The weather was pretty nice last Saturday—I hope you did something epic with it.
Epic certainly defines the time that I and my fellow Sturdy Bitch Racing teammates had at the NW Epic Series’ Stottlemeyer 30/60 mountain bike race in Port Gamble, WA. Check out their smiling faces above. Although this happens to be a pre-race pic, they had the same expression at the finish line.
The first mountain bike race of the season is always a hurdle, and while most racers I know jumped over theirs months ago, I took my blind leap last Saturday on the Stottlemeyer’s 60-mile course. A favorite XC race for its proximity to Seattle (just an Edmonds ferry ride away) and its healthy balance of terrain (moderately technical singletrack, flowy trail and a few uphill pushes to please the climbers and roadies), Stottlemeyer tends to appear on my race schedule year after year. And this year, the dry and fast conditions, clement weather and enthusiastic race support did not disappoint.
Distance: 60 miles. Four 14.5-mile laps with extra mileage at the start and finish. (A 30-mile course option was also available.)
Elevation: Perhaps 4,000 feet. A good low-altitude start to the season.
The Course: Racers rolled out from the parking lot and Start/Finish on a wide dirt track for the first 1.8 mile section, which transitioned into a lovely forested singletrack trail system. We covered close to 15 miles per lap, with 4 laps for the 60-mile course and 2 laps for the 30-mile course. A few fire road sections allowed for easy passing (actually a really important feature—more on that later), and the race concluded with a short fire road descent to a semi-technical climb back to the Start/Finish area.
Terrain: The trails ranged from fast and flowy, to slow and twisty, punctuated with a couple of steep climbs and some thrilling, “I hope there’s no one in my way so I can enjoy this” descents. And while I heard several riders during the race complain about the rooty sections having no flow, I appreciated their technical challenge for encouraging good lines (and occasionally track stands). What’s not to love about riders skipping—or tripping—from root to root? It’s mentally engaging for us…and entertaining for the chipmunks and snakes.
• Starting off strong for the first 15-mile lap, maintaining a good pace throughout the second lap, and holding on to a core group of riders I had been trading places with through the beginning of the third lap.
• Recovering from a bad-luck crash on the third lap when passing a rider, and finding new energy during the fourth lap.
• Finding a second wind and rallying up the last short uphill climb to finish 6th in my Open Women category. The course designers thankfully kept a little bit of tech riding from last year for the finish instead of ending on the fire road. Well done for keeping us mountain bikers honest.
• Encountering so many friends and friendly riders during the race. When we are out of breath or in pain, having short, positive exchanges with other riders is fuel for the spirit.
• Receiving such good care from the wonderful guys at FSA (thanks for fixing my bike!)
• Hearing from people on the sidelines. It’s wonderful to hear friends call out your name.
• Epic crash on lap 3. A guy had kindly pulled off the singletrack to let me by on a slight descent, and though we had timed the pass right, he bounced backward into my path, blocking my bike just as I was powering through. I was launched, superman-style over him (he was okay), and crashed onto my left shoulder (injured from an ‘07 surgery). Turns out he had ridden straight into a stump just off the trail and rebounded back onto the trail into me. Bad luck. After the stun wore off, I got up, tried to shake it off, put my chain back on and started up again. While the crash took a bit of wind from my sails, thankfully there was nothing broken on bike or body.
Thanks to the race organizers for another successful Stottlemeyer, to Diamondback Bikes for my Axis XC race steed that just won’t quit, and to my Sturdy Bitch Racing teammates for joining me in this marathon event. There were smiles all around at the end of the race.
Although my training has been delayed this year by the same speed bumps that slow us all down (work, travel and illness–usually in that order), I’m glad I got my party started at the Stottlemeyer last Saturday. Because if you are going to take your training up a notch, you might as well have fun doing it.
See you on the trails.
Angela Sucich, Freelance Writer