There's no starting line, heck there's not even a starting bell. They simply hand you a map and you go. 5 checkpoints, hit them in order, the route is up to you. If you do it right, it's about 100km give or take 40. There are no markings on the course because there is no course. Except for some "illegal" pavement sections and private property, bushwhacking is allowed. If you think you have the navigating skills and guts to wander off into the woods, well, you did sign the insurance waivers didn't you? The Wild 100-- a true backcountry race.
Given our combined lack of navigating skills, I'd been trying for a couple of years to get Rickyd to do this race with me. But after I got turned down twice, I decided to find another equally navigationally challenged race partner: Gina. My three goals: 1) get off the course before dark, 2) have lots of fun romping around in the woods, 3) remain married to Gina at the end of it all. Glad to say I accomplished all three.
Gina and I stayed at one of the Elk River Touring Center extension cabins. I recommend this to anyone doing this event since the overnight temps can get quite cold even in August and nothing beats a good night's sleep before the race.
Another reason to get a cabin: access to the (very clean) restrooms in the main lodge instead of lining up for the porta-johns before the start.
Race day started with my usual pre-race trash talking and flexing of the muscles:
Intimidation personified. I was not alone in this respect:
That's Bunky and Mike. They would go on to win the first-timers class. And of course Bike Lane teamie, Camp-- business as usual, looking cool as a cucumber:
The race started with a long fireroad climb that taxed the early hard chargers. I stayed off the gas for the most part and stayed back to watch Gina mix it up with some folks that we would wind up spending most of the day with.
After the fireroad came the Jeep trail of mud:
Then a little bit o fence hopping
...and we found ourselves at the first checkpoint some 15 miles later.
From the picture, you'd think we were in a tropical rain forest. The vegetation is all over the place, from tropical looking banana tree-like plants, to dessert cacti, to loomy ferns:
We hit checkpoint 3 not long after this pic was taken. And that would be the end of the race for us. There was no way to make the next checkpoint before the time cutoff, so we called it quits. Ten hours and 53 miles later, we arrived back at the lodge.
This was Gina's longest mountain bike ride by far, more than double anything she'd done in the past. Glad to see she was still smiling at the end of it. I hope I can get her to do it again next year, but I think I'll wait a few more months before asking her.
It would be great to see more coed teams doing this race. Consider this the callout for next year! What say you, homies?!? Ya got 8 months to train, and I know a good divorce lawyer.