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!
Stan's NoTubes Women's Elite Team