Thunder Mountain Enduro Race Report

Hey, remember when I wrote race reports?  You might think that I stopped race reporting because blogging is dead (tm), but actually it's because I hurt my IT band in February and have barely ridden, nevermind raced, this year.  The cause of the injury?  I walked up a canyon for 5 minutes, rock climbed for 2 hours, and then walked back to the car.   Yeah, that's it.   Well that and 34 years of being alive and doing god knows what to imbalance my body.  But in any case... rough times for the brand.

I've been slowly returning to functionality since then and have recently got back to the point where I can ride a mountain bike for 2 whole hours straight (!) as long as I stand up a lot to reduce hip/knee angles.  And since I need to race bikes like a shark needs to swim to breathe, I signed up for the Thunder Mountain Enduro since it had less than two hours of total pedaling in it, and you barely pedal in the actual racing parts (lol jinx).

Steven Hopengarten actually races more than one enduro every three years, so he came along to teach me how to Enduro, which is actually pretty important since even registering seemed to require 2 different websites and going to 4 different places at the venue.  But!  Eventually I was properly chipped and ready to roll...except for lacking knee pads, which apparently have become standard equipment in the last 3 years.  I was surprised about this, but now both my knees are bruised and missing skin, so I think I get it.

Enduros have also gotten longer in the three years I was away.  This year's stage 1 was the shortest of the day for me (4:51) and would have been the longest stage at Attitash three years ago.

Do you know how hard you can end up breathing in five minutes of racing a downhill bike?  And it's not because I'm pedaling really hard in between the corners.  I ran my GoPro on the underside of my helmet visor hoping for some footy for the boys and instead I just made a 5 minute video of me breathing crazily while riding a bike slowly down what appears to be a flat trail.

Here is my only good clip from the whole day, from Stage 1:

Despite what it looks like, I swear this is a pretty steep switchback I am biffing on here.

As usual, I finished the stage and was like "wow I crashed, I suck, I'm probably last" but it turns that just crashing once on stage 1 was better than a lot of people did (hi Steven and Adam) and my result was fine... 15th/46 in Open Men 30-39.

After stage 1 we went to the car to switch out full-face helmets and goggles for road helmets and sunglasses (another protip from Steven) for the climb to stage 2.

Oh, but don't you want that full-face helmet for Stage 2??  NOPE.  Stage 2 was the super long, super XC stage, dropping 700 feet in a little over 2 miles of never ending switchbacks and mud holes.  I would have been faster for sure on my XC bike... but that's part of the point of enduro.  Or something.  In any case, humping a 30lb trail bike back up to speed after every switchback and every mud hole for twelve minutes of racing is BRUTAL.  It felt like this first 12 minutes of a cross race.

But!  Guess who's got two thumbs and more cyclocross race starts than anyone else on the entire damn mountain?  I nearly puked after it (turns out warming up for a 12 minute all-out effort would be helpful) and had to race the whole thing standing because my dropper post wouldn't come back up, but it still ended up being my best stage of the day - 5th/46.  Yay cyclocross!

After that it was back onto the lift for the rest of the day.  We switched back to full-face helmets and I complained loudly about the audacity of a 3-year-old, never-maintained dropper post failing me.

Stage 3 was the easiest stage of the day in terms of both technical difficulty and pedaling, but you know what that means, right?  It was FAST!  The standard Enduro rule of "if you're not scared, you're not trying hard enough" was in full effect, and I definitely had my life flash before my eyes at one point on Thunder Cliffs.

Before I could fully accept death, somehow the bike got back underneath me and I was like... "wow, that was a super fast line, I'm the greatest."

Shortly after that was a step-down jump that I had to ride around because I'm not actually the greatest.

Here is a picture of junior winner Max Beaupre on the step down reminding me that I am not the greatest.

I used my limited greatness to make only small mistakes (aka, I was attached to my bike 100% of the time) and I ended up with a very acceptable 6th/46 on stage 3.

Now all that remained was stage 4, which was the actual hardest stage.  After the lift ride, we climbed to a little hill behind Berkshire East, and the stage was basically a hybrid of stage 1 and stage 2:  first you did five minutes of slightly-downhill xc racing through mud holes on a trail bike, and then when you were totally crosseyed you get back to the ski hill and go down a double black diamond to the finish.

I thought I had outsmarted my dropper post by deciding to run it in the "up" position for the entire XC section, but janky 2014 dropper wasn't having it.  After coming to a full stop in a mud hole and having to run up the next hill (sigh) I remounted (cyclocross!) and it dropped all the way down just to show me who was boss.

This made the remaining climbing on the xc section quite unpleasant.

When I finally got to the burly DH section, I was like "all you have to do now is not crash."

So obviously I crashed because I was friggin' exhausted and didn't respect this greasy root as much as I should have:

Shortly thereafter, Christin was hiding in the woods and she took this picture of me, even though she didn't know it was me, because I was wearing my super stealth Vittoria enduro jersey (thanks Spencer):

This at least looks a little gnarly, right?  Right??

What that picture doesn't show you is that my baggies are starting to slide down because I opened the snap on them when I crashed, and I'm wearing a nice slippery road chamois underneath.

So my shorts got progressively lower as I tried desperately to hold it together to the bottom of stage 4.  Stopping to re-button them was, of course, out of the question, as that would probably cost me FIVE WHOLE SECONDS!  And maybe I won't end up crashing and losing more than that when my shorts tangle on the saddle... haha, no, of course I crashed at 2 mph on a stupid switchback because I got caught on my saddle when I dabbed.

This crash also dislodged my rear wheel, because apparently I had broken the head off the thru axle in my first crash, so I rode the final 30 seconds of the stage with my brake rotor holding my rear wheel on the bike.  Which was not very fast.

But as always, "I crashed a ton, I suck" was only half true.  My time was still good enough for 12th/46 and CJ was kind enough to crash three times on stage 4, giving us a TIE for 8th place in the 30-39 field on the final results. 

Afterward I spent a lot of time thinking about how much better I would have done if I didn't crash so much or make other dumb mistakes, so now I probably need to go race another enduro some time... where I will surely crash a bunch and make more mistakes.  But next time I'll have knee pads!


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