Race recap: ‘Be careful what you wish for’, AKA, ‘The Stoopid 50’

Yes, that’s the trail. Not pictured are the rattlesnakes.

[Photos courtesy of Bob Popovich]

By Karen Brooks 

So I came back from the Trans-Sylvania Epic a couple weeks ago feeling great. The race had gone quite well—I carefully budgeted my efforts, posted faster times than last year, and had a great time riding the rocky stuff. Didn’t even get a flat. But I had a nagging doubt that perhaps I had budgeted too well… I didn’t feel all that tired. Maybe I had not “left it all out on the trail”? Maybe I could have squeezed out some extra effort and done better? That seventh place prize podium spot glory could have been mine!

Then there were all those roads. TSE co-promoter Ray Adams had asked me after Stage 6 what I thought of the day, and I said, “Too much road!” To which he replied, “We’re working on it.” I don’t doubt that they are. But I realized that I was just whining. (Race promoters don’t need any more whiners.) My plan to take it easy on the dirt roads and attack the rocks was successful, but I kept getting passed on the smoother sections by ultra-fit roadie types, especially those from out West. At some point I said to myself, “Rather than whine [or train on the road more] I should just buck up and enter the Stoopid 50.”

So that’s what I did.

Diabolical race promotor Chris Scott.

The Stoopid 50 is sort of a “greatest hits” of the TSE: 50 miles of epic trails in Rothrock State Forest, with a touted mix of 30 percent roads and 70 percent trails. It includes such fabled, rock-infested trails as Tussey Mountain Ridge and Three Bridges. It was the rocks and the ratio that drew me in. I figured I could stick to my previous plan and float effortlessly through the rock sections (as my memory told me I had at TSE), then recover on the roads, but those pesky roadies wouldn’t have as much of a chance to make time on me. I began to dream of a real podium spot…

Race day dawned clear and bright. I was feeling less than rested, after driving an extra hour the night before to grab my bag of clothing I had forgotten at home. I decided to try to start fast, unlike each TSE stage, since there was no next day’s stage to worry about.

However, there’s a big difference between starting with 150 people at a moderate pace like at TSE, and trying to slice and dice with 250, as at this year’s Stoopid. I managed to rudely cut one guy off just before the first singletrack, Tussey Ridge, only to walk a good bit of the beginning along with every other racer in the traffic jam.

Once things cleared out I began riding, and cramping. Every hard pressure on the pedals resulted in my toes trying to curl toward my heels. Then my calves started tying themselves in knots. I don’t know what went wrong; same general nutrition and hydration plan as at TSE, drastically different results. I began to daydream about Pringles. Nevertheless, the trails were still fun. It was such a picture-perfect day, the dirt was dry, and the scenery was lovely (when I could shake out of my tunnel vision).

Topher, at the finish.

I blew through the first aid station according to plan, forgetting that they’d probably have Pringles. I remembered them the second time through and stuffed a bunch in my mouth, feeling better instantly. Then I hung out and chatted with Justin from Freeze-Thaw Cycles, then posed for photos with his dad. Meanwhile my closest competitor had been through and gone. I finally realized this and gave chase.

So how did I end up? In 8th, same result as at TSE. Figures. [Edit: Actually, looking at the results again, I got 7th. Woo!] Of course, some of the same super-women, such as Kristin Gavin (the winner) and Karen Potter (second) were there, as well as State College’s local fast females. I’m satisfied with my result, and glad I went, as it was a great ride on great trails. The total-body beat-down I felt on Monday told me that I had given it my all.

Special congrats to Vicki Barclay, who seems to be mostly recovered from her injury and took third.

The women’s podium.