29 August 2016

Endurbro: So Fun It Should Be Illegal

I felt really good on Day Two. Relaxed, calm...not exactly resigned to failure, but accepting of it. There were only two stages: Rock Garden to Otter Slide, then a quickie down Chutes and Ladders.
Tram Bar Gun Show
Rock Garden is steep, rutted, chunky, chossy, dusty. It's not very technical but it's ferociously rough, gobbling up brake pads and tires and turning your hands into stiffened claws. The other two trails are straightforward flow trails with tiny tabletops and fun berms.

I had my best run ever down Rock Garden. Digging deep and pushing hard distracted me from the harshness and the leg burn. Somewhere up there I fell completely under the sway of the Fuel, front derailleur and all. Sure, it climbs like a sullen camel and chatters like a sorority girl on Adderol, but it devours bumps and sings on switchbacks. Those chubby tires made me feel fast and confident.
Exhibiting good-ish form for the first time in my life
I finished the first stage, rode the quick transition, and sent it down the final track. I had wings. I had a perfect race. Everything went right.
I was smiling this hard the whole time
And I placed fourth. But I couldn't even muster up a bit of resentment. I rode as fast as I could. Those ladies were just way faster.

I checked on friends' results. Two of my kids from the team placed high in the junior categories, Gene got fifth in a stacked field, and Derrick smashed his way down the mountain and won the pro race off the couch.

I ended the day riding a party wave downhill with a bunch of boys, sprinting to keep up with them, cornering recklessly, blinded by dust, whooping and beaming. We finished in a train in view of the awards ceremony, just as Derrick was accepting his medal. We made a huge ruckus, to the amusement of the spectators.
Hanging with Team Junkshow and Sick Nick
I rediscovered my mojo this weekend. Sometimes all it takes is a profoundly mediocre finish.

27 August 2016

Last Minute Racing, Part 23

My downhilling mojo got lost somewhere in the garage and my running stoke has been unquenchable, so I wasn't going to race the Targhee Enduro this year. And then I was like, "Maybe." And then I was like, "Definitely not."

On Tuesday I pretended I was a competent bike mechanic. I successfully greased my pivots and unsuccessfully modified my rear suspension. Changed a flat. Gave up on the Stag and felt morose.

On Wednesday the course was released. It was very pedally and featured some choice descents. I made yet another 180 and registered. A cheap entry from Kate's Real Food made the decision easier.

I didn't want to deal with the minor hassle of getting the Stag race ready. I reached out to Fitzy's in hopes of borrowing a 27.5+ bike and Derrick graciously set me up with a Trek Fuel. Given my hot and steamy love affair with plus bikes (Salsa Pony Rustler and Rocky Mountain Pipeline) I figured the Fuel would get me jazzed and keep me upright on the dusty, blown-out corners of Targhee.

I did a couple pre-rides and the persnickety voice in my head wouldn't shut up. These hubs are pitiful. The drivetrain is so loud. My calves are rubbing the swing arm. Why would a dropper post only have 125mil of travel? WHAT THE FUCK IS A FRONT DERAILLEUR?!?! 
It looks pretty dang good though.
I was spoiled rotten with a sturdy, quiet, low-frills, high-end sexy beast of a bike. But I fiddled some more with the squish and reminded myself to stop riding like an asshat and then the Fuel and I started getting along.

The enduro start was much cooler than last year and the women's field bunched together under blankets at the top of the lift as we awaited our start. I was so glad to have a decent-sized field. We laughed and jumped up and down and spouted out the cheerful self-deprecation one always hears on a ladies' start line.

On Sticks and Stones I cleaned a line I've never attempted before, a techy root drop that wouldn't give me pause on a normal trail but for some reason gets me clenched at the resort. Because, you know, people with full faces and double crowns ride here. I let out a quiet exultation and finished the stage. smooth and fast.

We went straight to the climb this year. I felt wonderful. I wore a shark's grin as I chomped down Skittle-colored boys climbing slowly. Another ripping, flawless descent down 38 Special, my legs crying as I punched it out of every awkward switchback.

Hoping to keep ahead of the bros, I immediately started the Mill Creek descent and entered into full-on flow mode, reacting to obstacles and hauling ass with clear vision. The Fuel grabbed the trail in a vice grip and refused to let go.

I finished Day One exuberant but knew better than to count any chickens, given my abrupt and thorough humbling last year. The results popped up on the screen--I managed a last place on Sticks and Stones, a first place on 38 Special (such an XC geek), and a third on Mill Creek. Solid mid-pack. Upon further perusal, I realized that all of the pro women finished within a minute of each other, which got me all fired up again. It's so thrilling to be in the mix in such a strong, competitive field!

Tomorrow is a short day with a rough, purely downhill stage, so I know I'm not going to beat any of these ladies in their domain, but I raced my absolute best today and have no regrets.

11 August 2016

Oh, Brevard

I took one of my older notebooks to Asheville, and I flipped back through it while sitting in the human warehouse that is the Atlanta airport. I found this paragraph, written probably six months before I moved to Tahoe:

I want to flee, I want to devour this place in massive gulps. It's on the brink of something big, a tipping point. As people and companies gravitate here, I am moving in the opposite direction, fighting the tide of naysayers. Sometimes I go for runs and it's the most beautiful heartbreaking thing, and sometimes I just sit in the house, sulking and lonely.

The restlessness and sadness that I felt in my last year in Brevard came rushing back as we drove down 280. This is the land where clothes never dry, where condensation frosts the windows all day, where cicadas sing, where my hair poofs into an unmanageable greasy halo, where the air folds you into its hot wet embrace. It is the land where effete hipsters and rabid cyclists coexist with tenth-generation southerners, high school dropouts smoking cigarettes inside their battered cars, walrus people waddling through the grocery store, tiny seniors driving erratically as they peer through the slots in their steering wheels.

My every molecule has been imbued with the smells and sounds of Brevard and Pisgah. I ran and rode some of my favorite trails and the toxic emotions ebbed when I was in the woods. It rained off and on the whole time and even when the sun was out, pushing through wet rhodo tunnels left me sodden, and the roots and rocks had a patina of grease, but I remembered the body English necessary to stay upright.

I was in town for Gaskin's wedding. I haven't attended enough weddings to be jaded, and I knew hers would be full of sincere love and good people. The-Bill-Formerly-Known-As-Baker was in New Hampshire visiting my grandparents and I missed our rambling conversations. Other than that I touched bases with just about everyone I wanted to see, and more remarkably didn't see anyone I didn't want to see, which is nearly impossible in Brevard. It seemed that all my best friends were thrashing around in their own deep ruts, similar to the one I had climbed out of. They've outgrown Brevard and Asheville, are questioning their trajectory, are losing touch with old friends. But they each inspired me with their pursuits: Morgan is leaving to get a masters at NYU; Alexis is running an amazing non-profit; Joh is being the world's best mother; Ella is travelling extensively; Cortney is taking ownership of her own happiness.
A wonderful wedding
This place, these mountains, were crack to me for so long. It pulsed through my veins and dragged me back from college, from trips, from ambition. I finally drove west four years ago and it was a clean break. I still love Brevard but I'm no longer addicted. I stepped off the plane in Idaho and it was dry and windy and beginning to smell like fall. Here is home.