Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The Over Easy 2024

What is the Over Easy? Well, maybe it's easiest to start with what the Over Easy isn't. For one, it isn't a formal race. There's no registration, there aren't any timing chips, and there's certainly no governing body overseeing the event. It also isn't a place for vendors to come and showcase new products. And it certainly isn't the place where a bunch of lycra-clad (hey, that's me) dudes flex on each other with how much their bike weighs (that isn't me). 

So what is it? The Over Easy is the brainchild of Shane Kramer and his wife Keegan, showcasing the mountainous wonders of the Adirondack region of New York in the form of an informal race. For an event that doesn't cost anything, save for a well-worth-it post-event meal, it includes a lot: a fantastically-challenging 100-mile course full of singletrack, a post-event party, and free camping. And great people, lots of great people.

My 2024 Over Easy began around 5:20 AM on the race morning, when I parked my car in Lake Placid and set out onto the route. Being a point-to-point route, and seeing as I was in New York by myself, I had to leave my car at the start and hope for a generous person to give me a ride back to my car that evening.

On course, the sun had just risen, but in the woods, it was still fairly dark. Not dark enough to need a light, but that early-start sunrise-in-the-woods feel when you know you'll be on your bike all day kind of dark.

The first few miles of trails weren't super technical, but there were enough turns to keep me on my toes (and staring at my Garmin's map screen) and more than a couple steep punches. Maybe 32x19 was a tad stiff, but then again, 32x20 would've been spinny for the road stretches.

After some brief pavement through downtown Lake Placid, there was more singletrack. First, some flow, and then, some chunk. Lots of chunk. It reminded me a lot of Marji Gesick, and with a morning dew coating the rocks, it provided plenty of excitement. Those kinds of old-school, rocky, awkward trails are my absolute favorite.

Time went by astoundingly fast, and before I knew it, I was 25 miles in and heading down a pavement road to Whiteface Mountain. It was time for the biggest climb of the day, culminating in what I heard was a hike-a-bike up Cooper Kiln Trail.

Pavement on the way to Whiteface Mountain.

When I briefly looked over the route before I started, I was under the impression that this climb was mostly gravel (except maybe for the hike-a-bike, I don't know, apparently I didn't know much).

How wrong I was. I kept waiting for it to turn to gravel, but it never did. I can't say I was disappointed, because trail beats gravel every time, but it certainly made for a harder climb. There was a brief respite on pavement before turning onto Cooper Kiln Trail, where the hike-a-bike supposedly was.

Starting into Cooper Kiln, I didn't see any hike-a-bike. Feelings of arrogance came over me as I mashed on my pedals up what I heard was "impossible". Then it got steep, and muddy, and rocky, and I got off my bike. I guess I wasn't special after all. It wasn't really bad, though, I rather like walking, and after maybe 15 or 20 minutes, I was at the top.
Hiking up Cooper Kiln, I saw another rider on my way up.

The descent from the top was more than worth the climb. It was washed out, loose, and well, fun. Really fun. At points, I slowed down to a crawl to pick a line, but except for maybe one or two occasions, it was all rideable. I did smash my fork leg on a rock at one point, and I perhaps got lucky on a couple steep rock chutes where I was too stubborn to walk, but otherwise, it was a clean descent. The bottom got much faster, and popping out onto a road, it seemed to slingshot me to the gas station at the halfway point of the route.

A scenic lake at the top of the climb.

I made it a point to be quick in the gas station. A gatorade, some water, a Mountain Dew, an ice cream sandwich, a couple candy bars for my pack, and I was good to go. It wasn't nearly as hectic as the middle-of-the-night gas station resupply in northern Kansas on the Gravel Worlds 300.

For a route that I assumed had a lot of road, there wasn't a lot of road. There was flowy singletrack galore after the stop, and more than a couple climbs. Compared to NUE races I've done, this course is very comparable in terms of singletrack percentage. Certainly much more trail than my beloved Wilderness 101.

Photo from Shane.

The other noteworthy part of the course in my mind before I started was Styles Brook Road, a pavement climb that Shane assured me was painfully steep. It came about 65 miles in, but seeing as I was prepared, it also wasn't that bad. There were really just three pitches, the first being the worst. It was every part of 18 to 20 percent grade, but with 32x19 mountain bike gearing, I was able to power straight up the gut.

A not-so-steep part of Styles Brook Road.

Pavement eventually turned into gravel, which turned into chunky no winter maintenance roads. I was told this was the longest stretch of gravel roads on the course, and it came at a very opportune time. At some point I didn't eat enough, and I was feeling a bit low on energy.

Luckily, a honey bun and a snickers bar (or two) picked me right back up, and by the time I saw Shane at the informal aid station around mile 88, I was feeling really good again. 

Like Marji, but with better views.

The last 12 miles of the Over Easy reminded me a lot of the last 15 miles of the Marji Gesick 100. Not quite as much brutality as the Marji course, but a similar style of old-school trails probably not originally intended for biking. And a couple steep hikes where I was sure no one would ever intentionally take a bike. I'm sure I was being dramatic, but they were slow trails, with awesome views. Wow, the views! I had to stop for a couple pictures before heading downhill, on some more trails that fall into my preferred category of rustic.

How's that for a view?

The very last section of trail took me through Otis Mountain property, a small private ski hill just outside Elizabethton which was the site of the finish line party. The trails are very undulating, to say the least, but they finished with a steep descent down the side of a ski run that popped out right at the finish line. 

The finish line couch

I was just under 11 hours, 10:56 to be precise. Overall, I'm happy with that time. It was a strange pace for me because it wasn't the same intensity as a regular race, but it was more than the typical endurance ride. Plus, being quick with stops made it feel more like a race.

My effort was a far cry from the most impressive on the day(s), though. That honor goes to Bill F., who did an out-and-back on the course in just over 33 hours. With no sleep. Hats off to you, Bill.

I was pretty tired when I finished, especially because I was trying to go a bit faster at the end to finish under 11 hours. Since I left my car at the start, all I had at the finish was my tent and some clothes that I left to change in to after the race. As I said earlier, I needed to find a ride back to Lake Placid. Apparently, I wasn't clever enough with leaving stuff in my tent, because I forgot any different shoes. Bike shoes it was!

My campsite at the finish line

At this point, I got a plate of food (the best post-race food I've ever had) and set about the business of trying to find a ride. 

How's that for a post-race meal?

Before long, two people I had just met - Jay and Ashley - offered to give me a ride back. Perfect! You can always count on the kindness of the mountain bike community, especially at a grassroots event like that.

I was back at the finish line with my car before 8 P.M., and it was now time to relax, enjoy the party, and cheer on finishers who were still appearing from the top of the ski slope.

I didn't know anyone at the finish line except Shane, and Keegan who I met the day before, so it was fun to get to know some more people and try to be the fifth-wheel in the tight-knit group of Adirondack riders.

There were still riders coming in after dark, and the last riders came in around 10:30 P.M. I heard they started at 2:30 AM, meaning they were out there for 20 hours! I'm always amazingly impressed by efforts like that.

The party started winding down a little after midnight, and I crawled into my tent just before 1 A.M., ready for some rest. It was a successful day on all counts.

I think I mentioned it earlier, but the finish line party and camping takes place at Otis Mountain, a small private ski hill. The owner is also a cyclist, and he was at the finish line party for a bit. He was generous to donate the use of the venue, and to offer camping for two nights (!) for free. I'll say it again, you're not going to find a better deal than the Over Easy.

I know this kind of event isn't for everyone. For one, I doubt "sponsors" (massive air quotes) care much about my finishing time at an event like this. Plus, it's a lot of physical and logistical effort for something that isn't "official". For me, that doesn't matter. It's a challenge and an experience worth having, and that's what matters to me. Until the next time, Adirondacks.

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