We racers could not believe our luck: a bluebird day with mid-60-degree weather instead of the wet, muddy conditions we’d come to expect this time of year. I had forgotten to swap out my heavier mud tires for more appropriate lower profile tread, but nothing could keep me down with the promise of such superb trail conditions.
This was my first race of the season, and there are more than a few reasons why I’ve put Stottlemeyer on my calendar for the last two years.
Distance: 60 miles. Four 14.5-mile laps with some extra mileage at the start and finish. Click here for an enlarged map.
Elevation Gain: Maybe 4,000’, total. The minor elevation gain makes this an excellent early season race for those of you who, like me, can’t seem to get it into gear until mid-July.
Terrain: Nearly 90% singletrack—what’s not to like? Thanks to the recent dry spell, the course was fast. Long sections of flowy trail called for the big-ring, while more tech stretches challenged handling skills. Climbing was minimal—the first two laps I barely noticed any, though in truth there were a few short, steep sections. If there was ever a lap course that felt like it descended more than it climbed, this was it.
The Race: The women’s and men’s singlespeed fields lined up together in a wave start to begin the 60-mile event (30-milers would start approximately 30 minutes later). In total, 336 racers would share the course.
Once we were off and rolling, I held a moderately fast pace, trying to keep the couple of women who darted off ahead of me within view. After an initial dirt road spin we entered the dense wood on twisty singletrack, so it became hard to judge exactly where I was in relation to others. During the first half of the race, I would lose and then retake my position a few times as a few ladies passed me at the aide stations (I stopped a record number of times during the race), but I caught up fast.
Because my cyclometer wasn’t showing mileage, it was nice to have the two aide stations at equidistant points on the course to help orient me. I’d only ridden this trail system once before at last year’s race, when the course seemed easier to anticipate, as the wetter conditions created several memorable boggy sections. This year, a lot of the course blended together in my mind.
Since my brain couldn’t remember what came next, it kept the course endlessly interesting. The terrain often demanded quick, snappy decisions and the occasional track stand to get lined up right. We racers threaded trees, negotiated roots and traversed singletrack cut into steep side slopes. On every lap I was once again surprised by something I’d seen on the trail before, like the screaming descent to a quick right-hander that I’d mentally named “overshot turn.” But no matter how often I was blindsided by one of those steep climbs on the course, I was able to downshift fast and let my nimble Diamondback Axis do its thing.
On the last lap I stopped to get some water at the midpoint aide station. I hadn’t seen a 60-miler woman racer for countless miles, so when she blazed by as I was jumping back on my bike I kicked it into high gear. I caught back up to her and learned it was Sarah Tingey, a super-nice Portland-based rider I had met last year. We kept pace together, trading drafts for the final 7 miles and commiserating when we hit the last groaning, uphill stretch to the finish. Sarah and I rolled across the line together, high-fiving, to take 3rd place in the Open Women’s category (after Natasha Hernday and Alice Drobna), finishing middle of the pack in the men and women’s overall (118 riders).
People on the sidelines had been calling out to Sarah and me to make a sprint to the finish, but after riding the last several miles together, a joint finish just felt right. Just call it “sharing the ride” on a course that was, after all, designed for fun.
Thanks to Diamondback for my awesome ride–my Axis never fails me–and to my racing team’s title sponsor, Sturdy Bitch, which reminds me how to think of myself when I have miles yet to ride. And a big thanks to Kevin Reinkensmeyer and the rest of the NW Epic Series crew–especially the generous volunteers manning the feed stations (hey Patrick and Robert–hope you’re racing with us next year!)
Want to ride the trails we raced? Here are directions:
Directions to Port Gamble Trails from Seattle
1. Take I-5 North
2. Take Exit 177 for WA-104 W toward Edmonds
3. Turn right at WA-104 W/NE 205th St/Lake Ballinger Way
4. Continue to follow WA-104 W, follow signs for WA-104 W/Kingston Ferry
5. Take the WA-104 W/Kingston – Edmonds ferry to Kingston (approx. 30 min. crossing)
6. Continue straight onto WA-104 W
7. Turn right at NE East 1st St, go 0.3 Miles
8. Turn right at WA-104 W, go 3.7 mi
9. Turn right to stay on WA-104 W, go 3.3 mi
10. Turn right onto Event Grounds.
See you on the trails!
Angela Sucich, Freelance Writer