I raced the third round of the 2016-2017 SETRA Enduro Series in Brooksville last Sunday and won my class, finishing 52nd overall out of 131 finishers to all 12 checks and over 170 entries (with a lot of DNFs, most likely due to the 90-degree-heat.)
My score of 77 was more than double the top finisher’s 31, which is better than I did last time. After the race, one of my friends texted me: “You need some competition out there.” I have it: it’s those 51 dudes in front of me!
At the first check, I dropped 9 minutes, mostly due to the fact that I was on Row 1 and the first one to hit the trail so it wasn’t worn in yet and I missed a few arrows. Riding by myself leading the race, I hit a section that I remembered from years past, learning later that the Florida Forest Service does not allow the club to deviate from the marked trail.
I dropped 13 minutes at the next check after taking a solid slam into a tree and bending my bark buster, which I was able to have fixed at the reset. Thanks, Suncoast! By the third check, some 30 miles into the race, I was down 17 minutes before the gas stop for a total of 39. I smashed some fruit and a water and took off on another 30-mile adventure, dropping 10 minutes, 12 and 16 for a total of 38, making my second loop one minute faster than my first.
The best part about this race was leading from each check (until guys like Logan Garcia, Phil Ellis and Allen Linville caught up and passed me.) I’ve never lead from a check before and it was fun out front, trusting myself to find the trail because there was no one to blaze it before me.
Out front, I tried to minimize my mistakes and mostly succeeded, except for taking one huge digger that bent my left barkbuster down, exposed my hand and demolished my shoulder, scrapped up my forearm and somehow burned a hole through the outside of my jersey and left a gnarly scab. I don’t exactly know how my body flung itself to the ground but I flip flopped my way down.
Getting back up to speed with my bent barkbuster, I smacked a tree on the clutch side where my barkbuster used to be and jammed my hand but never crashed. (I’m getting pretty good at saving it.) Where I went wrong the most, besides banging my handlebars against the trees in tight spots, was in split-second decisions deciding which un-beat trail to take; I ended up making quite a few u-turns. But I never got lost; I just came to the harsh realization that riding out front relied more on my instincts than following the actual arrows. At one point, I almost felt lost but then there was this sense that “that’s impossible” to get off the trail and I learned not to second guess myself.
At one of the resets, I heard some of the guys behind me bitching about the lack of arrows in the second section and ultimately getting lost. One of the course workers asked me, “Did you get lost?” I shook my head and laughed, “No, I’ve ridden enduros before. You just gotta trust it.” He nodded, “Spoiled harescramble riders.”
Coming into the last reset, my knees and back on fire, I must have looked slow when one of my buddies passed me because, at the check, he asked, “You have a little trouble in that last section?” I shook my head and smiled before laying myself down on the soft, sandy ground since we had about 10-15 minutes to spare and downed an ice-cold water from the cooler. Thanks again, Suncoast! Per usual, the heat was the hardest thing to endure and I must have started a trend as I looked around to a few other dudes splayed out on the ground, too.
Finishing this race was never a question, pending injury or death, and I only found out that I won about 4 hours after I finished when the trail boss texted me. The key to an enduro is not to win; it’s to finish (and maybe have a little fun?) The key is different every race. My job was only done with a finish; that was the only thing that mattered to me out there battling my mind against those brutal whoops.