Day five after not racing and I am just now starting to get back into the flow of working and walking again. Yes walking! I’m sure you have heard that not only was the Transylvania Epic a hard seven days of mountain biking but it also made sure to go out with a bang and many of us ended up with stomach bugs that were crippling to say the least. I still have not ridden my bike since the stage race and have barely gotten any unpacking done. The fact that I have been able to feed myself (besides the time my parents drove up from Morristown to give Scott and I chicken noodle soup), make it to work most days, and feed my dog has been a win in itself.
The Trans-Sylvania Epic Stage Race was a first for me this year and of course I am beyond excited that I entered it. (Even if I did decide to do some heinous racing in Pisgah less than a week before! Which speaking of needs a blog of its own and will be posted shortly after this. I need more time!!) I was competing in the U25 category which ended up being one of the most competitive categories in the whole race. I raced Emily Shields from the BMC Dirt Project and Ellen Noble from the Trek Bear Development Team. Both are very strong girls and honestly going into the race were the picks to win the U25 category. As Vicki Barclay said one day, I definitely came in as the underdog and to do as well as I did I’m super excited. Of course number one would have been better, but Emily had it this week and she killed it! Go Emily!
The week started off with a time trial. Not sure why, but yes a 15 mile TT to start your epic week of mtbing. Luckily though it gave me plenty of time to settle in on Sunday after having to work Monday through Friday, trying to unpack from the Pisgah weekend, try to pack for a whole week in Pennsylvania and arrive at campsite on Saturday at 11 p.m. Scott and I found a spot right on top of a hill to set camp, which ended up making days seem longer while having to make that last climb up to camp.
Because my bike is so small it doesn’t fit a bottle cage. So, I started the race with a bottle in my jersey pocket. However within the first thirty seconds of riding on the TT course I ditched it! I really could not handle the jiggle and jangle that was occurring on my back. I figured 15 miles, who needs water anyways. ME!!!! I need water and within the first five miles. It was hot and in the time trial you have no idea how you are doing comparatively to the others because you all go off at different times, so I just kept trying harder but then stopping myself because I knew the next days I would need a lot of energy. Either way I recommend to never ditch water in a summer race no matter what.
Ellen won the TT race and I was second by 25 seconds and Emily was third. The next day was a forty-two mile MTB race that ended up probably being one of the best days of the event but my body did not think so. I am not sure if all those hours in Pisgah the weekend before still had me depleted or what but I was feeling sluggish. Emily took the lead pretty instantly on the gravel road and I ended up sitting in with a group of three guys til we hit the single track and ended up passing them and started off feeling great through the rocky single track.
I love technical single track. I am not sure what happens to my mind but put me on single-track and my mind instantly starts focusing on what is the best line and pedaling fast but smooth. However put me back on a gravel road and I instantly pick a small gear and try to just spin it out. I defiantly found out this past week that the gravel roads are mentally my toughest challenge in races and it is something that I need to work on. Emily stayed in the lead for most of the day but then got a flat towards the end and I ended up taking the lead with four minutes or so.
The third day was the enduro stage which was defiantly one of my favorite stages even though that was the stage I got a flat tire. After the Pisgah 111K I ended up putting a seat post dropper on my bike that I borrowed from Scott, the Kind Shock LEV. I have been fighting this battle where I feel as if I didn’t need a dropper seat post and it wouldn’t make me any faster, but after descending Pilot Rock in the 111K and fighting with the seat back and forth I gave into this battle. Needless to say it is one of the best upgrades I have done for myself. Even if you don’t feel comfortable with putting the saddle down all the way just putting it partially down and being able to get lower helps your descending tremendously. Also on top of the seat post dropper I got some sweet new wheels from NOX Composites. They are carbon rims with an asymmetrical profile so that the tension in the spokes can be more even, which then makes the wheels much stronger. I definitely felt the difference in PA with all the rocks! The timing could not have been more perfect in getting these.
I ended up winning the enduro stage and actually taking over the green jersey along with my white jersey for the U25 win. I was beyond excited about this, and realized I needed to start taking the enduro stages more seriously even if my competition wasn’t taking the time to scan in and out. Unfortunately there was the gravel stage for day four. This is known as the roadie stage, which is really not my thing at all. I planned on just hanging on, but as the day went on I just felt like I was settling in and not really getting faster at all. I would put it as my I just want to finish mode. Every pedal stroke gets me closer to the finish, but I just found myself in the smallest gear. Oops! Both Ellen and Emily beat me this day but I was still able to hold onto second place with Emily taking the lead. This is where I say goodbye to the white jersey.
Day five ended up being a great day for me though! I finished fourth overall in the women’s category and only a little under a few minutes behind the leader Vicki Barclay. I went into this stage with not so much of an, I want first place back attitude, but more of an, I want a redemption on how horrible I performed the day before attitude. I decided that even though there was going to be a lot of gravel roads that I was not going to settle in and I was going to pick the gear up and pedal harder. For me I have found that a high cadence doesn’t technically mean a faster speed. I have noticed that a cadence around eighty with a higher gear does much better for me, and that is what I did this day and ended up doing pretty well. I found myself on the gravel roads alone a lot but towards the end I ended up running into Cheryl Sornson, who was the women’s overall leader the week, and we were able to work together for the last long section of gravel road. This stage ended with an enduro finish so after the gravel road Cheryl took off while I scanned in and then it was off towards the bottom!! I didn’t put enough time in on this stage though and I still was second in the overall time, but day five was a great day on the bike.
Day six and seven feel like the same days in my mind. Probably because it was the end of the week and there was some fatigue setting in. Plus it seems as if the amount of single track starts to decrease by these days and I really was just trying to get through it. There was still plenty amounts of fun single track but the amount of gravel in between seemed to be growing. Especially on the last day when climbing an awesome piece of single track just to pop out and descend gravel my spirits were getting to their ending point.
I ended up placing second in the U25 and second in the women’s overall enduro which is a great way to finish my first Trans-Sylvania Epic. It was a great experience and I can’t wait to get to do it again. A big shout out goes to Kona’s Spencer for giving me a base layer with a hydration pack slot sewed on to it, because this honestly saved my back and shoulders tremendously. Not having to deal with all the straps and having it snug on my back with out all the hassle is everything I’ve ever wanted. The Kona Hei Hei Supreme handled all of the rocks like a champ especially with newly added features (Nox composites rims and Kind Shock seat post dropper).
I chose to participate in the Stage eight shenanigans where we had to down an impossibly hard pretzel and whoopee pies. I am proud to say I was one of few that didn’t cheat, but honestly I would have if I knew everyone else was! 😉 I actually even took quite a spill and left with a nice egg on my shin! Another great way to remember Trans-Sylvania Epic!