June 13, 2010
Outside State College, PA
In attendance: Jay, Cam, Jeff
Conditions: Hot, muggy, raining (for the first hour), rocky
Course: 50 miles over incredible ridgelines, rocks, roots, gorgeous flowing and swooping singletrack, and a good amount of fireroad climbing
This past Saturday, I drove up to the State College, PA area to meet up with Jay and Cam and race the Shenandoah Mountain Touring's Stoopid 50. Jay and Cam's friends, the Matthews, lived just across the street from the race and they graciously let me stay at their awesome house for the night and use their garage to make last minute bike preparations for the next day. It was great to stay inside in air conditioning on such a muggy evening - camping would have been tough.
The next morning, we all got up early to get ready. The weather was threatening and overcast. After a few cups of coffee (great coffee at the Matthews' house, by the way!) and some waffling on my part on whether to use a camelback, we rolled over to the start area and I got in a bit of a warmup. All of the roots and rocks in the woods were covered in precipitation - I was having a lot of trouble riding some of the singletrack because everything was so slippery. And, as this was my third time back on my Spark since April following an injury, I was seriously lacking in fine-tuned technical skills.
I'd gotten some advice from Chad McCurdy (he was staying with us at the Matthews and helped me out with a tubeless setup on my Spark) to try and get to the front of the field before the Tussey Mountain ridgeline trail; that in years past, if you weren't one of the people first into the singletrack, you'd be walking for a long ways in the traffic jam.
The course consisted of some gravel road sections that led to awesome singletrack sections. Luckily, most of the climbing was on the gravel roads, so the singletrack was usually pretty flowing, either downhill or fairly flat. It made for a ton of fun.
At the start, the 200+ person field rode up a 15 minute road climb and it started pouring rain. Jeff Schalk, super-endurance racer from the Trek Co-Op team led up the climb and I jumped to get up a good position just before the first turn-off into singletrack, making it into the woods in 4th place. The two guys in front of me both crashed on the slick rocks that covered the trails. So, I followed Shalk for a bit until his Trek teammate bridged up to us and the three of us rolled along the extremely rocky ridgeline with what seemed like a good gap to any chasers. I was very happy to have gotten out of traffic and able to ride the rocks at a good pace.
Cam and Jay got near the front on the first singletrack section too, but Cam got a flat on the sharp rocks and took some time to fix it. He rode with 60psi in his tire to avoid pinch-flatting the tube which didn't make for the best of traction on the slick rocks.
Schalk's teammate flatted and I crashed at about the same time and Schalk got a gap on me. When we got to the first fire-road, I could see him in the distance, but as we went further, he put more and more time on me. I can easily see why he has won so many endurance races.
A guy from Alan bikes, Dave Weaver, caught up to me at the top of the long fireroad climb and I followed him down the other side to the feed zone and into the next section of singletrack, where I proceeded to crash, a lot. I seemingly crashed every time I saw a guy with a camera. Not the most photogenic day for me. Apparently, there's a video of me faceplanting into a rock garden. Despite all of my stupid wrecks, my bike performed flawlessly. I was so glad to have a 110mm-travel bike to get me through the rocks - riding a hardtail would have been exceptionally painful.
Weaver got a gap on me in some tight, rocky singletrack, and I was off on my own for the next hour until mile 35 at the feedzone when I caught up to him and a Freeze-Thaw singlespeed guy, Matt Ferrari, caught up to me. At the feedzone, Schalk had about 7 minutes on us. The climb after the feedzone seemed endless and I felt like I was standing still. I made the mistake of looking up the trail and couldn't see the end of it, or the top of the mountain. And, I watched Weaver and Ferrari get smaller and smaller in the distance. That makes the climb go so much slower. I was sure that a whole bunch of people were catching me, but I was getting some bad leg cramps in my right leg (I've been compensating for my left leg injury by using my right leg more) and I couldn't go any faster.
I caught Ferrari on the next climb and just trailed him to the top of yet another endless climb. On the last climb to the final singletrack descent, he got a gap on me and there was nothing I could do. I gingerly made it down the final, insanely rocky, singletrack to the finish to get 4th overall, about 20 minutes behind Schalk, 4 minutes behind 2nd and 3 minutes behind 3d.
Cam and Jay met up on the trail and rode together for most of the day and came in 20th and 21st overall - Jay was also second in the master's division (he had 30 minutes on 3d place).
Results are here.
All, and all, a hard day, but tons of fun. The SMT crew had built very cool rock bridges over difficult sections, chopped down tons of undergrowth in fast flowing singletrack and put together a fun and challenging series of singletrack linked by long fireroad climbs. I was just happy to survive.
Next weekend is the Massanutten Hoo Ha!, the third and final stop on the H2O Overdrive US Cup Triple Crown. It should be another day of long climbing and rocky singletrack!