Now that a few days have passed since finishing the TSE and the brain waves are functioning more normally again (Really? There is a “normal?”), there are a few more comments to make. First, thank you Donna! Without a friend, this thing would have been impossible since my goal was not to “compete”, but to finish. Having a friend to train, to plan, and to finally do the event made all the difference. There would have been some long-ass lonely training rides and stages without a buddy to share the pain. Next, the TSE is a race. The promoters label it as “your next adventure vacation” and are trying to attract more weekend warriors like Donna and I, but in the end, it’s a race. There was no holding back the near or at race pace every day if we expected to make the cut-offs. Yes, every stage had a cut-off time and if you didn’t make it, you would be DNF and not get the medal at the end of the week. That part was stressful – every day. We planned our efforts the night before looking at the maps and courses and would ask ourselves, can we make the cut-off? Some days were doubtful, but thanks to the heat, the cut-offs were extended on Stages 2 and 3 for the handful of us that were adventurers, not competitors. I believe there may have been about a half a dozen or so that lagged behind the racers each day and another handful realized they couldn’t do it and DNF’d on their own. I spoke to a gentleman from New Hampshire at Raystown that said he was here for the vacation and didn’t expect to have to race like we were. Feelings were mutual. Raystown was the only stage that we initially thought we couldn’t make the cut off and ended up hitting the half way point (cut off) ½ hour ahead of schedule. Stage 6 was questionable… we hit the checkpoint 15 minutes after what we thought was the cut-off and were told it was extended by 15 minutes because of the delayed start. You have no idea how grateful I was at this point in the race to know we now have a real shot a finishing the entire thing. Making the Stage 6 cutoff was bittersweet. We were both feeling the effects of a week of riding and while we were happy to have made the cut-off, we then realized rocky Tussey Ridge trail was ahead of us. Donna preferred to take it easy at this point while I hopped over rocks with delight. I was feeling unusually good at this point and my rock handling skills were getting better and better each day. Tussey Ridge is an incredible trail sitting high atop one of the highest peaks in the State college area overlooking several valleys. I stopped at one point, looked around, and was overwhelmed with awe. Tears came to my eyes. The mountains are breathtaking. And here I was, at Stage 6, about to finish a week of hard-core mountain biking. It was one of those emotional moments we all have when riding too long. The only day I really had thoughts of DNF was at the beginning of Stage 3. This is where Donna and I got separated – me thinking she was ahead and I told her to “go!” when my chain dropped and I was struggling physically to get moving, and her knowing I was ahead because she made a wrong turn that I didn’t know about. But after an hour of riding and seeing the whitewater on Penn’s Creek, I perked up and started enjoying the ride. I shared a climb with a young man that did it solo last year and I asked, does it get easier? And he said your body will adapt and it won’t seem as hard. And amazingly, it did. I’m still shocked that I had no physical issues other than a little stiffness in the morning and of course the sore butt to endure every day. We stretched each night, ate pounds of food, and rode again the next day. Food is key. A gal was loading her plate with cake and ice cream and said, “I have absolutely no desire to eat this, but need the calories.” She was right! It was the calories that helped keep us going.
The entire thing was an education. I initially entered for two reasons: they had a class for 50+ master women and I thought training would be a perfect way to lose some weight. There were no other entries in my class and I was thrown to the wolves with the pros. And the weight loss? I gained 10 pounds. I have no regrets and am thrilled to have the finishers medal. Truly, it was a life experience.