Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Back in the Saddle

It's been a crazy fast summer, and Jenn and I often talk about how we haven't updated the blog. Wedding planning has our full attention and it's the busy season for my work. So fall is here and I got a rare opportunity. In January I tried registering for this race - Big Mountain Enduro down the Whole Enchilada in Moab. I didn't get in (filled all the spots in 3 minutes), but was put on a waiting list. Two or three weeks before the race I was asked if I wanted a spot. Struck while the iron was hot.

I hadn't raced any bike in over 2 years. I made a fork change to the Moto, dropped 2.5 lbs. off the bike, and decided to enter a $10 downhill race at The Canyons in Park City a week before the big race. Turned out to be good test, my race run was 8 minutes 20 secs - a long enduro-like dh race with a lot of pedaling. That time was good enough to land me 2nd overall in amateur, 11th fastest time overall - a big confidence boost considering I was purposely pacing myself and riding conservatively. For a $10 entry fee, I won a 661 dirt lid and a t-shirt. Needless to say, even if I only have a tricycle, I'll be doing this race again next year.

The courses weren't posted until the Wednesday before the race. I wasn't too excited when they were. The first day was 3 stages on trails I've never ridden, and 2 stages down the Whole Enchilada, making the 17 mile-long 5th stage longer than the previous 4 stages combined. I looked at it as a nail in the coffin for me. I was not in good enough shape to do a long stage.

Day 1 - Magnificent 7 trails
I've never ridden down any of the Mag 7 trails, but I have been to Gemini Bridges. Which led me to think I knew how to get to the start of Stage 1. Instead of taking a smooth dirt road for 4 miles we took 9 miles of a popular 4x4 trail in our new Jeep Liberty. I told Jenn we were just going for the full Moab experience. For 3 trails I have never ridden before, I followed the course markings pretty well and only had to put a foot down twice. When I got to the start of Stage 3, no timing equipment was set up! The race promoters played it off as "a big party." I spent over an hour hunkered in the shade of a scrubby tree. It did give me a chance to look around at everyone's bikes and I came to the realization my bike was outdated and also much heavier than what everyone else was racing. The 3rd stage ended up being my best finish with the 15th fastest time out of 57 racers in my category (Amateur 30-39). Overall (combined stages 1-3) on the first day I was 25th, which being in the top half considering I never rode those trails, was fine with me. With the long 5th stage looming, and feeling like I brought a broadsword to a gun fight, I told Jenn if I don't lose any positions on Day 2 I would be happy.

Day 2 - Whole Enchilada
I've ridden this epic trail twice before. It starts over 11,000 feet up in the La Sal Mountains and finishes 26 miles later at the Colorado River at 4,000 feet. But before the weekend it snowed up in the La Sals, so it was a last minute decision but it was announced Saturday night that Stage 4 was going to start as planned at the highest point - Burro Pass. In the morning, this brutal hike-a-bike was made worse by cold temps and sticky mud that picked up rocks as I pushed my bike up the trail (the picture doesn't do it justice). Also the shuttle driver drove so crazy he twisted my bars slightly while it was on the roof rack. Once I labored up Burro Pass, I scraped the mud off my bike with a tiny spruce branch and fixed my bars. I didn't do a great job because the first switchback on Stage 4, I caught the 2 guys ahead of me and crashed in the same icy corner simultaneously twisting my bars again. The trail looked even icier ahead. Despite the ticking clock, I just needed a minute to gather myself and approach this with a new setup. I took my good old time straightening my bars out, let some air out of my tires to get as much grip as possible, and turned down the power on my rear brake to ease the sliding of my rear tire. It worked, and I ended up passing a few people after that - despite crashing in another icy switchback. I'd like to think my Stage 4 was like most others - a shit sandwich - but mine seems like a lot less soggy than most. I remembered how to ride slippery roots and rocks like I came fresh from PA - despite downhill with an average grade of 15%. A couple of stream crossings later, the snow faded, most of the mud flew off my bike, and Stage 4 was over. I climbed up to the top of Hazard County trails and ate some food before the start of long Stage 5. Not much to say for Stage 5, I grinded along UPS and LPS, rode everything clean including the infamous "Notch", but my legs just wouldn't put down the effort I wanted in all the short climbs. Basically when I finished I had the feeling that this was one of those trails that's awesome to ride, but not to race.

Looking Back Monday
Right after the race, Jenn picked me up at the bottom of Porcupine Rim, drove over to the race headquarters at the Archway Inn, got my free lunch and Oskar Blues beers (did you know they make Dale's Pale Ale?) and hit the road as soon as I got my total time - 1hr 55 mins- because I knew that was nothing close to the podium. Final results came in Monday and I was pleasantly surprised. I finished 19th, moving up 6 spots from Day 1! My wreck and mechanical on Stage 4 only cost me one spot - maybe two at the most. On Stage 5 I finished 20th so what I thought was going to be my downfall ended up being the boost I needed. Stage 5 comprised of 63% of my total combined finishing time. This was an "epic" event, and my first real multi-stage enduro, so it was a learning experience. Would I do this particular event again? Not unless I shed some weight - on my bike and my body.  

Info: http://www.bigmountainenduro.com/
Twitter: @ZerbingOut


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