Enduro racing has fascinated me for a while now. I hadn’t planned to do more than one event this year (Durango) but several teammates had signed up and this seemed to be a good idea at the time.
The 4tho of July brings not only fireworks, but also the Firecracker 50 – a 50 mile race in Breckenridge. Three team mates were participating and I knew several other folks who had entered the race. Eric and I had just done the Tatanka 100 so we elected to go support our mates before heading down the road to Keystone for the enduro. It was an exhausting day of lounging around, drinking beer, taking photos, chatting with friends and generally not doing much.
WTF is this all about?
Friday I drove over to Keystone to sample the espresso at Inxpot and pick up my race packet. Eric and I had planned to meet our teammates Jim and Matt to pre-ride the important segments of the course before race day. Enduro formats vary some here, but at Keystone we took the lift up and each of the 6 segments came down the mountain.
I’m new to this type of riding so I picked up pads and a full-face helmet a couple weeks before. I had worn the pads but not the FF or goggles. And I had never done a lift run. Fortunately for me (sarcasm alert) these runs were on the hard side of what you could expect to see in an enduro.
If you’ve never done this type of riding and done it at speed then it’s hard to appreciate the fitness required and the exhaustion that results. Sure, you may not be riding up to “earn” the descent, but you are riding full tilt in attack position for a 15-25 minute run standing 95% of the time with your legs and arms constantly in motion absorbing the impacts of rocks and roots, jumps and drops. Trust me, you get tired. We did 5 runs and were spent. In retrospect that last run was more than I needed. On race day, if you’re truly racing, then each segment is a full out sprint for the entire time.
Game time – day 1
Saturday was race day number 1. We were scheduled for 3 segments. One relatively easy but long. The second hard and long with two rock gardens. The Third segment was long and mostly easy till the bottom third when it turned into a mess of tight twisty corners in the woods with dozens of drops and rocks to keep you paying attention.
I didn’t have strong goals for this race. I had never done this type of riding so I wanted to learn about the enduro format and the type of riding. Consequently, I tried to play it safe. I rode well within my comfort zone and didn’t push much more than I had in the practice runs.
Segment 1 – This first run was long and mostly mellow. To be honest there was little to nothing that I remember about the run.
Segment 2 – A different story entirely. This segment is black diamond run nearly the entire way down. After a few modest drops you enter the first rock garden. It’s long but only a gentle downhill. I had cleaned this fine on Friday, but pulled off a brilliant flying endo in the race. There were quite a few people and several cameras so I’m hoping to see some pix. I don’t know exactly how I landed except that I got to use the helmet and the pads. Both saved my bacon big time. Fortunately I was able to get up and finish the run albeit in a more conservative fashion.
Segment 3 – The last run of the day felt like a combo of 1 & 2 – easy beginning with a wicked end. I rode smooth and fine except for one segment I hadn’t been able to read in pre-ride on Saturday. It’s a steep segment with several large rocks between tight trees that you have to hit just right if you don’t want to play ping pong with you body down the trail. Tired and shaken as I was walked this short step.
Sunday: Once more into the breech…
Sunday began slow. Since there was not need to rush and head to the lift I enjoyed my java and a book before kitting up and meeting the rest of the team. The pros were not set to begin until 9am and every other category follows. The day 1 start was delayed for an unknown reason so we rode the lift to stare at a very long line. To avoid the line we planned to head up at about 10. It seems the organizers pulled things around because we were nearly the last riders down the hill!
Segment 4 – This was another long hard run which repeated the rock garden I tumbled in on day 1. It was not a great way to begin. That rock garden had loomed in my mind since the crash. To make matters worse my left wrist was a bit sore. I rode smooth till the last 15 feet where I walked. The rest of the run was relatively easy by comparison. In some ways it may have been the easiest second half. The trails were open, relatively straight, and fast, but they were also loose and completely wrecked with stutter bumps. You could build some amazing speed here without trying. It happened and my brakes were getting unhappy and beginning to fade as the rear rotor glazed. I’m running XTR trail brakes, which are brilliant, but Avid HSX rotors (180/160). These have been fine for 90% of my riding, but they just don’t do as good of a job at heat management when the course involves long fast descents. I could feel the brake power fading and it did NOT inspire confidence.
Segment 5 – This was a shorty, but it was also the most technical. This segment is the only one that didn’t go all the way down the mountain. It stopped 1/3 of the way down and the riders take a service road to the beginning of segment 6. I took it real easy since I had little confidence in my brakes. Even so, the dry conditions and many riders in front of me were taking a toll on the trail and I lost traction and went down in a brown cloud. It was a soft dusty landing and I was up and at the finish in no time.
Segment 6 – Last one. I was so tired I just wanted this to be over. I really just wanted to sit on my bike and coast but it’s simply not possible in this type of riding. I gave it what I had left in me and was glad to roll the finish line. My first enduro – probably the toughest one in the BME series was in the bag.
This was so completely different from any other race I’ve done. I learned a ton and pushed my limits big time. The training and fitness requirements to truly do well at enduro are wildly different from long distance endurance racing. There is certainly an element of endurance. There may only be a few timed segments but the event lasts all day and those segments are intense. The Durango Enduro which I’m doing at the end of August is going to be an entirely different animal. While the course isn’t up yet (segments in many enduros are not announced until shortly before the event) I have reason to believe it will be entirely backcountry riding. I’ve a long way to go if I want to be good in this arena, but I’m having a blast and already looking forward to the next event!