I know Ive been posting daily about this race, saturating an already saturated internet with run on sentences, half formed thoughts and haphazard discharges of rage. Now that Im home, peering out of the pain cave like a new kitten, sitting in a coffee place in Allston watching disheveled hipsters mumble their orders to hungover baristas, Ill try to get an overall point-by-point "race report" together.
1. Organization: Top notch. Mike and Ray had transports, logistics, checkpoints and course markers (even the ones I didnt pay attention to) in place seamlessly and consistently. Our starts ran on time or (if, say, someone forgot a shoe back at the camp) very close to on time. And in that one special case, all the rest of the days events were juggled accordingly. My one nit to be picked here would be what could best be described as "reinforcement arrows" - maybe on those long stretches of road when you are constantly looking for oncoming traffic at 35 miles an hour. A few extra yellow markers on the trees would go a long way for peace of mind.
2. Quality/ variety of terrain, stage length etc: Again, top notch. You dont spend a bunch of money and drive (or fly) hours and hours to do an xc race you can do in your local woods. Regardless of what you ride, there was a day for you. I may not have loved the "road stage", but I am glad they put it in there - even if I was stuffed too deep in the hurt locker to enjoy the scenery, when I did peer out I was impressed by the beauty and scope of the course they laid out for us. I have never raced anything like the "mini xc" stage, either (neither had anyone else, apparently) and that was a blast. The overall theme of the terrain was "technical", but that meant enough different things for different days you never got tired of any of it (ok, maybe the climbing... Im having nightmarish flashbacks about pushing chain up hill). A word of caution, however: Respect this race - Its hard. Really hard. I started training for it in February and was still wrecked after a few days. Sign up early, get a plan together and stick to it. By day 3 you will thank me.
3. Food (the "meal package"): Decent. Food quality varied day to day - normally this wouldnt matter, but with a few hard days of racing (and the associated goo, potions, gels and protein powders in your system) some of those without the GI tract of a tiger shark (thank you, years of eating poorly!) got a little squirty. It wasnt bad food, it was camp food. If you have a weak gut, bring some Activia or Pepto Bismol or just go shopping at the beginning of the week. An especially nice touch were the desserts that the organizers parents made - that was cool.
4. Staff: Outstanding. Literally every person involved, for volunteers to motorcycle drivers to cooks to camp personnel were awesome in every possible way. How good were they? They had every sore, ruined and physically dilapidated bike racer on their feet and cheering for them at the farewell dinner.
5. Lodging (Welcome to Camp Rimjorb): Good. I stayed at Rimmey cabin. It was decent, if spartan, bunk lodging. There was a full kitchen and a mostly functional (if a little underpowered) toilet inside. It was dry, though, and the beds were clean. My only worry would be if the event grows and they try to stuff 30 people and their equipment in there. Theres room for 20, tops (25 if the "scoutmasters quarters" arent colonized by the French). If the cabin itself wasnt glamorous, I still wouldnt trade the experience of living with those folks for a week for anything. That was one of the best aspects of Transylvania - we all hung out on the porch after races, heckling one another and telling stories. Group lodging is definitely the way to go.
6. Facilities: There were showers, both individual and prison-style (sharpen up those toothbrush handles, kids) and a pool (with enough chlorine to blonde-out my ball hair) and these were the two most important locations at camp. The pool was invaluable for cooling off the legs after beating on them for hours on end, and the showers were ideal for getting attacked by Mark Weirs dangly bits (the dreaded "cows tongue"). Internet was available at the registration lodge and (intermittently) at the mess hall. Laundry was a bit more tricky - the Race Bible (blessed be) said to go to this truck stop place, but it only had ONE washer. The camp was about a half hour outside State College so if you need anything, make friends with someone who drove out and you can forage for whatever you need.
6. Overall Value (Was all that grundle-pounding worth it?): Well, I signed up for this race because it was (kind of) close and (relatively) cheap. These guys put on an event that felt put together well beyond the price of admission. For a journeyman bike racer, without comped entry fees and sponsors to fly you from race to race, this is the one to shoot for. Its hard, has a quality field (you dont see world champion stripes at all the races back home, do you?) and the payout (if you are fit and crazy enough - just ask local boy Brandon "the dragon" Draugelis) is very good.
So there it is, the inaugural Transylvania Epic 7 Day Stage Race in six bullet points. If you have skipped all the "words" and "reading" and came down to this last bit hoping for a picture, I leave you with this: Get fit and sign up (not necessarily in that order). You will not regret it.