BaseCamp member Andrea Troy shared her experience at the 2023 Mid South gravel event in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Quick version: BaseCamp strong at The Mid South, Stillwater, OK!
The longer version: The Mid South weekend endurance festival exceeded expectations. Sarah Porch and I flew from PA to experience the celebration of hard challenges and 100 beautiful miles of central Oklahoma dirt roads in the Cross Timbers eco region. The organizers (especially Unlearn Pavement), other racers, volunteers, and a welcoming community made for an unforgettable event.
Friday morning was brisk and breezy as we rolled out for the SRAM Coffee Ride with new friends in hopes of getting a preview of the Stillwater gravel and initial glimpse of the land of the Otoe-Missouria tribe and the Osage, Kiowa, Kickapoo, Wichita, Quapaw, Pawnee and Seminole nations. Momentarily riding next to Meg Fisher was a highlight! The rest of the day was spent finishing the pre-event carbohydrate loading and fueling excessive carbs (600 g anyone?).
The day was epic. Leading up to race day, the weather was predictably unpredictable and left one packing multiple weather kits and hoping for the best. The weather took a pleasant turn and was a balmy 55 °F, with a moderate 16 mph breeze at the start. We shared the same process goal: Finish before sunset. And, stay strong until the end.
We rolled out of Stillwater on several classic Stillwater roads, some recently "maintained" with riprap, and passed by more than a few cyclists fixing tires and derailleurs…not a nice way to start the day. The red, rutted dirt (Port Silt Loam) descent into Wild Horse Creek was fast but came to a screeching halt as cyclists patiently waited to either give it a go or use a walkable bypass. We opted, like most, to stay dry this early in the race and cheer on the few who dared to ride through the murky depths.
As we reached the next section, the course had a different feel with hard-pack, dusty roads, fast descents and expansive views. It was an ideal time to resettle in, focus on breathing, body position and relaxing into the power. The backdrop still looked like winter with barren Post and Black Jack Oak and Hickory groves. Cows grazed on hay in the fertile fields. We passed oil and natural gas drilling rigs while hawks soared overhead. Just before the reaching the first aid station after rolling through approximately 2500 feet of undulating terrain, there was a BaseCamp shoutout from fellow BaseCamper Taneika Duhaney. We shared a quick chat at the stop before rolling out toward the mid-point and navigating some double track. Remember the wise words…never trust other cyclists that you do not know. Enough said from Andrea's point of view. Thankful that Sarah patiently waited.
We rolled into the town of Perry for a slightly extended hydration, nutrition and aid station break, then left town to surf the rollers down toward Lake Carl Blackwell. Grit, dirt and more dirt as we pushed steadily into headwinds and crosswinds as the sun beamed down making it feel like a warm spring day. Breathing check – all good.
We reached Mt. Butt'r where the Chamois Butt'r team were playing tunes as they offered water and other goodies (if you dared to challenge your gut). The next section took us toward the the "panhandle," a section devoid of protection from the increasingly gusty winds and blowing dirt. Modulated between G1 and G2 breathing and kept pushing the pace toward the final aid station before the singletrack section at beautiful Lake McMurtry.
Salsa, oh how nice to bring the chaise! The single-track was a bit familiar since we previewed the section via foot. Once through, we made a final push back to Stillwater. The winds remained gusty but did not deter us from keeping a solid pace and occasionally passing a few others headed toward town. The course wove through Oklahoma State University where had a few waves from students walking on campus. The finish line was in sight after the final turn. We pushed a bit more, heard our respective names and hometown announced as we entered the chute and crossed the finish line well ahead of sunset.
The reward? A hug from Bobby and the cheers from exuberant spectators after 100.9 miles and 6,600 feet of climbing single digit grades! And, aside from the aid break, we hit negative splits and each moved up in the rankings. We stayed to cheer other finishers on and caught the podium ceremony. Such a bonus! Sorry to have missed BaseCamper Susan Gillen and any others that may have been at Mid South (next time!).
Mid South is special. The shared joy of movement and struggle of a long day on the saddle while pushing the pace when it is uncomfortable makes us stronger. We are grateful for the BaseCamp team and community providing us with the opportunity to develop our physical and mental skills, challenge ourselves and prepare to endure a long, early season event. Sharing the experience with a teammate who is now a friend and creating memories is priceless.