Unbound - The Mud Year
Unbound always produces epic stories, and this year more than most. One of our founders, Wen Dolphin, took on the 100 for his first attempt at the race. This is his story:
“I came into Unbound treating it as a training ride for my Leadville attempt later in the year. Especially after spending a few days on my feet in the Twisted Spoke booth at the expo, I had no expectations other than having a good time playing in the mud with 4000 friends.
“In the days leading up to the event, I was in total denial about the mud. As the rain continued to fall on Friday evening, I started to get more and more nervous. Luckily one of our athletes from Loose Program Racing, Hannah stopped by our campsite with a paint stick for me. I joked that I would not be using it, but little did I know how bad it had gotten.
“Because this was a B priority race for me, and I was more focused on being ready for Unbound weekend as a business, I did not do my best preparation. Race morning was me waking up early and eating a ton of Skratch Labs crispy rice cakes and waking Gabe up repeatedly as I was getting ready to go. (Sorry, Gabe!)
“Fortunately, my bike had been generously dialed by Addison Zawada and the Orange Seal Race Team, so I was able to just jump right on and head to the start line to watch the 200-mile racers start.
“I started at the front of the 7-hour corral, thinking folks were going to be honest with their likely finishing times. Boy, was I wrong! We started off, and I was immediately scared sh*tless a clueless rider was going to crash us all. I moved up quickly through the group trying to find some trustworthy wheels. I found a fit roadie (wearing road shoes ) from Kansas City who asked how I was feeling and if I wanted to try to bridge up to the front. I did. We worked well together for the next 10 miles and past hundreds of riders. We started to get into the fast guys toward the front just as we hit the mud. My new roadie friend disappeared immediately.
“I tried to ride through it, but within a quarter mile the wheels were so caked with peanut-butter mud they were no longer able to spin. Boy, was I glad to have that paint stick! I got to cleaning and trudged through the worst of it, then tried to ride again.
“I thought the bike was clean enough to ride safely. I’m not sure if more mud dislodged or if I had already damaged the derailleur, but at mile 22 the derailleur hanger ripped right off, twisting the derailleur and chain in the process. Or maybe the chain twisted first and jammed in the derailleur. Either way, I was done.
“Luckily, I happened to do this 20 feet from a pick-up truck filled with other cyclists and their broken bikes. Turns out, the truck happened to belong to the parents of Joshua (Superman) Eckert and his coach Chase Pettey, so I hung out to cheer for them. I also got to return the paint stick to Hannah from Loose Program Racing as she had lost her's.
“Riding in the back of the pick-up truck, swapping stories and cheering for the other cyclists was an absolute blast as I headed to Madison to meet up with Gabe and hand out energy chews to other, desperate cyclists.
I can’t pretend I was not disappointed and spent some time running through the “if only” scenarios, but I still had fun. It was definitely an adventure. I’m excited to come back and get vindication. See you next year, Emporia!”