Monday, June 14, 2010

Race report: Stoopid is as stoopid does

Whew.  On a hot, extremely humid day in State College, I was doing a little race known as the Stoopid 50.  It was to be the longest I've ever ridden my mountain bike in a day... yet I was planning to race this event.  After last week's nutritional errors, I had some real food in my drop bag, some real nerves in my belly and was ready to go.  And, for the first time in a while, I was a bit scared to race.  Nervous, yeah.  But actually worried.  That I wouldn't finish.  That I'd crash hard and get hurt.  That I'd get lost in the woods.   That I'd break my frame.  Not very likely outcomes, really.  I talked to a former teammate and buddy Weaver at the start - he was anxious - unsure how to hydrate and what to bring to eat... it was his first endurance race in a long time if ever.

The rain started 5 minutes before we did.  It only last about 15 minutes, but that was long enough to make it even more humid and dampen the rocks.  I knew from Mazz that the rocks were aplenty on a course where most of the climbing was fire roads or old double track.  I started with some effort but not overdoing it.  Passed a few guys who were checking out the chick's butts, and kept my effort steady.  Once on the dirt, there was certainly a log jam but I let a little gap open in front of me so my group didn't have to get off quite as often as the guys in front of us.  I was frustrated when I'd pull off to let the guy behind me ride a section I knew I couldn't, he'd dab, the 8 guys behind him would decide it was okay to walk by me.  But hey, I was in this for the long haul, so no worries. 

The riding up there is pretty technical in spots.  By pretty technical I mean it will be years before I can ride most of the hardest sections.  In that first section of singletrack I passed 15 or so riders who had flatted already.  Glad I was tubeless and running pressures like I do at Michaux.  The tires don't stick  as well, but I only felt my rim once all day.

I crashed on the first big downhill - not super technical but a bit off camber.  A woman was in front of me that was going a bit slower, so our speeds were checked a bit on this one.  The guys nearby were super worried - I had merely slid my front wheel a bit too far in to the dirt on the downhill side of the trail and lost traction.  But they thought it was pretty spectacular.

On a long fire road climb (a theme for this race) at about mile 10, I got to chatting with a Fuji woman, Laura, that I've raced cross against.  She's got huge power on a cross bike but has a tendency to crash.  We chatted happily up that hill - with her commenting that we should probably talk less.  I figure I go faster when I'm having fun, and we were both keeping each other moving.  At least, till the false flats began, then she dropped off.  She'd be back, though.

Rolling through the aid station the first time, I was floored.  Before I was off my bike they were asking what I need, filling my water bottle for me, handing me food and getting me on my way.  Impressive.  The volunteers actually looked like they were having fun.

The middle section of this course had a ton of singletrack.  Some of it I loved.  Some of it I didn't quite love, especially the mud covered rocky uphills that turned into hike-a-bike's for me.  Yeah, I love going for a walk in the woods with my bike, in bike shoes, on rocks I can barely walk on.  I cleaned some stuff, rode okay on the downhills, and only crashed a little bit on one log.  There had been more rain on this side of whatever ridge we were riding near - traction was sometimes pretty challenging.  I was ready for some fire road by the time we finally came out of the singletrack and back into the aid station.

This time I had some coke, topped up my camelbak (actually, a really nice volunteer did that) and ate part of my poptart.  I was happy to see that there were still 2 tubes in my drop bag, indicating that neither Mazz nor Weaver had flatted yet and needed another spare tube.  Laura rolled into the aid station as I was heading out of it and wound up finishing just a couple minutes behind me.

The climb out of that aid station is long.  I passed a number of guys cramping and walking their bikes.  By this point, it was nearly 3:00 and the afternoon sun sucked the wind right out of me.  I was still climbing okay, but getting ready to be done.  After a no speed limit downhill on old jeep road that was pretty smooth, another climb awaited.  I had what felt like a bit of motion sickness and some race tummy going on, so I had to spin pretty slowly up the start of this climb.  It wasn't the last one, but I knew we were getting close.

By the time I hit the incredibly technical, probably really fun on fresh legs downhill that Mazz had warned me about, I was cooked.  My hands and arms were tired, my legs were shaking a bit, I couldn't really see straight.  So I walked.  Until I decided to ride.  Then I crashed.  I would lose 6 minutes to the woman who passed me while I crashed.  6 minutes in less then 2 1/2 miles of downhill.  I walked some more.  I talked to myself.  I got on my bike and talked to myself, but it didn't flow.  I was fighting myself, the bike, everything.  When I got to the finish, designated by riding under a log through a creek, I was pretty relieved.  Nystrom and others were there cheering. 

When I got to the parking lot a few minutes later, a couple of cool things happened.  First, Mazz and Weaver both nearly knocked me off my bike by expecting me to fist bump/high five while riding.  Then I looked and saw Weaver had a clean jersey on.  His kit is white.   I figured this was a good thing - turns out he took 2nd overall.  Mazz also had a pretty awesome race, which made the trip home all the more fun.

Me, I finished 13th out of the women.  That should be right around the midpoint when you count the chicks who started but DNF'd.  50 miles, nearly 7000 feet of climbing, 7 hours and 23 minutes.  Stoopid.

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