Stoopid 50 Backcountry Race 06/16/2013 - By Tim Manzella

Manzella Stoopid 50

After a couple of years of wanting to do this endurance mountain bike,I finally decided to actually do it.  I use to race mountain bikes mysenior year of college but it was only Cross Country and Short Trackevents, nothing this long.  I still ride my mountain bike a lot,especially during the fall and winter and have a lot of experience ona variety of terrain.  The Stoopid 50 is a course just outside ofState College at Rothrock Park.  There are a lot of trails here andthe course doesn't even touch all of them.  Pretty much all the trailsare full of rock gardens but luckily the last half of the course is adecent amount of fire trails.  There is about 6400ft of climbing inthe 50 miles of course, but most of the climbs are fire rides ordouble track but all the major climbs (about 4 or 5) are all a couplemiles long.  The course ends with a tough rocky descending trail thatis used by Penn State as one of their Downhill courses during thefall.  There are two rest stops on the course, so if you don't feellike bringing all your supplies with you, you can leave a big to pickup at a rest stop or grab some of the stuff they have.  Luckily if youfinish the race, they have a good lunch with bbq and beer.
I ended up going up to the race with two friends of mine that race forQCW.  We headed up to State College late Saturday Day afternoon andcamping out at the start village for the night.  The forecast had beencalling for Thunderstorms for race day and when we woke up, it lookedlike that would come true.  Fortunately, it never rained and was areally nice day for the race.  I had never done this distant (mileageor time wise) on my mountain bike before so I knew it was going to bea tough race especially considering I had crash at the RivertonCriterium the week before and bruised my hip pretty bad.  I wastherefore going to be a little tentative on some of the downhill rockgarden segments to avoid falling if I took a bad line.  Based on oneof my friends time the last time they did the Stoopid 50 I knew Ishould finish in under 6 hours assuming I kept myself under control.The problem with endurance mountain biking is that it takes a lot moreout of you than endurance road riding since it works you upper body alot too.

The race starts with a couple minute long fire road segment before youmake a quick turn onto the first trail.  I was with the main pack ontothe trail where the field gets spread out into a single file line.  Ineeded up having to stop when we go along a ridge to adjust my bikesettings, low the tire pressure and change around the rebound on myfork.  A lot of mountain biking, especially on trails with lots ofrock gardens is having proper setup which I didn't at the stop.  Idefinitely noticed that I wasn't as experienced at the rock gardens asthe locals and lost a good amount of time on those segments.  After along trail segment, the course went into a long fire road climbfollowed by another trail segment.  About 2 hours into the race I hitthe first rest stop, where I adjusted my camelback.  I normally don'tride my mountain bike with a camelback so I had to adjust it a coupleof times during the race so it didn't hurt my back.  In retrospect, Iprobably should have tested out the fit during the week but I didn'twant to due to my hip.  By this point, the field had thinned out andyou were pretty much racing by yourself except for when someone wouldpass you or you would pass someone.  Most of the time I'd pass peopleon the climb only to have them catch back up to my on the descent dueto my disinterested in owning a 29er.  After this race, I see thevalue of having a 29er bike especially on those types of trails andwill probably have to add one to my arsenal of bikes.  After a couplemore climbs and trail segments I ended up at the second rest stoparound 4 1/2 hours into the race.  I didn't have a computer on mymountain bike, so I didn't know what distance I was actually at.  Therace flyer said the second rest stop was at 25 miles, but from talkingwith people I found at this was false before the race, but I didn'trealize that it was only about 10 miles from the end.  I ended upstopping to adjust my camelback again since there was less water in itand wasn't sitting on the back right.  They also had candy at the stopso I grabbed some Swedish Fish before I left.  I tried not to stop tolong at the rest stops to make sure the my legs didn't relax to muchand cramp when I started riding again.  There was only some shorttrails, a long climb, and then the final descent left in the race.  Iended up by someone at the top of the climb who had a computer on hisbike and told me that there was only 2 miles left in the race.  We hitthe final descent and I let him take the lead and he ended up droppingme after a screwed up one of the lines on the descent.  I had anotherguy pass me as I got restarted, but by the time I caught back up tohim we were at the finish.

I ended up finishing in 5 hours, 46 minutes, and some amount of changefor 92nd out of 183 starters (there were over 200 registered by about2 dozen didn't start).  I finished under my goal of 6 hours, but washoping to be around 5 hours if it hadn't been for crashing the weekbefore.  I'll probably do the race again, especially now that I knowthe course.  For a race this long is hopefully to know the course andwhats coming up.  From talking with people that have done the racemultiply times, you see a lot of improvement the second year due tojust knowing the course.  It was a tough race and if I do it again,I'll have to make sure I have some long mountain bike rides in to makesure my hands and arms can handle the terrain.  There were a couple ofrocky trail descent I had to put a foot down and shake out my hands sothat they filled better.  I did good with drinking fluids, somethingthat I sometimes struggle with during road races and also did a prettygood job getting food in the system, but could have done better inthat respect.