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Keystone Off Road Adventure by Jocelyn

Keystone Off-Road 2019

Jersey Shore, PA.

This weekend brought the long awaited Keystone Off-Road race, a sister race to the popular

Keystone Gravel event held outside of Lock Haven, PA. I have only done a handful of races

over the past couple of years so I don’t have much experience in the racing world, but after

building a strong base of gravel, road, and trail miles over the past five months I felt that I should

be able to mix it up a least a little bit with a strong womens field of about 25 racers in the open

category. One thing I noticed differently about this race was it was the first time I felt mentally

prepared. I was able to pace myself mentally and physically and able to keep things positive in

my mind most of the time. If it weren’t for the encouragement and confidence from my friends

the week leading up the race I don’t think I would have done nearly as well. It was a very warm

day, I believe the temperature elevated over 80 degrees, so hydration was very important. I put

down two 90 oz bladders of water, two bottles of Scratch, a can of coke, and one bottle of

Perpetuem, that definitely seemed to take care of the hydration aspect.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the race was my husband and many of our friends were

racing as well which made the experience even more awesome. Brandon and Mark Focazio

(husband of Melissa, one of my super strong friends who was also racing) rode around to cheer

everyone on and to take pictures, which was incredibly awesome! Unfortunately, we didn’t roll in

until the morning of the race so we missed the pre-party. One amazing part about mountain

biking is the community surrounding the sport and the opportunity to meet new people, not

socializing as much as I wanted to is one of my regrets. We were able to arrive early enough to

putter around on our bikes to visit with some friends who had camped out the night before and

to wish each other well. The start of the race was casual and I started next to my buddy Steve,

which helped to calm the nerves! The first fifteen miles of the course consisted of a dirt road

climb followed by winding singletrack which ended on another gravel descent to the first aid

station. After some off camber singletrack we came upon the second climb, which was a 45

minute doubletrack climb along a beautiful creek. One trick I have been utilizing for a while on

tough climbs is to count each pedal stroke. This trick definitely helps you to focus on pacing

yourself and keeps your mind off the long grind, I highly recommend it! After the Callahan climb

there was a fun gravel descent followed by another singletrack descent. This piece of

singletrack ended with a steep descent consisting of loose leaves and rocks. After the tough

climb beforehand and forgetting to open up my fork I made some awkward moves and ended up

over the bars, luckily no blood was shed! I rolled into the aid for the second time to meet up with

buddies Alex and Chris, and we rolled out to tackle the last two big climbs of the race. They

disappeared rather quickly. I was definitely starting to feel the fatigue and slight nausea around

mile 35 and I chose to get off and walk a few steeper sections in order to conserve energy for

the last climb and singletrack descent. I was able to finally drop a few of the ladies on another

steep, windy piece of singletrack that ended at the bottom of the last big climb of the day. One

awesome part about riding in Michaux is that it offers such a wide variety of trails that pretty

much prepare you for anything, and I had been riding a good amount of steep, twisty singletrack

the past month so I felt very comfortable. It is definitely difficult to get “sendy” though when

you’re fatigued, so I definitely hung on the brakes a bit more. The last large climb was a gravel

road that seemed to last forever. I stopped to share my coke with another racer and he took off,

I met up with Alex again and he was still smiling, I was becoming a little whiny at that point.

Descending into the last ten miles of the race I ran into Brandon who really helped to encourage

me the last ten miles. He has twelve years of xc and endurance racing under his belt, including

the NUE series and 24 hour racing so he is no stranger to the pain cave! The last piece of

singletrack was roughly three miles of mostly descending trail, complete with awesome banked

rock work, a couple small rock gardens, and a few stream crossings. I was ready to be done at

that point so I “held ‘er wide” and tried to just barrel through everything as quickly as I could, the

E*13 semi slick in the rear was gripping better than I thought and held up great through the mud

pits and creek crossings. At that point I found out I was in second place so that knowledge gave

me the last bit of energy I needed to push to the end. I apologize to the guys in front of me on

the last few miles of road back to the finish as I became a bit more whiny, my watch had shut off

around mile 42 so I had no idea when it was going to end and that always gives me anxiety,

which definitely zaps energy fast. I passed a few more guys on the road and then we came

upon another greasy climb, I whined a bit more and we all ended up pushing our bikes up that

section, then were rewarded by a short, grassy downhill to the finish at Mud Run Farm. Chris

was already at the finish and Alex rolled in a few minutes after I did. Luckily, I finished before the

storms rolled in, but unfortunately a lot of racers got stuck in the thunderstorm but hunkered

down and made it to the finish because they are hands down bad ass!

I want to thank Donnie and all of the awesome volunteers at the race who made it an enjoyable

event. Thank you for continuing to promote the amazing and cohesive mountain bike community

atmosphere that we all enjoy and love. Although we were all hurting at least some point during

the day, we all continued to encourage one another as we pushed ourselves both physically and

mentally. That is what makes the mountain bike community different, we get down in the grit

and encourage each other to achieve one thing: to ride. And be a little crazy while doing it.

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