Brutal blast

I raced the first round of the 2016-2017 SETRA Enduro Series near Gainesville on Sunday and won my class, finishing 57th overall out of over 200 entries. My score of 70.33 was nearly three times the top finisher’s 24.46!

On the first ~30 loop, I dropped 8:45 at the first check,  14 at the second and 11:48 at the third; the second time around the same loop, I dropped a 9, 15 and 12 – the good news is my second loop was consistently slower than my first! The days leading up to the race, I did nothing but work and eat – no working out for at least three days before an Enduro, especially since I wanted to push it; it was brutal on the body and it felt good.

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What felt even better was doing everything myself, which isn’t the first time I’ve done that – thank God my dad taught me that I can do anything – but a brief bout of loneliness did hit me on my drive home; I wanted someone to bench race with – my “road dog” just wasn’t cutting it sleeping in the passenger seat. I didn’t need help loading up to get there or waiting in line at sign up, getting the cooler ready, fixing myself a snack at the 20-minute-goes-by-too-fast gas stop; the only time I really needed anyone was loading up my bike after it was all over. (“You can kick our asses on the trail but you can’t load your own bike?” they joked.) I did luck into finding a friend group to pit next to so I wasn’t technically alone – thanks to my bestie and her hubbie’s friends who welcomed me with open arms and a seat in front of their fan at the gas.

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Voting for a less-than-60-mile trail at the riders meeting

I talked to people everywhere I went, got chatted up by old friends at sign up: “how’s your dad?” – moto moms at the riders meeting: “be careful out there!” – strangers at the reset who started a few rows behind me, caught up and passed me: “You must smoke all the other Women riders. You’re fast.”

On to the race…gearing up Sunday morning, I heard someone say, “If the FTR guys say it’s tight, it’s going to be tight.”

The first section was so tight that my arms pumped up pretty much right away, and I couldn’t feel my brake or clutch fingers until the first reset around mile 7. I always wonder why they throw us right into the tight stuff from the get-go; why not let us warm up on some sweeping open sections for a few, but I digress. Just getting through that section was a win, and I lost 8 minutes.

I’d wished I had my camera at the first reset right on Lochloosa Lake with a nice breeze coming in through the trees. I removed my helmet, goggles and gloves and took a walk with Mother Nature, letting the wind blow through my already soaking wet hair.

The second section was even tighter in spots with a lot of bar-bangers, one of which took me and my left handlebar to the ground faster than I could think about correcting anything. But my bike started right up and I took off again, my fingers still sore and cramped up between my levers. I stalled it more than a few times just clutching and braking so much; did I mention I lost my rear brakes way back there and my stock front brakes just weren’t enough to stop me from blowing a corner (or 5) and ending up in thick brush. As the miles passed, I started learning how to lug it in second gear coming in and out of the corners when I’d normally wanted to be in first riding my 125 that I couldn’t lug anywhere and had to stay on the pipe at all times, but the 250 two stroke actually likes it better in a higher gear.

After the second reset, we hit the third section, which was rumored to be a bit more wide open and fun, if a little choppy (like crazy Supercross whoops chop,) but at least the first part of the third section was sweet and fast without a lot of whoops. Of course, that’s where all the fast guys caught up to me because they were going super fast…I tried getting out of their way as fast as possible, not wanting to mess their race up. Plus, everyone I passed was equally nice in letting me by.

Scott Gawler passed me once and I swear he went around a corner in the air! Lol. Flying through the whoops. Impressive while I was just trying to keep it on the trail. – Matthew McPhail

Break! After almost 30 miles, we had about a 20-minute “lunch” at the gas, which was just enough time to refuel, change goggles and gloves, smash a banana and pour some Powerade into my CamelBak so it was almost half and half. I don’t know if that’s what made me cramp later because I usually don’t drink anything but water when I’m racing and I usually don’t cramp, but it has been over year since my last Florida race.

On the line for the second loop, I noticed three of the five on my row never showed up again. Within a few seconds to the minute that I was to go – the rain started to fall, soft at first, and what a blessing; it cooled me and the woods off, coating the trail with a nice (if slippery) layer of traction; I don’t know how I would have survived the next two sections of literally the roughest, tightest trail in recent memory without it.

Hitting the third section for the second time, I remembered something I heard that morning from at least three people telling me, “Watch out for the stumps,” and not to get off the trail in the clear-cut sections. Well, it’s really tempting when you see this beautifully-smooth, untouched trail next to this terribly-worn-out path before you, and you just know it’ll get you where you want to go faster, but it could have a stump (or 10) hidden somewhere. So, do you take the chance? I say so, until one time I hit something so fast and hard that I had to pull a Jack move to save it and one of my arm muscles cramped up randomly. Another time I hit one coming through the clear-cut and the rear came around on me and I had to nearly hyper-extend my hip to keep from crashing.

That was right around the 45- or 50-mile-mark, when my body hit this wall of exhaustion, making me have to brake with my whole hand and alternate riding on the side of my seat because my ass was toast.

When it was all over, I sat for a few minutes with my friends to talk about the race, hearing that I “rode good today,” and I “impressed” them, grateful for the many things that my new bike does better than my 125, like wheelie over random logs in the middle of the trail and how it sinks into the soft sandy corners so I wasn’t fighting the front end all day like normal.

I stopped by to check the scoreboard before leaving and ran into another friend who asked me what I dropped.

“70,” I grimaced.

He smiled. “I dropped that and I didn’t even finish.”

Finishing was a victory.

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