The Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic 2016 – Return to Singletrack Summer Camp

So here we are, an entire week after the Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic and I am still finding new things to clean dried mud off of. I was wondering which day the constant ravenous hunger would wear off, and it seems that the answer was Wednesday. I’m now back to my normal ravenous hunger and finding fewer reasons to justify all the extra cookies I have been eating. The short version of the race report is that the week went pretty well. In the Open Women’s category, I finished 8th overall and 4th in the Enduro.

Stage 1 – Coburn (a.k.a “Road Day”)

My plan for this day was to take things fairly easy, ride the Enduros as smooth as possible, and then see how my placings shook out in each category. It was actually quite challenging to ride “easy” when my legs were fresh and I was anxious to ride. But even with my easy/not easy pace, I still ended up in the back half of the pack at 9th out of 13. However, anything other than that would have been fairly shocking to me in this field. I was however, fairly shocked with my 4th place Enduro finish. Watch the DirtWire TV video.

TSE2016-S1-Karen_Talley_Mead

Stage 2 – Tussey (a.k.a “The best stage of all”)

Spoiler alert: this was by far my shining moment of the entire week. If you are looking for some underdog story of how I rose up from the mud throughout the week to conquer all, you are going to need to find a different blog to read. But I actually sort of planned it this way, well as much as one can really plan for these sorts of things anyway. Based on Stage 1 results, I figured that I might as well give the Enduros a focused shot just to see what I could do. I was actually a little worried that the Enduro segments would not be to my favor as they were quite pedally and smooth. Out of the field, there are plenty of women who can pedal a lot faster than I can without even thinking about it, which meant that I would need to really think about it.

I got caught in some traffic on the first segment with no where to pass, but there wasn’t much I could do about it, so I decided not to worry about it. It was easy forget all about that segment–and everything else–as soon as I hit John Wert trail where we rode through beautiful rhododendron tunnels and over rocks, roots, and bigger rocks. Shortly after, I went into Enduro segment 2, Lonberger, ready to hammer. What I didn’t know, was that I also went into it with my own personal cheering squad. Every time I started to slow down, the guy behind me started to cheer me on, and I dug back in again. I won that segment by a mere second. Next, it was on to Tussey ridge, where it is impossible not to feel invincible as you pedal up and over rocks on the very tipy top of the mountain ridge. This feeling of riding through the sky tends to encourage faster pedaling, and despite my efforts to take the ridge trail easy, I got to the last Enduro segment pretty tired. The top of the segment felt seriously like climbing. But my efforts were rewarded, as I ended the day in 3rd overall for the Enduro, which also earned me a 30 second time bonus; by far my best result of the week. I also moved up a spot from the day before, finishing in 8th. Watch the DirtWire TV video.

TSE2016-Tussey-Karen_Talley_Mead

Stage 3 – Enduro Day (a.k.a. “Facing Wild Cat”)

You would think that with all this talk of Enduros, the day that we are only timed on the Enduro segments and not on overall finish time would be my best day. Well, not so, not so at all. This was still my best stage finish of the week, with a 7th place finish, but just not up to par with my results from the last 2 days. Despite the fact that my spirit animal is a kitten, Wildcat was my downfall. Where trail knowledge helped me in Stage 2, it got in my head on Stage 3. Wildcat has two steep downhill chutes that have really freaked me out in the past, and I let that knowledge influence my riding. Next time, I’ll nail it. Maybe. Watch the DirtWire TV video.

TSE2106-Wildcat-Karen_Talley_Mead

Stage 4 – R.B. Winter (a.k.a “The day no one knew it was supposed to rain”)

I woke up a little grumpy about my Stage 3 finish and losing my 3rd place in the Enduro standings (although I’m not sure if I was every actually in 3rd due to a results error on stage 1). But then I thought about last year; I was super excited to being doing just a wee bit better in the Enduro than the GC where I was second to last. Now, I was getting upset to be losing spots to pro riders. What a tough problem to have, I thought, and I got over it. All I can really say about R.B. Winter is that it was wet beyond wet. For awhile, I wondered if other humans still existed in this world of pouring rain and when the river of grass-track would ever end. The Enduro segments were like riding down chutes of room temperature butter, except when they were like riding down the middle of a creek bed, and except when they were just giant mud bogs. Overall, R.B. Winter was considerably less rocky than I remembered, but I think it was because the rocks were just underwater. I finished the day 9th overall and 5th in the Enduro. Watch the DirtWire TV video.

TSE2016-RBWinter-Karen_Talley_Mead

Stage 5 – Coopers Gap, Greenwood Furnace to Scout Camp (a.k.a “The day I used party pace as an excuse to ride slow”)

This stage would have been hard on its own, but it was made even harder by the rain. I rode at my own personal party pace, which just seemed to slow throughout the day. Ross Trail provided much anticipation and excitement for the day, as very few people had ever ridden it, but everyone seemed to have a description of it. I think it was my husbands favorite part of the entire week. The course included classic Cooper’s Gap trails with a cruel uphill finish on Stillhouse Hollow where my spirit kitten led me to the end. I finished the day 8th overall and 5th in the Enduro. Watch the DirtWire TV video.

TSE2016-RossTrail-John_Mead

The Final Results

I finished out the week 8th overall and 4th in the Enduro. But more interesting to me than that is the difference a year makes. I spent all of 2014 getting my skills up to where they needed to be to race the TSE in 2015 and went into the race with some pretty solid rock riding skills. This year, I rode even better. However, I still have a significant amount of improvement to be made, and that is very exciting to me. Learning how to really ride my mountain bike has been an amazing adventure.

All photos by Firespire Photography.

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