I had been looking forward to riding this event for some time. Patapsco Valley State Park in Maryland (PVSP) has become a real favorite of mine; I know the trails, it has a lot of everything: rocks, roots, climbs, downhill, technical, flow… everything you’d want in a 50 mile Epic ride. As familiar as I thought I was, I didn’t know it was going to be this good… or hard.
The Epic series that MORE has put on this year are three fully supported rides, pick your distance. The NoVa Epic, Patapsco and MOCO (in October)… go 25, 35 or 50, or some variation of those three depending on the event. See my earlier post on the NoVa. I’ve done the MOCO three times and this was the first year for the Patapsco, trails that I really know… I was excited.
A footnote to this day is that I always ride the Epics with my brother, Dave, former MORE president, lives in PVSP (literally) and solid riding partner. He was out of this one… as MC of the event he was handed a microphone and a personal cooler of New Belgium, he may have made the right choice. So, my other brother, B, who is by far the most talented rider of the four of us (hard to admit, but true) dusted off his Seven Sola and drove down from Rochester, NY to make it a family affair. Let’s go…
We pushed around 7:15 and from the Rockburn area and into some the goodness on the Avalon side of PVSP. As expected it was tight, twisty, some rocks, some roots… all as advertised. Drop all the way down to the river and along some craziness, a couple rocky hikes and out over the guardrail to do some road work. We were moving right along, feeling strong, hit the HUB aid station, drank a beer, chocolate covered bacon, all is good. I was familiar with all of these sections, we were moving at a great pace, B was riding strong, the trails were in perfect condition, it was definitely going to be an epic day…
Out to the Woodstock section of PVSP I could start to feel the difficulty of the trails, theres really no let up at Patapsco, you have to be on. A lot of up and down, rocks, there’s no chance to just turn it over unless you’re on the road. Some sort of challenge is in front of you regardless of where you are in the park. As we got out past the fourth aid station with the guys from Aviation Velo, you lollipop a loop back to that same aid station. I hadn’t ridden out on the Switchback trail, which was super fun and we could start to feel the day in our legs. We hit that aid station after that loop and B had to make the call. It was about the 30 mile mark, he had to scoop his kids and drive back to Rochester that night… that’s probably harder than the 50. He was awesome, rode so strong and we crushed… I push on…
Riding by yourself for a few miles in an event like this is fine, riding more than a few is not. I kept a decent pace for about 10 miles and felt fine, hooked on to different groups for a bit, passed a few, chatted and then I started to feel my legs go. One of the two main trail builders, Ed Dixon, told me the last 20 miles were the hardest, I was in trouble. I’d try to push through some rocky sections and my legs gave me the “return to sender”. Couldn’t climb, had to keep spinning to stay alive. In the Oella section I stopped, my legs had gone complete cramp, both, quads, hamstrings, calves, fail. Couldn’t get my right foot out of the pedal, I stood there for 10 minutes and then I was saved. Jason, Mike and Tom from XXL and Wicked Wash found me. “I’m so happy to see you” was all i could say.
Four saltstick caps, two hot dogs, two pickles, two dixie cups of pickle juice later and after 7.5 hours on the bike I was finished. I think some times your legs just need friends. That was hard.
Here’s the thing about this event: my two 4yr old boys rode the 4 mile PatapscoMini Epic with all of their cousins, aunt and grandfather. Trails for Youth put on a skills clinic. New Belgium sponsored with too much beer, the food was good. The aid stations were fully stocked by, I think, eight different bike shops all from the Baltimore area. The trails were perfect. The course marking was so good that you couldn’t get lost if you tried. The local law enforcement was there asking you when you were ready to cross the road, the volunteers were happy to be there, smiling, cheering you on… it was all so good. And, to finish it, REI and MORE handed a gigantic check to PVSP to the tune of $15K to build better trails… what?
Hats off to this organization and that trail system and to that community who is building what might be one the best trail networks on the east coast.
Can’t wait for the 65mi at the MOCO… but… next the SM100… and more pickle juice.