This was the mantra I repeated to myself for most of the 70 mile race that was the Laramie Enduro. Most, I say, because at mile 10, I had to make a choice.
We got to Laramie late Thursday night. My plane was an hour late taking off for Denver and then much of the highway from Colorado to Wyoming was down to one lane due to construction. By the time we checked in to our hotel, it was past midnight. But we had a lazy Friday planned. We got up around 8 and walked to a Cole Creek Cofeehouse, which later we found out, is owned by the originator of the LE. After downing scones and quiche (yeah, we're snobs) we walked the historic downtown to get the lay of the land. Laramie is a college town. Lots of cool shops, eateries and peeps. Seriously. I could live there.
After our stroll we went back to the hotel and unpacked the car. We assembled the racing rigs, lubed up the chaines, aired up tires and forks (had to take out air to allow them to fit inside the car) and headed up to do a recon ride of the course. We pulled up into an empty parking lot exactly where the hole shot was. Just as we were getting ready to ride, Team Ergon pulled up with Jeff Kerkove and Sonya Looney having the same plan. Ryan and I took off up the single track which quickly opened up to some windy-ass gravel roads. After a half our we turned back. The wind was picking up and we could see rain on the horizon.
After the recon we went back to town and got our grub on. We needed to eat well. We pigged out at Jeffery's Bistro. A must if you ever visit. Small place, awesome food from Tai to pasta. From there we hit a local bike shop and then to register for the race. The rest of the day and night was spent fussing with gear, eating and watching it rain sideways. I wasn't too worried considering it was bone dry on trail. I ate those words later in the race.
Race Day: Alarm goes off at 4:45 am. How do ya eat? Unfortunately, the bagels we bought the night before dried out but we forced them down. I also had a vegan cookie that had like 450 calories. At 5:30 we drove out of town, forced to drink gas station coffee b/c the Daylight Donut shop wasn't open, even though 5:30-1pm were their hours of business. That also meant no donuts. The morning wasn't starting off quite right already. But the sky was clear which meant it was chilly. In the low 40s. A record low, we found out later. Luckily I brought arm and knee warmers but once the sun came over the mountains, leg warmers came off and it was just a matter of staying somewhat warm. I did a few hill repeats and went to the starting line.
It was a bit chaotic and hard to understand what was being said and where to line up. I ended up starting way too far back but what ev. All pro, open and ss cats started at the same time, then sports. The gun went off and we charged up a gravel road and to the hole shot. Traffic jam immediatly, but not too bad. Come to find out, the race promoters didn't leave a gate open, so all the racers had to hold on to the gate door for the next rider behind them as it was spring tensioned and would slap back pretty quickly. Once through that and the first section of single track, which was awesome, we popped out onto the gravel road we rode the day before. For a ways ahead and behind me, it was biker after biker. Pace lines were forming to fight the wind. After about 7 miles, we finally dumped back into single track. It was a field of long grass with a ribbon of trail, wide enough for one rider. The next section was again gravel service roads that wound around the wide open landscape. Rolling terrain that warranted large gears and lots of whoo-hoos! It was in this section that I had to decide to keep going.
The gravel roads were well used by ranch trucks. Many of the ruts were full to the brim with rain water so between 20 and 30 mph it was important to keep looking ahead and know what line to take, especially if there were other around you. So I came upon a double puddle and decided to go high center, between them. Three other riders were nearby. I took the line and suddenly it was very loud and chaotic. When I realized I had crashed, the first thought I had was I was being run over by another rider and how much that was going to suck. I popped up right away and asked if everyone was ok. Two other riders had stopped and they were asking me if I was ok. I said yes but again asked if everyone else was and one of them said I was the only one that went down. Whew! That was a relief. I waved them off and started to access my situation. All the parts were moving. Not immediate pain anywhere. Bike checked out ok. So I mounted back on and when I looked down at my pedal to click in I saw the skin of my left knee hanging off. Holy shit! I bent over and well, it was bad as you can imagine. Not a lot of blood (yet) but lots of skin missing. Since it didn't hurt too bad, I decided I'd at least ride to the aid station (at 18 miles, I was at about mile 10) and assess. Well, I was able to ride harder than I thought I would so when I pulled into the aid station, my plan was to grab food and go but an EMT caught site of my wound and talked me into at least rinsing it out. While he did that their awesome volunteers took my camelback, filled it with water and heed and even gave me four ibuprofen that I asked for. How fricken cool is that. I spent about 8 minutes there. I knew I probably lost some places along the way but what do ya do!
I took off with a boiled potato in my mouth and a bananna in my pocket. I looked down at the knee. It was bleeding pretty good now, but as the video said, I didn't have time to bleed. I felt pretty good considering, and knowing there were other aid stations along the way, I knew if things really hit the fan, I would have support to get me back to the car. But, it never hit, so to speak. The worst pain was from the abrasions that still had nerve endings when the cold wind would hit them while riding out in the open range. But the actual gash was numb because all the nerve endings had been ripped out so I labored on.
The course ran through all kinds of terrain from gravel roads to open prairie, some of which was through long prairie grass where you couldn't see what was on the trail or around the corner and it looked like it had just been stomped out the week before, so it was bumpy as well. There were water hazzards like I've never seen before. Some were rideable, some were not. Two, which were next to each other, were waist deep. I kid you not. I had to carry my bike at my shoulders through two bogs, then up a muddy grassy climb. There were others not as deep or maybe they were muddy slogs that sucked up your wheel. Between that and the crash, my drive train was F'd. By mile 55 it wouldn't go into the biggest ring on back without going right into my wheel. I must have gotten off a half dozen times to put it back on. That made the last part of the race really frustrating and difficult. The last 8 miles were by far the hardest. Dubbed the Head Quarters trail, it was steep, rocky and rooty. It's meant to be ridden down, but noooooo, we had the privelage to go up it and if you were cooked by the last aid station at mile 63, then you were in for a tough challenge. But I labored on. My knee was black from the blood, dirt and whatever debree that stuck to it, not to mention any potential evilness from the water crossings. No time to bleed. Just gotta keep going. One bright spot. I did manage to reel in three women that I had passed earlier in the race. That gave me a lot of energy. After the last aid station, I caught a YetiBeti rider and used that as my momentum to finish as strong as I could. Aside from having to dodge a St. Bernard and a local, bearded trail rider while going up a power climb, I made it through the last section without too much incident. I ran some of the short climbs because of the bike issues, but I was surprised that I still had the energy to ride over stuff as well as I did. That last big push sealed my 5th place finish in women over 39 category, 7th place finish overall of both pro and open women. I was happy with that.
After the race, I went directly to the first aid station. The same guy at the 1st aid station was there to again clean up the train wreck that was my knee. From the looks of it, you couldn't tell what was hurt, there was so much blood down my leg.
The doc on site numbed it up and cleaned it as well as she could, but alas, I had to go to the ER to get the rest of the debris removed. Kind of a bummer but it had to be done. They were really cool. I got right in and we joked around while Ryan took action shots. I couldn't even feel anything afterwards because it was so numb so we headed back to the race celebrations so we could take part in the free food and beer. I ended up winning some socks! Score!
So, all in all, it was a tough race. Tougher than the Firecracker in some ways, easier in some ways too. Elevation, although at 7-9k, didn't play as much a factor. Lots of climbing, but it wasn't stupid steep and long. Usually one or the other. It was harder in that at mile 55 I was starting to hit bottom and my efforts weren't as effortful. It probably had more gravel roads than I'd like but then again they allowed for rest and easier pedaling between the gnarly stuff. Will I do it again? I think so. My time of 6:38 was way off my goal of 5:30 but I was also guessing. It seems on average, an hour more than the FC50 would have been more accurate, so next time, I'm going to shoot for 6:15 and less blood loss.
Thanks for reading!