Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Trans-Sylvania Epic Stage Three

   At 47 miles, today's stage is the longest distance of the week, but because it is relatively fast, it took less time to complete than stage 2.  It's been a long, hot day, so I may be a bit confused on the order of events.
   We started with a neutral roll out from the camp.  There were 2 big climbs before the first aid station.  It was mostly gravel roads, but there was a super fast washed out rocky descent early that separated the group a bit.  The single and double track that followed varied from smooth-as-greenway to kinda rocky to sandy to DEEP standing water and mud.  In some places the water was so deep I think 1/2 my pedal stroke was under water.  Whatever was under the water had grip so most folks rode it with no problem.  After the single track we were on a (paved!) road for a few miles to the mile 17 aid station.  I rode with single speeders who were glad to see me because I had gears and they could draft me as the road was mosly flat here.  We passed a horse and buggy along the way.

   The road turned uphill before the next aid station where my wife would meet me.  To get there we did 2 big climbs and then the biggest climb of the day leading up to the mile 34 aid station.  Mostly we were on a variety of dirt roads - the biggest climb being the rockiest.  There was one section of "single track" that followed the river that started out deceptively looking like sweet single track and turned into a bunch of large rocks and some mud and trees with arrows pointing which way to go.  Myself and the for-mentioned single speeders alternated riding a little bit, then hiking.  Some places were almost too difficult to hike the bike through.  Fortunantely this section wasn't too long.  After this part we were soon onto a hard-packed rail trail.  It was so smooth it felt like the turbo kicked in.  It was on this part, at mile 28ish, that pro-racer Barry Wicks went flying by me with his telltale smile.  I guess he had problems earlier in the day.  After this section we went through a train tunnel which had a very welcome cool breeze blowing through it.  It was kinda dark though (and a little scary).  I thought the aid staion was coming up before the big climb, so I wasn't really prepared like I should have been hydration-wise.  I made it up the seemingly never-ending dirt and rocky road to Penns View overlook where I met the wife for some water, Heed, and more Perpeteum solids.  It felt great to have  the cool water dumped on me.

   From here there was two more big climbs, but it was mostly rolling gravel roads.  On some of the descents it was kinda cool to see Speed Limit 25mph signs while my bike computer indicated I was going upwards of 35mph!  There was one more impromptu aid station offering water at about mile 42.  I passed it up and rolled on back to the scout camp.  We rode a bit of single track and then, finally, through the Red Bull finish line.
   Yesterday I finished 3rd which put me in 3rd for GC of the Masters 40+ category.  Today I struggled a bit, so maybe a top 5 or 6.  We'll go back to the camp and check official results tonight to see where I end up in GC.

   Colt from Cycling Dirt is here doing interview and race videos and updates.  You can follow along with the race at: http://www.cyclingdirt.org/

   Tomorrow's stage is another long one at Raystown Lake with even more climbing.  I'm gonna rest up!

See you on the trails!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Trans-Sylvania Epic Stage Two

Today's stage was billed as the toughest stage of the week.  I sure hope it was.

It was already starting to get hot when we rolled off at 9:30 am.  There was a neutral roll-off that kept the pack close together as we entered the first double-track rocky, wet descent.  It didn't take long for the carnage to begin - a rider was off into the woods early.  Some other riders stopped to help and I knew there "sweepers" riding behind the pack so I said a short prayer and continued on.

We mostly climbed gravel roads then single track with a few fast, treacherous descents thrown in and some hike-a-bike leading up to the mile 11 checkpoint.  I saw pro racer Jeremiah Bishop there with his bike upside down.  Never a good sign.  Kinda cool to be ahead of last years overall winner though.  I found out later he had broken a chain.  Several others had flats throughout the day as well.

The next section felt like 17 miles of rock garden.  I'm not terribly comfortable with long rock sections but I did manage to catch and pass a few riders.  The part that wasn't rocks was super narrow single track with brush about 4 feet high on both sides of the trail.  It made it hard to see what was coming up and the going was pretty slow but I eventually came to the mile 28 aid station.  The wife hooked me up with some Heed and cold water and I was off again.

The next section had more rocks, but it also had more mud.  There was one low section that wasn't even really "trail" so much as a large area with various sized rocks, roots and trees.  I got passed by 2 riders in this section making me feel a bit lame about my technical skills since I had already passed both of them.  When we popped out of the single track onto a long gravel climb I was back in my element and passed them back and hammered on (well, a rather fatigued hammering).  I caught a couple of other riders and we more-or-less pace-lined back to the scout camp.  One thing of note:  when we passed under the Hwy 322 bridge leading to the final climb about 1.5 miles from the finish there were optional beer handouts.  I can't actually verify this, so maybe it was apple juice?...

I finished in a little over 4 hours.  I'm still waiting for results, but I think I finished pretty respectable.  I'll head back to the scout camp for the nightly awards presentation and upcoming stage preview.  Another long stage tomorrow with lots of climbing.  Hopefully there will be less rocks.

See you on the trails.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Trans-Sylvania Epic Prologue

Today kicked off the 7 day stage race that is the Trans-Sylvania Epic.  It was kinda cool to be at the pre-race meeting sitting next to Barry Wicks.  Fortunately there is a Masters 40+ class, so I didn't have to race the pro's.

It was a hot, sunny day but had apparently rained quite a bit recently because there was standing water some places.  I pre-rode the entire course thinking it was a bit shorter than it turned out to be.  I'm not sure if it helped me or hurt me, but at least I knew what to expect - a bit of EVERYthing.

We started in one minute intervals from the Scout camp.  I was concentrating on my pace and effort and missed a corner...  I got turned around and back on course and calmed back down in time to twist thru the scout camp, cross a creek twice and on to the open road.  I knew there were a lot of technical and rocky sections coming up so I made it point to be in time trial mode every time I was on the open road.

After about 3 (or maybe 4?) miles of down and up the open road I got to a super tight section of trail that was kinda like riding in someone's back yard.  The trees were thick, so it was dark, it was kinda gravelly and rooty as well.  This gave way to a bit if uphill double track which turned into rocky, washed out single track.  This climb went on seemingly forever.  It was loose with large rocks everywhere.  I'm definitely not used to this type of trail.

After cresting the top there was a bit of a break with some gravel road, faster (but still rocky) single track and even some sandy sections.  There was a short hill on a gravel road that was so steep I decided it would be better effort-wise to hike it than ride it.

After this was a return to the Scout Camp where I probably lost the most time to my competitors.  There was deep standing water, mud, loose dirt and wet roots.  I had to do a few short hikes but after a soft saw dust climb, a trip through an amphitheater, and back around the lake I happily passed thru the Red Bull Finish line.

I felt like I ran a good, solid pace.  I made some technical mistakes and one wrong turn but I had passed 3 riders and no one caught me.  When the results came out I was glad to see I was listed in 5th place.  Tomorrow's stage is being billed as the hardest of the week.  We'll see how things shake out...

See you on the trails!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Looking forward to Trans-Sylvania

Tomorrow I make the 8 hour drive with the wife to State College, PA for the Trans-Sylvania Epic.  Having never done a stage race or even seen any of the trails in the area I really don't know what to expect.  I do like to set goals, though so these are some thoughts going into the race:

1.  Learn at every opportunity. Everything from nutrition to bike handling and recovery.  I will be around a lot of pro's and really fast guys (at least for a little while).   May as well soak it up.

2.  Finish.  Perhaps the main goal.  With all the rocky trails I'll need to ride smooth and focused to keep the bike intact.  I'll need to commit to proper recovery and preparation between stages to be ready for each stage.

3.  Have fun, relax and make friends.  After all, life's about people and relationships, not work and bikes.

4.  I have no idea (or control over) what the competition will be like but it would be super sweet to get on the podium sometime during the week.  I know I probably don't have the speed of many of my competitors, I compare much more favorably on endurance.  Perhaps later in the week I stand a chance...

Finally, no matter the results of the race I am immeasurably grateful to have a job that allows me the time and provides the finances to be able to attend; a loving wife to follow me and my bike all over the country; a God that loved me so much he sent his Son to die for me; and a country that provides me with freedom, safety and security.

See you on the trails! 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Next up: Trans-Sylvania!

Well, I've entered my first MTB stage race.  At 7 days of racing it is America's longest Mountain Bike stage race.  It was a rather large commitment of both time and finances.  I have no idea of how I will stack up against the competition.  The racers are from all over North America.  It will be all new terrain for me but I will be in a class that fits my age group and ability (Solo Male 40+).

I've been more than amusingly busy at work but I've managed to get some pretty tough training in.  In order to get long rides in during the week I'd get up before 4:00am to get on the bike before work then get some more miles in after work.  Repeat. 

With the first stage 1 week away there will be less miles but I still have time to get in a couple of races for some intensity training.  The Southern Classic Series races at White Water Center on Sunday then the Charlotte MTB Series races at Col Francis Beatty on Wednesday.

See you on the trail!