Trans-Sylvania Epic 2014 - Day 4He's not heavy. He's my brother. But my bike is heavy. Real heavy. It seems as everybody has grown an affinity for carpet fiber or carbon fiber or fiber crabon, what ever it is, i decided to grow an affinity to a heavier material...steel. Steel is real so they say. It's also heavy. It breaks less than carbon fiber when your weight is around 215#. I stopped weighing my bike once it crossed the 30lb milestone. Than i added a dropper post, heavier fork, boo bar and a super thick rear tire made from hippopotamus hide or something very similar. Any way, I'm riding a tank.
So today i woke after a good night of sleep to rain tap tap tapping on the camper roof. This is not what you dream of as a mountain biker. I don't recall ever exclaiming "yay" I'm going mountain biking in the mud and rain. Oh boy! Maybe we'll have some summer hail or tornado or a giant lightning storm. Luckily we did not. The rain stopped 5 minutes before the race start and off we went. So many people in so much better shape than me. I usually feel like I'm in decent shape however when you are surrounded by Olympic athletes, professionals and lifers, it's easy to feel like a turd on the trail. I am not a turd on the trail. I'm a turd on a heavy bike, having a good time with people i like being around twice a day: the start and the awards ceremony where i get to witness them collect their daily accolades for being super fit and dedicating their lives to vo2 max and proper nutrition while I'm off worrying about the next payroll to meet. Is it a trade off? Yes, but they all welcome me none the less, for one common thing we share. We like to ride and with this group all are welcome. All you need is a bike and a smile. Heck you don't even need a bike, just a kind smile. I like being around these people. I feel somewhat at home at these type of events. No matter how i do. I've been on the up side of winning and now I'm experiencing the other side and that's OK. I'm slow and that's OK. I'm more fit than the average Joe, well maybe, but I'm OK, and gosh darn, people like me.
Back to the race - It started off fast as usual but it was mostly gravel road. We had a few miles of single track mixed in and two very long Enduro segments. My plan was to start off a little faster than the prior 3 days in order to avoid multiple hours in the woods. The plan was good however poorly executed. I stayed up with a few faster people and continued with them until the Enduro segments. The first segment was a portion of an Enduro segment from stage one. That segment went well along with the other two. Part of the course was on the Wilderness 101 route which covers a long run on an abandoned rail road grade complete with old tunnel. Prior to the old rail bed was "Fisherman's Trail". Aptly named since it is mostly used by fishermen for fishing access along Penns Creek. Parts of this trail look like the bottom of an abandoned rock quarry. Needless to say, it is difficult to ride especially 25 miles in on a 42 mile day. As i rode and walked the fishermans trail all i could think about was cooling off in a clear Pennsylvania mountain stream. Sure enough, partway through the trail appeared this magnificent specimen. I proceeded to lay down my bike, remove my back pack and sit in the middle of the stream. It felt amazing. As a back of the pack racer i get to experience way more than the top riders. After the cool down i finished the rockathon and got out onto the former rail bed where i was alone. There were no other riders in sight so i slogged forward to trestle crossing #2. Many moons ago while racing the Wilderness 101 i rode across said trestle with skinny cross country style handlebars which barely fit between the wooden walk way railings. I knew my fat Boo Bars weren't going to fit so i pulled the front wheel up and wheelie walked the bike across the bridge. Next came the tunnel and a great surprise. At the end of the tunnel was a fine surprise. Evidently some smart person assumed bike racers enjoy adult beverages so they made a bee double E double are you n and were handing out the results of said bee double E double are you n in nice sanitary plastic cups handed out at the end of the tunnel. The day was hot. I was closer to DFL than i was to Captain First Place so i stopped, stood in a cool puddle in the tunnel and helped the kind people rid themselves of evidence. My melancholy mood changed to chipper. I rode the next 1.5 hours at my pace. Bombed the last couple Enduros and called it a day. It was a good day.