A new mountain bike race series in Washington featuring longer marathon-style courses? Sign me up! The NW Epic Series is an exciting new addition to Washington mountain bike racing. The first race of the 3 race series, the Stottlemeyer 30/60 miler, was yesterday and the conditions could not have been much better. The Port Gamble trail network featured a great mix of trail styles.
The 60 mile race started out a little more leisurely than the usual 25 mile olympic-format races, but the pace was still high enough to stretch the field out up the initial fire road climb to the start of our 4 laps. I was the first to enter the singletrack, with road racer Chris Wingfield on my wheel, followed by Toby Swanson, Eric Atwood, Jason Jablonski, and others.
The next 4 miles were slow-going on fun technical singletrack. I think this was probably the most challenging part of the course for a lot of people. The riding was very dynamic, with constant ups, downs, twists and turns through the thick, wet, dark forest. Similar to Lost Giants on Galbraith and some of the trails I grew up riding out at Black Diamond, bike handling skills could definitely make or break someone's race here.
Finally popping out onto a fire road, the front of the race started to come back together and a large peloton of maybe 20 riders formed before we entered the next singletrack. This trail felt like the polar opposite of the previous singletrack, featuring ripping fast flowy dry track through new growth forest. I looked down at my gps a couple times and saw speeds of around 25 mph. Not bad for twisty singletrack!
Passing the second feed zone, we were about halfway done with our first lap. The second half of the course was more physically challenging, with some longer steep climbs, but it still featured a lot of killer singletrack. One trail in particular was especially fun. It was mostly downhill with soft root-strewn dirt in a dark, damp forest. The sort of stuff that I consider iconic Pacific NW trail.
After completing the first lap, I decided to up the pace the second time through the initial 4 miles of techie trail. Soon it was just Toby and I rallying through the woods, just like old times. After establishing our lead, we were occasionally caught by Jason Jablonski, but would usually pull away again in the technical stuff. By the third lap, Toby was starting to cramp and eased his pace a bit.
Photo: Yumay Chang
Now all alone, I concentrated on riding smooth and steady. Despite having already ridden 45 miles, I made a little goal to myself of riding my final lap just as quickly as my previous laps. I remember in high school my cross-country coach told us about "runner's groove," this blissful state you can occasionally find yourself in, where your body switches to autopilot and your movements feel effortless. It may sound strange, but I started to feel this amazing comfort, smoothness, and ease to my riding. It just felt easy. The peacefulness of the forest, and the joy of riding my bike took over as I cruised through my last lap and across the finish line. Jason Jablonski(Set Coaching) finished second, followed by Ian Tubbs(Audi) in third.
Since I had never raced such a long mtb race before, my plan had been to focus on quality nutrition and hydration, as well as even pacing. The wonderful feed zones twice per lap made my nutrition plan easy. I would stop about once every hour to fill my bottles with Clif Electrolyte mix and grab handfuls of Clif Blocks and M&M's, stuffing them into my mouth as I sped off into the woods. The feed zones totally kicked-butt! Tons of food and water, and very friendly volunteers.
I was concerned about going too hard too early in the race, so I made sure to focus on riding at an effort level that I thought I could maintain for 60 miles. After looking at my lap splits post-race, I couldn't be more happy with how I paced myself. All four of my laps were within 90 seconds of each other, with my last lap nearly my fastest. I was also really happy with my bike set-up. Since this has been such a wet spring and the forecast called for chance of rain, I chose the Rocket Rons, as they are more of an intermediate-conditions tire. The combination of those tires and my Noble F4 had me feeling smooth and comfortable all day.
The Stottlemeyer turned out to be such a killer race. Great course with an excellent level of support from the volunteer-staffed feedzones. To make the day all the more sweet, Whitney won the 30 miler! Yeah, that's right, my girlfriend was the fastest woman! Sounds like it was a close race too, with the top five all within 8 minutes of each other.
Check out complete results: here
Next race up is a new venue, the first Indie Series Race in Port Angeles.