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“You want an adventure?  Well you’re going to get one!” said the emphatic and hilarious Ted Morton [assistant race director of Trans BC]. Even though I have A LOT of endurance stage race adventures all over the world, what was about to happen was beyond my experience and comfort level.  I definitely got an adventure!  TheTrans BC Stage Racewas my 2nd Enduro.  It is a brand new sport to me and I learned a LOT during the race!  I learned what works for me and what doesn’t; things you can only learn by racing!   I’ll do a separate post on what I learned from this enduro just in case you’re thinking of trying one!
It is rare that I can actually drive to a race in my car.  The Inaugural Trans BC Enduro was a 6 day stage race.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Enduro, I’ll explain.  **skip the the next paragraph if you already know and don’t want to read. 🙂  What is Enduro?  I had to find this out for myself earlier this year!  It’s a type of downhill racing where you ride an entire loop as if you were out on an adventure or bigger ride.  Only certain descents are timed.  The time in between descents are called the transitions.  The descents are marked and everyone lines up.  Seeding is dependent upon the race organization. You use a timing chip so you scan in when you start your downhill and scan out at the end of the downhill. There are course marshals on either side.  People start in timed increments; 30 seconds in this case.  Each descent is called a stage.  So for single day enduros, you an have say a 40km day of riding with 5000′ of climbing, but with 7 stages (or selected timed descents)  You have to ride the climbs, but they are not timed.  An Enduro stage race is multiple days of this.   Most people ride 150mm-170mm bikes, wear pads, bigger helmets (all-mountain half-lids or full face), more aggressive tires than XC.  It’s a different riding style all together. If you ride your XC bike like you ride your enduro bike, you’ll be taking dirt naps.  Trust me, been there 🙂

The Trans BC Enduro Stage Race was 6 days, roughly 34 “stages” or timed descents (I lost count), and all descents were blind.  That means that the course is not released until the night before and no one gets to pre-ride.  The races were in places I had never ridden which was exciting! I had about 22 hours of ride time (not including stopping time) and 4 hours of timed descending.  Yeah- I raced my bike for 4 hours DOWNHILL!  Craziness!
Before the Trans BC Enduro, I said to my husband, “What if it rains?!  I am not confident riding in wet conditions let alone racing as fast as I can blind!” It rained every single day of the race.  The rain is what solidified the 6 days as an adventure for me. I was far outside my racing comfort zone. And it was awesome!
We raced the trails around Vernon, Penticton, Rossland, and Nelson, BC.  My friends told me that Nelson would be insanely steep.  I had no idea…
The first day in Vernon was a rush.  Within the first 20 seconds of the first stage of the VERY first downhill, I crashed on some slick rocks and punctured my tire. It went flat within seconds.  I had also broken off most of my front brake lever- what was left was a nub, barely the width of my finger!  In an XC race, you fix your flat; the brake lever was just something I’d have to deal with the rest of the day.  My instinct was to pick up my bike and start sprinting- fixing a flat would cost me even more time.  I found it funny when Froome was running in the TDF just days later (although sans bike!).  I sprinted down the first stage of the race well knowing that I would pay for it dearly.  I lost several minutes on that first descent and was so sore for the next 2 days that I could literally barely walk!  People thought I had a bad crash due to my appearance while trying to move- it was pretty funny and painful.  I tried to patch the hole but it didn’t work so I had to run a tube for the entire first day of the race – one of my nightmares!  I pumped it very hard and hoped for the best.  Rock hard tires in wet conditions is incredibly sketchy, but the tube and tire held air and I was able to get to the finish and I had fun!  I was thankful I didn’t flat on stage 2 because that was a 20 min descent.  I had 4 crashes that day which is unusual for me. I thought maybe it was a fluke from adrenaline and I’d back off a bit for day 2.  The great thing about pads is that it doesn’t hurt that much!  I came 7th out of 20 riders on Day 1 which was better than I expected.  Maybe I could work my way up!  The riding was fun- steep (but actually seemed like child’s play after Nelson), tons of rock features, slippery mud, corners, and we finished on the beautiful Kalamalka Lake.

As I drove to Penticton for Day 2, it was pouring so hard I could barely see the end of the highway!  I was anxious with a tight knot in my stomach.  More wet riding…   There was some great variety amongst the trails in Penticton. We got our first taste of wet bridges- a foreshadowing for days to come!  Penticton has the rockiest stages of the 6 day race.  My bike worked perfectly, I only had one crash (letting the bike accelerate UP a steep rock face; the back tire disappeared and I slid and popped up with nothing but an extra muddy bum and leg!)  I was having fun but was also exhausted from all the sprinting! Enduro is so much different than endurance racing because you go from 0 to your limit, and it’s all so fast! You also take way more risks than you would in an XC race.I found that the more chances I took, the more I realized I was capable of.I was incredibly surprised to find that I came 2nd overall on Day 2 of the race and made up enough time to move into 3rd in the GC!

Days 3 and 4 took us to Rossland, BC: the ultimate mountain biker’s playground. I had heard so many great things about this place.  I was stoked when I saw we were starting on theSeven Summits Trail.  We had some great riding before the start and an hour and a half climb!  Snow capped peaks greeted us in the distance, some snow hike-a-bike sections, and even a little bit of sunshine!  The rain started right before we got to stage 1 of the race.  It was a chunky, awkward descent off the Seven Summits.

I was enjoying the loam trails and the variety until bad luck struck again. Another puncture!  I was even running 25 psi this time, but I poked another hole in the tire and assumed the role of trail runner with my bike.  My sore legs screamed at me as I sprinted to the end of the descent.  One thing was sure- I was getting a good running workout!  I was able to plug the tire at the bottom and finish the day without a tube.  Admittedly, the second puncture had hurt my spirit.  I was riding with Mical Dyck that day and she tried to cheer me up which I greatly appreciated.  It took a great effort to put the second puncture and all the implications of it behind me.  I was angry I had lost so much time, couldn’t understand why I was flatting (they are RARE for me!)– solution was an even burlier tire and more rear shock pressure.  When you are racing enduro, you ride and push your bike way harder and faster than normal!  My mind was taken off my flat tire with the last descent of the day.  Infamously known asdreadhead, this trail was actually a decommissioned downhill trail.  It was previously used in DH races but no one rode it anymore because it was so hairy!  The town actually cleaned up it for Megan Rose (race director) when she insisted it be used in the race.  At that point, it was one of the steepest trails I had ever attempted to ride.  There were split second decisions when I saw what I had to ride.  I would feel my chest tighten and the fearful voice in my brain say “No” but I was able to breathe, commit to a line, and say yes.  During the course of the race, I would even say out loud to myself, “You got this” and ride it.The belief that you can ride or do something is incredibly important; the bike will handle a lot.  Without full commitment, we’d be walking these descents and I actually think walking would be more dangerous than riding in some cases!  At the end of the day, I was shocked to see that I was still hanging on to 3rd in the GC despite another flat tire. However, my cushion to 4th to former Canadian Downhill National Champion Karey Watanabe was almost non-existent. I could NOT have any more mishaps.

Love this pic of Meg Bichard- this feature was rad and scary!
Day 4 (Rossland)- we actually had a bit of dry riding.  There were some insane rock rolls and features that I probably never would have ridden at first glance had I not been racing.  There was a common theme amongst the days for me: I was riding things that under regular circumstances, I’d be to afraid to. The race environment was pushing me to up my game. It was forcing me to grow and uncovering the type of rider I wished I could be.

Rain was still imminent in the forecast and the next day when we started in Nelson, it was pouring.  Riders reluctantly queued up before stage 1 of the day.  I felt very nervous as I heard brakes screaming and watched experienced enduro racers slowly slide their way down the greasiest trail with all kinds of challenging obstacles.  As summed up in thePinkbike recapfor this day: “the toughest terrain to date found in the heart of the Selkirk Mountains, and most pressing conditions, into a 40km day on the bike that started and ended on trails built by dedicated locals who have an obsession for slippery roots, long vertical descents, wood features, and steep chutes.”  I had never used a full face helmet before, but I strapped it on for day 5 in Nelson and was glad I did.  Stage 1 was just a warm-up for the puckering trails we would be riding.  I crashed a lot on day 5 trying to figure out my limits in the wet conditions.  The adrenaline spike at the end of each descent was completely intoxicating.  I was glad I had heavy rain gear with me- it wasn’t overkill!  The nice thing is you could hunker down at the aide station for a break- something I can never do in an XC race!
Stage 5 was the real kicker- long with all the hardest features.  Each time I made it down one, I would feel elated and surprised.  Crash number 11 of the race was the big one. The one that made me pay.  I had caught up to the person who had started a minute in front of me during that stage, but wasn’t at a point that was safe to pass. I slowed down to allow her space to enter and clear a feature first.  I slowed down way too much and by the time I was on the feature, it was too late.  The photographers were all standing there and as I saw the ground go upside down and thought (ohhhh. this NOT good),I heard the solemn “oooooo….” of my spectators.I body slammed into a tree.  My bars were twisted and I struggled to get them undone, tried to ignore what just happened and got back on the bike.  My endo had done some damage to me and to the bike- something I would pay for dearly on day 6.   I felt lucky that my hip took the hit when I crashed into the tree. Had it been just 12 inches higher, I’d have broken ribs.   I somehow still finished 3rd on the day and was holding my place for 3rd in the GC.

The last day of the race in Nelson was only 3 stages.  No problem, right?  We got to climb to the very to top of the mountain in Nelson and ride another revived decommissioned downhill race.  A local mechanic said to me, “Wow, you guys are going to ride THAT trail?!”  There was so much fog we couldn’t see in front of us on the way up.  There was coffee fromOso Negroat the aide station and a fire going.

Getting through the snow and mud at the top was definitely taxing but fun.  I was even more wigged out at the start of Stage 1.  It had sections that were -68% grade downhill in the most epic conditions we had seen.  I am good with a certain length of insanely steep trail and features.  This trail had no breaks in steepness.  I was on and off my bike a lot and walking where I shouldn’t have been.

This was the case for the rest of the stages as well. My confidence was completely shattered from the day before, my brain had gone into neurological overload mode and I was unable to make those split second decisions.  I was afraid of crashing on my hip again – the pain was excruciating.   Day 6- I was not the same rider that I had been all week.  Something had shifted.  I was also nursing the mechanical from the day before that was unfixable.  I did my best to get myself and my bike to the finish line in one piece, but it was not pretty.  The adrenaline was gone and I felt overwhelmed.

I had found my limit.  It cost me dearly. I hemorrhaged time on each descent.  Huge props to my competition – 2 of them rode particularly well and thrived in the extra gnarly conditions, especially Gina Jane!

My reserved manner ended up causing me more crashes.  I rode the final descent to the race with my handlebars crooked – no time to fix it!  When we finished at the lakefront beach, I was totally exhausted – mentally, emotionally, physically.  It had been awhile since I had felt that way at a finish line (well, actually …just since May, haha!)

Make sure you watch all the Trans BC Enduro videos. They are so fantastic and only about 2 minutes each.

Day 1 —  Day 2 — Day 3Day 4Day 5 Day 6

So how did it end up?  6 of the most challenging days (downhill) I had ever ridden, major growth as a rider, a lot of learning, mechanicals and flat tires, trail running, and being pushed far past my adrenaline limits.  AMAZING new friends and a SOLID group of women – I have never been at a race with so many encouraging and special ladies.

Results?  I lost my 3rd place GC spot by a mere 15 seconds in the end and ended up 4th.  I was happy for Gina who took 3rd- she absolutely killed it and deserves every bit of it (especially the last 2 days).  It was inspiring and I hope to be that strong someday soon!  However, I was completely gutted to miss the podium by that tiny amount after 4 hours of race time and 6 days of persevering through flat tires, crashes, and some of the craziest riding I’ve ever done.  I did my very best, there were big mishaps along the way, but I couldn’t change what had happened. In the end, on day 6 I just simply cracked (mentally) and lost about 4 minutes.  I learned a LOT about how to be faster without even needing to change anything about my riding style (simple equipment and clothing tweeks).  I also learned how to change my riding style to get faster – on an XC bike, we are so used to braking a lot before features because if you hit stuff at that speed on 100mm of travel, you’ll die!  On an enduro bike? You can RIP it!  It’s a tough mental shift!  I always expect the best of myself and it was hard to let it go.  How did I get over my disappointment?  I let myself be sad about it, I didn’t let myself make excuses, and I focused on the positives. It was my second ever enduro, the field was stacked, and I was being WAY too hard on myself.

That race will go down as one of the rowdiest, competitive, FUN, challenging, and cool adventures in my book.  I got to see some amazing places that I’m definitely going to visit again, ride stuff I never thought I could, made some fantastic friends, and I can’t wait to do more enduros!   That’s the special thing about trying a new discipline- the first ones are always the most extraordinary!   If you want to read about my first enduro (the Trans New Zealand Enduro Stage Race – check it here).


Next up? Singletrack 6!  A 6 day XC stage race.  The hardest part right now is getting used to the XC bike and XC tires again!!

End notes:

 This Topeak SmartGauge was probably the most important tool for the whole race!  Everyone was constantly checking their tire pressure and a bunch of people borrowed this beauty!

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