stretch, we passed a dozen riders, and invited each to join the Alchemist Train. “Hop on!” Some did, some didn’t. At one point, we had 10 guys working together. I was glad I had gears because I couldn’t have crazy legged it for 14 miles to keep up in this pace line. We were all working hard, too hard. I felt like had I to bury my legs each time I was at the front so as not to let the guys behind me down. But the pace was too fast to sustain, and it looked like a bunch of the guys were starting to crack. Todd finally said to me as I pulled off from one of my pulls at the front, “We should back off. There will be plenty of time to beat each other up later on.”
I knew he was right, so I told each person I went by on my way to the back to do shorter pulls. We stayed together for a while until the grade turned up. That’s when the wheels fell off the train. Each time Stuart went to the front on a steep pitch, we would lose more guys. I made an official declaration. “Don’t let Stuart lead the hills!”
By the time we got through Aid #7, we were down to 5 guys. It seemed that working so hard on the previous stretch of flats had taken the will to race out of us, so we were mostly content to baby the hills and coast down the descents. Honey Stinger Todd and Mike, with Epic Endurance, had made it through the flogging, and we all rode together for most of the remaining climb back up to Aid #8, which was more like a death march. Long, persistent, hot. The grueling climb along with the burnt out areas from previous fires made me feel like we were embattled compatriots in a Mad Max movie. If I were by myself, I would have been content to just call it a day and limp home. But Ken kept pushing the pace at the front, and I didn’t want to ride alone. Somehow we lost Mike and Todd at some point after that. Much of the last 20 miles is a blur, but I do remember Stuart mentioning that he would have been perfectly happy if the race was called the Bailey 90. I nodded in agreement. Ken replied, “Stuart . . . tell us a story.”
Stuart wasn’t in the mood.
Ken and Stuart stopped at around mile 95 to pee, and frankly, I didn’t need to go at all, but I didn’t want to ride alone. There was shade nearby by so I stopped too and tried to squeeze out a few drops. We finally entered the home stretch when Mike suddenly flew by us. He had resurrected himself from the dead, and looked strong. Not a single one of us even considered giving chase. On the last climb, I figured it was time to air it out. I didn’t know if the guys were behind me, I was too tired to look, but they stayed with me the whole way. Stuart went ahead and led us to the top and then down the descent to the finish. We all crossed the line together, which was a great feeling. I would have been happy with a 10 hour day, but we finished in just over 8.5 hours. We took 52nd, 53rd, and 54th. Not too shabby. It was a hard, but super fun day, and I enjoyed the heck out of riding with my boys the whole time. It took the planets to be aligned for us to fire on all cylinders and ride together without someone getting dropped. Or it took Stuart waiting for us to catch up.
Other notes: Jenn had an asthma attack for the last 60 miles, and nearly overdosed on her Albuterol, but still managed to podium. Mark rode well too and set a PR with his effort. Strong work! If you haven’t heard of the Hundo, you will. It’s like Leadville, except not at all. More singetrack (way more), less hoopla, less vomiting for Jenn, tons more fun. Hopefully the forest service allows for more riders in the future, which will benefit the race’s charities greatly. See more at http://www.bailey100.com.