The 4th stop to the Big Mountain Enduro Series was held in beautiful Durango Colorado, my home away from home. Its always nice to not have to travel for a race, and to be able to sleep in my own bed. There is nothing like waking up in your own room and being able to make my delicious Raw Meal protein shake without the hassle of looking for a blender at a hotel.
Having weeks to prepare for the race, I rode every possible trail at least twice, including the big back country trail of Kennebec Pass. This pass, consisting of sections of the famous Colorado trail, was the longest and most physical day of the race. Kennebec pass transfer stage consisted of a 4 mile climb to the start, where the top of the pass topped out at 11,000 feet.
Day one on Kennebec pass had the most varying terrain, with the start of a large switchback scree field full of gnarly rocks, then feeds into a soft, rooty, wet section of trees with several creek crossings. Then after stage 1 it was about an 8 mile switchback rolling climb to the next stage. And stage 2 was just fast, loose, and rocky. So all this comes into play when preparing my bike for race day.
Training wise I had tapered off towards the end of the week. Mondays are always active recovery rest days, which allow me to recharge my mojo and do things off the bike. Mondays also allow me to catch up with my life off the bike, things like cleaning my room and house, and catching up with friends. Tuesday's training consisted of a hard road ride with the fast locals, its always a great way to wake my body up for the week. Wednesday and Thursday were easy hour and a half skills work with my heart rate no higher then 140. Fridays routine was a hard 45 minute opener on day two's stage course that was just announced the day before. After riding on Friday, the day before the race, I eat something high in carbs with some protein. This pre-race day I at some gluten-free rice pasta with meat sauce, and later on towards the night I had protein shake with Garden of Life Raw Meal. I feel like the added nutrients and live probiotics in the Garden of Life protein shakes during the night help replenish any minerals and vitamins that I do not get with a high carb diet.
Race day....6 am wake up call with breakfast prepped at 6:30 and finished by 7. A hearty breakfast of 2 eggs, bacon strips, potatoes, and a Raw Meal protein shake. It would be several hours till I raced...including a 40 minute climb just to the start of stage one. I had calculated that we would be out on our bikes for about 4 hours, that included transfer stages and staging of racers. So I wanted to be topped off on fuel and not have to eat bars and “space food” for the entire day.
At the start line with 30 seconds to go, I looked around and gazed at the beautiful views and glanced at the valley. This would be my last scheduled enduro race for the season....the timer beeped and I was off! Coming down the scree filed and Slide Rock, I was sure to break check the gnarly water bars that could buck you forward and into rock heaven. Keeping a calm approach, I kept lines dialed and cautions of rocks in this first section. As I approached this left hand corner with the biggest angled water bar I have ever encountered, I noticed a riders bike on the side of the trail. A slight speed check to be certain not to be surprised by whatever was around the corner, a seemingly still rider was siting upright and facing down the trail. I yelled, “on your left!” After passing the wreckage, I had a series of close calls with a few hikers on the trail, some too close for comfort.
Shaken up from all the near encounters with the hikers and slightly distracted I came into the next corner to find ANOTHER hiker about 10 feet from the exit. I was startled and locked the brakes...forcing me to wash out. I fell first on my Camelback, which took the brunt of the crash, and I pushed hard on my back in order to slow my momentum down. Holding on to my bike for dear life in hopes to not lose it down the steep slope, I came to a stop with my right leg still clipped in, and my right hand still holding on to the handle bar...my bike just dangling over the steep slope side. Losing valuable seconds, I had no time to check for body and bike damage. I unclipped and took 4 steps to get back on the trail, got on my bike and started sprinting. I did my best to ride fast and make up time. I passed the finish line of stage 1 gassed and relieved that I did not hurt myself or tumble down the cliff edge!
A nice long 1 hour ride to the stage 2 start gave me time to calm down and gather myself from the very upsetting crash. I really like the format of “first come first served” when it comes to staging at the start line. Gives me time to rest from the transition stage, fuel up, and check over my equipment. Another 20+ minute long stage was ahead, so after a good 20 minute rest I was ready. 3...2..1..BOOM I was off on stage 2. This lower half of the trail I had dialed pretty well. I felt confident I could make up time here, and possibly win the stage. This section of back country trail is fast and open. I came across the finish line sprinting hard, and after catching up to 2 riders I knew I had a good time across the finish line.
On Day 2 I hit the first part of the trail hard...a little too hard. By the time the technical climb came I was gassed and bobbled hard. I forced myself to get off and run up the climb, which at the time seemed faster to run then to ride up. After crossing the finish line for stage 3, times were available....9th place. I have ridden that trail dozens of times...but I have never raced it. A first for me, and a new Strava Challenge. First place blew second place out of the water by 20 seconds, and I was a minute and 3 seconds back from first.
The end of stage 3 flopped all the results, but I was still in contention for a top 5 finish as long as I had a good time and did not crash for stage 4. The transfer stage for stage 4 was a good 30 minute ride. I got to the top of the climb just in time, with only a couple of pro riders to go, it gave me enough time to recover and fuel up. Bike felt great on the ride up, and no need to tinker with anything. Off the start I felt good and strong, the only thing left in order to have a good run was no mechanicals and no flats.
Coming into the first left hand corner after a long and fast double track straight away, and drifted hard towards the outside. My bike was dialed! Confidence in any sport is key, especially in extreme sports such as mountain biking. Corner after corner, drifting from one side to another...I was happy. I didn't care if I got last place. I didn't care if I won. I just cared about how good I felt, how hard I could go, and how much fun I had on the bike.
My first Enduro season came to an end that day. I finished in 6th place, just 10 seconds away from a podium spot on 5th place. I learned a ton in my first season of Enduro racing. The Big Mountain Enduro Series is the premier Enduro series of U.S.A. No other series, or terrain can match it here in the states and the rider turn out is stellar.