Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Stoopid 50

A shorter, more intense version of the Wilderness 101 would be the best way I could describe this race. Both races are located in Rothrock State Forest and share many of the same trails. The obvious difference between the two is the distance. Appropriately named, the Stoopid 50 is 50 miles long and the Wilderness 101 is 101 miles. While the Stoopid lacks in distance (compared to the 101) it makes up with singletrack lined with rock gardens, which is a real treat. Last year I won this event and planned on defending my title. This would not be an easy task as there were plenty of racers there capable of taking the win. The initial strategy was to take off the front with former teammate Rob Lichtenwalner and enjoy a fast paced ride while pushing each others skills in the rocks. This strategy would have went as planned like it had earlier this year at the Rocktober Marathon, but Chris Beck launched an attack up the first fire road climb forcing everyone chasing to redline it. At the top of the climb I was side by side with Flyin Ryan and gave a little extra to gain the second spot into the singletrack. Shortly, I caught back up to Chris and made a pass after he made a bobble in the rocks. Thinking that this would be the last time I would see him, I pressed hard on the pedals and danced through the rocks and over the logs before popping out onto another service road before aid station #1, 10 miles into the race. Looking back, Chris was still in sight and I knew there would be a battle which would last all day. Coming up quick was the notorious hike a bike up Sassafras trail. Attempting to ride up this was extremely taxing, but pushing the bike is much less fun, so I gave it a go. After riding a decent portion of the trail I was forced to walk the last 5 minutes of the climb (much better than hiking for 15-20 minutes). At the top Chris was still right behind so I gave it another go to lose him on the downhill. Hoping that there were no trees down from last year I poured the gas on for the brake smoking descent, ripping through every blind corner that twisted through the mountain laurels as if I could see for miles. At the bottom would be another service road and some more climbing. Seeing that I only put a few seconds on Chris I let up on the pace knowing his climbing abilities. We rode together to the next section of trail and I made another attempt at making some space between us, but by the bottom, only a small gap was made. Another fire road took us back to Sassafras as we would ride up the other side of the trail (I think climbing both sides of this trail is one of the reasons for naming the Stoopid 50). This is where Chris made his second attack of the day. I desperately tried to hold on, but slowly lost sight of him. Instead of panicking, redlining it, and blowing up I just kept the pace high and would try to close the gap in some of the following technical sections. By the time I made it to aid station 2, 30 miles in, Chris was 2 minutes up. With about an hour and a half to go, I got my caffeine fix and picked it up a notch in the twisty stuff, taking more risks than I had earlier trying to break away. Getting splits from volunteers on course, I was slowly gaining time back. Pushing relentlessly, I popped out onto the final service road, which meant there were only a few miles left until the finish. Race promoter, Chris Scott welcomed me on this final road, giving me some words of encouragement as I dug myself deeper and deeper into the pain cave. Soon Chris Beck would be in sight again and I jumped out of the saddle and shifted as close to the 44X11 as was possible. After 40 some miles of racing, doing this towards the end absolutely sucks, but is a necessary evil that is often rewarding and never regretted. Riding through the finish, I ended up 2nd to Chris, a minute and a half behind. Even though I hadn’t won, I was satisfied with how things turned out. My finishing time was a couple minutes faster than last year, and the start of this year’s race had a bit more climbing and milage. Given nearly identical conditions (dry trails, heat, and humidity) both years I can definitely see the improvement, which is a good thing to see with the Cowbell Challenge approaching this coming weekend. I can’t wait to see how things turn out there as the Cowbell will be a reliable gauge for my endurance before 24 Hour Nationals, which takes place Aug 2-3.

No comments: