I decided to try Enduro racing this year and here is what I learned:
You say you are going to train but let’s be honest. Winter is cold. The first Enduro seems super far away. Before you know it’s here, you are waiting your turn in the gate and probably thinking I should have done an interval or two. This habit continues throughout the entire season. Every race as you suffer on the climbing you think that’s it when I get home I am going to train! But you don’t. You go home and ride the chairlift. I am convinced this is why there are so many registrations for sale the week of the race.
Most races have camping options which seems like a great way to save money in the most expensive sport ever. Until you actually camp. You ever get a good night’s sleep camping? Our first place to camp was a beautiful ranch outside Toro Park. The kind owner allowed us to park our truck with rooftop tent on her property near a barn with a shower. It was serene and quiet. During the day. At night the animals came alive. Horses playing with buckets, peacocks calling out to each other, foxes running around. In Mendocino I enjoyed the rooster that crowed all night. He seriously needed a trip to the crockpot. In Mammoth it was so cold the dog’s water froze at our campsite. The last race of the season I thought I work a corporate job, own a company and moonlight as a bike park coach. I would like to stay in a hotel. It was pure bliss so I say treat yo’ self.
The season started in May. No joke In October on the last two stages of the race for the entire season I learned how to race. At the finale in Ashland, I wasn’t happy with the first two stages. They didn’t feel fast. I checked the times afterwards and sure enough I was in third place. I had been third place Jeni all season. I decided right then not anymore. I started talking to the other women in my category asking if they were standing up pedaling the entire stage. I realized in talking to them I wasn’t going hard enough. When we started the next stage I went for it like my life depended on it. I was a wheezing, drooling maniac flying down the trail. I had to will my brain to not ride my brakes. Luckily this stage had rock gardens I was comfortable with and I was able to gain time flying through them without hesitation. This stage was also over 20 minutes long. I thought I was going to die sprinting that long. However it worked. I won that stage and the next one as well moving me up to second place. When I was recapping the race to Paige days later she laughs and exclaims, “Jeni finally learned how to race! If you don’t feel like you can’t speak or breathe you are not racing!” I really wish I would have tried this method oh I don’t know FIVE MONTHS ago.
Change clothes before award time. I was lucky enough to podium a few times so I have a few photos of helmet hair, a jersey that looks like it smells which it does, and dirty knee pads stuck in place from sweat.
The most important thing I learned is the amazing camaraderie of the women out there. I would like to say it was because it was the beginner category. However I met some great women in the other categories as well. At the beginning of the race we would nervously huddle together waiting for the long day to begin. True to form each of us tried to be last in the start lineup. If there were any men at the starting line we would insist all of them go before us. Which often meant we were sitting there waiting to go while they fooled around with their gear and tire pressure. We would climb together, laugh together, wait for each other after each stage and provide encouragement along the way. If someone was having a bad day we would climb slowly with this person to keep her spirits up.
The women I raced with were supportive, amazing, and encouraging to say the least. I am grateful to have met and learned from them. I was really excited to convince my friend Kim to race Ashland with me. She was super nervous but as we were pre-riding we saw another rider who was walking the rock gardens. I turned to her and said, “See all different levels of riders racing. You are here to have fun.” She had so much fun she got on the podium her first race. Despite having to stop on a stage to check on a guy who tried to pass her on an exposed section and went over the cliff. She also remarked on how incredibly supportive and nice everyone was.
For me racing keeps me motivated, forces me to try new terrain and gets me out on my bike. Where I belong.
I can’t wait for next season!