Now my friend Amy Rambacher who is a Pro rider, offered to go up and pre ride the course with me. So with no snow and just cold weather, how could I NOT go?? So..Friday afternoon I decided we were on...it was a go. Step one was to pre ride all the stages to make sure I was comfortable and not in over my head before I signed up for the actual race.
Saturday Pre Ride: The drive on the 330 getting to Rim Nordic at one point was halted with fog. You couldn't see a foot in front of you. I tried to pull over, but couldn't see if there was a cliff or a pull out on the right. I was thinking...you've GOT to be kidding! It may as well be snowing since we couldn't see a thing. I don't remember fog like this since living on the East Coast. So I barely was moving. A few miles later once I got higher, the sun peaked through the fog enough for me to see. Phew! As I got higher and higher, the temperatures kept dropping. Amy sent me a text letting me know she was there and it was COLD! I'm thinking...no problem...I'm a tough girl from the East Coast! I can handle it! I was just so grateful to have Amy there to ride every inch of the course with me I didn't care how cold it was.
Then I stepped out of the car...........36 degrees......my 1st words were not pleasant....BUT....I was prepared...at least I THOUGHT I was prepared. See, I've been living in LA now for 27 years...so that east coast girl that could hang with the cold is now long gone...only the accent remains.
Well, I put on 2 pairs of socks, pads, a skull cap, winter riding gloves, a winter riding jersey, my GGR Enduro jersey, my GGR Windbreaker and my GGR Thermal jacket. I was thinking...Ok...I have so many clothes on...I'm gonna be fine...so we started up the climb to get to Stage 1. The climb to get to each stage is called the transition stage. I decided to bring my Canfield with me, not my Epic, which is an all mountain bike with 6" of travel and heavy at 32 pounds which keeps me on the ground and very safe! BUT.....It's not an XC bike, so it's tough on the steep, long climbs. I sucked it up and just climbed slowly thinking I can't WAIT for the down hill cause i'm gonna haul and have a blast! All this climbing is going to be worth it and also help me get way more lean pedaling a heavier bike. So we finally get to the 1st stage and I needed to rest a bit from the steep climb. I had no idea what to expect. Amy made sure I was now in Enduro mode which means, putting all your suspension back on and dropping your seat. From the long climb, I had my seat sky high and rode with half of the suspension on. So now it was time to finally pre ride our 1st timed run. THIS was a fun stage. 100% single track with a steep descent. I loved it and did fine. Amy always stopped and warned me of bridges and different lines to take to keep me rolling and safe. Stage 1 went by quick. It brought us back to the bottom where the cars are. So now we needed to do the super long fire road and single track switch back climb for stage 2.
The gruel begins.....it was getting colder...I had so many clothes on they were bulky and it hindered me a bit, but grateful I had them. This transition stage was very long...steep fire road. I just went slow and easy trying to relax my breathing in the ice cold. When I caught up with Amy she was talking to another girl who was descending stage 2 and crossed us while we were climbing the fire road. It was Jenna Bonham. This was to be Jenna's 1st Enduro as well. We chatted, took a selfie, then kept going. Big mistake stopping for that long. My feet and hands were going numb from the cold and I was now shivering and getting concerned. Little did I know there was still a grueling single track switch back climb at the top of the fire road we still had to climb to even get to the timed stage 2. THIS was brutal...we were over 7100 feet and it dropped to 30 degrees...I had to push my bike up most of that single track section...I was wondering how many others would have to if any.....finally we got to the timed stage and I just wanted to go because I was miserably cold. This was a much longer stage than stage 1 and we had more single track climbing on the timed stage which I was really surprised at. I thought Enduro was climb up the fire road/single track to get to your timed stage, then you have a descent you are timed at. I was completely wrong. Most of the stages was much more of a cross country course.
Well we DID have 2 steep, loose descents with switch backs. Never had I wanted this more than anything just to stop climbing. I did fine on the descents and not so fine on the switch backs. Amy went really slow on these to make sure I was OK and warned me of every super tight switch back coming up. She just kept giggling because there were so many. So then I started to relax a bit and giggle too because i was just so bad and of course nervous and sketchy on new terrain. The dirt actually was PRIME! With all the rain and snow the area got, it made for perfect conditions.
So we finally get to the bottom and we were supposed to keep climbing to get to stage 3. However I was really suffering in the cold and needed to get warm. So we rode to our cars and went in and visited with Bev, the race promotor in her trailer. She had hot chocolate waiting for us. I was ever so grateful. Now even though I was super cold, I was sweating a lot too, so my clothes were wet and now that we stopped, I got even more cold. Bev loaned me some ski pants and I changed some clothes so I was dry. Then I dug out my SKI gloves. After about 45 minutes, I was comfortable enough to complete the last 2 stages we still had not ridden yet. I was trying not to whine or be negative, I was just plain freezing. Amy was super patient and never once complained or told me to suck it up. She also never gave up on me. Thank you Amy.
Transition Stage 3: The hell stage: So...we climbed back up the same, long, steep fire road riding towards the timed stage. At the top of the fire road, we had to once again get on the steep single track and climb all the way to the top to get to where we needed to be. This was the longest stage of the 4. I wasn't sure why yet, but was about to find out. We had a little bit of everything on this stage, climbing, double track, single track, fire road, chunky fire road. It just went on forever. Climbing the fire road and same single track again was an absolute killer. I felt like I spent 4 hours of doing the stair master.
We checked each other and made sure we were OK with the cold, it was still very, very cold. I just wanted to keep going and finish the last stage. Amy seemed to be just fine. So here we go again. This last transition stage was also a steep fire road, but MUCH MUCH shorter and NO crazy, steep single track to climb. Stage 4 was almost all down hill with some fun loose, steep sections and a wee bit of a chunky fire road to blast down. THIS was my favorite stage. THIS is what I thought all Enduro timed stages were all about. I was completely wrong. It's really more of an XC course with steep descents. At least this one was.
What was funny was that I was so very worried about the technical aspect of the course, I never even considered the endurance part being so difficult. All of my XC rides are usually 20-30 miles and I just did a 31 miler on the Canfield, so I felt I was ready endurance wise. However the elevation and cold really changes the game! I had no problems on the steep loose descents, only on the areas I had to climb. 11 miles in high elevation and cold felt like 30 miles. I was exhausted and my quads burned like crazy. I wore my knee brace the entire time because pushing my bike was painful on my right knee where I had reconstructive surgery back in 2013. The brace is a life saver.
So we went in to talk to Bev. I still could not make up my mind to race or not. I struggled so much with the endurance part and the cold. Even if I had my XC bike, at that high elevation and cold, I think it still would have been difficult. I was worried I would just be exhausted and couldn't finish. I was also concerned with the cold having to wait at each stage for a very long time due to the seeding. Then on the flip side, I know how disappointed in myself I would be if I didn't stay the night and race the next day. I would have felt like I failed. It's just how I am. So Bev let me know that they were basically going to just let people go at the top so they didn't have to wait in the cold. Now I felt better. A little more convincing from both Amy and Bev and I felt I just had to give it a try. So, I signed up for my 1st Enduro Race. My goal was just to finish and to finish safely...no crashing! Then Amy decided to race too. I already felt more relaxed and like I had these 2 ladies on my side and supporting me. And THAT....they did.
Now..I had to find a hotel. But 1st a stop at my favorite bike shop to say hello and give Ali her GGR jersey and Zoic purple socks. Bear Valley Bikes. I pull in and who is there???? The famous REV! I couldn't believe it! A few years back, Rev was my guide in Big Bear and spent the day on Snow Summit with me helping me with routes for an upcoming women's weekend I was thinking about doing. He was one of the most fun person I have ever ridden with. This man has ridden all over the world and is the best story teller EVAH! If you ever need to hire a guide in BB, Just give the REV a call. You can email me for his contact info: email@example.com.
So I go into Bear Valley bikes and say hello to both CJ and Derek. I desperately needed some warm socks for Sunday's race. O and I wanted to see if they recommended a last minute hotel for me. I got my socks and something even better. Derek called his buddy and got me in to a hotel right up the street at a reasonable rate and the room was PERFECT! Every time I come to Big Bear, the locals are so generous and kind. I think everyone in LA should spend a week in Big bear. They would become kinder people.....
Derek told me about this awesome event he is putting on. The Big Bear Grand Fondo and Grizzly 100! July 25th. Mild to WILD! 20K/30K/50K/70K/100K and up to 10K of climbing. To get more information and register, please go to: www.BBVRace.com.
So off to the hotel I go..it was pretty late, after 6pm and I was cold, sweaty and exhausted. I checked in and again...the most friendly people on earth at the Red Robin Resort. Peter was a doll. I unpacked my car, jumped in a scolding hot shower and felt much better. Grabbed some chow and vino at the bar and called it a night. I kept visualizing each stage in my head to ride smoother and hopefully faster.
Race day! Sunday! The 1st thing I did when I woke up was look at the weather. It was 34 degrees again...Sigh...I now had to sike myself up to handle this and stay warm. By the time I left, it seemed to warm up a bit and was now in the 40's. I got to Rim Nordic just after 8:30am and didn't even want to look at the temperature gauge, so I just got out of the car. I was pleasantly surprised it had warmed way up to almost 50! YEAH! Our pre ride meeting was to be at 9:30am. So I had plenty of time to get warmed up and mentally ready. The one thing I was really concerned about was getting lost. I had already made up my mind I was going to do whatever it took to complete the climbs and every single stage, but getting lost was an entirely different problem. Those who know me well know that I am directionally challenged and really struggle with it. In the end...not only was the course marked perfectly, but there were volunteers at each of the bottom of the stages so we knew where to go. I can't tell you how relieved I was!
I see Nancy Harris and Roger pull in! They were riding at Snow Summit and decided to come wish us all good luck! I was grateful and used this time to ask Nancy about a section that I was squirly on and asked how I could handle that better. I kept her advice in my head for all the stages and it was a big help.
Time to start the event.......Transition stage one: So today I started out with music to relax me on the climbs and hoping it would help me not focus on my breathing so much. It worked. The 1st climb was steep and a bit rocky, but not bad, completely doable for me on the Canfield. Now time to line up for the timed stage one. The seeding went as always, starting with Elite/Pro all the way to beginners. I entered women's beginner. No ages, just all the women lumped into one. Amy rode Elite/Pro along with Christine and Mandy. Jenna and I were last as beginner Enduro racers. I signed up last, so I was grateful to go last so no one was behind me. There was one gentleman, but he never caught us, so I was happy about that! I got a ton of great pictures of everyone at the line up. The atmosphere was so relaxed and fun. There was this super fun group of young men from Incycle who were supper funny, competitive, very nice and just showed how much fun you could have. I was so grateful for the time to rest too from that climb! Now it was my turn. They were 1 minute intervals with a count down. All of a sudden I was VERY nervous. I had the Real Me by The Who waiting for me to press play to help me feel more brave and committed. 10 seconds....3...2...1...GO! Immediately I smiled and kept talking to myself. Smooth is fast...outside leg heavy...rear brake only around the corners...Ok...now I was talking way too much...time to for The Who to do their job. 1st timed stage in the bag and I felt cautious, but safe and strong....
Stage 2 & 3 the grueling get to stages.....here we go again....making the super long, steep fire road climb for both of these timed stages AND climbing the single track switch backs twice. Sigh....Stage 2 was the steep switchback stage. Jenna and I talked about them and thought we would be faster if we ran them. I really wanted to try and ride them and stay ON my bike. Well...I should have run them.....I still had a great time..I loved the descents and this is what I came for...not climbing, but descending..this is what my Canfield was made for. To get me down these steep, loose descents safely and that it did even with how nervous and squirly I was, my bike saved me an abundance of times!
Stage 3..I'm starting the grueling climb/push on the single track to get to the timed stage and one of my toes on my right foot started to really hurt. Then the pain was so bad after continuing to push my bike I thought I broke a toe. My anxiety level was so high racing, I just don't remember hitting my right foot. So I stopped and took my shoe off because I couldn't walk anymore. Took off 2 of the 3 pairs of socks I had on to keep me warm, and viola! No more toe pain! I had so many socks on that my toe had got bent up the entire time. DOH!
Stage 3 was exhausting, but I was excited to start it to get it over with since I knew I was now half way over and I WAS going to complete my 1st Enduro! Only one more stage to go which was not only the shortest, but my favorite.
Stage 4: The transition stage was a short steep fire road and the timed stage was almost all descending except for one rock garden coming off a bridge. I was so happy and grateful knowing I was going to accomplish my goal and just finish. I was so very tired, so I also knew that this was the time I could make mistakes, so I was a little extra cautious. After going over the bridge, I didn't have enough speed going up to tackle the rock garden so I jumped off my bike and ran it up. One thing I learned from this whole experience is that is was OK to get off my bike and run things. I never wanted to do that, but then I would never enter anything if I wasn't ok with that either. So now I am...I think I was fine with it because unlike a down hill race, no one is watching, its all about you and you don't have to worry about the crowd. Until the end of course when your fellow racers are there cheering you on. THAT was a very nice ending on each stage.
So...I accomplished my goal of just completing my 1st Enduro and having an amazing adventure. I could not have done this without the amazing and generous Amy Rambacher. She took her entire weekend to support me, pre ride every single stage in the freezing cold and really encourage me. She also didn't push me either. No pressure at all. I thank her immensely for this. It was so very nice having someone hold my hand through the entire process of an Enduro. WHAT a great experience. Will I do it again?? Well if my schedule permits...absolutely.
If you have never raced an Enduro before, or even ANY race, THIS is a great start. EVERYONE is supportive and you have tons of time to rest at the top before your timed stage. Here is the schedule for the rest of the Rim Nordic Enduro's: www.rimnordic.com/2013-racing-schedule.
Ladies...we only had 5 women in the entire race. 2 elite/pro, 1 sport and myself and Jenna as beginner Enduro racers. All of the ladies were amazing and super friendly. I can't make the next race but probably can do the July 12th race if you want to join me!
So that was my adventurous weekend. Next up is Memorial Day weekend in Kernville. Then I was lucky enough to get invited to go to Specialized for 3 days to ride with them the last weekend of the month. I am all about the adventure and riding with friends. I feel so very blessed to be pedaling my bike and be having these incredible experiences. Thank you to all that share them with me. Thank you to all that support what I do and support GGR and our women's cycling community.
Huge kudos' and extra thanks to:
Amy Rambacher (we call her PRO AMY!)
Rachel, Den Mo and Mega Watts for coming out and supporting us at the race
Bev & Kerry from Rim Nordic
Derek from Bear Valley Bikes
Jenna for being a doll
Zoic clothing for my awesome shorts and socks. Love being an ambassador
Kali Protectives for always protecting my noggin, knees and elbows.
Jesse from Specialized for hooking me up with my new awesome Specialized purple flat shoes that are super light and comfy!
Until the next adventure...this GGR girl is exhausted yet content so time to go. Make sure to grab a friend and take them biking with you! Please enjoy the pictures!
GGR Girl WE...