As I sit in the Salt Lake City Airport and reflect on the 320km of riding that was my last week in Moab, I’m reviewing the results from last weekend’s Whole Enchilada Enduro and trying to put it all together in my mind.
What. The. Hell. Was. That.
Jon Duncan took this photo of me as I dropped into Burrow Pass last Thursday as I tried to prepare for the Whole Enchilada Enduro.
I guess before I even get into the event, I’ll review the week we had prior to the race. I rode a LOT with Pete Stace-Smith, Dustan Sept, Jonathan “The Boss” Duncan and Mislav Mironovic all week in Moab. Pete is the ultimate tour guide in Moab and I saw a lot of the zone that I had never even realized existed. I came out of the gates pretty hot after Interbike – I felt gross from 2 days in Vegas and just wanted to shred. Katie Holden and I leisurely headed to Moab and we started riding as soon as it was humanly possible – she even forced me into a hike in Zion National Park (I know, poor me), of which I posted a few photos of on my Instagram account. My energy spending early in the week may have been my first and last mistake, even thought I was warned by people more in the know about “enduro” racing than I to take it easy. I ignored them all cuz Moab riding is SICK.
Day 1 in Utah with Team Norco. Amasa Back. Jon Duncan photo.
I tried to verse myself on the stages that were announced for the race after taking a day off on the Wednesday before the event. We pretty much rode every trail we could think of before Weds and it was absolutely worth it.
Saturday was to be 3 (very flat and long) stages around the Magnificent 7 trails, and I had only ridden the zone once, so I felt like it was worth checking out. I rode those trails on Friday after putting Jon and Dustan through a vicious hot lap down the Whole Enchilada on Thursday. I was shattered by the riders’ meeting on Friday evening, even though I kept telling myself I was good to go.
Saturday started with a 5k climb to the start of Stage 1. Jon took some shots and shuttled me around. I was really lucky to have his help there.
I realized the error of my ways about 10 minutes into Stage 1 of the race. I’m not an experienced endurance pedaller in any way, shape or form; my jam is downhilling , jumping, cornering and smashing my bike around. I thought I had prepared myself for this event, albeit last minute, by putting together daily 20km rides on Whistler singletrack after work or on my days off. Technical riding wasn’t the game here in Moab and I was definitely out of my comfort zone right off the bat.
I figured I could compete, at the very least, on the Sunday stage 4. Burrow Pass, the fabled top of the Whole Enchilada trail, is full of steep singletrack, corners, wide open rough terrain and even a sweet little creek gap. I knew where my skills were in this event and figured I could at least come away with a result I could be happy with in one stage of the event. The morning of the race, however, gave us conditions on the trail that I have never ridden on a bike in my life. The trail was pretty much snow and sheer ice until 2/3 of the way down and I was on my ass and sliding about halfway down my “race run”. I put it into survival mode after picking my bike back up and carrying on and ended up 4th there. It was still (by far) my favorite stage of the race, even though it was scary enough that photographers on the trail put down their cameras to say to all of us just to “stay safe, just get through this alive”. No kidding.
This is how you get to Burrow Pass. It’s a 1000ft climb from the Geyser Pass parking lot and is at about 10500 ft to start. I felt the elevation big time. Duncan photo.
I don’t want to say that the final stage of the race was a write off, because I learned a lot about myself and what happens to my body after the week I’d had. Everything that could have gone wrong did in those rough 30 kilometers – I bent my rear rotor pretty close to the top of the trail in a stupid crash that landed me in a cactus and full of thorns, I crashed again in front of a crowd of folks on the super technical “Snotch” part of UPS, crashed again after shouldering a tree I thought would move if I hit it (it didn’t) and lost my chain a couple of times. I had to dig pretty deep to bother to carry on and I entered a place mentally that I’ve never been before. I have nothing but respect for the ladies who are comfortable with racing for 2+ hours at a time.
My understanding of “enduro” racing didn’t include stages that went on so long, but I think this is part of the learning curve as our sport discovers what the discipline will look like. I can safely say that racing for more than 20 minutes isn’t something I’ve trained for, nor something that I really understand, but I’m motivated to try again in another setting. The girls at this event were absolute pros on every level – they were shredders, they were lovely to spend the day with and they were prepared for just about anything that was thrown their way.
My favourite crew. L-R: Mislav, Dustan, Kevin (of Pivot Cycles), me, Katie, Pete, and The Boss (Jon).
I guess we all need to come dead last at least once in our lives (at something) to learn about ourselves – I know I learned a lot this week. I can’t say enough to thank the crew at Norco for their help and support this week. The early starts, the drivetrain replacement, the carbon bar replacements (I broke TWO this week on the Whole Enchilada – hack style) and the laughs, company and care. I’ve learned a ton and most of all, it was pretty effing fun (even though racing was a little more character building than fun at the time). Thanks to Wendy Palmer of Chile Pepper Bikes for getting me into this sufferfest also. I was so stoked when she helped get me into the sold out event – little did I know at the time!
Thanks also to Strando for awesome advice and insights about this format. It’s so strange that an “enduro” race can be compared from one to the other – especially events outside of the Enduro World Series. This race was like nothing I could have imagined. It was painfully long and hard – but I guess that’s why I signed up for it.
Headed home for a few days off the bike and back to work. Ya Whistler!