Race Report: Pierre's Hole 100Jeff Kerkove 8:29 PM
The Pierre's Hole 100 was a first year event held on the west side (backside) of the Grand Tetons. I stumbled upon this event while searching to fill a void in the August race calendar. Located outside Alta, WY, this 4 lap 100 mile race was a perfect fit. Each 25 mile lap consisted of awesome singletrack, two-track, gravel roads, and paved roads. Going into the event, the weather looked sketchy with temps below 50F and a good chance of all-day rain. When I woke up the morning of the event at 4:30 AM, the skies were partly cloudy and cool...about 40F.....stars were sparkling in the sky. Breakfast consisted of some Cytomax PreFormance, 2 bananas, and coffee. Shortly after consuming breakfast and doing the daily AM duty in the bathroom, I headed up to the venue to get dressed, warm up, and set up my cooler next to the start/finish for my nutritional needs.
Pre-Lap and Lap 1
The race started at 6:30 AM with a short 3 mile pre-lap before heading out on the full 25 mile 1st lap. The gun went off and I went straight to the front at my early race pace. I immediately had about a 70 yard gap on the field. Not being in a huge hurry, I maintained my lead for about 1.5 miles before being joined by another rider on a SS who was racing the 50 mile race. This rider laid down a pretty quick pace for the remainder of the pre-lap before we headed out for the first full lap. This rider was was a local so I stayed behind him and followed him through the first half of the lap to get a good read on the good lines of the course. Once I got to the section of the course that I recognized, the rider up'd his pace and pulled away. With no need to chase, I let him go...never to see him again. Now alone, I was hitting a long huge down hill that started on a fire road then switched over to wooded singletrack. This was one of the best parts of the entire course....with super flowy singletrack and cow dodging. Yes, I said cow dodging, as this part of the course was an open range. Lucky for me, I only had to yell at one small cow to get out of the way on this lap....and this would be the only one the entire race. At the bottom the descent, I now emptied onto a gravel road which then took my a up to a paved switch back climb towards the ski resort where we started. When I hit the gravel, I saw some riders coming up behind me. Out of these 2 riders, only one was a 100 mile racer. This rider on a Spot hardtail wearing a Dale's Pale Ale jersey rode with in sight distance of me. Once to the top the the paved climb, the course took a left turn onto a forest service road. It climbed briefly, before dropping about 1,000 ft into the valley below...and into Idaho. The descent was fast....and sketchy in spots with deep water ruts, water bars that would launch you off your bike, and loose soil. The descent ends at private property. I then pedaled up this farmers driveway...through his farm.....then through the horse corral before hitting the hardest climb in the race. Right before the climb, I was joined by the 2nd place 100 mile racer on the Spot branded bike. Also with him was the 2nd place 50 mile racer. Now on this long climb, I let the 2nd place rider set the pace. Grinding it out in the middle ring, he had me pushing hard...harder than I wanted to. But, I didn't want him to get away from me. This climb takes like 20-30 minutes to climb. Half way up, he dropped into the granny gear...as did I. The climb finally stopped at the paved road that lead up to the ski resort. Onto this road we rode wheel to wheel on this gradual paved climb. After about 5 minutes of so of paved climbing we hit a left turn that took us to fresh singletrack for the final descent to the ski resort and start/finish line. Myself and the Spot rider came into the line together with a lap time of 2 hrs 17 minutes....if you take out the 3 mile pre-lap, the lap was right at the 2 hr mark.
Rolling out for Lap 2 with fresh bottle and gel flasks, myself and the other rider went out at a solid tempo. The pace was perfect to ride all day. Together, we rode the opening service road climb and descent....and short climb. About 100 yards from the top of the service road descent I took the lead and led into the singletrack. The singletrack was a mix of buff, rough, and rocky trail. Speeds were high....and speeds were slow due to the grunt climbing up the side of the ski resort. Still riding with the 2nd place rider, we rode about 50% of the course together. On the descent down to aid station 2 I put a small gap on this rider. Now with a 3 mile paved climb in front of me, I burned a few matched to increase the gap. I soon found myself riding solo....and not knowing my gap on this rider. Through the rest of Lap 2 I pushed the pace as hard as was comfortable and smart when pacing out an event as difficult at the Pierre's Hole 100.
I came in from Lap 2 alone and once again grabbed 2 fresh bottles and 2 gel flasks. I also grabbed more electrolytes from the aid station at the start/finish line. I headed out on lap 3....as the skies began darken. This lap is where i really began to feel the effects of this race course and the 4,000 ft of climbing over each 25 mile lap. Legs were getting heavy....and the snap was slowing down. I pushed. I pushed as hard as I could to still eek out another 25 mile lap after this one. In the later parts of the lap I was getting time splits from people on course. One guys said I had 25 minutes on 2nd place. Another guy said I had 10 minutes. Such a dramatic spread in time. Not sure whether to believe what they were telling me, I pushed on up some of the steeper climbs passing slower riders pushing their bikes. With about 3 miles left in lap 3 the skies opened up with rain. Not heavy rain, but enough to get the roads wet and to make the 50F temps feel much colder than it was. This forced me to pull up the arm warmers which were slid down in the heat of battle on lap 1. I finished out lap 3 feeling like it was time for the race to be over. While it was not raining at the finish line, you could see it falling at different spots around the mountain. This would make for an interesting 4th lap.
At the beginning of Lap 4 I stopped briefly again to grab fresh bottles, electrolytes, and gel flasks. I took the opportunity to get a good shot of sugar from a Starbucks Double Shot. I slammed the coffee flavored beverage and continued on for the 4th and final lap. Still with no idea how far 2nd place was behind me I pushed as hard as i physically could. The sugar from my Starbucks beverage did the trick for about 1 hr before it wore off. Lucky for me, this happened just before I reached the top of a climb to start a long singletrack and fireroad descent. On the way down the descent it began to spit light hail. By the time I hit the singletrack, the hail was falling pretty hard. It turned the ground from green to white and the trail I was riding on became slippery.....not from mud....but because I was racing over ice pellets. Sure enough the hail lasted until hit the bottom the descent. At the bottom, the hail was already melting for my climb up a long stretch of paved road. This road gives you a lot of time to think....."Will I get caught?"......"Will the weather go bad again?"....."What are the side effects to the pain I am feeling in my body?". Regardless, of the pain, I just kept pushing...telling myself not to dismount the bike. The last stretch big climb out of the valley was hard...very hard....very slow going.....pedal strokes that were squares rather than perfect circles. This two-track climb topped out onto a paved road. Thinking this would be much easier, the gentle grade just made a mockery of my beat'n-to-death legs. Thankfully, the engine had the gas left to get through the road and final section of loamy singletrack.
I would finish my 4 lap 9 hours and 17 minutes after I started. This was good enough for the overall win on the Men's Open 100 mile race....some 15 minutes over 2nd place.
First place in each race got a custom wool jersey....and those that went under 10 hrs in the Men's Race got the belt buckle...as well as a bunch of other little items. The prizing didn't stop there. Also received an entry to next years race and a free day of snowcat skiing at Grand Targhee. Guess I need to learn to ski now. Ha!
Seriously, this event is going to get HUGE! It has the venue and course to make it an instant epic! Next year they are adding more singletrack...and making the laps 33 miles...so you only have to do 3 laps. Keep an eye out for it. I am heading back!
Lastly, about 2 hrs after I finished it began to sleet....then came the grapple....then snow. Not enough to stick on anything.....but still, it was snow....in August. It would go on to rain the remainder of the evening at the campground. In the AM, the Tetons were covered in a light snow.