BME #4 Recap

Big Mountain Enduro #4, which took place in and around Durango, CO, is in the books. Labor Day weekend saw 250 riders racing down Kennebec Pass and the Horse Gulch system, providing what was probably the most difficult race of the season physically, mentally, and technically.

I headed down to Durango Thursday afternoon to squeak in an easy spin and get ready for some pre-riding on Friday. Eric Landis and I had ridden the majority of the courses in a previous trip, but between the singletrack trials riding of stage 3 and the unknown stage 4 we wouldn't be bored. And we would be riding our bikes, which is always fun.

Day 1: Kennebec Pass

Start line view
Saturday's racing would be all in the backcountry on a great mix of fast, high consequence terrain that required a bit of work to access. It went something like this:
5:15a.m. and the alarm was going off
6:30 we were loading bikes in trailers for the hour long shuttle
8:00 found us starting the 6 mile, 2200ft climb to the start line

Then, with a 5sec countdown, time stopped and started all at once.

Our first half mile was the most puckered of the weekend. High-speed water-bars, off-camber turns, loose dirt, and a scree field (slide rock as the locals call it) were all part of the deal. Even after this, there was no shortage of chances to blow through turns, endo into creeks, hug a tree, or fall down the mountain's side. Leaving the start gate with a rule not to over cook it on stage 1 and to pedal hard when I could gave me a clean run and a 1st place finish.

From the valley bottom finish to the top of stage 2 was another 4 miles and 1200ft of climbing. Stage 2 gave us full throttle, roughed up double track into overgrown snaking single track and loads of opportunity to hammer the pedals. Too bad I met a sudden stop with the ground during a loose right hander! Oh well, a little rest and adrenaline helps the power output…Even without the crash, the Durango local who won the stage would have smoked me. 2nd in the stage would do just fine.

Day 2: Horse Gulch

Racing didn't start until 9. And it was right in town, allowing me to pedal right out the front door. Guess who got to sleep in. Angel.

I was up at 6, going over all the nuts and bolts of my bike and reviewing course video. Stage 3 would be the most difficult of the season and locals had a big advantage knowing the fast "B" lines. Imagine sidewalks seen in war zones. Holes, shattered rock tilted at fun house angles, up ledges, down ledges, cactus to the left and a cliff on the right. All on terrain that wasn't steep enough to carry speed without pedaling. Then give us a couple of steep, punchy climbs to break things up. OUCH! More than a few people throughout all divisions had a plan to carry their bikes through various sections. I was one of them, though it happened more often than I had planned.

Wow, this was hard. I felt redlined down the entire thing, but my HR data didn't reflect how I felt. Not sure what to make of that! Toughen up I suppose.

I was having a great run and feeling pretty happy until the chunky climb/run/hike in the upper section. I cranked too hard, blew up, started making mistakes, cussing, and having an OTB moment off a rock bridge. I knew I was losing a huge amount of time, but kept going as hard as I was able. Really, I just wanted to be done. I wanted the pain and frustration to end. I had a moment or two when I was ready to skip stage 4 and call it a weekend. Somehow, I recovered a little bit of technique and let things fly on the lower fast tech. Still nothing in the gas tank, but gravity was my friend. Down baby head alley through the bushes and across the finish. Looking down feeling beaten and in pain, I saw the front of my shirt was pretty well ripped….I guess that crash was harder than I thought.

As I rode up the trail towards the climbing transition to stage 4, I came across Angel and the Landis clan. Eric hadn't faired so well on 3 either.
Spend the money on a good helmet
I was still feeling pretty low as I rode towards stage 4 after a little snack and pep talk from Angel and Sara. A couple of high fives and advice not to crash coming from Eric's kids did give me a smile though. The ride up to 4 went quickly and better yet, there was no line at the start. I could hop in behind a late coming pro and have a clear track to the finish. What stage 4 lacked in techy stuff, it made up for in flowing turns, smooth gradual rises, and spin out your gearing straights. I couldn't wait to be done. I had blown my race on the third stage, this was just to get to the car. Off I went. Strangely, my legs seemed to be perked up. And my HR was telling me to go faster. Somehow, I had an engine and renewed spirit. Paying heed to my heart rate and preventing another blow-up, I found myself dropping into higher gears during the short climbs. At the end of a long straight, I caught the rider that left 60 seconds before me. This was the best I'd felt all weekend. Crossing the line to a 3rd place finish on stage 4 and ending the weekend on a high note was great. Better yet, stage 3 hadn't gone as poorly as I thought. 1st for the stage with over a 30 second gap to second! I'm really curious to go back with a clear head and see what I can do on a clean run. Next year??

With all the racing wrapped up for the weekend, we had nothing to do but wait for results and visit my new favorite taco spot.

How'd the weekend turn out?

Top of the box
Talk about feeling stoked. This was the race I was most looking forwards too for the year and I had a huge goal of winning it. It marks the first time I've truly trained for a specific event/activity and to have the pay off was a huge mental boost.


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