When I do these events there always ends up being so much more than getting on the bike and heading out for a 50 mile technical, quad burning, roller coaster ride. Granted, it takes a day of driving home and piecing it together, but the folks of MORE, MD State Parks and the “Patapsco Army” are throwing a hell of a good time.
For those of you not in the know, MORE (Mid Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts) put on an Epic series: The Patapsco and MOCO (moreepics.com). Pick your distance, fully supported, fully fun. Last year I cracked and had to rely on some friends (and pickles) to reel me in at the Patapsco Epic. This year I knew better than to underestimate this trail system… and I drank a lot less the night before.
First off, it’s the trail system. PVSP (Patapsco Valley State Park) is not for the faint of heart. It can and will break you, I don’t care who you are. The combination of technical, elevation, roots, rocks and constantly being on is like very few places. There’s a reason some of the best riders I know are mainstays of that park. And now with the “Army” growing in numbers and behind the guidance of two of the sickest people I know, yes you, Ed Dixon and Eric Crawford, the trails are growing and going further out. There’s new trail and a new mix of technical and head shaking.
This years loop was basically the reverse of last year, which made it more friendly in some spots and more difficult in others. I liked it better, mainly because I wasn’t a heap of cramps at mile 40… but it had a better flow for me and put you in a better position when you were headed to the finish. Even if you blew up your derailleur and had to ride the last 15 on a 3 speed.
This event is also about the people, I mean, ultimately they make the whole thing happen and set the tone for the time you have. I said it last year and I think they got better… but MORE and this crew of volunteers do it right. Every shop from the Baltimore area puts in on an aid station. From Race Pace and their photo booth to Family Bike Shop’s full pancake and sausage breakfast… to The Hub shucking Oysters to Amber from Patapsco Bike and Sport pouring the last drop of Skratch out of the barrel into my bottle. They’re all in… and are so proud of their park, it’s a real community.
Of course my kids rode the Patapsco Mini Epic with their cousins and Aunt and Grandfather… and then ran around, jumped in the river, ate a mountain of food and basically had the best day of their lives. New Belgium donated all of the Beer. The three food trucks, including a vegan option, were not a terrible idea either. REI there in full support, BIKE Maryland and so many other sponsors that see the hard work that the cycling community is doing in that Park and want to support in any way they can.
So, there’s always so much more than the ride; the stories, the people, your friends, the trails, your kids, the suffering, the accomplishment, the laughs, the beer. I rode part of the 50 miles with a friend I used to ride skateboards with in my backyard 30 years ago. The obligatory Tom Howe/Wicked Wash ride along at any endurance event I’ve ever done… I can’t do one without that. Or this guy, Dante… he decided it would be a good idea to go for his first mtn bike ride on the 50 mile Epic, the night before. And of course, Poz and the guys from Race Pace made sure they did anything they could so he could finish.
I’m all in on these guys and the Epics. It’s not a race but it’s the challenge. Get out to the MOCO in October, come check out these trails and these folks… you’ll get everything you want and more.
And for me, 7hrs and 50+ miles… and next a shot at redemption at the SM100.
This past weekend, I raced in the Maine Huts and Trails Backwoods Duathlon put on by Baxter Outdoors (a division of Baxter Brewing). It was a small local race in Carrabassett Valley, Maine, but despite its small size and it being a first year event, the entire experience was top notch.
My girlfriend and I stayed at the Stratton Brook Hut, a part of the Maine Huts and Trails system the Friday night prior to the race thinking it’d be a good way to help support the trail system there and really get a proper Maine backwoods experience. Once settled, we were provided with an amazing trail dinner of sweet potatoes, a bean salad, cole slaw, and corn bread with a chocolate cupcake for dessert. If you’re ever in the area riding these trails, I’d highly recommend staying at the huts. After dinner, we relaxed for a bit before heading to bed.
Race morning came quickly and we were treated to a beautiful sunrise over the Bigelow mountain range and breakfast in the main lodge. They had provided breakfast omelets but having to race in a few hours, I stayed with a small bowl of oatmeal with some fruit and a couple of home fries and copious amounts of coffee. We then prepped a couple of PB and Js for after the race and headed back down the mountain to the start.
At the start, the atmosphere was perfect. It was a small race with 60 competitors and that gave the race a very intimate feel. It was great to see that despite a “backwoods” locale a sizeable group of people wanted to come out and race a bit and help support the trails in the area (the sponsor, Carrabassett Coffee Roasters, was making a donation pf $0.50 for each mile that all the competitors raced). At the end of the day, CRNEMBA got a couple hundred dollars to improve an already world class trail system.
The bike was a mass start on a 3.5 mile flat stretch on the narrow gauge. The pace of the lead group was relentless (we reached speeds well above 25 mph) and everyone was so ready to go, that trying to get a gap on anyone was futile. Fortunately, I was able to “make the selection” of the front group as we started the 600 ft climb up Crommet’s.
The efforts I had made on the narrow gauge caught up with me as I mashed my way up Crommet’s. This was a significant steady climb that had some serious pitch changes so you were constantly changing gears and cadences and really wore out my legs. I was glad when we finally made it to the top and I began the descent on Oak Knoll in third position.
I had heard rumors about how amazing the Oak Knoll trail was and had been anxious to actually ride it. I can guarantee that this trail lives up to the hype and then some. It’s a purpose built mountain bike trail that is beautifully bench cut into the hillside and includes tons of berms and rock features to keep you guessing but is so incredibly flowy that I was smiling the entire way down. Without a doubt the best trail I’ve ever ridden. Period. A lot of credit goes to the local NEMBA chapter for building an incredibly well designed sustainable trail that is incredibly fun to ride.
As I spun back into transition, another racer zoomed by and I was off running in 4th place.
Despite really working it on the bike, my running legs felt good and I quickly made a pass on another runner and moved up to third. I kept running hard, hoping that I might be able to take back some of the time I lost on the bike. However, it was not to be. I ran well the entire to finish the race third overall and second in the solo division.
I was incredibly happy with how well I raced and it felt good to relax with the other racers and enjoy a cold beer. At races, it amazes me the sense of camaraderie that you develop with your fellow racers. It was great talking to everyone, many of whom were locals, and hearing all the work they do to maintain and enjoy the beautiful trail system up in Carrabassett Valley. I would definitely say that those trails are the best in New England and I would highly recommend checking them out.
This past weekend Jon Tobin ( 100k ) and I (50K) participated in The Wilmington Whiteface 50k and 100k in Wilmington NY. The morning of the race started off with a bit of a surprise of 30 degree temperatures that would thankfully get to around 38 by race time and close to 70 by mid day. This was the first race like this that either of us have ever done and I can’t wait to ride it again next year. The total field was around 500 racers from all over the country with 70 in the 50k and the rest riding the 100K. The course was a mix of paved roads, jeep roads, buffed out single track, and some muddy rocky rooty not so fun single track, but that is what maked this a great event. Oh did I mention there were hills? The 50k was just over 3,000 feet of climbing ( not too bad as long as you kept eating ) but the 100k was around 8,500+. The course was an out and back set up, so while you were enjoying the 40+mph descents you had to keep in mind that you were going to ride back up the same hill on the way back. The real nasty part of the ride was at the end when you returned to the mountain and were most likely searching for your 3rd or 4th wind. At this point the course took you back into the woods into the mud with plenty of slick rocks and roots. The trail took you up the mountain and spit you out onto some of ski slopes and most thought they were home free once they started heading downhill, only to realize they had to turn and go back up the trail to the top of the chair lift. At the top you entered back into the woods onto one of the black diamond trails to head down to the finish. I think at this point I was letting my bike take me for a ride and just hoped a tree didn’t jump out in front of me. As for the results, Jon and I both finished the race in respectable times and are planning on riding it again next year and we hope some of you will join us up there to show support of NEMBA.
Well this was a wild one!
Weather took a turn for race day and we were treated to a brisk, wet, muddy day out on the race course. Forecast didn’t scare myself, Eric or Tim however and we all went all in for the Marathon class because we obviously wanted to spend as much time in those conditions as possible.
I feel bad, I partially talked Tim into trying the marathon distance, he was looking for a good training ride for the Carrabassett race in July and decided to go for it even though it was maybe a bit beyond his current comfort zone. I think its safe to say he got some good training in…
We were rewarded for our efforts with some Heady Topper and an awesome meatball sub. Great event, highly recommended.
For any interested here is my full detailed account. Its a good one, things got a bit crazy out there.
Here are some pics of the damage: