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Amanda Carey's Trans-Sylvania Epic Blog

Amanda Carey rides a wide corner through the woods.

Queen for the day at the Trans-Sylvania Epic

Amanda Carey
June 01, 2013, 3:13 BST,
June 01, 2013, 4:18 BST

Race leader has her bike set-up dialled

Today was a great day. It was the queen stage, featuring Tussey Ridge which is pretty much the crown jewel of the Rothrock Forest trail system. After yesterday's mishap, the entire Stan's team came out motivated to make up for lost time. We all did a good job, rode hard and the GC is almost back to where it started before our wrong turn yesterday.

We also got to ride the John Wert Trail, which has to be the hardest yet flattest section of trail in the state of Pennsylvania. Check out some of the photos from Cyclingnews and the TSE, and you'll understand why.

After yesterday's mishaps, Andrea Wilson was sitting second in the GC and showed up motivated. She went for it up the first dirt road climb, and I went with her. Sue eventually caught back on, Sue and I dropped Andrea at the beginning of John Wert and never saw her again.

Having it stuck in our brains that Sue needed to make back as much time as possible, we rode as hard as we could, but smartly, as temps were hitting the 90s, and we knew we had 5km of climbing to do in that heat. We entered and rode Tussey Ridge together, and I only pulled away from Sue in the last four miles when it was safe to go for it.

I got the stage win and the satisfaction knowing that I helped my team as much as I could. I have a 14-minute lead on Sue (who got back into second in the GC) and we are still debating whether it's going to be a race pace or party pace tomorrow.

One thing's for sure - the Stan's Women's Elite Team will be MCing stage 8. If you don't know what stage 8 is, check out last year's videos. There will be beer, there will be costumes and no one will be driving home!

I realized that I haven't gotten too techy on ya'll in my blogs, so I figured I could give a mention to some key equipment choices I made for the week in case it could help anyone out here next year. I brought one bike, my Cannondale Scalpel and it was the ideal bike for this terrain as a 4" 29er is pretty much the bee's knees for a race like this. It locks out in the front and rear, making the high volume of dirt roads a breeze, and it pedaled efficiently through all the gnarly rocky trail with just the right amount of squish.

Except for the enduro stage (during which I ran 2.2 Kenda Honey Badgers), I have ridden 2.0 Kenda Kosmik Lites in the SCT (sealant compatible tire) every day. The SCT version is about 90 grams extra over the standard tube type tire but having a reinforced sidewall in this incredibly rocky terrain was an easy choice for me. I chose this tread pattern mostly because they roll really fast, still have a good side knob to protect the sidewall and still grip well though they have a relatively closed tread pattern. The more closed tread and wider knobs help protect from puncturing in the tread should you bottom your rim on a - you guessed it - very sharp rock. I have ridden Stan's Race Golds wheels every day and of course they are spinning with generous amounts of Stan's sealant. Six days, epic amounts of rocks and not a single flat... knocking on wood, of course, because there is still one day left.

The entire Stan's team has been very fortunate to have great support from Stan's NoTubes Richie Rich O'Neil and another mechanic from the local bike shop, Jared. Their support has been a lifesaver, as these two have washed and tuned our bikes daily as well as met us at all the aid stations with cold bottles. I wouldn't be leading the race without them, thanks guys!

To keep my body going over the last seven days, I've kept my nutrition pretty simple on the bike. Gu chomps in my pocket and bottles filled with Elete electrolyte add-in. It's been so hot and humid here Elete has really been critical to keep the cramps away.

I don't like to get massage during stage races, but I've been in my podium legs multiple times a day every day. On the bike, I carry three CO2s, a spare derailleur hanger, a tube, an empty chomps packet to boot a torn sidewall, a quick chain link and a multi-tool with a chain breaker in my pocket. Out east, I always ride in clear Uvex lenses, I used copious amounts of chamois cream every day, all day and eat pretty much constantly. Good, healthy food but lots of it!

It's hard to believe tomorrow is the last day. My legs feel like it, so it's time for bed.

Thanks for reading.

Amanda Carey
Stan's NoTubes Women's Elite Teams

Amanda Carey briefly emerges from a shaded section of trail.

Resiliency pays off at Trans-Sylvania Epic

Amanda Carey
May 31, 2013, 4:06 BST,
May 31, 2013, 5:07 BST

Crash and missed turn add to challenges in stages 4 and 5

Wow, how quickly things can change. The Trans-Sylvania Epic (TSE) is, after all, a seven-day stage race on some of the most technical trails I've ever ridden. As my teammate Vicki [Barclay] reminded us earlier in the week, one day you're in, one day you're out.

I'll cut to the chase. It's been a rough two days for me. In yesterday's enduro stage, I tried to have some fun, ride conservatively, keep air in my tires and keep it upright to protect my GC lead. I nailed three out of four of those objectives.

I took a pretty spectacular endo in one of the rock gardens and hit the deck hard. It wasn't a section that was over my head; I just took a bad line and messed it up. After looking at the photos and video, I'm feeling pretty lucky that I am just covered in bruises and bumps and wasn't significantly hurt. No negativity, no regret. I tried and it just didn't work out.

And then there's today. I'll spare you the details of how we all did it and why (the top four in the women's GC did it with a group of other racers), but I missed a turn 45 minutes into today's stage that cost me about 30 minutes of extra riding. 22 minutes of it was a super steep climb back up to the missed turn. It was lots of extra work on an 85-90 degree day. A super duper bummer as it carried the extra burden of knowing that it was my own fault. Marked or not, solo or in a group, staying on course is always the racer's responsibility.

Here's where I get to pat myself (lightly) on the back. I didn't let my spectacular crash or detour get to me. Over the years, I guess I have just developed the most important skill a stage racer can have: resiliency. Some of you may know, but I completed a Master's degree in Sports Psychology last year.

Resiliency is something I studied from many different perspectives in many different sport settings. I had a degree of it before I started my graduate work, but it is something I worked very hard to develop as I have learned from both textbooks and my own racing experiences, good and bad. Was I pissed that I crashed? Of course! Was I bummed when we collectively realized that we had in fact made a wrong turn. Yup! But I moved on from both my crash and wrong turn almost immediately. That's resiliency. And that's why stage racing is so rad. You have the immediate opportunity to move on the next day.

Athletes have a finite amount of mental energy or space. Sort of like a mental bank account. You may as well make mental withdrawals in the name of energy that can help you. The way I see it is the crash happened, I'm fine, it's over. Time to move on. I experienced the same thing today. The wrong turn happened. Bummer. Move on and get back to work. If I lamented the fact that I got lost, I was making mental withdrawals from my energy bank getting angry about something that I couldn't change. My energy could be put to way better use by focusing on the task at hand. Riding harder, riding smoother, and going really, really hard.

Crashes, mechanicals and wrong turns only take on the power you give them. Let issues get to you and they will get to you. Over the years I have developed a big bag of racing tricks, but I do have to say that resiliency is probably my best.

Today, resiliancy enabled me to absolutely empty my bank account into pinning it for the rest of the stage, trying to minimize the damage. I finished pretty spent and at this point still hold the yellow jersey by 10 minutes. Phew. All three of my Stan's teammates missed the turn as well, so we are all unfortunately in the same lost time boat together but all their GC places slipped.

I'll approach tomorrow's stage with the same attitude as all my previous days. Have fun, race hard, focus on what matters. Like we all keep saying here at the TSE, #(*@ happens. Derailleurs rip off, flats pop open, frames crack and crank arms fall off. You can cry in your beer or you can pound it and pour another. Life is too short and mountain biking is just too much fun to sweat the small stuff.

Tomorrow is a new day and it also happens to be the "Queen" stage, Tussey Ridge. Time for the real fun to begin!

Thanks for reading

Amanda Carey
Stan's NoTubes Women's Elites

Trans-Sylvania Epic race leader Amanda Carey (Stan's NoTubes) in stage 3

Making the most of a bad weather road stage

Amanda Carey
May 28, 2013, 22:15 BST,
May 29, 2013, 3:35 BST

Racing in the rain and mud during Trans-Sylvania Epic stage 4

I know, I know, it's totally my fault. In my last two blogs, I bragged about how perfect the weather was for our first two stages at the Trans-Sylvania Epic Today made up for it!

Today was the Bald Eagle Coburn stage. Other than a few short rock garden sections of trail that were so slick you had to walk and a quick singletrack intro, it was road, road, road. Gravel road, pavement road, and doubletrack road. And a ton of climbing on said roads.

We awoke to the sound of rain on our little cabin's roof. When the alarm went off at 6:30 am, it was holding steady at a light drizzle but as our morning's preparations continued on that sound of rain on the roof just kept getting louder as the start time loomed. Sigh. We were going into a full-on rain stage.

I decided that a warm up would in fact do nothing to warm me up. I instead opted to put on a bunch of layers, blast 50 Cent on my Pandora station and have a little pre-race dance party to wake up the body and mind. I'm a pretty terrible dancer, so needless to say I went into the start cold as ice.

The thing about racing in the rain is that I actually quite enjoy it. Slippery conditions don't stress me out at all - it is just water after all. What I dread is the pre-race and the post race mayhem created by mud, evidenced by the fact that I am blogging from a laundromat in town and continually plucking mud from my eyelids rather than resting in bed and napping.

Bad weather adds a level of complication to a stage race that you'd rather be without. Dry stages are hard enough. In wet stages, you tend to suffer more, are more susceptible to dumb crashes and mechanicals and most importantly the post-race cleanup just takes longer for both the mechanics and the racers. We were fortunate that the rain mostly tapered to a drizzle shortly after we started, but the trails remained muddy and slick and the roads were wet all day.

Back to the road. I did one season as a Cat. 4 roadie years ago and boy, I was a terrible, terrible road racer. All brawn, no brains what so ever. Today's stage took a form of patience I always (and to this day) struggled with as a road racer. We kept it together as a group of six women most of the day, four of whom were Stan's riders. I certainly wasn't going to attack the group with the lead I had, and yet it was sort of awkward having three teammates in the bunch who were all within a minute of each other in the GC.

I started stage 3 up 10:30 in the GC, so I went into today's stage from a much different angle than the first two. Today was all about being conservative and cautious, and it tested my mental commitment to "lead management." The mellow group pace made me cold, I was getting bored, and I just wanted to get it over with! Yet, instead of getting all worked up, I just took on the job of covering any gaps that would form on climbs, pulling the group as much as I could and looking after my teammates.

After riding in a pack all day, Vicki [Barclay] went for it on the last big climb. I sat on, got in front for a little and then Sue [Haywood] blew by us on the last major downhill.

I got back in front and got into the last singletrack section first. I blew a slick corner, Sue got by, I got back on then got a big stick lodged between my crankarm and my frame. A small gap opened when I slowed to take it out and that was that. Sue took the stage win, I was 11 seconds behind, and Vicki was a very close third. Though the stage lacked excitement, it came down to a very exiting roadie type finish.

Tomorrow is the enduro stage, so any memory of roads will most certainly be erased from our minds. Party pace on the way up, as fast as you want on the down!

Amanda Carey
Stan's No Tubes Women's Elite

Amanda Carey (Stan's NoTubes Elite Women's Team)

Addressing the pink elephant in the room

Amanda Carey
May 28, 2013, 4:15 BST,
May 28, 2013, 3:48 BST

Battling with and against teammates through stage 2

Today's stage was our first big day. Like yesterday, the weather was perfect, riders were fresh and in great moods and there was slight anxious vibe in the start area. It's always funny to watch the start line energy trajectory dip as a stage racing week continues. Today we were amped for the gun to go off. By Saturday, most of us will be so spent that clipping into our pedals will feel like a chore.

Our energy was calmed by a 10-minute neutral rollout to navigate a few hundred racers over a washed out bridge. The Cooper's Gap stage started up a steep doubletrack climb that led to a somewhat terrifying grassed-over, washed out rocky doubletrack descent.

We hit some road then took a sharp turn into what felt like the longest, greatest singletrack loop ever. Being the crafty local, Vicki [Barclay] knew when we were heading into singletrack from the road and got in front of me for the first long, technical singletrack climb. Being the nicest Scot you'll ever meet, she graciously let me pass about half-way up the narrow climb so I could go at my own pace. When I got to the top and started cruising along the undulating track, all of the sudden I heard Sue [Haywood]'s sweet southern twang asking if she could go by. Of course, I gave her the pass.

I guess this is a good time to address the huge, pink Stan's NoTubes elephant in the room.

Sue, Sarah, Vicki and I are all teammates. But, we are all great friends and really and truly genuinely like each other on and off the bike. They are an incredible group of smart, funny women that I would choose to hang out with in real life, bikes or no bikes. We are all sharing a tiny little cabin, are all being supported by the same folks and all happen to be (so far) the fastest women at the TSE. So, how does this work?

Really, really well. Although we are competitors, we are also allies. We are there to encourage and support each other and of course do favors like give and take passes. But, when it's all said and done, once we roll up to the line, our pink gloves come off. We are there to win and at the end of the day it really is every pink jersey for herself.

Sue and I ended up riding neck and neck for well over two hours of the the stage until I was able to open a small gap on a steep, long singletrack climb. But up until that point, it really felt as if I was on a ride with my big sister. If you have a sibling, you know that dynamic I'm talking about: super competitive but also really fun, tearing down descents trying to shake each other, neither giving up but neither really sweating the details. Because Sue is a legendary descender, I was stoked that I could keep her in sight for it all. And, as sisters do, as hard as we went at each other we really enjoyed ripping around the woods on each other's tails!

I came into the last aid at mile 22 with a slight gap over Sue and grew my lead from there, careful to stay on race pace, but also careful not to ride too hard. The stage finished with a pretty significant gravel road section, a lot of false flat and a ton of climbing. I focused in, pushed the pace and time trialed it to the end. In the end, it was another totally pink podium with me taking the stage win 6:30 up on Sue with Sarah in third. And yes, Vicki rolled in shortly thereafter with a strong fourth.

The forecast for tomorrow is a lot of gravel grinding and possibly rain. Hopefully I can maintain the 10:30 GC lead I've built. In stage racing, that's nothing a flat, mechanical or a really bad day can't erase!

Amanda Carey
Stan's NoTubes Women's Elite Team

Amanda Carey (Stan's NoTubes Women's Elite Team) on her way to winning the stage 1 time trial at the Trans-Sylvania Epic

Feeling fast and winning stage 1

Amanda Carey
May 27, 2013, 3:49 BST,
May 27, 2013, 5:05 BST

Off to a good start in Pennsylvania

After a bunch of days of hanging out with the Stan's crew in State College going out to fun dinners and parties, doing some video shooting for Stan's and going for ripping group rides with my teammates Vicki and Sarah and Richie from NoTubes, it almost felt as if I was having too much fun leading up to my first big race of the season. The time trial of stage 1 was to be a getting back to business sort of day. A mental flip of the switch. Fun mode to race mode?

Nope. If there's anything I've learned over the years, the more fun I'm having, the faster I go.

Rolling into the TSE staging area for today's TT was like rolling back into the start of summer camp after not seeing all your pals for a year. The sun was shining, the temperature was ideal (almost brisk in the mid 60s), and folks were ready to get the fun started. It was so nice to see so many familiar faces among a huge crowd of, forgive the pun, very happy campers. We were after all about to crack open one big week of mountain bike camp - for adults.

The TSE prologue was a great sampling of what we will be riding all week. Some chunky, technical rock sections, some long stretches of road to throw down power, some super tight, bar bumping singletrack and some uber-rough knock-out-your fillings downhill sections. We even got to spin around a motocross track with whoops, berms and tractor tire drops.

In stage racing, the prologue is often a great way to "open up" for the week. To blow out the travel, to wake up the legs from a taper-induced slumber and to get your head on straight before the big stages. Everyone approaches them differently. Pin it and go for the win at all costs? See how you feel and go from there? Back off as to not tax yourself for what is surely going to be a week of hard, long efforts?

Me? I just wanted to feel fast. That didn't mean burying myself in the red zone. For me it meant riding focused, riding efficiently, and more often than not, slowing down to go fast. It may sound counter-intuitive but somehow that's just the way you have to roll the technical sections here to get through them smoothly...smooth feels fast. I've found that the bull in the China shop approach is not really the way to go.

Perhaps that's why I was successful today. I kept the fun meter pinned. I went out in the prologue to get into race mode, but never once stopped enjoying the ride. I finished the 14-mile course in 1:12:29, winning by about 2:30 over my teammate Sarah, with Vicki very close behind. My other teammate and forever mountain-biking hero, Sue Haywood, suffered a major mechanical when her saddle completely broke, leaving her only rails and nowhere to sit after mile 5. In classic Haywood class, she wrapped a tube around it, tried her best to not get impaled for the next nine miles and finished not too far back. Total rock star. But, also a perfect example of how good legs are only a part of the equation. Six more tries to have a better day!

Tomorrow's stage, Cooper's Gap promises 5km of climbing and 37 miles of riding. Best get to bed!

Thanks for reading.

Amanda Carey
Stan's NoTubes Women's Elite Team

Amanda Carey (Stan's NoTubes Women's Elite Team)

Ready to rock at the Trans-Sylvania Epic

Amanda Carey
May 25, 2013, 16:51 BST,
May 25, 2013, 18:03 BST

Thoughts from a previous winner on the eve of the seven-day stage race

When I stepped off the airplane this past Tuesday, I was expecting the typical shock that comes with a summertime east coast arrival. Deplaning in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and taking that first deep breath was like inhaling through a wet, hot sponge. Compared to my home in Idaho, the air here is so thick and humid you can practically chew it and spit it out. Ahhh - the east coast!

Knowing this, I arrived a few days early to the Trans-Sylvania Epic (TSE) to spend time with my east coast (sponsor) family, the Stan's No Tubes crew, and to acclimate to the air, to the allergens and of course, to the terrain.

In case you aren't familiar with the special brand of riding here in the State College area, I'll give you a quick characterization: there are rocks. Rocks, rocks, rocks. Rocks on every corner, every downhill and every climb. Seas and gardens of them as far as the wheel can spin. Some are pointy, some are round, some are big, some are angled and almost all are fixed stubbornly into the ground. They are never not there.

Okay, perhaps I'm being a tad melodramatic. But, for a west coast rider, just like with the humidity, terrain here takes time to get used to. The trails are rugged, the riding is punishing and it often takes a phenomenal amount of concentration and energy just to stay upright. Space out and you're likely to crash almost instantaneously. Sounds rough, yeah, but to me, this is also what makes the riding at TSE so much dang fun. It's different than what I'm accustomed to. It's hard. It's gnarly. And that's why I came back for more.

I was fortunate enough to have a solid performance at my first try at this monster in 2011 and came away with the win. This year, I get to race along side some of my bestest mountain biking pals and teammates as a member of the Stan's NoTubes Women's Elite team all while enjoying killer support from the NoTubes staff. Although I sort of know what I am getting myself into, the TSE is a seven-day stage race. Every day is a new adventure/battle/death march/path to glory. Every stage is a new opportunity to have a great ride or a total disaster. That's precisely why I enjoy stage racing so much. It's never predictable, always a mystery and it's never over ‘til it's over. Should you choose, you get to write a new story for yourself every day.

Over the next week, I'll be blogging my best to illustrate what makes the Trans-Sylvania Epic such a special race. Looking at race results and typical race reports never tells the whole story. You'll be able to tell when I have good days and bad, when I've suffered, when I'm dead tired, or perhaps when I have just curled up into the fetal position on the floor of my cabin post-race and cannot type at all. That's the point of a race blog I suppose. I promise you honesty, hopefully brevity and definitely some entertaining stories that'll tempt you to join me and my fellow racers here for next year's edition.

Thanks for reading and wish us all luck - we will definitely need it!

Amanda Carey
Stan's NoTubes Women's Elite Team

Amanda Carey's Trans-Sylvania Epic Blog

Amanda Carey (Stan's NoTubes Elite Women) is racing the 2013 Trans-Sylvania Epic in and around State College, Pennsylvania. Carey won the race in 2011, her first time participating, but sat out last year. In 2013, she has switched her focus from 100-milers to mountain bike stage races and cyclo-cross events.

Stay tuned here on Cyclingnews to follow the adventures of Carey as she takes on a top-notch elite women's endurance field through the mountains of Central Pennsylvania.

The Trans-Sylvania Epic runs from Sunday, May 26 to until Saturday, June 1.