Friday, May 30, 2014

TSEpic Stage 6: The day I smiled for 60 minutes without stopping

Before today’s stage got started, I was cranky and tired. And I probably stayed that way for the first hour or two of the race. 

Today had everything. We went for a road ride, a hike, a 6 mile climb to hell, and then…

…wait for it.


Okay, before we got to today’s first east coast rocks segment, I wasn’t super stoked about the stage, but I knew that there was some really great stuff coming because everyone had told me that I’d really like this stage. 

This time, they did not lie.

Me getting passed by Mike Kuhn and Dr. Todd (I think)
after just eating something on a road section
photo courtesy of Dr. Todd (I think)
After the first checkpoint (which followed the six mile climb and then a ridiculous fire road descent complete with water bars conveniently distributed in just the right places to make you slow the F down), I saw the start of the east coast rocks segment.

My heart went all a flutter with joy. 

I’d been riding with my Eagle Lodge pal, Alan, and he let me check into the segment ahead of him. He thought he’d follow my lines and learn my New England secrets. He was sorely disappointed because I went completely ape-shit and time-trialed the living crap out of that section.

That’s when the smiling started.

And then it kept going because not long after that segment (and after a little bit of road) we hit even more fun singletrack (with even more rocks). I was in my element and completely delighted. 

Despite the sections of road that linked everything together today, I was really pleased with this stage.

Tussey Ridge heckle pit
photo stolen from TSEpic FB page
The highlight was the climb up to Tussey Ridge, which gave way to the second east coast rocks segment. While Stage 1’s segment felt a little bit like a joke (no rocks to speak of), Tussey Ridge was no joke. At one point, I went through some sort of a heckle pit where a guy in a hammock said something like, “the only thing harder than that is getting out of this hammock,” and by “that” he meant the absolutely stupid pile of rocks I was riding over.

Those were just awesome trails today.  The view from Tussey Ridge (while I was going all out to race it) was spectacular – views on both sides. 

I hate to do any complaining about today’s stage, but the last few miles deserve their moment in the spotlight. We climbed some road, and then we climbed some steep singletrack, and then we climbed some road, and then we climbed some god-awful backwoods bramble covered cow paths at mile 40.3 or something to bring us through the finish around mile 40.85 (and there I was thinking I only had a mile to go back at mile 39). 

But today was the best. 

I came back to the lodge to call AAA (a phone call that took 20 minutes and had me transferred 4 times and left me completely pissed off), and the car got unlocked. 

Then I drank some “recovery beverages” with the crew upstairs until about 45 minutes before dinner. 

Tomorrow’s stage looks to be a whole lot of fun and not a whole lot of racing. There’s just one, really long east coast rocks segment left, and I intend to race that part. The rest of the stage will be spent partaking in shenanigans and enjoying the ride. 

Today’s results . . .

9th in the stage (keeping me 9th in the GC), 7th in enduro (5th in GC), and 2nd in east coast rocks (unsure how that played out overall because I didn’t see results posted).

Tomorrow’s post may be delayed as I am anticipating some intense “recovery” going on throughout the day. But stay tuned all the same.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

TSEpic Stage 5: Good, bad, and not all that ugly . . .

There was a whole lot of hype leading up to today’s stage. And if you’ve been following my blog posts, you probably know that I’ve been looking forward to it.

Apparently the course was changed from past years, and what used to leave people broken and shattered has been tamed down. 

Yes, there were some rocky, technical trails out there – trails that remind me of some of my favorite haunts back in New England (Bigelow Hollow, Natchaug, Goodwin, Old Furnace, etc.), but quite frankly, there just wasn’t enough singletrack today. That was a HUGE letdown. Yes, fun trails – but not enough of them and WAY too much dirt road. 
Waiting to crawl into the pub

The race started off with a neutral group ride over to the base of a big climb that quickly turned into a single-file death march. No sooner had we hit the peak of that climb, and we were checking into our first enduro segment. I rode it pretty conservatively because the rocks were slippery, and I just wanted to have a smooth ride today.

So long story short: I rode like it was my job through the beautiful NE-esque singletrack, I meandered carefully down the enduros, and I rode with what felt like no power on the hills.

The weather today was cold, drizzly, and miserable in comparison to the past few days of steamy and warm, so I had to borrow some arm and leg warmers from Gary. I really liked the Death Row Velo stuff he let me borrow, and it didn’t clash too badly with my DAS jersey. 

I rode with Gary for a bit, but I wasn’t really up for having a riding buddy. When he broke his shoe and then rode away from me, I settled back into my own little world of hating the roads and wishing for more rocks.

But despite my complaining about all the roads, I’m glad I could finish the race today. My friend Leslie woke up sick this morning; send her some good vibes so hopefully she’ll feel good enough to get back at it tomorrow. 

After the race, we went over to Elk Creek Cafe for a complimentary beer and some french fries and fried pickles.  They weren't open yet, so we waited patiently on the sidewalk and threw the local coffee shop for a loop by giving them an afternoon rush like they've never seen.  

And then we went down to State College to visit Freeze Thaw Cycles because Gary managed to bust his shoe during today's East Coast Rocks segment, and he needed a new pair. We didn't get back to camp until dinner time. I ran around in a panic (after shoveling some food down) to get my bike clean, prep my laundry for laundry service (it needed pre-washing), pack my drop bags for tomorrow, and get in the shower.  

And then Gary locked the keys in the car... with my camelbak in there (he has no idea how that happened). Calling AAA after tomorrow's stage. My bad for leaving the keys in the car (along with the spare set).

Results: 9th in today’s stage, 9th overall in the GC, 3rd in the East Coast Rocks, and tied for 5th in enduro (with my roommate, Rachel).


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

TSEpic Stage 4: Hump Day Road Race

Despite today’s stage being the one I was looking forward to the least, it wasn’t all that bad. I was actually grateful towards the end of the course to see that there were only roads left.
How I keep my back clean.

The rain we’d gotten yesterday carried over into the morning, and we knew we’d be facing some sloppy conditions out there. Of course, if we were going to have to deal with a rainy race day, today was probably the best for it. 

Instead of racing on the Kona, I went with the hard-tail today because there were going to be a lot of
roads, the course was going to be muddy and destructive, and my butt needed to be in a different saddle. I’m glad I made that choice (even if the 1x10 was a little rough for some of the climbs).

The race started off way too fast for my liking, and I decided to just settle into a pace that felt kind of awful but wouldn’t destroy me. I knew I’d have to grab a wheel and do some drafting, but I was having a tough time finding a group that wasn’t going harder than I could handle at the start. 

Let me just say that I think breakfast was weighing me down.

(Breakfast is served at 7:30 and the stage started at 9:30.)

It took me awhile to come around, and I watched a lot of people pull away from me. 

Somewhere around halfway, I met up with Ellen, and after that, we spent a good portion of the race together. Despite suffering, we kept each other motivated, and as we made our way up the long climb out of the valley, I thought I spotted one of her U25 competitors in the distance. I told her she had 8 miles left, that she was riding strong, and to keep it up and race smart to the finish.

And holy shit. That’s just what she did! She dropped me like a bad habit and kicked some serious butt to the finish line!  (Nice work, Ellen!!!)

Ellen and I both spent some time with one of the male duo teams (Mike and Rory – spelling??) who took some pulls for us and followed our wheels as well (they were both on singlespeeds). 

There were a few notable moments of today’s stage…

1.     The fire-road enduro segment that went on forever and ever.  I almost ate shit but somehow stayed upright, and by the time I got to the check-out station, I was completely incapable of picking a line. 

2.     Ye olde train tunnel. This thing was dark, wet, and AWESOME.  There are pictures of it on the internet somewhere.  It was so cool, and there were some super rad supporters there handing out ‘recovery beverages.’

3.     The final long climb of the day. This didn’t look like much on the elevation profile, but let me just say, that shit was WHACK!!! I seriously came close to crying as turn after turn of this slimy, peanut-butter-coated climb brought more and more elevation into my line of vision. Early on in the climb, there was a pickup truck sitting on the side of the trail with two shirtless men who informed me that I was about halfway up the climb.  They lied.  They lied SO HARD.

I’m really glad that stage is behind me, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s “primitive” terrain.

Results: 8th place for today’s stage and 5th for today’s enduro segments. 10th in the overall GC and 6th in the overall GC for enduro. There were no east coast rocks segments yesterday or today. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

TSEpic Stage 3: Enduro (can we do this every day?)

Today’s enduro brought us away from camp to nearby Tussey Mountain Ski area, and everyone seemed super relaxed.

We had a really relaxed neutral start where we had 15 minutes to get out on our way, and everyone rolled out a very leisurely pace. Most of the day’s climbs were done in the granny gear and for good reason – today was all about recovery (despite the 4k feet of climbing).

When doing the enduro, you must wear baggies.
And riding a sick FS Kona helps make it fun.
There were 5 enduro segments throughout the day. The first two were pretty short while the 3rd was long enough to light my hands on fire with friction, and the final two were more steep and rocky. All were awesome.

Despite all of the climbing, I finished the 5th segment smiling from ear to ear, feeling completely refreshed and rejuvenated (a quick soak in the frigid stream at the base of the mountain might have helped too). Plus, I got off the mountain in just the nick of time – a huge scary storm was looming on the horizon, and shit went crazy pretty quickly. 

While I managed to escape today’s racing unscathed, one of my Canadian lodge-mates didn’t fair so well. Kaarin was wearing the leader’s jersey for the enduro today when she went down hard in a corner, breaking her ankle and putting her out of the race (“Mountain bikers, eh?”). I’m so bummed for her. She’s an incredible rider and an awesome woman – truly inspirational. Latest word is that she’ll be getting flown back home for surgery.

Matt from
And the epic line of people waiting to swipe in on enduro
segment numero uno.
I’m sure there were other casualties (bike parts, body parts, and what have you), but I don’t know of any others for certain except the guy from Panama I spent a lot of time riding with who somehow went headfirst into a tree (he is okay – just a little sore). I really enjoyed him and his friend today – they were fun company. 

I also spent some time riding with the young and talented, Emily Shields.  She’s only been mountain biking for 2 years now, but she can shred. And at only 20 years old, she’s got an impressive resume of bicycle racing. She’ll be one to  
keep an eye on in upcoming years.

As for results, it’s kind of up in the air at the moment. Our results were posted, and then, apparently there was an epic number of protests. Basically, what I’m about to tell you could be totally wrong. As of pre-protest, I was 10th for today’s stage and 5th for the week’s overall enduro score. I have no idea where I stand overall at this point, but I expect that everything will be listed on the website by morning. 

Tomorrow’s stage?  Coburn.  It’s the roadie stage, and I’m not super excited about it. 

My Kona Hei Hei Supreme ready for the 5th and final
enduro segment of the day - the rockiest one yet.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Stage 2: Can we climb some more please? (And after that, can we descend forever and ever?)

Holy shit.

Our Canadian bunkmates tell me that today’s stage is the hardest of the week.

I believe them.

Gary liked the stream (aka TSEpic spa)
If we weren’t climbing up gravel roads for extended periods of time, we were riding some of the most amazingly rocky, trails I’ve ever seen or descending the longest, steepest hills in the history of ever and ever.

We started out on gravel road that seemed to go on forever (10 miles, maybe?), and when we finally hit singletrack, I was pretty relieved. It’s all kind of a blur, but there are some things I do remember clearly…

…at the top of one of the really long climbs, we had a long section of super technical singletrack with an amazing view. I really enjoyed that section. 

The enduro segments were particularly painful for me today. I was basically holding on for dear life and trying not to get too out of control. I wouldn’t say that I ‘raced’ them, but I scanned in at each one for my participation points. 

Another notable moment today was climbing up Stillhouse Hollow (the final torturous climb of the day) and nearly running over a rattlesnake. I screamed, panicked, and then called back to the guy behind me to let him know to look out for it. 

Then final stretch of the race was pretty uneventful. We came back through the muddy section along the stream that was part of yesterday’s TT (not a fun section), and the finish area was pretty quiet (probably because the fast people had finished hours before). 

The food here is GOOD.
The first thing I did was make a recovery smoothie and head down to the stream for an icy soak. The second thing was take a shower (a cold one because even thought the boiler is fixed, it won’t stay lit long enough to heath the water). Then I laid in bed with my legs elevated while eating corn chips and trying not to choke to death because I just couldn’t be bothered to sit up to eat. And I finally got around to torturing myself with the foam roller of death and tidying up my bike (not a whole lot though because tomorrow is enduro day). 

I just got finished with a thanksgiving dinner complete with apple pie, and I’m skipping out on the award ceremony because beer yoga is more important.

So how did I do? 

I’m not sure where today left me in the grand scheme of things (overall placing), but I finished in 8th place (still out of 16) with a time of 5:09:07, I was 5th in the east coast rocks segment, and I somehow managed 7th for enduro despite my death grip on the brakes.