Stop no. 2 of the Big Mountain Enduro was this last weekend, June 28-29 and took place in beautiful Durango, Colorado. This round of racing had only 4 stages, but totaled just over 47 miles and 5,950 feet of climbing when you include the transition stages. Not forgetting my experiences last year at BME Durango, this stop was not for the light-hearted.
Saturday's two stages took place on the Colorado Trail, descending all the way from the top of Kennebec Pass to Junction Creek--from elevations of higher than 11,200 feet down to 6,300 feet. Without a doubt, I think that these two stages are the most physically challenging of all the stages thus far and will be continuing forward through Keystone and Moab--Crested Butte will be a whole other ball game (check out this video, a preview of the 5 day Crested Butte Ultra Enduro). As a little warm up, riders got to climb and easy 3,000 feet and 6.5 miles up La Plata Canyon Road. Starting out above tree line, you are at high elevation and super exposed. The first 3-5 minutes are just ridiculously fast and scary off-camber single track carved into the mountain and running through a scree field. As soon as you drop into the trees you feel a little safer, but it's still tight and narrow, you're still going fast and there is plenty of stuff to grab the end of your bars or your pedals... Oh, and watch out for those water-bars! And oh shit, that's a really tight switchback! That's stage 1: Six miles and 25 minutes of pedaling your face off through epic, beautiful, rough, and real backcountry single track. To get to stage 2, there was another really easy transition--only 4 miles of steep and narrow! But whatever, because the top half of stage 2 is where it's at. The first 3.5 miles of stage 2 are more epic and high speed single track. Not nearly as exposed as stage 1 and a lot less steep, the top half of stage 2 reminds me a lot of descending the AZT from Snowbowl to 418. The last 4 miles of stage 2 though... holy crap. I didn't get to pre-ride that section of the Colorado Trail, so I had no idea what I was in for. I was told to be prepared for a couple of short, punchy climbs, and then around 3 minutes of gradual climbing. Well, part of that was correct--there were two short, punchy climbs, but I'm pretty sure it was more like 5-8 minutes of grinding uphill and across flats. When the trail finally took a turn for the better and went down, it was really fun, fast, pedal-y, with loose rocks and tight corners.
Sunday's stages took place at Horse Gulch. Stage 3 was the bottom (fun) part of Raider Ridge and Snake Charmer. This was the stage I was most looking forward to. Yes, it is a very physical trail, but not the same kind of physicality as stages 1, 2, and 4. It's technical, it's fast, it's loose, there are a couple of big drops and step downs, etc. Overall, it's just challenging. It requires you to look ahead and pick the right line, be confident with your decision, and execute, because there is really no room for mistakes and they will cost you a lot of time. Stage 4 was similar to stages 1 and 2 in the sense that it was just pedal-y and heavy on the cardio side. It was wayyyyyy shorter than stages 1 and 2 and a lot smoother with more flow. To me, it was the least exciting stage.
I started stage one out feeling pretty good... My legs were a little tired from the transition but adrenaline eventually worked it's magic. I had just got Krista in my sights about three-quarters of the way down when a little elf disguised as a rock grabbed my crank arm. It was only a momentary stop though. I finished stage 1 tired, but in 3rd. At the start of stage 2 I was feeling a lot stronger than I was at the top of stage 1 and it showed in my riding. The top half of stage 2 was, in my opinion, some of my best riding yet. I was fast, smooth, and clean, I pedaled hard, and made almost no mistakes knowing that it was where I could gain the most time before the climb. I climbed as hard and as fast as I could, but I knew I needed to gas it on the downhill if I wanted to finish well. Then, about three-quarters of the way down stage 2, I crashed and knocked myself out! Never have I ever had that happen before. I was going through a fast and loose section of the trail, trying to look as far ahead as possible since I had never ridden it, and wasn't paying enough attention to what was right in front of me. I'm pretty sure I hit a loose rock with my front wheel and it just knocked my front wheel sideways. I hit the ground with the one part of my head not covered by my helmet--my face. Or rather the bottom of my chin. I remember hitting the ground, closing my eyes, and waking back up looking at the dirt. After gathering my wits and wiping the blood off my face, I rode slowly down to the bottom. I couldn't have been out long, I didn't get caught by the next woman behind me until right after I crossed the line. At the end of the day I was feeling fine--no headache, no nausea, no concerning head damage, just a sore body. I stretched, rolled out my back and legs, took some IB-broken and went to bed.
At the top of stage 3 on Sunday I knew it was going to be rough. I was so tense, even when I was trying to relax, and I was super nervous. I don't typically get nervous, just anxious to race, but these were some serious nerves, and they had their impact on my riding. I managed to miss most of my lines in the first third of stage 3--not good on the clock--but pulled myself together for the rest of the stage. After finishing stage 3, I was a little disappointed so I went straight to the top of stage 4 by myself. It was a good choice. I had the whole transition stage to mentally get myself together without having to talk to anyone or think about anything besides being calm. I was the only at the top when I started stage 4 and all the pressure was gone. When I left the line the smile had returned back to my face, my legs were feeling good, and all of my muscles had relaxed. I rode stage 4 like I would ride it if I were chasing Scott: as fast as I could but with ease. It worked much better.
At the end of the weekend I managed to get away with a fifth place finish. Heather Irmiger blew everyone away, winning over second place by 4 minutes. Second through fifth place was separated by about a minute and a half. Cait Dmitriew took second, followed by Krista Park (welcome back!), Sarah Rawley, and myself. Congratulations ladies, you're awesome! Thanks, BME, for a great weekend of racing and the prize money! I will not be at BME Keystone, I will be at home in Flagstaff celebrating my Grandpa's 90th birthday! Next stop: Enduro Cup at the Canyons, July 19th (maybe) followed by Colorado Freeride Fest/EWS, July 24-27 (definitely)! Good luck everyone!
Writing is something I have always been passionate about. I love sharing my stories, my thoughts, my advice, but mostly, I write to record memories and express myself. So here are a few of my fondest memories, best and worst moments, my most profound and boisterous thoughts, and riskiest advice. Enjoy!