For those of us lucky enough to be here at Trans-Sylvania Epic, we fondly call this place "Singletrack Summer Camp". State College, Pennsylvania isn't exactly the ubiquitous mountain bike destination of some others, but if you like rocks, Stage College is your happy place. And, if you like flogging yourself senseless with 200-ish other fools, the Trans-Sylvania Epic is probably up your alley.
Now that we are through five days of racing, I think most of us are in full-on stage-race-zombie mode. I mentioned yesterday how much everything hurts. But I swear these events also kill brain cells. I know I'm dumber right now than I was when I started the week.
Of course everyone has a different experience here at the Trans-Sylvania Epic, but I think the general rhythm is pretty much the same. One of the things that makes this race unique is the centralized location - it is literally held at a Boy Scout Camp so the Summer Camp analogy is pretty dead on.
If you're on the meal plan, you even eat in a dining hall with a bunch of other racers. My teammate and I are staying at a cabin near the venue and we cook here. We stagger out of bed and cook breakfast and coffee in the morning. The pre-race nerves come back each day - shouldn't they go away after this many consecutive days of racing?
While racers might have done a solid warm-up before the prologue, at this point, the trade-off with fatigue is too overwhelming for much. But a little spin is still helpful. Though, by the looks of the other racers, we're all doing so with less vigor each day.
I keep thinking that since we are deep into the race, the stage starts will mellow out a little but the last two days have been anything but. As for the racing itself, of course everyone takes that at their own pace - literally and figuratively. It is never smooth - the rocks here eat bicycles for breakfast. I think most people experience at least one wreck or mechanical during the race. How devastating that is depends on your luck.
After the stage is over, the real race begins - the race to recover. Recovery drink, shower, food, deal with wet, muddy clothes, shoes, etc., wash/fix bike (okay, I'm spoiled enough that NoTubes' Richie, Mike and Chris are taking care of my bike), more food, stretch, prep for next day and on and on. It feels insurmountable. If you are lucky enough to hit the podium, it's probably time to head to the awards presentation. You'll want to head down there anyway to watch the amazing photo and video recaps of the day and see the preview of the following stage.
Some of us scramble to do some work in the evening. I get to read race reports and training logs from my PLAN7 athletes and it helps motivate me for the next day.
The general flow of each day is pretty much the same. Until day 7. Then you don't have to worry about dirty clothes and bikes. You don't have to worry about stretching and resting and prepping for the next day. All you have to do is put on your party face and get yourself to stage 8. And if you want to know what stage 8 is about - you'll just have to come next year to Singletrack Summer Camp.
Sarah Kaufmann (Stan's NoTubes Elite Women's Team) is heading back to central Pennsylvania for the 2014 Trans-Sylvania Epic mountain bike stage race. Follow Kaufmann's adventures in her blog here as she contends for the overall GC win during the seven-day races in the State College, Pennsylvania area.
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