Slatyfork Wild 100
August 17, 2002
The 8th annual Slatyfork Wild 100, is a back-country mountain bike race put on by the Elk River Touring Company (ERTC) in Slatyfork, West Virginia, adjacent to Snowshoe. The race is supposed to be 100k, but can be much longer.
Saturday, 6:45 am ERTC
I'm standing in a group of about 200 racers and hardy spectators wondering what i've gotten myself into. The race director is giving a speech about the rules (no outside help, DQ if using paved roads, must be to checkpoint 4 by 5pm), and telling us how the organizers think that the race should be longer next year, it's not extreme enough. Longer huh? Glad I'm doing it THIS year!

Despite telling us to line up in four neat lines, there's a huge rush when the folks come down the stairs with the course maps. Since there's no official route, the maps are the key to this race. The maps are marked with 5 checkpoints, which we must hit in order. The exact route is ours to choose. Once everyone has a map, the race begins.
7am: Race Start
Elevation 2700'
Leaving ERTC, we do a half-mile on pavement and make a left. At the end of a short logging road we cross two streams and hit the base of Props Run, the first climb of the day. The climbing goes on forever. At one point I run into someone coming back down the trail, he broke his seat and is headed back to ERTC. He tells me I'm about half way there. Only halfway? I'm feeling okay, but the front derailleur's clattering a little bit in granny. I shift into my middle ring and my largest cog and keep spinning. About ten miles into the race, and 1600 vertical feet later, I'm at the first checkpoint.
Checkpoint One
Elevation 4000'
The first checkpoint consists of two very good-natured guys and a clipboard, there won't be any support until CP3. They rode up there earlier to wait for us and as we each arrive they ask our name and race number. They encourage us and help one racer with some bike problems she's been having. Teams 5 and 6 arrive just ahead of me, each consisting of two women. These four friends drove up from Georgia and Florida to race. Arriving just behind me is Team 14, Dusten and Brian, both from the Pittsburgh area. We're all in the back but everyone seems to be doing well. I eat a banana from my bag.

Leaving CP1 we're in for another few hundred feet of climbing on the trail and then onto USFS 24, a gravel fire road over the top Gauley Mountain. The seven of us stick together for a bit, looking for the turnoff which would take us off the fire road and up to CP2. A few miles later we split up. Some of us take the longer route which is mostly fire road, followed by a bit of technical singletrack, the others choose the shorter route which is almost all singletrack. In the end we all arrive at CP2 within minutes of each other.
11:15am: Checkpoint Two
Elevation 4200'
Two more guys and a clipboard greet us at CP2. We take a few minutes to eat something and hop back on the bikes. For a while I'm riding with the girls of Teams 5 and 6. The scenery and the trails have been spectacular so far, although the climbing has me in pain. I rarely spend this much time in the saddle, climbing, and my ass hurts. Finally, on the way back to the fire road I get some faster down hill sections and really let the bike fly. It's a blast.

Back on the fire road and we head south for about a mile to Gaulley Mountain Trail. It's mostly rocky, ridge trail for the next 6 or 7 miles or so, not too much elevation change and it passes quickly. I'm not sure where the women are anymore, but as I cross the scenic highway onto to the Red Spruce Trail, I catch up to Brian and Dusten, Team 14, resting a bit. Another highay crossing and we're on Red Lick North, a few miles of consistent downhill leading to CP3. The seven of us (Teams 5, 6, 14 and me) are riding together again, Phil had gone ahead a while ago, and we run into him coming towards us, he's already been to the checkpoint. He tells us we're only about 6 minutes away from it, and his odometer says 31 miles. Almost halfway?
1:45pm: Checkpoint Three
Elevation 3750'
Spent a little longer here, maybe 20 minutes. I ate some of the food from my bag, drank a Coke, refilled my Camelbak, and left the checkpoint. It was a long climb out of there and I wanted to get going before my legs decided they were done for the day.

Back up Red Lick, then Red Spruce. Back over to Gaulley Mountain Trail for a bit, and then the connector trail over to Tea Creek. By now the skies have opened up and it's pouring rain on me. I'm drenched, but at least my bike, which was completely covered in mud, is somewhat cleaner. At the beginning of Tea Creek Mountain Trail I run into Dusten and Brian, Team 14 again. Over the next six miles, the trail climbs to over 4500' at it's peak and then drops fast to CP4, at 2900'. Our legs are shot, and the steep climb up to the peak is a mixture of walking and granny gear climbing. The massive rock garden at the top isn't much better. The ride down from the peak is another story. We literally fly down the thin, muddy, ledge as we lose all our elevation in under two miles. We stop a few times simply to let our hands recover from the braking we have to do to control our speeds.
4:45pm: Checkpoint Four
Elevation 2900'
We've made it to CP4 by 5pm, we can continue. There's no bailing out after this point, once we head up the mountain towards CP5 the only way back out is by bike, but we've decided to finish. There are four of us now. Phil, who was 30 minutes ahead of us after CP3, had gotten lost somewhere and arrived at CP4 a few minutes behind us.

This morning, everyone put their lights (and anything else they might want 'later') into a crate that would be waiting here, at CP4. We fill our camelbaks, eat some food, and grab those lights. we don't need them yet, but we will before we get back to ERTC. We figure that we've got about 4 hours to go. It's 5pm and CP4 is closing. Officially we're the last group on the trail.

There are essentially three route choices which will get us to CP5. Two are very technical (one is labeled "Not Recommended" on the map!), and one is intermediate, but will add a few miles to the trip. We decide that discretion is the better part of valour, and begin the long climb up the intermediate trail. It's about six or seven miles of constant spinning. I'm really hurting at this point, my feet are aching, my legs are aching, and parts of me are going numb from all the time in the saddle. I get a flat and we stop briefly, at which point i divvy up the remainder of my beef jerky among the guys. Eventually we get to the top of the first small peak and are rewarded with some wonderful downhill sections, unfortunately, it doesn't last. We cross Tea Creek on the Bear Pen Trail and over the next mile and a half we gain over 500 feet of elevation. We all alternated between walking and granny gear climbing but we finally made the peak and a short time later we were greeted by the gang at CP5.
8:00pm: Checkpoint Five
Elevation 4350'
This is a remote outpost, so no water is available, although they offer us some Clif Bars and lots of encouragement. "It's all downhill from here" and "You're done, just ride it home" make us feel great. They take down our names and numbers, and we install our lights. It's dark, we'll need them real soon.

We leave the checkpoint and I'm feeling tired, but really good. I think we're all getting a little bit of a second wind, or we're anticipating being done. We take it slow, we don't want to get lost now. At one point we backtrack a few hundred yards to make sure we didn't miss the left turn we needed to make. It's pitch black by now, the only light is from our helmet lamps, and missing a turn could cost us lots of time. Eventually we find the left turn and head down the trail. I'm starting to feel even better, I'm leading the group and we've accelerated. I'm focusing on the trail in front of me, the whole world is what's lit up by the light on my head. Occasionally we stop, and between the rain and the mud and the sweat we're soaked and the lights illuminate the fog of steam rising off of us. Before long we're at the fire road. We're getting close and I stop worrying about conserving battery power for the lights. I flip on the bar lamps in addition to the head lamp and we scream down the fire road. Miles of fire road go by pretty quickly and we're back out to the main road. We make the left and roll down the road towards the Touring Center. As we pedal past the campground we hear a cheer go up from the people who've already finished (and eaten, and showered). We're psyched. We group up, the four of us, cross the bridge and pedal up the driveway to the final checkpoint. Done. 14 hours 23 minutes, last place never felt so good.
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