Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Mayhem Enduro

I swore I'd never race a mountain bike.  I even promised a certain someone I wouldn't use my powers for evil, but after almost a year of shredding with some amazing guys (SD, CF, HB, JB, JS, GM, IM, DR and the owner of The Bicycle Hub, RP .... also who I race for), I started kicking the idea of racing The Mayehm Enduro around.

I'd talked to SD about it and to my surprise, he was completely okay with me doing it under two conditions....

1) I was super careful and only hit the features I knew I could make
2) I had to have fun and enjoy it

This pretty much sums up our relationship (SD & ME).  He's out of control - lol!  Photo Credit: Chad Fonger

I signed up at the last minute and realized there were only 10 women in the race.  They were all ranked "Pro/Expert" including Rae Gandolf, Marla Streb and Angi Weston!!!  (Ugh, I had never raced a mountain bike in anyway, unless you count SD saying "Ready, ready... Time to get RAD" and then dropping me on a downhill as I rode as hard as I could to get to the bottom before he could drink a whole water bottle).  I registered as "sport" as they had no "novice/beginner" category -- GULP.

I was so nervous on Saturday.  I pre-rode stages 4 and 5 and crashed on a gap three times and a steep I had easily conquered a week ago without problems following the guys.  What was going on?  I also found out MC had gone down badly and he's way better than me.  Thankfully, it looks like he will make a full recovery.  I was beyond nervous.  I didn't want to get hurt.  My friends suggested I go around the features, but that was impossible.  I am not an XC rider and this was an enduro.

I texted SD and he said it would be ok if I didn't want to race.  He didn't want me to get hurt and we were going to Mountain Creek the following weekend to downhill and he wanted me to rest.  I went back and forth.  Even GM said he was relieved when I told him I didn't think I wanted to race.  He had originally pushed for me to enter it.

Race morning came and I rolled around on my bike.  I had put the bib on and was going over my bike when I realized the rear suspension was locked!  That's why I had crashed!!  I opened it and started suiting up to race....."What the heck was I doing?"  I kept asking myself.  I rolled by GM and told him I was going to the bathroom (with all my gear, hahaha).  He knew though.  I said a small prayer that we would all come out of this without any damage and headed to the start.

The first transfer was really long... like 15-20 minutes of pedaling.  I came around a left hand corner with a small descent and roots and there was a guy sitting on the ground moaning and another guy standing by him... "Oh no!  Someone had crashed on a transfer -- Eek!"  I asked if they were ok and the one guy said "yeah" so I pedaled on.  Per SD's direction I had worn my full face and pads.  I did opt for sunglasses though.  No way could I ride with goggles.  It was so hot in my full face but hey I'd pass out from heat stroke before I cracked my skull again.

I got to the start of section 1 (Bumpy Hollow) and had to pee.  I ditched my bike and hit the bushes.  Nervous as hell I rode up to the start table.  I started thinking about the features in the sections and tried to calm myself.  "5, 4, 3, 2, 1... GO!" and I was off.  I rolled through the berms to the road gap and pulled right and hit the go around.  I knew the first part would be slow as I can't hit the road gap into the berm turn.... yet.  I pedaled across the road and went through the berms into the three big tables.  I hit them a little conservatively as I was thinking of MC and sending it might lead to ending it for me.  I cleared the last table and drifted around the grass corner to the first gap.  "Ready, ready" I told myself and "send it."  I cleared the gap easily and my instincts kicked in and I drifted into the right turn -- I did it! I did it!  I made the gap and the drift.  I started thinking about SD, wishing he was here to follow him and calm me down.  I was getting worked up as I knew a double I had cased twice and gone OTB in the past was coming up.   He had once told me he's always with me in spirit and to "send that shit!"  I thought "you better be right!!"  I was coming up on it and I told myself "no brakes" and "send it."  I flew over the double and cleared it perfectly!!!!  YESSSSS!!!  It was on.  I started pedaling my ass off after that and knew I rode section 1 better than ever. 

I was so hot after section 1 that I ripped my helmet and gloves off and pushed through half of the transfer to section 2.  I was stoked 1 down 4 to go and the hardest stage was still to come.

Section 2 (Playa) started with a lot of pedaling to the "Death Drop."  It's a double drop that you can roll.  I had finally (wo)manned up and rolled it about 3 weeks before the race, after I made GM roll it and show me the line. Today, I knew it by heart and bombed it.  Pedaled up to the wall berms  and gap jump that lay ahead.  I dropped in and again tried to calm  myself and think about SD's advice.
Wall berm to Gap  Photo Credit: Vance Nonno
There was a wall berm gap that I had bailed on following SD into a week or so ago.  I had even gone down earlier in the week and tried it. I cleared the gap every time, but I crashed into the wall all three tries. RG had told me I had to look where I wanted to go.  Right before I dropped the wall berm I told myself "commit!"  and I made the turn and hit the gap.  I landed on the trail to the left away from the wall, where you are suppose to and was shocked!  I yelled "yeah, yeah, hell yeah!!!"  There were a few spectators and I was the first girl through and they started cheering and yelling too.  I hit the table and step up after and ripped through the berm done with the hardest part of stage 2.  I finished the stage again knowing it was the best I'd ever ridden through there.

I pretty much pushed the bike all the way through section 3's transfer.  I was getting nauseated and I was dumping water on my head to keep cool.  Thank goodness a down hiller had taught me how to ride and that there was absolutely no shame in pushing.  People rode by me and I just kept pushing. 

Section 3 (West Niles) was by far the scariest stage for me.  It had 3 step downs, a step up, 2 doubles and about 6-8 gap jumps with a sketchy rocky descent for those good enough to hit the rock on gap rock off.  The biggest feature was the first step down, into a berm and then a double.  I had hit it with GM about 3 weeks ago.  He had told me not to hit it, if I wasn't comfortable.  I was uncomfortable with everything!  Was he nuts?  I watched him hit it with the kind of speed and precision that wins enduros.  I was in awe.  I also watched a guy hit the the line and crash into a tree after the double right before I was about to hit it for my first time.  I cased the step down a little but it didn't matter, going into the berm because the course was built by down hillers so with just two pedal strokes into the berm I was still able to clear the double on my first try.  GM wasn't the only one who was surprised, haha.  Anyway, back to the race.  I was nervous.  I cased the step down a tiny bit and even the double with my back tire.  I popped over the step up a little too fast and almost went off the trail, but managed to make the sharp left turn into a gap and then an immediate right berm into a rock garden.  I skipped the next step down as I had crashed twice on it (the second time really hard with a full face on) and pedaled my ass off into the next double.  I was through the worst of it.  I climbed for a few seconds and then started through a few turns before hitting another step down into a left berm and 2 smaller rock gaps.  I flew around the left turn where the line splits and told myself take the high side, it's quicker and better.  The low side is easy to want to take off the turn but it's slower and sketchy.  It was dry and my tire slid into a tree on the turn and got stuck for a second.  I started yelling "Quicksand!!!  Someone put quicksand on the course."  I could hear and see spectators laughing as I was almost done.  I pedaled past the rock on/rock off jump (I had crashed on the rock off part twice) and chose the go around.  There was a woman walking her bike and she hurried to get out of my way.  I yelled "sorry and thank you!"  And then just for a final laugh I yelled "awkward, awkward descent!!!" as I slid/rolled down to the bottom, hahaha.  I had done it.  The hardest stage was over!  Again, I rode another section better than ever... 3 for 3!  Two more to go.
Rock descent if you chose the harder line. Photo Credit: Vance Nonno

I was actually starting to enjoy myself.  I was less nervous and having fun as instructed.  My nausea was manageable and there was an aid station to get more fluids.

Section 4 (Beaver City DH) : I had ridden the harder line the night before to look at the gap and 3 tables but I had not ridden the go around route so it was gonna be a little bit of a surprise as I just wasn't ready to hit that gap in the race for the first time.  I remembered there were some little drop/kickers to get speed off of somewhere.  I knew this stage was gonna be about pedal speed.  I hit it hard at the start and flew to through the go around, blasted the little drops and stole as much speed as possible off them.  I debated the rock to rock gap I had flatted on but at the last second bailed and pulled right to bounce through the rocks instead.  I was pedaling and heard a guy coming behind me and yelling.  I knew there was a gap coming up.  I couldn't pull off and make the gap.  It was a huck to straight flat, no turns and open.  I had hit the night before for the first time.  I pedaled hard and sent it.  I flew through the air and landed perfect.  I pedaled up and to the right out of the guy's way.  He came flying by and yelled "Thanks and nice jump!"  I was pumped.  Everybody in enduro was so cool and encouraging.  The stage ends with a downhill and your choice of two lines.  The higher line was again better, but I took the lower line which was tighter and almost wrecked, going into the finish - Doh!!!  Still upright and in one piece I again knew I rolled in with my best time ever.

The transfer to 5 was about as long as the first transfer to section 1.  I was fried by then.  I rode with my helmet, gloves and pads hooked on my handlebar.  I had a headache and my nausea was still there.  I pedaled about 3-5mph, keeping my heart rate down as low as possible and trying to get as much fresh air as possible and cool off a little.  Stage 5 thankfully, had VN's dad there with snacks, including pickles!  I ate 3 of them and took about a 10 minute break before starting the stage.  I met Marla Streb and she was super freaking cool!  She gave me some pointers for my upcoming trip to Mountain Creek before riding off and shredding the last stage.

Section 5 (Beaver City Brainer) Not sure if I had taken too long of a rest or my body had had enough but I almost crashed in the first 100 meters on some rocks and then my tire slipped around the next turn and almost washed out.  I came up on the first feature which I thought was a gap, but it was a step down to a double and a steep.  I didn't have nearly enough speed and you have to jump it otherwise you do the go around -- CRAP!!!  I pulled right and sprinted around the go around pumped the double and hit the steep.  Angry with my stupid mistake, I tried to hammer it and then I saw the gap I kept crashing on the night before.  I cleared it without any issues and headed for the creek gap and the finish!  I debated this jump in my head for days.  I knew I could make it.  I just had to go fast.  As I dropped down, I thought "Pin it and send it!"  I also thought about how I had a pretty good race on the day and how tired I was and that I had not crashed once.  My wreck from August flashed through my head and I decided to skip it.  There would be another day and I wanted to hit it with SD or GM pacing me into it.  I put my ego in check and rolled around to the finish.

And there you have it.  Some people do an XC race on dirt sidewalk type of terrain or something with a lot of climbs... but nope not me.  I decided this "wannabe shredder" was gonna bite off more than she could chew and go big or go home.  I was super pumped when I finished.  Not one crash.  I had hit almost every flipping feature and I had raced the best I could.  I figured I'd get last, which was gonna be super embarrassing, but I had put together a pretty good race for a first timer that hadn't even been mountain biking for a full year yet.  I also knew SD was gonna be super proud of me, especially since I hadn't crashed and I'd hit a bunch of features.  

I immediately got a beer and sat down watching the rest of the guys come in.  NF had a great race, IM's crazy ass went OTB on the creek gap, VN got blinded jumping the creek gap with popcorn and beer spray and burped his bike through the finish (ahahahaha -- EPIC!) and GM, well like I said before... "I watched him hit it with the kind of speed and precision that wins enduros"  AND HE DID!!!! (by one second).  
GM on the podium - FYI "You're gonna break it!"

He was nice enough to decline the $20 I offered him to go get my car and come pick me up.  He made me climb back up the hill with him and TC to the campsite after two beers telling me it was good training for my next enduro...."WHAT?!?!?!?!!?!" 

I can't say enough amazing things about this race, the course and the organizers and volunteers (AOA and HB).  The Wilds is an amazing gem in Ohio for mountain bike riding.  If you want to get rad... this is the race for you!!! Oh and to boot, I won a pass for Ray's Indoor Mountain Bike Park next year -- WINNING!!!

I keep kicking around the idea of doing another one.  I didn't finish last and I do need to start training... for something.  I hate being out of shape, but I love the rush from riding mountain bikes like this.  Hmmmmm, maybe GM is onto something.....maybe.


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