I was hoping to have a few photos from the race to go along with part 2, but so far I can't find any, so please enjoy this photo of BK hiding out in "1 Cool Place" …
Anyway, onto part 2 …
So I came out of Cooper's Gap feeling pretty good. I had lost about 25 minutes from going off-course, but the course itself was just too much fun to let that bother me. But a short time after Cooper's Gap, we hit the second rest stop, and right beyond that were the big climbs of the day.
I hit the rest stop and had a coke and a PB&J. I've had coke at rest stops before, and while I don't drink soda any other time, there is nothing as good as a cold coke int he middle of a long race. It just hits the spot. After that, I filled my bottles and hit the road.
The climb began almost immediately out of the rest stop, but it didn't start to get steep until it took a turn onto a grassy section. This started around 36 miles into the day and last a good five miles. I was expecting to struggle a little bit, but it never happened. In fact, I passed about a dozen other racers and felt great the whole way up. I think part of this was that my fitness right now is a little higher than it's been in a long time, but I think another big part is that I chose the right gear for the day. I was conflicted on Saturday over whether or not to stick with my usual 32:18 race gear or drop to a 32:20. I ultimately decided to go with the 20, which in hindsight was the right way to go.
Over the top of that hill, and I was on a screaming descent down another grassy section. It was awesome -- just point the bars downward and go. I think I was doing about 40 mph and just hanging on for the ride.
As soon as I hit the bottom, though, the next climb began. It was more of a gravel climb, and I spent the whole thing alternating in and out of the saddle. That's something I've only recently started to do. For a long time, I would be out of the saddle the whole way on long climbs, and I think that contributed to some of my cramping issues over the years. But in the last year or so, I've started alternating up and down. It's tough to do with a bigger gear, but on the gear I was running on Sunday, it was pretty easy, and it kept my body from locking up. It was during that climb that I caught up to my friend Scott form Long Island. He was doing the race on a rigid SS, which is pretty incredible given that course.
At the top of the climb, there was a short steep descent followed by another short steep climb. I checked my time and figured out that while 5 1/2 hours was no longer possible, I could still finish under 6 if I kept my pace up. and had I stayed on course all day, I'm sure that I would have hit the 5 1/2 - maybe even a little less. Something to go for next year, I guess!
So I ticked off the last climb, still feeling like I had some legs, and just as I got to the top, I came around another racer who offered me the chance to lead down the final descent. I knew all about that descent, having ridden it a year ago when I was in the area riding the Tussey Ridge Trail. To call it a "technical descent" doesn't come close to the reality of what it is. It's basically a downhill boulder field with lots of jagged rocks. And it's very narrow with a very steep drop off to the left. It's an insane section of trail. In fact, it's hardly what you'd call a "trail" at all. My arms were beat to hell by the time I reached the bottom. And, yes, it was awesome. At the bottom, there were a few skinnies to cross over before the last section of trail dropped me back n the road to the finish line. I hit the road, and floored it, knowing I was close to 6 hours.
Ultimately, I crossed the line at 5:57, with about 4 extra miles on the day. I felt about as good as I could after a course like that. I'm pretty sure I could break the 5 1/2 hour mark next time - maybe even come close to 5 even. After the race, I hung around for a bit and ate a burger, some mac and cheese and downed a couple beers. There are some things you just have to do after a long race!
So that's the story of my Stoopid 50 this year! Huge thanks to Chris Scott and Shenandoah Mountain Touring for putting on events like these. It was an awesome experience, and I will certainly be back!
I don't have another race for a couple of weeks now, so I'll be mostly just training for a while, and maybe taking a trip to do some bigger mile rides in Rattling Creek or someplace like that to continue getting ready for the SM100. See you on the trail!