Saturday, June 2, 2012

Trans-Sylvania Stage 7: Final Day

The final stage of Trans-Sylvania was a relatively short 26 mile loop from the camp.   The air of intensity that preceded the previous stages has been replaced by an  atmosphere of relief as the riders sign-in for the final time and circle around to warm-up.  It's a chilly PA morning, with occasional glimpses of the sun.  The trails have been pounded by overnight rain.  I see tires with more knobs on many of the bikes, arm warmers and jackets on many of the riders.

TSE promoter Mike's now-familiar morning announcement includes the usual sign-in reminnder but also requests that those racing move to the front, and those "just riding" move to the rear for the start.  TSE tradition has some of the classes where the GC order has been decided riding a "truce" stage at a more relaxed pace.  I'm 12 minutes out of 6th, 6 minutes ahead of 8th on GC.  I move towards the front.

For the final time, we roll off.  The pace lacks a bit of the snap from the previous days, but is quite brisk.  I'm feeling good, but my legs are very stiff.  I remind myself that my legs don't have to feel good to have a good day and I manage to keep the pedals turning and the bike moving forward.

The first section of singletrack is familiar.  We rode it the opposite direction in the prologue.  The rider in front of me is struggling on the rocks (more so than me).  The rider I'm chasing for 6th on GC passes me.  My legs are complaining about the bursts of power to clear the rocks, but recover when it's too technical to pedal.

When we get out of the singletrack, we start a steep climb.  My legs like this much better and I start to reel the riders in front of back in.  When the climb levels out it is rockier with lots of large water puddles.  Puddles are maybe not a good choice of words.  Most of them cover the entire fire road and some are quite deep.  Some have slip-slidey mud underneath, some are smooth and grippy under the water.  Regardless, it's an added concern not knowing how deep the water is before blindly barreling into them.  Fortunately I have some riders in view ahead of me and I can usually tell what line to take - or avoid.  And then it's a long descent.  It's not super steep, but it's rocky in spots, really rocky in others.  Mostly I can hammer it, sometimes I hit the brakes when the rocks are extra big or pointy.  Whatever I'm doing - it's working because I'm dropping the riders behind me and running down the riders ahead of me.

As usual, after the biggest descent is the biggest climb of the day.  It actually feels kind of good to climb, or maybe it's just knowing that I'm on the last big climb.  I decide to push the pace a bit.  I feel good and catch a few riders on the climb.  At the top of the fire road section of the climb is the final aid station of the week.  It's a short day, so I don't need to stock-up on a lot of extra stuff.  After a brief stop I make the left turn up the steepest part of the climb.  It's rocky, washed out, steep, single track.  Did I mention steep?  It's rocky, but ride-able.  Well, for me, it was maybe ride-able a day or two ago.  Today I ride until the effort required to pedal is greater than that required to hike.  The pace is roughly equal.  I feel bad about hiking when I have to move out of the way for two riders, but, for me I think the wiser thing was to save my legs.  It's still 10 miles to the finish.

Next up is some overgrown, rugged singletrack.  This turns into the moto section of the trail (yes, as in: motorcycle).  It's loose rocky, downhill, and bermed with the added bonus of fallen trees to bunny hop.  It kinda hurts to power over the rocks and trees, but there are enough downhills to go with the sharp uphills that I can recover and feel like going again.  This section has been mostly downhill.  So, of course, it's soon time for more climbing.  The first part is on very large, loose gravel that keeps the bike moving around underneath me as the rocks give way, but there is grip and where there is grip there is forward progress.  I plod on.  The rocks become fewer and soon we are back onto gravel road.  Still climbing.  But these are familiar roads.  Almost back to the camp.

The gravel road flattens, then undulates up and down.  The familiar yellow arrows I have been following for a week direct me onto the sandy, large rock, wide single track (single-track-and-a-half?) trail that we've ridden on several times before.  This leads to the snowmobile parking lot, down the road a bit and onto the trails at the camp.  This time there is a twist - we take a sharp right up a steep climb.  I coax my legs into spinning up this last climb.  I push, with all the energy I have left, past the swimming pool, over the bridge, around the pond and, for the last time, through the Red Bull finish arch.

It's a relief, an accomplishment, a conclusion to a good week.  I'm happy that it's over because my body is quite ready for a break, but it also signifies the end of what has been a very good week.  I'll miss the routine I have been in.  But on Monday morning I'll have to return to reality.

I finished 5th on the day, clawing back enough time today to move up to 6th in GC.

What have I learned?  Challenge yourself.  Step out of your comfort zone.  You were designed to do great things!

See you on the trails!   ...after a bit of recovery.

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